Developing tourism in Bangladesh
Sabrina Hasan Shoily
Our beloved country, Bangladesh has endless amount of natural beauty and resources. For us, possibilities to flourish and make a mark for ourselves in front of the world are quite high.
As all of us know, Bangladesh has the world's largest sea beach and the largest mangrove. We could be one of the primary holiday destinations for people around the world if we want to. We have everything that all the other 'beautiful' countries have. But the only problem is, we ourselves have not yet discovered the beauty that lies in our very own motherland. We travel abroad, appreciate other countries' attempts to preserve their heritage and scenic natural beauties but we never seem to give a thought in doing the same for our country.
Most of today's younger generation, who live in the capital city and belong to the elite families, do not have much idea as to what scenic places there are in Bangladesh. They only read about them once in a while in their textbooks. If you ask few of them as to where they have traveled, you will see that most of them traveled to quite a few places abroad but haven't been to anywhere else in Bangladesh other than their 'desher bari' or hometown. Few of them haven't even been to their hometown ever. Despite living in Bangladesh, they are entirely alienated from it.
What I believe is, it is high time we do something to save all the magnificent places that nature has blessed us with. Many foreigners are attracted towards our country, but very few out of those many visit Bangladesh. First and foremost reason for their denial to visit our country would be safety. Yes, I agree, Bangladesh is not safe compared to other countries (especially our neighbours), but let's face it: which country in the world is 100% safe? Regarding this issue, now WE have to make sure that our country is safe for both our guests and us. It is our duty now. We cannot blame the government anymore. We have to take in charge of everything. Make people socially aware of the ongoing crimes and how to prevent them. Severe and strict punishments would certainly decrease the rate of crime in our country.
Then perhaps the next reason would be maintenance of the historic and scenic places. Many tourists (and even citizens like us) know about certain places and want to visit them but there are nothing or no one to help them out. I hate to compare but I have to, India has preserved their treasures in such a beautiful way that anyone would be pleasantly surprised. We are in no way less than them but the only problem is that we are too lazy to do anything. We can only sit at home and complain. Those days should be over!
Anyways, enough of serious thoughts for today I guess. Let's take a look at which places in Bangladesh are truly marvelous and worth visiting and what they are famous for. (I assume most of us know them already but just in case we have ignorant readers!)
Top destinations in Bangladesh:
* Dhaka - the hectic capital city, an intense and thriving metropolis of some 12 million people that's growing by the day
* Chittagong - a bustling and polluted commercial center and the largest international seaport in the country
* Cox's Bazar - the country's premier beach resort
* Khulna - located on the Rupsha River, famous for shrimp and a starting point for journeys into the Sundarbans
* Rajshahi - the silk city
* Barisal - southern city famous for Peddy growing and many rivers, best reached by a slow-paced and relaxing boat ride on the Rocket Steamer
* Sylhet - the largest city in the northeast, known for the shrine of sufi saint Hazrat Shahjalal, one of the holiest sites in the country
* Jessore - a non-descript small town, and a likely transit point to or from Kolkata, famous for a sweet cake-like food item know as Gur, produced from the extract of the date tree
* Bagerhat - an important historical center and site of several mosques including the famous Shait Gumbad Masjid
* Saint Martins Island - the country's only coral island with friendly locals, a laid back vibe and coconuts to spare
* Sundarbans - the largest mangrove in the world, with lots of bird life and some very elusive Bengal Tigers
* Rangamati- for a colourful tribal experience of Bangladesh.
* Bogra- to see the ancient buddist culture.
An overview of few places:
Saint Martins Island: This small island about 10km south-west of the southern tip of the mainland is a tropical cliché and the only coral island in the country, with beaches fringed with coconut palms and bountiful marine life. It's a clean and peaceful place with nothing more strenuous to do than soak up the rays. Even mosquitos are a rarity. The island was devastated by a cyclone in 1991 but has fully recovered, and was untouched by the 2004 tsunami. It's possible to walk around the island in a day since it measures only 8 sq km, shrinking to about 5 sq km during high tide. Most of the island's 7000 inhabitants live primarily from fishing, and between October and April fisher people from neighboring areas bring their catch to the islands temporary wholesale market. Rice and coconuts the other staple crops, and algae is collected and dried from the sea rocks and sold for consumption to Myanmar. Most things are centered around the far north of the island, with the center and south being mostly farmland and makeshift huts. There is no electricity on the island, though the larger hotels run generators in the evenings for a few hours. November to February is the main tourist season with the best weather.
Sundarbans: The Sundarbans are the largest mangrove belt in the world, stretching 80 km (50mi) into the Bangladeshi and Indian hinterland from the coast. The Sundarbans has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The forests aren't just mangrove swamps though, they include some of the last remaining stands of the mighty jungles which once covered the Gangetic plain. The Sundarbans cover an area of 38,500 sq km, of which about one-third is covered in water/marsh areas. Since 1966 the Sundarbans have been a wildlife sanctuary, and it is estimated that there are now 400 Royal Bengal tigers and about 30,000 spotted deer in the area.
Sylhet: Nestled in the picturesque Surma Valley amidst scenic tea plantations and lush green tropical forests, greater Sylhet is a prime attraction for all tourists visiting Bangladesh. Laying between the Khasia and the Jaintia hills on the north, and the Tripura hills on the south, Sylhet breaks the monotony of the flatness of this land by a multitude of terraced tea gardens, rolling countryside and the exotic flora and fauna. Here the thick tropical forests abound with many species of wildlife, spread their aroma around the typical hearth and homes of the Mainpuri Tribal maidens famous for their dance. The Sylhet valley is formed by a beautiful, winding pair of rivers named the Surma and the Kushiara both of which are fed by innumerable hill streams from the north and the south. The valley has good number of haors which are big natural depressions. During winter these haors are vast stretches of green land, but in the rainy season they turn into turbulent seas.
Well, nowadays it is really nice to see young university students and professionals getting interested in travelling inside Bangladesh and making others aware of the treasures of our country. If we visit all the places then only we can expect guests to arrive.
Youngsters nowadays are establishing groups, committees with enthusiastic members and are travelling to expand their horizon and get to know their country better! One such new initiative has been taken by a certain individual called Saifullah Shovon. He has made a group in Facebook.com called 'Travel Bangladesh'. The group has been created with an intention to unite similar minded people who love travel. It currently has 142 members (the number is incresing everyday) and together they are planning their first trip to Bandarban in next December!
So, get up, pack your bags and head towards a new destination in Bangladesh! Travel a lot, share your experiences and encourage others to travel as well. And always remember that if you do not appreciate the beauty within your country, you cannot expect our guests to do so. Let's all of us try to recognise, preserve and maintain the natural and man made beauties of our country. Hopefully someday, we will be one of the most recognised countries in terms of beauty. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
(Information and photographs courtesy: Wikitravel and Facebook)
We regret the oversights
1) The writer's name of the article '4 years of pain, or pleasure?' that appeared on page 25 in our October 28 issue is Muhammad Raquibul Basher. He was a student of East West University, Dhaka.
2) Please read War Cemetery instead of War Symmetry on page 23, column two, line 16, of the article 'A Journey to Remember…' that appeared in our October 28 issue.