What goes down in coastal town(s)?

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October 28th 2016
Published: April 18th 2018
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I guarantee that "I'm going on holiday to Bangladesh" could well be as seldomly-heard sentence as "Wasn't that a lovely traffic jam", but hey, there is a lot to be said for pioneering tourism, and a pioneering tourist is destined to pioneer, after all. The first port of call in Bangladesh happened to be the port city of Chittagong, and the country's second largest urban area. You might even be forgiven for thinking that this is a city devoid of actual tourist sights, but then again, we are in a nation which is pretty much devoid of an infrastructure which serves as a magnet for incoming international tourists. For the sake of argument, we'll dub Chittagong as a city of experiences, where cultural tweaks will probably impact upon the visitor the most, and the first port of call was Sadarghat, the southern area of town where the rickshaw workshops are to be found. Dropping by at any one of them will make you realize how much of a detailed machine a rickshaw really is, and the spare parts which line the shelves of a said workshop make you realize that a certain degree of craftsmanship is required to get a broken rickshaw up and running and roadworthy again. For my money, the Chandanpura mosque is the city's most eye-catching and colourful building, and nearby DC hill is the kind of place where Chittagonians congregate and perhaps enjoy a casual game of cricket, their national obsession, or so it seems. Further north, Foy's Lake offers an amusement and water park, suggesting that efforts have been made to cater for the residents' leisure pursuits, along with the development at Patenga beach which is the first place an incoming visitor will by-pass on the airport to city run. Shopping is well represented, and the Sanmar Ocean City complex represents your higher end shopping needs, whereas the sizeable sprawl that is New Market is the bargain-basement shopping zone where cheap goods abound to the hum of passing rickshaws and busy traders. A special mention must surely also go to the pure delight that is Ambrosia restaurant which, for my money, turned out to be the city's crowning glory, and a dining experience so special, memorable and downright gourmet-esque that it will forever rank among my top dining experiences anywhere on earth. The purpose-built resort town of Cox's Bazar further down the coast in Chittagong division is the chief tourist magnet for holidaying Bangladeshis, and kudos must surely go to all those behind the creation and ongoing management of the Long Beach hotel, a stunning property which will cater to your every last need and desire when it comes to a beachside hotel. A commercial street in the northern part of town is your best bet for the kind of shopping to suit your budget, and this is where the town's famed Burmese market is located. If it is a day trip which you desire, than the Holy Trinity of places which were woven into the mix come highly recommended, and they are the Buddhist village of Ramu (where big Buddha is nicely stretched out and on display), Inani Beach (better quality sea and sand than Cox's Bazar) and Himchori waterfall (replete with interesting market stalls). Another excursion, albeit further afield, is a day trip to the coral resort place known as Saint Martin's island, and an easy-to-arrange day trip which can be booked through any one of Cox's Bazar's tour agencies. The island itself is not huge, which makes for a more manageable experience, and the beaches are as good as it gets for Bangladesh, not to mention a cluster of shops, lodgings and restaurants which make the experience feel just a little more complete. The journey by sea across the stretch of water from Teknaf is a pure delight, as the vessel was one of the most stable encountered thus far, and the sunset views on the mainland approach are so superb that photography took on a new dimension. The question was now raised as to whether the charms of Chittagong division were any reflection on and / or preparation for sampling the Bangladeshi capital city Dhaka and its environs, but the advice is that it is probably better to view these experiences on their own merits, since the variety and diversity of terrain encountered thus far made comparisons seem somewhat redundant.


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