So, bye-bye Bangladesh… Final thoughts? Well, there’s not an awful lot to do or see from a tourist point of view – yet. It’s plain that they’re making an effort and plans do seem to be afoot to build parts of the country up to encourage tourism. Right now they even have adverts urging you to “Visit Bangladesh – Before The Tourists Do”!
Hans travelled through Vietnam and Laos around seven years ago and reckons that Bangladesh now is roughly equivalent to those places back then. All building work and basic infrastructures which, with time, have grown into something more touristy and “easier” to visit.
The one thing you can’t fault about Bangladesh is the friendliness of the people. Rafiq and Mahmud organising things and meeting us everywhere; the spur-of-the-moment invitation to lunch from Ekramul; staff in restaurants bending over backwards to ensure we liked what we ordered; random people who spoke English helping us with rickshaw-wallahs who didn’t… the list goes on.
Lonely Planet points out that Bangladeshis are at pains to distance their Muslim state from the likes of the Taliban and Al-Queda. It’s true – more than one Bangladeshi I’ve spoken to has voiced their concern that they’re being lumped in with the fundamentalists (with the emphasis on “mentalists”). From one brief visit I can tell you that these wonderful people couldn’t be confused with the nutball terrorists for even one fraction of a second.
Right now, in my opinion, the best reason for visiting Bangladesh is the warmth of the people. There are areas we didn’t go which I’ve been told are worth a visit – the hilltracks around Chittagong and the Sunderbands being the most-mentioned. Maybe next time – though I’ll likely leave it a couple of years. I do have a lot of other countries to get through first!
First up – Bhutan…
Woke up, got on bus, went to sleep, woke up nine hours later back in Dhaka.
Well, that was pretty much it! About an hour after we returned, another of Hans’ friends from the Asian Games he worked at appeared for an hour or so. It was nice to chat to her, her mum and her brother for a while. Then we had food and headed bedwards. An early rise would be needed in the morning as we had to be at the airport for 6:30.
Today pretty much boiled down to an 8-hour commute for a 2 1/2 hour walk on the beach. St Martin’s Island is the most southerly point in Bangladesh and where Bangladeshis go for a break. The journey is roughly two hours by road and then two hours by boat from Cox’s Bazar.
We were picked up at around 7am by the tour company in a dinky minibus with the usual additional row of seating so that there was no legroom for anyone larger than a pygmy. Fortunately our first stop was for breakfast and when we returned to the van, the staff insisted that Hans and I take the two front seats next to the driver so we had much more legroom. No seatbelts, but more legroom.
I snoozed for most of the journey to the ferry terminal where we walked onto the boat. Comfy seats beckoned in the VIP area and more snoozing was undertaken as we sailed to the island.
Once on dry land again we were rickshawed to a hotel with two of the cutest puppies ever (I wanted to take them home, but there’s all those stupid quarantine regulations) where we had lunch before we took a stroll on the beach with a guide. I’m not sure why we needed a guide when we were only walking in a circle, but we got one anyway. We were stopped several times by locals who wanted to have their photos taken with the foreigners. Centre of attention again.
After ninety minutes or so, we’d circled back to the dock where we sat and waited for the ferry to begin loading up.
Back on board, we got talking to a handful of Bangladeshi students. One MBA, three mathematician MSc’s and a guy who was near the end of his Masters dissertation on comparitive religions, specialising in the Muslim faith (surprise, given where he’s from!). We had quite a good discussion until the boat set off when Hans and I returned to our comfy chairs and dozed away for two hours despite a gaggle of children running round and screaming.
We were pretty much all sleeped out by the time we got back onto the minibus so stared at the road as it went by too fast and too close to our noses on the drive back to Cox’s Bazar.
Dinner was by candlelight (power cut again) at our now-regular restaurant and we’re now sat back in the hotel room waiting for the electric to come on again so we can watch TV!
Well, we didn’t do much more with our full day in Cox’s Bazar, mainly as there’s not a lot to do! After popping the last deluge of posts on, we got a rickshaw to the Blue Ocean hotel. This was where we’d arranged to meet Mr Chowdhury, the chap we’d met on the bus.
Our rickshaw driver got really arsey when we tried to give him 50Tk for a 20Tk ride – he was demanding the usual 200Tk from us. He went so far as to park up and follow us halfway to the hotel shouting “Howareyou?! Howareyou?!” after us. Obviously, his English was limited to a few phrases without knowing what they meant.
We met Ekramul in reception and he invited us in for a drink before lunch where we were introduced to two of his business partners. We sat and chatted for a while, but had to leave before lunch as Hans and I were both feeling lousy. Having a cold really sucks. This was a shame as it was really nice to be invited to lunch in a strange country by someone we’d only just met – but this seems typical of the welcome we’ve come to expect in Bangladesh.
Instead, we wandered back to our hotel and laid down for an hour or so partly snoozing, partly channel hopping. Later in the afternoon, we took a walk to the Angel Drop restaurant which is mentioned in Lonely Planet. Unfortunately, we caught them on their break between lunch and dinner but did have the most delicious cup of lemon tea ever. Well worth the 10Tk each.
For a late lunch, we returned to the little restaurant where we’d had dinner the night before and then walked back to the hotel. Then went back to the restaurant a couple of hours later for some more food. Then back to the hotel to watch the footie, which we couldn’t as the power was out again.
And that was pretty much our day. Cox’s Bazar isn’t Goa by any stretch, although from what Ekramul and his friend were telling us it could just be a matter of time. The government have been buying up tracts of land along the coast for development into tourist-friendly resorts. The coastline along here is 200km after all.
It took us five attempts to find a cybercafe with a working connection and I don’t have much time (Hans is pacing restlessly!) so I’ll have to be pretty brief. Nothing really to add from yesterday though I did get to catch two FA Cup matches on the telly last night. Yay!
Just a quick troll into town this morning and hopefully we’ll meet that guy from the bus from the picnic around 1:00 if I hurry myself up and get off here.
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