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    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Bandarban (June 2007)

    From Meghla to Chimbuk

    A Tour of Bandarban

    08-09 June 2007


    The weather in Chittagong was tolerable. Even though the Capital City was under a wet grave, the southern parts of the country were not touched by the deluge; at least, not yet. The debate was about the weather. If this has to be a trip of pleasure, it has to have the chances to become something like that. And that required some sun; or may be lack of rain to say the least. From that point of view, the journey didn’t look too gloomy because of the existing weather over Chittagong. So, there we go, off to the bus stop. Where? Cinema Plaza. No, not there! That’s not the place to go if you want to go to Bandarban. It has to be Bahaddarhat Bus Terminal. I know that place since my last trip to Rangmati. From my way back from Kaptai this is the place where we landed. Two gates of the Terminal made me confused. It’s the second gate that serves passengers to and from Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban. Bandarban buses are on the right side of the terminal. It wasn’t difficult to find one of the bus counters. Purobi is the bus that somehow attracted my attention and set the tickets from there. Tk 60 per ticket. They said that it takes around two hours for the journey to finish.



    There we went. The bus was supposed to start at 11:30AM. And my concern has always been the actual departure, rather than the declared timing. Anyways, it wasn’t too late compared to a lot of other bus services that we are used to see all over the country. It was not later than 11:39AM when an ancient-looking driver showed up in his white Panjabi and took off with the vehicle. Before long we were out of the City. The driving wasn’t as scary, but it was not too slow either. After about 1 hour and 25 minutes’ drive, the driver reminded us that it was Friday and there’s the prayer to be attended. The bus stopped and around a dozen Muslims were on their way to the local mosque by the road. After a break of around 40 minutes, we were on our way again. It wasn’t long before we left the Cox’s Bazar Road and entered the Bandarban road. Here, the road quickly changed its view. There was green all around! The trees were trying their best to protect the sensitive road from the sun. A natural protection from the sun if it has to be termed like that. The higher hills of Bandarban could be seen from far away; over the flat lands that looked not too different from that of other, mainly agri-dependent, parts of the country. Before long, it turned more into a jungle trip than anything else, as the roadside view changed into a mixture of mostly bamboo trees and small hillocks. And after a while, the road was only flowing through the hills. The wavy road took us up and down just like roller coasters. The view form the window was turning into a nice experience already. The steep drops on sides sometimes gave the occasional scare, but also provided that thrill of natural sceneries.



    It was Meghla, which was our destination; but to our utter excitement, we missed the place and ended up in the Bandarban town itself, some 4km away! Now what do we do? Only one three-wheeler taxi was there to take us to the place where we wanted to reach at the first place. There are two places in that same area. One is Meghla, which is a natural park and has a privately owned rest house on the other side of it. And the other one is Parjatan Motel, which was a few steps away from there. The Parjatan Motel was where we decided to go. The winding roller coaster ride wasn’t too difficult in the bus; but now the three-wheeler was showing its stresses to make it. This definitely isn’t a road for these vehicles. But people do travel in these vehicles in this part of the globe. I mean, how many options do you have? Had to pay the driver Tk 80 to reach the place.

    rain in the air.................
    rain in the air.................01
    Taken at Parjatan Motel, Bandarban, Bangladesh

    still have to go...........
    still have to go...........

    on guard........
    on guard........
    shh!!...... the pigeon is guarding her nest........ don't wake up the babies!!

    witness.............
    witness.............

    The Parjatan Motel is not a small thing at all. It has a huge three-storey building on a high place. The room rent here looked a little high compared to other places. But as we have already decided to come and stay here, we had little choices left with us. And at the end of a journey, we needed some rest. Checking in didn’t take long. But getting freshened-up did take some time. The view from our second floor balcony was captivating indeed! Cameras jumped out of our bags and we forgot time! Rain didn’t touch us during our journey into Bandarban, but we could see the clouds over the horizons darkening-up the green carpet of hillocks. Rain began to fall and gave us the opportunity to click some photos. To our utter surprise, we found that the place had mobile phone network! Network isn’t present even in Bandarban town. We used this privilege to our advantage and shared the beautiful view with others who couldn’t accompany us.

