Before you read any further, I (Albert) should disclose that this was the first ever travel post I wrote and recently happened upon it as I’m cleaning out our apartment to move to Jordan. Back in 2002 I took a life altering trip to Bangladesh and afterwards I wrote the letter below that I had intended to send to the editors of Lonely Planet regarding their travel guide to Bangladesh. My idea was to add to their guide, but alas I never sent the letter so I’m sharing it with everyone today. Yes, if you can believe it or not the rarely visited country of Bangladesh had a Lonely Planet guide back in 2002! Here’s what I had to say about what I saw.
I can’t thank you (Lonely Planet) enough for the quality of your travel guide to Bangladesh. My trip would not have been the same without it. As you are probably aware there aren’t a lot of other guides to Bangladesh. The insight into the country was excellent, even my Bangladeshi friends who I visited used it when we traveled outside of Dhaka. Overall my two-week trip was amazing as I explored Dhaka, the bustling capital, the beaches of Cox’s Bazar and Tekanf, and the countryside dotted with historic landmarks. I’m not sure you can find experiences like the ones I had in Bangladesh elsewhere in the world. The hospitality of the people was great and the countryside was spectacular and I shockingly never encountered another traveler (not a single one) while at any of the world-class sites. With that said, I’d like to make two suggestions that definitely made my trip as memorable as it was that your guide could highlight a little more. My two suggestions are the drive from Cox’s Bazar to Teknaf Beach and the drive to the Bangabandu Bridge.
Drive to Teknaf, Bangladesh
The drive from Cox’s Bazar to Teknaf provides some of the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen. Cox’s Bazar, where we based ourselves is a beach city located along the southern coast not far from the border with Myanmar. The beach at Cox’s Bazar is famous for being the longest beach in the world. We also wanted to check out Teknaf, a beach at the most southern point of Bangladesh. We arranged our excursion through our hotel (sadly I didn’t note where we stayed) and it cost 2000 Taka for a van for the day during August which happens to be low season. The drive to Teknaf took about 2.5 hours because the quality of the roads are poor, but the views you’ll find can’t be beaten.
We found ourselves stopping several times to take photos, and we were even invited to visit a village during one of our stops. The staring you receive from people in the villages is different from what you find in Dhaka and maybe little unnerving at first, but eventually you will get used to it. Considering very few foreigners make it down this far people are generally curious about your presence. As you get closer to Teknaf, Myanmar can be seen just across the Naf River which is the border between the two countries. Some of my best photos from this trip were taken here.
When we finally arrived at Teknaf Beach I was amazed by how nice the beach was and that there were zero tourists. The water was warm, the waves huge, and the sand soft. I had the chance to get into the water and after a while I was joined by locals who were probably intrigued with what a foreigner was doing all the way out there. With my limited Bengali we were able to communicate pleasantries, oh and it helped my Bangladeshi friends were with me. This was one of the highlights of my two week trip to Bangladesh.
Drive to Bangabandhu Bridge
My other suggestion is to drive from Dhaka to the Bangabandhu Bridge which crosses the Jamuna River. We drove across the bridge which is the 11th longest in the world (at the time I wrote this). The bridge will take you to the Rajshahi Division the western region of Bangladesh. To cross each way it cost 400 Taka. We crossed at sunset which made the views even better. You can also drive down to the bank of the river and get a guided tour of the area for 75-100 Taka. You can do this close to the Jamuna resort. Because of the fading light and poor roads we decided to head back to Dhaka.
The scenic drive north from Dhaka took 3 hours going and 2.5 hours coming back. It took longer going because we stopped at Baliati Palace which is well worth stopping at. Bangladesh has lots of historical landmarks like Baliati Palace. Again the roads aren’t in great condition so the drive takes a little longer than expected.
Overall my trip to Bangladesh was terrific. It was amazing to see a country virtually untouched by tourism that has a lot to offer. The trip definitely opened up my eyes to the world. I would highly recommend your travel guide to anyone planning on traveling to Bangladesh.
My Bangladesh itinerary (2002):
Day 1 - Arrived from London and drove around Dhaka
Day 2 - Took pictures around Dhaka
Day 3 - Took a boat ride at Ashulia and visited Savor Memorial
Day 4 - Went shopping at a Bazar in Dhaka and took a bus to Cox’s Bazar that evening
Day - 5 - Arrived in Cox’s Bazar, went to the beach and visited Himchari
Day 6 - Traveled to Teknaf and visited Iniani Beach
Day 7 - Took at bus back to Dhaka and arrived late at night
Day 8 - Hung out with friends in Dhaka
Day 9 - Explored Old Dhaka, Lalbagh Fort and Ashan Manzil
Day 10 - Explored more of Dhaka
Day 11 - Explored Sonargaon
Day 12 - Hung out with friends in Dhaka
Day 13 - Drove to Bangabandhu Bridge and explored Baliati Palace
Day 14 - Hung out with friends in Dhaka
Day 15 - Flew back to London
Have you traveled to Bangladesh? What do you recommend? We’d love to hear from you about your trip and experiences.
All Photography by Albert Bond