Monday, August 29, 2016

How green is their valley!

Faisal Mahmud

A unique annual event that brings everyone together to build a greener future

In Bibhutibhushan’s epic novel Arannak there was a character named Jugolprashad. To his surprise, the narrator of the novel found Jugolprashad planting different trees inside the forest of Lobotulia Boihar! When he was asked the reason behind that seemingly crazy exercise, Jugolprashad replied, “This forest lacks some flower trees, if I plant those, then the forest will look more beautiful.”
Lobotulia Boihar had only Jugolprashad to enhance the beauty of the forest and he did that for nothing, no material gain. The land locked country of Bhutan, however, has many Jugolprashads, and in June 2, they come out in numbers to plant trees to enhance the beauty of an already very beautiful country.

The unusual scene
As a tourist in that country, I didn’t know much about their tree plantation programme. On the morning of June 2, my second day of at Thimpu, it was business as usual for us. Our guide came early in the morning to take us sightseeing in and around Thimpu.
On our way up to Buddha Point (one of highest points of Thimpu valley, offering great view of the city), we saw a good number of people clad in white tea-shirts and doing something in the hills. I didn’t understand anything at that point.
Right after that, we were going up to another hilly area named Modithang at the northern part of Thimpu, I saw the same scene, a good number of people in white tea shirts doing something in the hills. I then asked our guide Yogesh as to what was happening there. He replied that people were planting trees.
I said why? He replied, “To enhance the beauty of the hills.”
“Also there is a world record at stake,” he added.

The world record
The Bhutanese did indeed break the world record.
With a motto of “Let’s begin a greener Bhutan”, the country had entered the Guinness Book of World Records for planting the most number of trees in an hour. The official record says 49,672 trees were planted at Kuenselphodrang, Thimphu, although 50,000 was the number attempted.
The event was organised by Bhutan Eco-Green Initiative Network (BEGIN), an environment conservation project under Peoples Initiative in Celebrating the Sixtieth Anniversary (PICSA), together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
PICSA was formed under Her Majesty Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck as the royal patron to supplement the government’s initiatives for the 60th birth anniversary celebrations of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
PICSA’s project coordinator, Karma Tshering, said a group of 100 volunteers were specially trained for breaking the world record. Those volunteers underwent rigorous training for about three weeks. The men were divided into ten groups and placed at strategic locations to carry out the plantations.
“We could have planted 50,000 saplings, but some weren’t planted properly in line with the Guinness World Record guidelines,” Karma Tshering said.
An official from Guinness World Records in London, Pravin Patel, was present to assess and verify the plantation. Two Bhutanese witnesses, police chief Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel and former minister Kinzang Dorji, and ten stewards from various organisations assisted the official in verifying and assessing the plantations.

The happy volunteers
One of the volunteers, a 20-year-old school drop-out Penden Wangchuck, said he was happy that the team’s effort paid off. “I tried planting about ten trees in a minute. It was tiring but we were confident of beating the world record right from the start,” he said, adding that, during their training, some even managed to plant about 30 trees in a minute.
About 160 volunteers registered for the event, of which 111 were selected. Eleven were kept on standby, should anything happen to the 100 volunteers on the finale.
Gyalyum Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck and Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck witnessed the event, along with cabinet ministers, parliament members, and other dignitaries.
Namgyen Dorji, another volunteer said, it was a great honour for him that he was chosen as a volunteer for the attempt to break the world record. “If I was not chosen, I would have still planted some trees in the hill to beautify our country. It’s a practice and tradition in our country. I have seen my father doing it.”
June 2, the World Environment Day is observed as Social Forestry Day in Bhutan. Forest plantation records date back to the late 1940s, when the first plantation was carried out in Gelephu across 3.20 acres of land.
The annual tree planting activity was re-enforced after June 2 and was declared as Social Forestry Day in 1985 to commemorate the coronation of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, a visionary environmentalist.
The nursery run by the Forestry Department provides saplings free of cost, and this has encouraged people to plant trees. “It may be near their house or school or office, but everyone will share the benefits of a greener community,” said Karma Tshering, the project coordinator of PICSA.
Shared from Dhaka Tribune

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Wave Riding Guavas


Ever wondered what it’s like to shop from a floating bazaar? If it sounds like something you will have to travel to some foreign lands to experience then you are mistaken. The Southern region of Bangladesh is renowned for its Guavas and there are quite a few floating guava markets in the Barisal district. Even though one might imagine these markets to be situated on floating platforms on water bodies, these are actually made up of a collection of boats belonging to local guava farmers.

