If exploring off the beaten path is your preferred travel style, you should jump on the next plane for Bangladesh.
The tourist infrastructure is meager, at best. However, there are many jewels to visit in this predominantly Muslim country bordering the Indian Ocean.
The Northeastern region of Bangladesh is referred to as 1) Sylhet, known for its tea plantations and fruit farming. With my student group, we toured the lush fields, winding our way through mazes of jackfruit and pineapple.
Srimangal is an area of Sylhet where you can find an exquisite and remote place. Lovers of artisin drink will appreciate the 2) Nilkantha Tea Cabin.
There you can select from a variety of locally sourced (like, five meters away) teas, and then watch as they separate into delicate layers in your tea mug.
Another area worth visiting was 3) Cox’s Bazar, a fishing port in the Chittagong region of Bangladesh. We played along the one of the widest beaches in the world.
The gals in the group opted to stay out of the water. In going for a swim, we would have respected local norms and remained in full dress. But none of us was up for a stroll back to the hotel, sopping wet.
This boy knew I had a soft spot for horses, and sprinted up to me to offer a ride. I’m certain I weighed more than the horse, as he didn’t want to go very far.
Surrounded by water, there was no lack of boats. Boats of the pirate ship variety, looking as fierce as though from an old film. I couldn’t decide if the boats, or the boats’ passengers were more captivating.
For veritable star treatment, one should visit 4) Moheshkhali Island, off the coast of Cox’s Bazar. There was some haggling in order to secure a boat big enough for the group of us, at a decent price, but we succeeded in getting there.
From restaurant owners to local fisherman, the community came out of the woodwork to see the foreign visitors. This man sorting shells agreed to have his picture taken with a slight shake (a Bangladeshi “nod”) of his head.
However, the most memorable scene was that of the local butcher. He puffed his chest out and stood up straight when I asked to take a photograph.
It was consistently difficult to decipher the mood of various locals I encountered. Cultural differences in expression and interpretation, I suppose. However, this gentleman’s pride was unmistakable.
Moheshkhali Island sees thousands of visitors each year, most of whom make a stop at the beautiful 5) Shrine of Adinath. Peeking out of a mangrove jungle and topping a prominent hill, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva.
Bangladesh is a warm country to visit, especially in the summer. This pup was smart to grab a nap where he could, inside the temple.
I was distracted from taking more photographs of this historical sight. Earlier I mentioned my weakness for horses.
The same applies for children.
The children were enamored with mimicry, and were abundantly joyful. Of course, those in cities working alongside their parents making handicrafts, or selling goods at the snack stands, were more hardened. Older than their young years.
Bangladesh is a country where youth is quickly lost, replaced by a hardened exterior and the need for hard work in order to get by. However, it is a place where raw beauty still exists, and certainly worth the long journey.