Love is in the air. Love in all forms and shape is celebrated today. In every corner of the world, romanticism is reaching its record-breaking new heights. Love themed flowers, chocolates, confectioneries and gift items have flooded the market. Couples are finding innovative ways to impress their beloved. Valentine’s Day is here again. On this love filled day, I share my story of a lovely destination. A place, which is also considered as a honeymoon destination – Cox Bazar.
Cox Bazar in the southwestern part of Bangladesh is famous as a beach destination. It is regarded as the third longest beach in the world. Although its Wikipedia page and a board in Cox Bazar calls it the longest in the world. I am not interested in this controversy rather I want to focus on the extra long beach and the beautiful surrounding here.
We already had a plan to visit Cox Bazar while on our tour to Bangladesh. No sooner we landed in Dhaka, (read my experience in Dhaka) every individual was a mouthful in praises for Cox Bazar. So did our barometer of excitement rise. We could not wait to be there. We were advised for the mandatory purchase of Cox Bazar special dried fish, Burmese sandal soap and Burmese pickle.
We were also advised to visit certain places. As a soft-spoken, simple and unscholarly Uber driver in Dhaka said, there is a place where you find a beautiful huge statue of a man in lying posture. He also mentioned another place where there are statues of many men in sitting posture. We took this cue to guess what he was talking about. He has not yet visited Cox Bazar but has heard its fame and about the places of interests, from others. He said what he has heard of.
With all these recommendations in mind, we set forward for Cox Bazar in the Greenline Bus. We had the taste of Greenline waterways while on our way back from Barisal (read my experience in Barisal.) But our bus journey turned even better. Greenline transport has high-quality busses and their service is even better. I especially like the double-decker MAN buses waiting in the terminal and I hoped to have such a bus for our journey.
We did have a double-decker bus but it was not a MAN bus that I expected. But the interior of the bus was so comfy, spacious and beautiful that it was beyond my expectation. As all the passengers were on board there was an announcement greeting all and giving information about the journey and the destination. The supervisor also announced that there would be a break in between the journey for complimentary dinner.
Our co-passengers mostly comprised of honeymoon couples. Since then we realised that it must be a favourite honeymoon destination. At midnight the bus stopped for the dinner at a food joint in Feni district. It was a huge establishment and we were guided to the second floor of the food joint. The building was beautifully decorated and sparklingly clean. It had every possible facility starting from dining hall to hygienic washroom to prayer hall to beauty parlour. We did not have much time to explore the other parts of the building.
The buffet was laid with a large variety of delicious food. It had appetizers in the form of vadas and soups, in the main course there was two different preparation of rice and side dishes ranged from a variety of dal, vegetable preparation, chicken and mutton, desert comprised of kheer and patishapta (a traditional Bengali sweet). There were tea and coffee too. Every staff members were overly active to take special care of every guest. We were overwhelmed by the hospitality that I had never experienced anywhere before.
We travelled over Comilla and Chittagong to reach the famed Cox Bazar in the morning. We had our hotel booked online and it was just beside the beach. The vast expanse of an extended clean beach welcomed us. Hundreds of empty loungers were lined up under the beach umbrellas. The number implied the huge number of tourist influx in the region.
We had Aalam as our guide cum companion cum driver of his battery operated three-wheeler. He at once became a member of our family since he the time he lovingly addressed me ‘aapi’ (didi or elder sister). He took us to a place called Ramu. Ramu has some interesting spots with significance to the Buddhist religion. The first spot we visited was the place where the aforementioned statue of the lying man rested. It was the 100 feet golden colour statue of the Buddha.
Located in the lush surrounding of paddy fields the statue along with the monastery is situated on a small hillock within the cover of tall trees and a simple garden. As the district shares border with Myanmar, the region has a considerable number of Buddhist population. Aalam said that in recent days a huge number of Rohingyas has taken refuge in the region. So the district police and administration are on high alert to prevent any disturbance. He said, to escape the tyranny the Rohingyas initially crossed the border and settled along the beach. Now the government has set refugee camps far from the beach and relocated them to the camps.