Now that we know where we are going, the question of how to get there arises. The following is a detailed travel account of the Spark Adventure Club’s trip to visit the floating Guava markets of Barisal which might help you to plan out one of your own.

Reaching Barisal
The launch, “Morning Sun 5”, was set to leave the Sadarghat Launch Terminal at 6.30 PM on the 4th of August and the Spark Adventure Club team was ready for the trip with 15 of its members. The
team of travel enthusiasts included KhorshedAlam, Enamul Huq Russel, Sumala C., Chandan da, Rumman Khan, AhsanulRony, Aftab Ahmad, ArefinShohag, Jalal MdAshfaq, Nidra khan, Nishiat Al Safwana Chowdhury, Kousik Hasan, Tahrim, Saria and Sayeda Abir. The launch left the terminal at the scheduled time and the team’s maiden journey to the floating guava bazaars of Barisal started. The destination of the launch was Banaripara of Barisal. As the vessel moved ahead, cutting through the waves of the Buriganaga, the team waved goodbye to their sleep and indulged themselves in songs and hearty conversations amongst themselves. Abir treated the group with his amazing singing voice while Shupti won the crowd over with songs written by Tagore. Sumala, Kousik, Arefin and Kabita’s songs kept the team entertained, and often amazed throughout the night. The launch reached Banariparaat around 5.30 in the morning and they disembarked the Morning Sun 5. Then team traveled to the Banaripara Dak Bunglow where they freshened up.

Enter the Guavas
Afterwards, the team left for the guava bazaars by Rubel Majhi’s boat. On the way, the team spectated the beauty of the Guava and Amra gardens, and betel leaf farms. The team members were then presented with Bangladesh’s flag which is a traditional gift of the Spark Adventure Club for every event they host.

It wasn’t long before the team reached Kuriana but it was too early in the morning and the farmers had not set up the bazaar yet. So, the team moved on to see the Bhimruli Bazaar but found out that the farmers had only started arriving and the market there wasn’t set up either. The team started waiting and Russel treated everyone to some delicious coconut water. Meanwhile, the team started chatting with groups of people around to kill some time. At this point, the team was in dire need of some entertainment and so they decided to toss one of the members of the group, who didn’t know how to swim, into the shallow water which was hardly 3 feet in depth and it was hilarious! As the farmers started pouring into the market, the team moved about tasting samples of guavas from different farmers. The fact that the farmers were so enthusiastic about giving out samples to them, either from their trees or their boats whenever they asked for one, was really surprising to them.

The weather was cloudy and it was raining with short pauses every now and then. The group decided to visit the local school as the Bhimruli market became fully operational, announcing the beginning of another busy day for the guava farmers. Afterwards, Russel bought locally grown lemons for the whole group while Sumala paid for a boat full of guavas for the team to take home. The team then prepared for their return trip to Dhaka and on their way to the Banaripara ferry terminal they visited the boat markets of Atghor. At the ferry terminal, Khorshed packed the guavas they had brought along with them with a little help from Rubel Majhi.

The City

The team ate their lunch at Rumman’s sister’s house and then left to see the Guthia Masjid which was located not very far away. Having seen the marvelous architecture of the mosque, the team set out to visit their next destination, the Durga Sagar Dighi, which happens to be the largest pond in the southern region of Bangladesh covering an area of about 2500 hectares. Then, the whole group left their luggage at the Parabot launch and went to the China Town that is situated in the Barisal city. At the China Town, Sumala treated everyone to dinner and they returned to the launch as soon as everyone was done eating.

After an exhausting day of traveling and fun, a few of the group members were fast asleep as soon as they hit the bed on the launch while the rest spent their time gossiping as a storm raged on outside. The launch, having braved through the turbulent waves of the Padma, arrived at the Sadarghat Terminal safely and timely the next morning.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mind of a Wanderlust: Get to Know ‘Tanguar Haor’

Nusrat Noshin

Exclusive Haven of Tranquility:
Tanguar Haor is one of the many renowned tourist spots in Bangladesh. It is possibly the second largest haor in the country and its official motherland of fishes. Many of the rivers passing through this place originate from the Indian Hills. The sight of shallow, clear water with the companionship of distant mountains, Tanguar Haor features all these wondrous attributes and its one-of-a-kind ecosystem comprising of hundreds of birds, fishes, plants and other animals. It is a bona fide pilgrimage destination to bird enthusiasts, nature lovers, dedicated naturalists, explorers and of course scenic photographers.

