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 Lured by the Beach Side of a Beleaguered Land in Bangladesh

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Posts : 193
Join date : 2008-10-16
Age : 33
Location : South Tekpara, Cox's Bazar

PostSubject: Lured by the Beach Side of a Beleaguered Land in Bangladesh   Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:51 pm

Lured by the Beach Side of a Beleaguered Land in Bangladesh .

pic:Syed Zakir Hossain for The New York Times
Far less crowded is Inani, where fishermen work along what is often called the world’s longest beach.

Published: December 24, 2006

IT was a crisp and gorgeous day, and there were fewer than 100 people on Inani Beach, a wide swath of powdery white sand stretching from horizon to horizon along Bangladesh’s southeastern tip. It is part of a sandy stretch that measures 75 miles tip to tip, and is often called the world’s longest beach, but it felt more like the loneliest.

The New York Times

I was lounging on a rented deck chair for several hours last April on sand as soft and flat as the Bay of Bengal itself, spread out like a freshly paved road. Rows of spindly firs swayed in the salty breeze. And the only interruptions were the young Bangladeshis who would fetch me a lukewarm cola for a small baksheesh, or tip.

There are no Jet Skis, no motorboats and no cars — just the splashing of the bath-warm water. Pedal-powered rickshaws idled on the dirt road. Wooden fishing boats bobbed gently on the dark green water, like pirate ships of yore. It was so quiet, in fact, that wearing headphones would seem somehow rude, even if you were listening to George’s Harrison’s “Bangladesh.”

For a certain generation, that’s how this country is best remembered: for the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh that Harrison and his friends, including the Bengali musician Ravi Shankar, held to raise money for famine relief in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh still rarely makes the news unless there’s a devastating flood,a disease outbreak or political turmoil, as was the case last month when strikes related to next month’s elections paralyzed the country and left at least two dead. (At travel.state.gov/travel, the State Department has cautioned Americans that it “expects the situation throughout Bangladesh to remain uncertain through January.”)

But this impoverished, overpopulated and beleaguered country is quietly drawing tourists. While many if not most of Bangladesh’s visitors come from India, more Westerners are discovering this undeveloped stretch along the eastern edge of the Bay of Bengal as a less traveled and cheaper alternative to Bali and Thailand.

Wedged into northeastern India and along a short border with Myanmar (formerly Burma), this fertile sea-level land straddles the Tropic of Cancer and is intercut by the Ganges, Jamuna and Meghna Rivers on their way to the Bay of Bengal. It has marshy jungles crisscrossed by innumerable streams, wide tracts of unspoiled beaches and the Sundarbans in the southwest, the largest mangrove forest in the world and home of the royal Bengal tiger.

And much of it, refreshingly, is free of tourists. Indeed, the country’s tourist board has adopted the slogan “Visit Bangladesh Before Tourists Come.”

With 147 million people occupying roughly the same area as Iowa, Bangladesh is among the most densely populated nations on earth. It’s also a Muslim nation.. As such, every experience is informed by Islam, from the morning prayers broadcast from tall citadels to the near absence of liquor stores and anything resembling Western night life.

I started my monthlong visit in Dhaka, the swirling and chaotic capital on the Buriganga River. One doesn’t enjoy a casual stroll through Dhaka. A trip to the city’s center means bushwhacking through throngs of garishly decorated rickshaws, buses held together by Bondo putty and taxis that belch and wheeze around the clock.

Dhaka is also not the most pleasant-smelling city; a hint of sewage and humanity always hangs in the hot and sticky air.

I didn’t stay long. Like most travelers, I made my way to Cox’s Bazar, a bustling town on that same long stretch of beach as Inani. The trip from Dhaka was a harrowing 10 hours in a ramshackle former school bus. This was not a peaceful journey: Bangladeshi drivers are not known for staying in their lanes.

But just miles away from frenzied, industrialized Dhaka, the landscape changed dramatically and revealed a verdant, flat land covered by hand-tended rice fields and palm trees hanging lazily in the heat. Tiny ponds, green from algae, dotted the countryside like puddles after a rainstorm. Children bathed and played and waved excitedly at passing buses.

Cox’s Bazar may be a beach town, but in some ways it feels like a big city. With narrow dirty roads that are jam-packed from sunrise to well-past sunset, it is a smaller version of Dhaka — unnerving, unkempt and madcap. But it is also the epicenter of Bangladesh’s tourism, and the favored staging ground for visitors heading out to the pristine white sand beaches and balmy, shark-free waters.

Though the beach stretches for miles to the north and south, most visitors are content to sit on the sands at Cox’s Bazar itself. They’re free, open to the public and so expansive that it’s nearly impossible to feel crowded.

For Westerners trying to blend in, hitting the beach Bangladeshi-style means leaving the bikini at home. Beachgoers dress is if they were going to work. Men are clad in slacks and dress shirts — some even wear ties. Their wives, without exception, wear traditional saris. Even the children are dressed modestly in long pants and button-downs. And no one swims as much as they wade in the warm water, their pant legs and saris hiked up to their knees.
Ref : http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/travel/24next.html
& www.coxsbazar.forumotion.com
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