Then through the beautiful greenery, we rocked along to our next destination. We could not enjoy the scenery as we kept on jerking through the bad roads. Thus crossing many forest and paddy fields we entered the town of Ramu. It is the Sima Buddha Bihar. This monastery is situated within the locality. As per Aalam, this monastery was destroyed during the communal violence. It was restored much later in recent years by the initiative of present Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wazed.
The rough roads through the green vistas took us to the Rangkut monastery. Rangkut is an important monastery in historical as well as religious aspect. The Emperor Ashoka the Great excavated the bone relics of Buddha, that was restored by Ajatshatru. He then preserved it in 84 thousand stupas. The chest bone of Buddha was preserved here giving the place the name of Rangkut (Rang-U means sacred chest bone and as this was preserved on the hilltop so it is called Rangkut, mount with chest bone.)
There is a silver statue of Samrat Ashoka under an ancient banyan tree that was planted by the famous Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang in the 7th century. Climbing up the stair to the monastery leads to the statue of Buddha. There is a board that describes the historical importance of the place. There is a museum that preserves ancient holy relics. There are multiple statues of Buddha in a seated position on either side of the main gate. Remember the Uber driver mentioning statues of many men sitting around?
I was astonished to see these beautiful Buddhist monasteries in Cox Bazar. Aalam said there are few more monasteries but at a distance. Then it was the beach time. The unbroken sandy beach of Cox Bazar extends approximately from 130-150 km. A long stretch of more than 3 km of beautifully paved road lined by trees run parallel to the beach. And Inani beach is one such attraction within this stretch of road.
Inani beach is the most favourite beach among the tourists. A huge number of local tourist were seen here. Honeymooners, family travellers and even elderly people were seen to enjoy their beach time. Like every popular beach, there were loungers for people to sit back and relax watching the waves crashing the sandy shore. There were stalls selling various beachside items.
The ride through the silky smooth beachside road was like gliding through the clouds with the cool breeze from the sea rustling through the trees. It was such a relief after the day-long ride through the bad roads. Red crabs were seen by the shore running around. Aalam stopped his vehicle, ran and got hold of one and thus got his fingers bleeding. After showing us the crab he then released it back in its habitat.
Himchori is another favourite among the locals. This spot has been developed for tourism purpose. Landscape gardening with artificial waterfalls is created. Stairs lead to the viewpoint from where one can have a commanding view of the beach and the surrounding area.
Our hotel was situated just beside the main sea beach of Cox Bazar. And our balcony offered an amazing view of the sunset. We spent our wonderful evening watching the sun taking a plunge into the blue waters. There were beachside stalls here too. Here we could see series of shops selling dried fish. And the fishes were huge, dangling in front of the stores. The staunch smell kept us far from treading the vicinity.
Our companion Aalam took us to a Burmese market somewhere at a distance from our hotel. There are many areas where you can find Burmese market. Burmese market is nothing else but market areas spread across many areas in Cox Bazar which are owned and operated by the Chakma peoples. They sell various items that they produce ranging from pickles, shawls, dresses, soaps and others. We did purchase pickles, dresses and soaps but we stayed far from those dried fish.
Cox Bazar is all by the beach. Most of the hotels are lined up along the beach and many hotels had their private beach too. With the long stretch of uninterrupted shoreline, one can enjoy the sea to the fullest. Thus the hotels and resorts by the beach are the perfect destination for the honeymooners to have their own privacy by the sea. This makes Cox Bazar their favourite destination.
After our wonderful stay in Cox Bazar, we were on our way to Chittagong. This time too we had a lot of couples as our co-passengers. Among them was a couple who were leaving behind their family and friends to run away to Chittagong to start a new life. This is the place where people come to celebrate their love. And again this is the place from where these lovebirds are eloping to settle down somewhere else in peace. With good wishes to these lovebirds for their new beginning, I end my Valentine Day special post.