Location and Physical Attributes:

The term “Haor” denotes a large indentation in the ground where water dribbles down from nearby water bodies and rain and accumulates into a large, shallow pond; it remains all throughout the year. Situated in the Dharmapasha and Tahipur upazilas of the Sunamganj District, the haor is also home to around 120 “beels” (small depressions in the ground that get chock-full during the rainy season). In addition, the area of Tanguar Haor also consists of 46 villages, out of which 2802.36 sq ha is wetland. One of these villages- Tekerghaat, has an interesting location; it is a border village between Bangladesh and India. The enchanting mountains of Meghalaya are just a few minutes’ walk away from this village, but sadly that walk is forbidden. Nevertheless, Tanguar Haor has its own divinity to offer to its visitors.

Seasonal Beauty Swings:

The aforementioned “beels” fill up over the persistent rainy season, making the waterways accessible. If one has plans of visiting Tanguar Haor during the monsoon, then they will encounter a very interesting journey. Due to the availability of the water route, it is much easier to reach the desired location via water transports like engine boats and speed boats. Tourists/ travelers can simply board a boat from Sunamganj which will directly take them across to the wetlands. The journey takes somewhat 5 hours in an engine boat and 2 hours in a speed boat, however with a hefty price. On the contrary, during summertime, the beels dry up and consequently the waterways no longer remain usable. During summer expeditions, the only option to reach Tanguar Haor is terrestrial and the route is not forthright either, however, it is a lot cheaper and faster, approximately 2 hours so, than the aquatic course. Bottom line is: Tanguar Haor is adorned with various forms of natural beauty during different seasons and what travelers expect out of the journey completely depends on their difference of choice between monsoon with boat rides and heat with land expeditions. Not to mention the necessity of being armed with cameras and tripods.

Local, yet Wild Residents:

Travelers are also advised to bring along a book of birds to Tanguar Haor as its beauty thrives on the perfect ecosystem between birds and fishes. Various species of marine plants lie in the bosom of the shallow water, which has given birth to an abundance of fishes. The plethora of fishes is an ideal phenomenon for birds to live on and hence, deserting the cold weather of the surrounding countries, around 208 types of migratory birds visit this magical place during winter. It is even said that once upon a time, “Zamindars” (aristocratic landlords) of Sunamganj used to cruise the haor with boats of large sails, on the business of hunting birds. Furthermore, Tanguar Haor also features an array of different types of reptiles and amphibians which one most certainly cannot find anywhere else very easily.

International Importance and Preservation:

Besides all the natural beauty associated with this fascinating place, the commercial value that comes with it is simply undeniable. Over 140 species of fishes can be found at Tanguar Haor, including Air, Gang Magur, Baim, Tara Baim, Gutum, Gulsha, Tengra, Titna, Garia, Beti, Kakia etc, and therefore, it is one of the richest source of fisheries in the country. In the fiscal year of 1999-2000, the government earned over Tk. 70 lakhs from the fisheries of Tanguar Haor alone. In addition to the marine life harbored in its waters, the haor is also home to numerous endangered wetland plants like Hijal (Barringtonia acutangula), Karach (Pongamia pinnata), Ban Tulsi (Ocimum americanum) and 200 other such species. Previously, due to the over exploitation of its natural resources, the area was in a critical state and so, shortly after discovering its significance, the Government of Bangladesh announced Tanguar Haor as an “Ecologically Critical Area” in 1999. Afterwards, in 2000, the haor was declared as a wetland of international importance (a Ramsar site). Since then measures have been taken to preserve the natural ecosystem and surroundings of that place, mostly from the tourism sector.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Cruising towards destinations in comfort: On Board the MV Tanguar Haor

By Subah Shaheen

Bangladesh is a treasure trove of natural beauty. The country’s great skill in enchanting onlookers worldwide is quickly winning it fame as a promising tourist destination. However, most areas of the country are still untapped by the tourist market. That is because poor infrastructure and low development makes travel and accommodation quite difficult in these entirely natural parts of the scenic country. Sundarbans is perhaps the best known example of this problem. Until recently, enthusiastic travelers had to move from boat to island to boat by maintaining balance over rickety bridges which swayed over the deep alligator infested waters so that they could view the impressive sight of the world’s largest natural mangrove forest. But now, things are looking quite optimistic for our travel enthusiasts and this is why.

Taking advantage of Bangladesh’s status as the ‘‘Land of rivers’’ the MV Tanguar Haor has been constructed to take people to these entirely natural parts of the nation. This eco-friendly cruise ship is currently the best in Bangladesh because of the facilities it provides and the unmatched customer satisfaction it renders. Past customers include UNWTO head Taleb Rifai and the US ambassador. This vessel brings to you all the comforts that will make your excursions all the more relaxing and enjoyable. These features are aimed to increase the pleasure of your journey so that the tourists can enjoy beholding the destination even more.

The cruise is fully air conditioned and so provides much needed relief from the tropical weather. Spacious rooms are available for the weary travelers to rest or spend quality time watching a movie on the provided TV set or gossip over the complimentary coffee.  

MV Tanguar Haor is unmatched in its commitment to being environmentally friendly. Navigating on waterways, the ship recognizes how pollution needs to be minimized because of the disastrous impact it has on our beautiful surroundings. This commitment it has to protecting the environment is a reflection of the great sense of responsibility possessed by the people in charge. Passenger safety is of top priority. The whole vessel is covered by CCTV cameras and an intercom in each room ensures efficient communication in the enclosed quarter. Armed guards, life jackets, life boats and passenger insurance are all steps undertaken by the authority in case of an unforeseen emergency.

The captain and engineer employed are highly trained officials who have great expertise in navigating around the waterways of Bangladesh. Customized trips can be provided to Barisal, Nijhum Deep, Kuwakata or any other destination of the passenger’s choosing. The liner offers limitless opportunities to the customer who can hire the ship to cruise over any waterway of his choosing, though popular options and their rates are as below.

An overnight trip to Chandpur will be BDT 13,000 per person, Sundarban- 3 nights 4 days at BDT 39,500 per person and for 4 nights 5 days the rate will be BDT 45,000 per person. An 8 hour day cruise will cost between BDT 3800- BDT 6700 per person. Different rates are applicable depending on the hours of cruising (4,6 or 8) and size of the group(max 60) travelling. A new package of $80-$130 per person will also soon be introduced. There are four categories of rooms on board the ship. Twin/Double (BDT 45100), Family room of 3 (BDT 45500/night), Family room of 4(BDT 54100/night) and the State Room (BDT 53500/night).The rates include all meals served during the trip which are made with great care under the expert guidance of the onboard continental chef. Additionally, one need not worry about laundry while on board the MV Tanguar Haor. This cruise offers laundry and access to a washing machine plus dryer for a small fee only. Multimedia items are available on demand as well. Comfort is guaranteed throughout the route and especially in the smallest of aspects so that the enthusiasm the travelers boarded the ship with is sustained till the very end.

To make foreign travelers more comfortable, tour guides are offered who shed light on the life, culture and history of the lands being explored. One of the main reasons behind the development of this liner is to promote travelling to the unexplored exquisite areas of the country which tourists often miss out on seeing because of the pains of travel. It is said that an enjoyable journey makes reaching the destination even better and so this vessel has been devised to serve as the perfect platform to help people explore and be able to fully enjoy the benefits of a vacation or well planned day out.

This cruise makes travelling a lot more convenient and so those who love the adventure but not the dirt and sweat of travel will find great satisfaction on board the MV Tanguar Haor. Not to mention the older generation who prefer their journeys to be smooth sailing.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fine, feathered guests

Faisal Mahmud

Every year, migratory birds from the Himalayas and faraway places like Siberia fly to the relatively warm, swampy lands in Bangladesh to escape the freezing cold, and feed on snails and tiny fishes, which are abundant during this part of the year in the rice crops in haors, baors and the swamps in the coastal areas.
Between November and April, about 500,000 birds of 150 different species travel to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh: A host for the guest

Winter is the king of all seasons in this tropical land, the equivalent of spring in the temperate countries. It is ideal for the blooming of life, what scientists call bio-synthesis. As global interest veers from material sciences to life and the environment, the Bangladeshi winter gains in importance.
The history of migration dates back to prehistoric times. Birds have been travelling vast distances for hundreds and thousands of years, migrating from one continent to another; in search of food and favourable survival conditions.
Globally the nesting grounds of birds – the wetlands – are being protected by the Ramsar Convention. Bangladesh is also a signatory to this convention and as such has an obligation to protect these sites. There are three Ramsar sites in Bangladesh: The Meghna estuary, Tanguar and Hail-Hakaluki Haors. The latter two are in the north-eastern district of Sunamganj.

