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The folded hills and clouded valleys of Bandarban

In July 2009, Bradt Travel Guides will release a new travel guidebook for Bangladesh around the world. A group of five international travel writers and travel agents, including the book author, is currently exploring Bangladesh’s tourism potential. Their goal is to explore Bangladesh’s tourism potential. What follows is part two of the trip diary.

Journey to the hills
A humid and sticky morning greets my team of travel writers as we file from the train in Chittagong. We must wait here for a few hours as the last person in our group, travel agent Peter Zakrzewski, joins us from Sydney. I take the crew for nashta across from the train station. Freshly baked naan bread, hot mugh dal and “momlettes” start off our day, followed by cups of milky cha, laced with sugar — the Bengali sweet tooth is more like a hungry canine in this respect.
Shortly after breakfast, Peter joins us and we begin our journey to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). As we drive, the city finally fades away, and the group gets their first glance of the verdant Bengali countryside. The lowland rice paddies and chockablock farms eventually give rise to the wild hills and our long journey to get here finally concludes.
In many ways, the region is the jewel in the crown of the CHT’s tourist sites. The environment is pristine and the tourism potential is completely untapped. Up at Milonchori, Guide Tours’ Hillside Resort is simply one of the best places to stay in Bangladesh. Here, the jungle’s chorus is a lullaby to the soul’s ear. And the view: a stunning panorama of hills, rivers, fields, and jungle.
“I’ve met several Bengali people who don’t even know their country has such beauty inside it,” says Mikey, recalling a day where he met some visitors who were spending an afternoon in Bandarban.

Stunning scenery and spicy local cuisine
After lunch, we spend the afternoon touring around, security forces following our every step. We take a short one-hour cruise on the Sangu River, watching the hills roll by like a movie reel around us. We see women washing utensils from their lunch time meals, while children frolic in the cool, clear waters of the river.
“It’s very pretty, but it’s so strange seeing women washing and bathing by the riverbank,” says writer Nicole Kobie. “It kind of feels like an invasion of privacy, especially when you get a camera out and start taking pictures.”
I then take the crew to the Supreme Bliss Buddhist Pagoda, a gorgeous monastery situated on a hill a few kilometres outside the town. Here the monks are welcoming and friendly, keen to share their rich spirituality with the curious and inquisitive foreign guest. “I liked the tranquility of the place. I felt I could really open up there, and open myself there,” says travel writer Nick Redmayne, adding that he liked “donging the bell.”
Finally, we end the evening with drinks at the Marma Hotel, followed by a serving of spicy local cuisine. At this unmarked indigenous restaurant, everything you consume here raises your temperature a few degrees — conversation among our group picks up with the addition of a little social lubricant. The belly-warming drinks are followed by kebabs –pork kebabs. Finally, we try out the “nappy,” a healthy, dried-fish based sauce typically used to flavour the vegetables. Our mouths burned with the exotic spices of indigenous food. “The rice wine is surprisingly tasty,” says Peter Zakrzewski. “Just a hint of rice flavour. Much smoother and tastier than Chinese rice wine.”

Nilachal and Hatibhanda
The next morning we finally take our time — our breakneck speed tour has us moving nearly every day, and last night is the only night we sleep on something that isn’t moving. Says writer Nick Redmayne: “This morning, walking from the bungalow, listening to some exotic sounding cuckoo, it felt quite removed from Dhaka, a lofty retreat. The air was ever so slightly cool, refreshing.”
We head up to the lookout point at Nilachal, where Parjatan has built a facility that will become a restaurant, and also a lookout for observing the surrounding scenery from in all directions. The spot is not easy to get to, as there is still no road, but the steep walk means we get a bit of a workout on our way up. At the top, the writers try out a daab pani (coconut water) for refreshment, which I consider to be a real novelty. Nick’s incredible curiosity has him checking out every single item on sale at the lookout.

For a nation whose international image is often framed by poverty, natural disasters and corruption, Bangladesh: the Bradt Travel Guide will represent a milestone in Mikey Leung’s attempts to change Bangladesh’s world image when it is published in 2009. To begin promotion of Bangladesh as a tourism destination, Bradt Travel Guides has organized a promotional tour of Bangladesh for a select group of travel writers and agents. The writers will publish a series of articles internationally, mostly in the United Kingdom. To learn more about Bradt’s guidebook project, please visit Mikey Leung can be reached at

This article is quoted from Daily Star . The article written by Mikey Leung was originally published on 2008-03-13

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