Cox Bazar, Bangladesh
WELCOME TO THE BIGGEST BEACH IN THE WORLD
It was never my intention to visit Cox Bazar. For one, I’m no beach bum and the thought of heading to Bangladesh’s premier holiday destination with not a beer in sight and everyone fully clothed really didn’t turn me on. It’s also the region playing unenviable host to the world’s most recent refugee crisis and I wasn’t sure if I’d even get that far.
But I had to wait for permits to explore the Chittagong Tracts anyhow, the hill tribe area to the east near the Indian border, so I took a decent A/C bus down the coast and decided to chill out for a few days after all.
The owner of the Beach Way Hotel, the suave Mr Mizan, was deeply apologetic as my booking hadn’t come through in time, spending the first night in a not-so-nice hotel (great balcony views though) before decamping to a really nice room back at Beach Way for a few days.
The beach is long. Very long. At 120kms, a gigantic strip of wide sand stretching right down to the southern tip of the country. Impressive indeed though, as seems the norm, the outskirts of the coastline were filthy with rubbish, rather letting it’s beauty down a little.
BEACH LIFE, BANGLADESHI-STYLE
I was of, course, the only foreigner besides some NGOs who had their hands full with the refugee camps. Curious and inquisitive, the locals - fully clothed - got on with their seaside frolicking largely ignoring me.
There are three main beaches: Cox Bazar, Himachari and Inani with the latter the longest and broadest in the world. With the ever-increasing developments it felt like the Costas rather than some idyllic paradise. No matter. It’s a stunning shoreline, right on the Bay of Bengal and a nice place to relax and plan the next stage of my Bangladesh trip.
I enquired about the feasibility of visiting the refugee camps and was surprised it appeared much easier than I’d expected. Again Mr Mizan sorted things out, got me a decent price for a CNG ride and assigned me his trusted fixer, Mr Aman, to accompany me through any security and ensure my safety. I really don’t know what to expect.