    Nightmare!!
    nightmare!!
    can you imagine the view he gets of his surroundings??
    just have a look at those eyes!!...... aren't they capable of giving heart attacks??
    taken at Parjatan Motel, Bandarban, Bangladesh

    lemon...............
    lemon...............01

    wet nature................
    wet nature................01

    raindrops................
    raindrops................03

    butterfly.............03
    butterfly.............03

    After a refreshing bath and a late lunch, we couldn’t help take some photos in the surrounding areas. The lunch wasn’t up to any level of satisfaction, mainly because of the horrific rates for all types of food items. The rates may not be any issue for many, but it was for me. It was almost evening and was about to rain. So, didn’t have much of a choice left. The scenic areas that can be seen from our balcony, have to wait until next morning before we can experience them. We had to go through the tough restaurant menu again during the supper. But we didn’t have our stomach half-full. It rained heavily in the evening and at night. But we had our morning plans in our heads when we finally went to sleep.

    bathed in green...........
    bathed in green...........
    Taken at Meghla Parjatan Complex, Bandarban, Bangladesh

    scary eyes!!
    scary eyes!!
    taken at Meghla Parjatan Complex, Bandarban, Bangladesh


    We had our other tour partners arriving in the morning to accompany us in the scenic tours. They came straight from Chittagong in a rented vehicle. After a quick breakfast, we wasted some time in a photography session. The visibility over the distant hilly areas improved a lot during the morning; definitely a lot better than what it was last evening. By around 10:00AM it began to drizzle, when we took off for Bandarban town. On our way was Meghla, the natural park. There was ticket counter letting us in at Tk 10 per person. The path from the entrance to the park lead us down in a sloped but paved way. The way contained some risk of slipping because of the algae grown on the paved way. But without a lot of difficulty, we were able to reach the bottom of that way. There was that lake; surrounded by green and sliced by a couple of wooden hanging bridges coloured in red. We took the second bridge to reach the other side of the lake shore. The shore climbed from there until it took us to some kind of a hillock. The hillock climbed and climbed and we followed it through a narrow trail. The trail had some breathtaking sceneries as it increased in height. The dense vegetation couldn’t hide the natural beauties of the place. Before we actually realised, we had climbed to a place that was almost of the same height as that of the Parjatan Motel. It took some squinting to discover the details of that Motel from this distance. The bridges on the lake could also be seen from that height. Needless to say, we spent some time taking snaps of this wonderfully picturesque place. Again, we found mobile network at this palce and shared our experiences with others over phone. The sky held up its crying up to this time even though there was a lot of clouds looming over the hills, waiting to come down any moment. Some drizzling actually made us nervous, as there is virtually no place to take a shelter at this place. The trail ends up at an under construction paved way that should lead us straight to the bottom of the hill. But before that is complete, we have to take another route that takes us through a mini zoo. The zoo has some antelopes, monkeys, birds, a bear, and some other animals. The end of that road lead us to the other bridge over the lake. This bridge was constructed later and called the second bridge. Now we had to climb up to the entrance of Meghla. And this was a somewhat tiresome task as we had already walked and climbed a fair distance over the hills. Even though we were tired, the tour of Meghla was every bit enjoyable. We now have our eyes towards the Bandarban town, some 4km away.

    house on the green...................
    house on the green...................
    Taken at Milonchhori Resort, Bandarban, Bangladesh

    butterfly.............04
    butterfly.............04
    Taken at Milonchhori Resort, Bandarban, Bangladesh

    Our main aim was to find a way to reach Chimbuk Hill. But the car that we had wasn’t up to it. This resulted in a debate within our group that we should only go to places where this vehicle can take us. Other places should remain outside our tour plan. We also had a rush to reach Chittagong within the afternoon, which made the planning a little tricky. Anyways, we decided to go to Milonchhori, a private resort run by a private tour operator. It was almost noon when we reached Milonchhori. The place had some brilliant views from its restaurant. We took some time to take some more snaps. Milonchhori had some living quarters that offered better prices compared to Parjatan Motel. The overall facilities or security can be debated though.



    This is when we decided to go for Chimbuk, provided that we return from there as quickly as possible. We returned to Bandarban town to measure the feasibility of that journey. There were some four-wheel-drive vehicles waiting to take us to Chimbuk. We had the option of taking the old junkies called Chader Gaari. But our lived were unfortunately more precious to us than our money! We took the more expensive way and rented a vehicle for Tk 1,300 for the round trip. Very little bargaining was possible as there was a set list of rent for different destinations that was put up over there on a big sign board. So, at last we started for Chimbuk by around 12:45PM. The drivers assured us that we could go and come back from there in 2 hours.



    The route we followed was the same that we took for Milonchhori. Chimbuk is about 30km from Bandarban town. But this 30km way is unlike any other 30km in other parts of the country. This winding road is a handful for any vehicle. We soon realised the necessity of a four-wheel-drive vehicle over these hills. The road took us up and up until we could see everything else far below us. The weather still held and there was a nice breeze blowing from the west providing a very pleasant journey. Last year I couldn’t go to Chimbuk because a part of the road was destroyed by flood. This time I took extra care to know where and how the road communication was severed. The driver showed me the place where the whole hillside caved in and a whole section of the road was washed away. Anyway, the winding road went through some populated places. The local people could be found all over this hilly road, way up into the heavens. After almost quarter of an hours’ ride, we could actually see the top of Chimbuk hill. The road to Ruma goes away on the way down to the left and the road on the right goes to Chimbuk and Thanchi. The top of Chimbuk is decorated by a communication tower, which can be seen from a distance.

    top of the table..............
    top of the table..............
    taken from the top of Chimbuk Hill......

    After exactly one hours’ drive we were on top of Chimbuk. It was a heavenly feeling. We were almost like on top of the world. All the hillocks around looked like flat carpet compared to this one! The west side hillocks were lower, as they disappeared into the Bay of Bengal. The eastern side hills were higher, as they met with the hills of India. Visibility was good, but not outstanding. So, we were not too lucky with a view of the Bay of Bengal. It was drizzling a bit. But the sun was still shining strongly. There’s a rest house on top of Chimbuk, along with some buildings of police and telecommunication. There were other tourists on top of the hill as well. They had the time to stay a bit longer. But we, unfortunately, had lesser time than we would’ve liked. Recording the sceneries in our cameras, we had to leave. It was true that the place had an amazing magnetic power to keep people here for long. You definitely don’t want to come down from there that quickly! But we had to force ourselves. It was 2:15PM and we were racing against time.

    hilly struggle...................
    hilly struggle...................
    Taken near Bandarban, Bangladesh

    uphill task!!
    uphill task!!
    Taken near Shailaprapat, just outside Bandarban, Bangladesh

    The return journey was not too different from the journey up. But it was no less enjoyable. Didn’t have the time to stop down to have a feeling of the local culture. This surely gives me the motivation to come back again to see what I missed. Shailaprapat is the small hilly spring that flows by the road to Chimbuk. I had a feel of this during my last year’s visit here. At that time (August) there was a lot of water in the spring then. But now (June) there’s hardly any water there. We had a short pause here before started again. Probably would come back here again when there’s some flow in the water.



    It was 3:20PM when we returned to Bandarban town. And how precious little time we had to return to Chittagong. The journey to Chittagong should take almost 2 hours. So, we didn’t waste any time whatsoever and jumped into the car that our tour partners brought from Chittagong. The road that we crossed a day before now lie in front of us. This time there’s a lot of clouds looming above! There would be rain for sure. But how lucky we were that no rain touched us during our long walk at Meghla or during our journey to and from Chimbuk. The journey surely made us happy, but also gave the inspiration to come back again.

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