COX'S BAZAR to-do list
120 kilo-meters of sandy beaches; that is why Cox's Bazar is the most visited spot in Bangladesh and the country's most hyped tourist destination. Not only does Cox's Bazar offer the longest unbroken chain of beach, it also provides one of the least crowded and most private of beach experiences, provided you know where to look. In fact, Cox's Bazar offers the chance to do a lot of things, but many just stick to the beaches and come right back, missing out on some of Cox's Bazar's finest offers. To avoid making the same mistake, check out our list below and tick them off on your next visit to the port side town.
Everybody knows Laboni Point, Burmese Market and Inani Beach. Even cruising down Marine Drive, with the mountain to one side and the sea on the other can get boring. That's when you put on your hiking clothes and go a little deeper into Cox's Bazar, nearing Teknaf. The first place you should visit is Ramu. The scene of communal violence two years back, the village has steadily gained back its robbed charm. The thirteen feet high Buddah statue, beautiful Buddhist temples, mountains in the background, hand-made cigars and pagoda shaped houses all help make Ramu famous. It is indeed worth the visit.
If you are still in the mood for temples and history, then it is off to Moheskhali for you. An island off the coast of Cox's Bazar, the 268 km area offers hills and a small mangrove forest, reminiscent of Sundarbans, minus the Bengal tigers and such. On the hill, right on the edge, lies the temple of Adhinath, dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.
The location offers you the chance to really enjoy the peaceful island life and learn the ways of the Rakhine. Another island worth visiting is Saint Martin's Island. The famous coral island offers white-sandy beaches, clear blue seas and of course the best tasting coconuts ever had. A three hour ride from Cox's Bazar, Saint Martin's must be on everyone's to do list.
From Cox's Bazar, in the distance, you will see crescent shaped sandy areas almost off the coasts. These are the 'dwips', with Sonadia Dwip and Pechar Dwip being the most famous. The dwips are where you get to see the most migratory birds and resident birds, with the number of species reaching close to 50. The dwips also serve as nesting grounds for sea turtles, although you'd be very lucky to actually see one nesting.
Having seen some of the more famous sights, you must now explore the activities the beach has to offer. Go straight to Laboni Point, if beach activities are your meat. The beach here attracts the most crowds and thus gets the highest number of sellers providing entertainment options or selling knickknacks. The activities on offer on the main beach are horse riding, speed-boat riding, cruising on off road vehicles or shopping in the numerous shops heralding your entrance to the beach. Shopping can be fun but must be done so responsibly. The islanders may be more than willing to sell corals and shells, but removal of each from the coast has an environmental impact, so remember that with every purchase you make. Dry fish is a famous Cox's Bazar delicacy with many shops selling the item. Not only can you buy the dry fish but the shop-keepers will even provide you with leaflets on how to prepare the fish and what recipes to use.
In the main city, you find the Burmese market. Here, a wide range of products from all over are found. You can find cosmetics, knives, lungis, shells, chocolates, decoration pieces, etc. The Burmese market is now called such for its range of products from Myanmar. An interesting aspect explains why; it is easier and cheaper for the shop keepers to get their wares from Myanmar than Bangladesh itself, with most of the local industries set far away from the seaside town. Hence, the number of Burmese products and thus the name of the market.
No journey can be complete without having eaten good food. Well, lucky for those visiting Cox's Bazar, there are plenty of places to go in this regard. If local cuisine is what you fancy, then head on for Poushee or Jhau Bon, both famous restaurants. Try exotic things like banana leaf and dry fish, as these are two things that Cox's Bazar is famous for. If you are in the mood for something more fancy, try any of the hotel restaurants. There's also Handi, a famous brand name restaurant from Chittagong, which offers great Indian food. Mermaid Cafe is close by, right on the beach, serving plates of delicious pastas, pizzas, steaks and calamari. For those with simpler tastes, there's a KFC right on Cox's Bazar's only main road. Indeed, although sleepy in nature, Cox's Bazar has made strides in its development. Just one look at its menu says how multi-cultural it has gotten in a short span of ten years.
The next time you visit Cox's Bazar make sure to do the things mentioned. To make it more of an experience, hike your way through your journey, taking the mountainous paths. Enjoy the journey and then you can enjoy the destination.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed