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    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    St Martin's Island, March 2009

    The Corals and the Blue: TTL Tour to St Martin's Island
    06-07 March 2009

    This was my first ever visit to the coral island. I've heard so much from so many that I could hardly wait to set my foot over there. So, when the opportunity came, I didn't think for too long before giving the go-ahead. Only needed the approval from family, and it was the most important hurdle. The idea of visiting the island came when the creative brains of Chobir Haat at Charukala (Institute of Fine Arts) decided on yet another Ghuri Utsob (Kite Festival) at St Martin's. For the visitors, the overall event was planned and organised by Incitaa Tourism. Zaiedi Bhai of Incitaa did a great campaign and there was no short of enthusiasm.

    I became part of a group of photographers. Not necessarily part of the large group of spectators excepted to attend the event. Ours was a bit more than Ghuri Utsob. We went there to discover Nature at her very best. Our tour was organised by "Through the Lens: Bangladesh" (TTL) group of Flickr. A biggish group of 14 people with cameras formed this crazy group. Kamal gets the most credit for organising the whole show. Arif, Kamrul, Monir, Neaz, Atiq, Shuvro, Nurur Bhai, Dilir Bhai, Shabbir Bhai, Arif's cousin Sunny, Ferdous from Chittagong also joined in. Avik Bhai joined us for the first time and what a difference his presence had made!

    5th March 2009. Thursday. We started from Dhaka on a direct bus to Teknaf. Almost our whole team formed on board the bus by the time the bus started from Fakirerpool at 9:15PM. Ferdous was supposed to join us at Teknaf. We were all tired after a hectic office day, but tiredness would not dare come near us when Avik Bhai was on board. We had fun all the way. We enjoyed our meal mid-way near Comilla. And this enjoyment was crucial to prepare ourselves for the long journey. The preparation obviouly had rest as an integral part of it. But when all hell broke loose from 3:00AM, rest became a luxury. Teknaf was in our sight before we could have a substantial rest. The dreamy landscape brought everyone to life. On our right, salt farms showed off their fragmented glass-like textures. Shallow hills gave them shelter and an excellent background. Our left had the end of those famrs, diminishing into the horizon, somewhere near the Naf River. The sun shone on our face from that direction.

    We reached Teknaf by around 8:15AM. Our ship, the Kutubdia, was pierside. We finished our breakfast at a makeshift restaurant and prepared to board. The place was teeming with tourists. We had suspected a big crowd there before we reached. It was a weekend and there was a highly publicised Ghuri Utsob. St Martin's is an island in the Bay of Bengal; the southernmost point of the country. Because of the need to travel on a ship, weather becomes a very important part of it. Only the dry season is suitable for a journey there. Other times of the year would have big enough waves to scare even the sturdiest of travellers. And these ships also don't operate in off-season. This is a the last month in the tourist season that starts after November.

    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    The blue just got me crazy..........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers............01


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Spreading wings...........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Seeing blue...........01


    We boarded the Kutubdia by around 9:00AM. It was a heavy rush. We went on enjoying the landscape while we walked down the pier to board the ship. All of us wanted to stop mid-way down the pier to have some snaps. We took our seats amid a bit of chaos. And waited. Brown-headed gulls were displaying their in-flight abilities. Scavenging for the left-over from the ships, they attracted enough attention from the passengers from the ships. The waiting wasn't that boring actually. The blue waters of the Naf were washing the feet of those blue hills; as if the blue came from the water! The other bank of the river belongs to Myanmar. The Naf is basically the borderline between Bangladesh and Myanmar. It was a bright sunny day, though a bit of cloud was hanging overhead.

    To our surprise, the ship crew almost forgot their schedule. They got lost in another world for more than an hour and didn't even think of moving the ship before 10:00AM. What we had heard was that a big chunk of the passengers got late in a bus. And the ship authorities decided to give them a concession at the expense of our patience. Anyway, the ship finally moved by around 10:15AM.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Must be a very good super-glue commercial........
    This may look life-threatening....... but this is daily fodder for many.......


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Living in a dreamscape.........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Life is hard......... fishermen dragging nets in the waters of the Naf River in search of shrimp fries..........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Curves............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers............02


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers............03


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers............04


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Leaving Teknaf..........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    A Myanmar boat...........



    Not a very big ship this Kutubdia. But wasn't too small either. A bit crowded for our choice though. All the three decks of the ship were full of passengers. We were on the top deck, enjoying the view and concentrating on clicking. As we moved along the Naf River, we enjoyed a superb view of the southernmost tip of Bangladesh. Hills of Teknaf decored Naf with their unique shapes and textures. Mangrove trees protected the foot of those hills from the saline water. Fishermen were fishing near the shores dragging their nets in shallow waters. Numerous fishing boats were also all over the place. Some trawlers flying Myanmar flags were also shuttling people between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Curiosity was in the faces of those passengers. They looked at us like some alien species!


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    The Myanmar temple............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    A lone sail-boat........ quite a rare sight......... this is the end of Bangladesh mainland.......


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Gulls of all kinds flocked on a small islet, protected by those big waves........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Two dots in the blue...........



    We could feel it when the ship entered the realms of the Bay of Bengal from the Naf. A bit of rolling began to remind us of that. A big flock of gulls were resting on a small island at the very end of Teknaf's landmass. Big white waves surrounded that small dry place. The waves looked scary, but they almost looked like sentries guarding those birds. The big Myanmar temple was visible on the other end; albeit a bit far from us. The ship was driving along the right bank, keeping itself within the international boundaries of Bangladesh.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Land of eternal blue........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Floating paintings..........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    A light moment in time...........


    The journey began to get a bit monotonous after a while. Some of us caught a bit of rest within this time. We finally began to see the coral island in the horizon by around 12:30PM. The island was some sight seen from the ship. The pier there was crowded. Another ship was already docked there. Our ship docked by around 1:00PM. Another rush ensued. We waited until it was easy enough to disembark. We took several covered rickshaw vans, which were designed specifically to carry tourists. After a short rider, these colourful rickshaw vans took us near our staying place, "Neel Digonte Resort". The short journey gave us a look of the island's inner landscape. There was evidence everywhere that this is a coral island. The resort faces west, whereas, we landed on the north-west side of the island.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    The coconut path...........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Part of the colourful Neel Digonte Resort...........


    We freshened up and took our lunch quickly. We were hungry like anything and whatever we had, seemed like food from heaven. We had fresh Koral fish caught by the island fishermen. After a short rest and recuperation, most of us had enough. They rushed to the beach after 3:00PM, while some others waited at the cottages for a more suitable weather. We stayed at several cottages and our neighbour was Mr. Hasan Imam Choudhury Tinku, who runs a TV show named "Banglalink Banglar Pothey", a travel show, which gained much popularity within a short time. We made friends with Tinku Bhai and he also took pleasure to give us travel tips. He went there with his wife and camera crew to cover the Ghuri Utsob (Kite Festival).


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Black Drongo at Neel Digonte Resort........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    A White Wagtail on coral...... Neel Digonte Resort.......


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Any ID on this one??


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers of gold............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Repairs.......... a couple of local fishermen repairing a boat....... these boats require regular repairs to keep them seaworthy........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Sunbathing............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Just peeping..............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Those days............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Nature's patterns.........



    I waited at the cottages for the sun to lose its temper. By this time, I had a close look at some birds. Wagtails, kingfishers, drongos and other types of birds declared the presence of vibrant lives there. I cooled off a bit and went to the beach after 4:00PM. It was still warm. The sun was leaning on the western waters. Golden reflections on the water slowly began to turn reddish. A small number of boats decorated the rather empty beach. Coral rocks were there on the beach, but there were some areas that were free of them. Those areas gave a good opportunity to bathe in the sea. Some of our friends had a nice time out there.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Liquid gold...........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Just a moment in time..........01
    Children on St Martin's island may not be the luckiest in the world, but they do decorate the beautiful island with their gracious presence............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Just a moment in time..........02



    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Sharing the smallest of pleasures.........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Perfect balance..........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Celebration...........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Sunset at St Martin's Island........... 06 March 009


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Corals in colours..............01


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Corals in colours..............02



    We began to move northward, where coral was a bit more visible. A crowded bazaar area was near the northern edge. We stopped short of that. Some of us went back near the resort. Some trials of Ghuri Utsob were held in the late hours. The Ghuri Utsob team stayed at "Seemana Periye Resort", which was right beside our resort. I stayed at the beach near the corals to enjoy the sunset. Some local children also brought their own kites to have some fun in their own way. The red glow of the skies didn't last too long, but it was enough for a bit of clicking.

    The evening didn't have a lot of adventure. We were dead tired and we decided to relax in our quarters until we went to our beds. This small episode turned out to be the most enjoyable event of the whole tour. We enjoyed the 'adda' like anything and enjoyed light moments among us. Avik Bhai, as usual, led the way. We finished our dinner at the resort, though we were thinking of diversifying the place of our meal. Our tired bodies didn't give us much of a chance. We went back to our quarters to find some badly needed sleep. Our plan was to wake up pretty early with the aim of reaching Chhera Dweep. We were all supposed to leave the island by the afternoon; so, early morning journey didn't have any alternative if we wanted to see the island.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Washing the corals right after sunrise..........01


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Washing the corals right after sunrise..........02


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Washing the corals right after sunrise..........03


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Waves of the blue..........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Fishermen of St Martin's Island start their journey pretty early in the morning.......


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Morning rays from the east hitting the corals on the western beaches........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina...........



    We did wake up pretty early. Sunrise wasn't the most rewarding as we found out. The sun actually rises above the coastal hills of Myanmar on the eastern side. So, dream of a classic sunrise was a bit premature. Anyway, we left our quarters after 6:00AM and reached the western beach. The option in front of us to reach Chhera Dweep was fishing trawlers. We discovered that boarding these trawlers from the beaches weren't the easiest if we were carrying our camera bags. Damage to photography gears became a prime concern. Not being absolutely sure about it, we decided to abort the mission. Some of us still wanted to go for it. They wanted to board bigger trawlers from the eastern piers, which should give them better chances with the security of their equipments. We went on shooting on the western beach until around 7:00AM.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    The heart of St Martin's.......... full credit to Avik Bhai for finding this.......


    We again boarded some rickshaw vans and went for the piers. We finished our breakfast there at a restaurant and went to the beach beside the pier. Some of us left the piers to cover the Ghuri Utsob, which was supposed to start shortly. Three of us went to Chhera Dweep and four of us decided to walk along the beach to do some photography. I was part of this last group.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Empty chairs.............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Patches..............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Washing the beaches............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Morning ride............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Its a doggy dog world out there..........



    Some empty beach chairs were getting tanned under the morning sun, which was not too mild. Dogs were playing on the beach and posed in front of our cameras. And there were quite a few of them. This is an island, and whatever animals enter here, don't get a lot of opportunity to leave. We proceeded along the coast and saw boats crossing us; one after the other. Some fishermen were repairing their nets on the beach. Battering of time had some effect on the nets. Marks of numerous repairs were there. Patches of contrasting colours created some unique patterns on the rather featureless beach.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    The big red ones...........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    The small ones.........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Shah Alam is a typical St Martin's child...... he's one of five children of his fisherman father........ his father went for fishing yesterday morning; he's going to come back tomorrow morning........ Shah Alam is one of those children who drop out of school because of their family's poor condition.........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Sources of water.............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Waiting for something to happen..........



    We proceeded and at last decided to catch a bit of breath. A straight walk would've taken us to the same place where we stayed. So, we decided to explore this end a bit. We found some beach chairs with nice umbrellas above them and decided to test the comfort they could provide. And that was it. A nice rest ensued by around 8:45AM. A one-hour rest was extended into a two-hour one! The reporters from Ghuri Utsob gave a disappointing news--they started to wake up by around 10:00AM! So, the first kites could wait!


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Time and tide waits for none.........



    By around 11:00AM, we began to leave our comfortable position. Shabbir Bhai and especially Nurur Bhai had a bit of a noisy nap. It was actually difficult to leave that wonderful relaxing place. We once again took some rickshaw vans and ended up somewhere near the beaches where Ghuri Utsob was supposed to start. And there they were! The kites began to come out one after the other. But they were only being tested. The wind was perfect. The last time I went to Kite Festival at Padma Resort in 2008, the kites struggled for wind and only the small ones were worthy of flying. But this time the wind had enough strength to fly kites of most sizes.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    In control.............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    The bulls are coming...........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Forming the weirdest of kites........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Around the sun............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Faces..........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Circle of colours...........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    The eye in the sky..........



    Enthusiasm began to grab us as more and more kites of different designs began to emerge out of Seemana Periye Resort. We all began to look at our watches. Our ship was supposed to leave by 3:00PM and a big rush made it mandatory to reach the piers by around 2:00PM. And we had to finish our lunch within this time! Morale began to drop and most of us began to think whether it would be possible to stay there for one more day. Three of us, Shabbir Bhai, Nurur Bhai and Dilir Bhai managed time to stay for one more day. The other 11 members were in a fix, but ultimately decided not to break the initial plan. It was a hard decision that had to be taken. It was very difficult to leave those kites behind. The festival just started, and now we have to leave! It made us sad.

    We finished our lunch in a bit of a hurry. We gave the duty of covering the festival to the three staying behind. We took some group photos with our team members plus the crew of the TV show "Banglalink Banglar Pothey". And there were went. We boarded some rickshaws once more and reached the piers just before 2:00PM. It was already pretty crowded. We had a hard time securing some seats.


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Seeing blue...........02


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    All together...........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    An exception...........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Sun-baked nets..........


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers of gold...........01


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Defying gravity............


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers of gold...........02


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Showing the wings in the afternoon sun........


    The return journey aboard the Kutubdia was a bit different. It was late in the afternoon and the sun was setting behind those hills of Teknaf. The glowing sun was against our cameras, right behind the hills that we tried to keep in focus. The golden rays illuminated the surroundings and turned the place into gold! It was much more than our cameras could describe!


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers............05


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers............06


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    Layers............07


    From St Martin's Island, March 2009

    That blue would be in my mind until I revisit St Martin's.............



    The sun went behind the hills quite quickly and the hills turned bluish. A cold light began to engulf the river and its surroundings, which were being baked in a golden stove just moments ago! It was a superb transformation.

    It was around 5:30PM and we had booked our bus tickets. We relaxed a bit and had some evening meals at a makeshift restaurant (the same one where we had our first breakfast). The bus finally came at around 6:40PM and the long journey started.

    This return bus journey wasn't even close to as noisy as it was during the inward journey. Tiredness was in everyone's face. Rest was the name of the game. And it was rest all the way. Some road mishaps ahead of us delayed our journey by almost two hours, which made sure that we couldn't reach Dhaka before 7:15AM.

    A first ever journey to a place always brings excitement. And if the place is like St Martin's Island, its doubly rewarding. That blue is still in my mind. I'm yet to enjoying everything at St Martin's. Another visit there seems like a mandatory thing for me! And there was the Ghuri Utsob, which I hardly had a glimpse of! It was painful to leave the kites behind. It was a wonderful tour alright, but it was a tour which increases the desire for me.

    13 comments:

    1. well...got the privilege to become the first one to comment... so didnt want to miss it...just watched the pics...they are awe sum as always...didnt complete the reading...will come back for sure

      ReplyDelete
    2. Idea bhai, in those ancient ages one of the prime entertainers were - the story tellers.

      i am a complete novice in photography, hardly managing my existence. Still a shot gets ruined for over exitement. Yet to learn to control the flow of adrenaline pump through my complicated 'taar chira' system.

      no wonder you take good shots. We were not proprly introduced but i always followed your posts and comments.

      you a cool brained person. Well managed thought process (till date i found) makes you plan ahead i guess.

      well, the story tellers in ancent ages used to spell bind a village or atleast a healthy sum of good interested ears.

      what i see in your shots is a proper planned series that tells a tale without telling a story.

      i am honored to walk beside you during the trip and feeling great...and lookin forward to walk many more miles in future.

      the way the story tellers used to spellbound? You exactly did that to me.

      shots? Need to know when to press the shutter release first. I now know what a fool i am.

      my respect.
      Avik.

      ReplyDelete
    3. I am not a good speaker, thats why I started blogging many times and leave that many times too.. but again after watching your blog.. feeling courage to starts once again.

      I know this is not just a blog, but an asset of our Bangladesh. Hope your this valuable contribution will be evaluated one day.

      Feeling proud for many reasons, 1. to have my name in your blog, 2. I am one of your tour partner now a days, 3. we are from same location (Austogram, Kishoregong)..

      Its our luck that we get u very easily :)


      Regards
      Ariful H Bhuiyan

      ReplyDelete
    4. @Shaf....... I know what a good critic you are...... great to get such words from you......

      @Avik Bhai...... I lost words...... never got a compliment as good as this one..... honoured!!

      @Arif..... you're a great buddy.... feeling great to think that I've encouraged others to start blogging once more.... :)

      ReplyDelete
    5. Oshadharon hoise vy.

      Apne kamne ato sundor koira descrition gula den vy ? Valo laglo amer bishash jara St-Martin jai nai othoba jara jaibo tader ei threat ta khub help korbo.

      ReplyDelete
    6. Amazing shots! Great description, heart-filling and fascinating.

      Indeed you are a great story-teller as your Avik Bhai said, who on the other hand seems to be a great critic.

      Best of Luck.
      Marina

      ReplyDelete
    7. @Shadow....... thanks a lot!!..... always hope that this should help others......

      @Marina...... really appreciate this!!.. thanks!!

      ReplyDelete
    8. eta ritimoto st. martin safa kora mega-collection......

      amar mone hoyna apni okhantay aar kisu baki rekhe eshechen.....

      ritimoto bakrudhdho...

      ReplyDelete
    9. You are an awesome writer Sharif bhai!
      I was regretting for not having a chance to be in the Kite festival, this blog took me right there...

      Hat's off!

      ReplyDelete
    10. Not all have this kind of talent when it comes to taking photo.Love all the pics that you posted,just wishing i will visit St. Martin island again.This is one of my favorite place when it comes to beaches.

      -Sarah

      ReplyDelete
    11. Fascinating photos and descriptive writing on the St. Martin's Island. A rare information on the island. A great work indeed.

      Previously so little information was available on Bangladesh. Thanks to bloggers and other writers who are now leaving their mark on this matter.

      Please keep up the good work.

      ReplyDelete
    12. Awesome pictures with beautiful description.

      ReplyDelete
    13. Bhai, sudhu chobi tular gun-e ekta jaiga je eto sundor dekha jaite pare, ta apnar chobi gulo dekhe bujlam. Outstanding pictures.

      ReplyDelete