Sites for birds

There are about 207 species of birds that live or visit Bangladesh. Among the birds, 30% are waterfowls, 26% waders, 20% bush and herb land birds and the rest are grassland, air hawking prey. Of these fresh water birds, 129 species (62.3 %) are resident and the other is migratory.
The wetland environment, some of the famous species that visit Hakaluki, include the great crested grebe, widgeon, egret, large egret, heron, night heron and snipe. The wetland hosts a tenth of all migratory birds that arrive in Bangladesh every winter.
Hakaluki Haor (water body), the biggest lake in the country is spread over Sylhet and Moulvibazar districts, which covers 45000 acres of land.
Also, the urban and suburban places where the guest birds gather are Peelkhana, Dhaka National Zoo and Botanical Garden, Bangabhaban compound, Ceramic Lake (Mirpur), Jahangirnagar University and other large water-bodies around the city.
The species of birds that usually travel the country are: Spotbill pelican, pelican, Scavenger vulture, Bengal Florican, Pinkheaded duck, Greater Adjutant and King Vulture. Endangered migratoey birds species also roaming our lands include: Poceps cristatus, Phalarocorax carbo, Anhinga rufa, Neophron percnopterus, Leptoptilos javancus, plegadis falcinellus,. anser, Carina scutulata, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Anthropoidis virgo, Rostratula bengalensis, Esacus magnirostris and Palargopsis capanesis.
The arrivals of these birds provide winter entertainment for tens of thousands of residents who travel to suburban areas to watch the birds. Bangladesh Bird Watchers' Society and Natural Conservation Committee organise bird watching festivals each year at Jahangirnagar and Mirpur Ceramic Lake. Bird lovers feed them and photographers come in groups to take pictures.

The decreasing number of birds

Ironically, people are still unaware of the importance of migratory birds and the global ecological balance they make. Unfortunately, the sale of these birds for their meat, is patronised by many a people. Dr Monirul H Khan, professor of Zoology of Jhangirnagar University said that affluent urban dwellers are the largest group of wildlife customers.
“There should be a law against the consumers too, which will result in the protection of wildlife,” he said.
Dr Khan has done extensive research on lakes and major rivers in the country's northern region. Based on his experience, he suggested proactive efforts to preserve water bodies and wetland areas. “Real estate companies are filling up large water bodies and building up apartments. If this trend continues for another five years, I am afraid we might lose all the water bodies which were considered safe havens for the migratory birds” he said.
Mostafa Feeroz, another Zoology professor of Jahangirnagar University said that rampant use of insecticide and pesticide are causing great damage to the environment and also preventing migratory birds from coming.
“The JU sanctuary which is considered the safest haven for migratory birds was almost deserted at the beginning of this winter. But the numbers have increased tremendously since the beginning of this year.”
Jashodhon Pramanik, an environmentalist and prominent animal rights activist said, "The decreasing number of migratory birds visiting Bangladesh each year can be attributed to bird flu culls all over the world.”
Also, the decreasing number of wetlands and plantation of out-of-place foreign trees after the local ones were cut down are another reason. As incredible as this may sound, there are no actual laws in place to punish poachers or pet shops that sell migratory and extinct birds.”
He said that he has raided Katabon pet shops several times and apprehended dozens of shop owners selling illegally acquired migratory birds. The Environmental Department sadly, does not have any laws in place for the protection of these birds. All the pet shops technically have the license to legally sell "birds".
The term "Birds" has no further specification in the 1974 Wild Life Conservation Act, which is a major loophole for poachers and traders. No specific laws are in place to protect these birds travelling from foreign lands – they all fall under the category of generic birds under the wildlife conservation act and are illegally sold in licensed pet shops. 

Shared from Dhaka Tribune.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Travel: There, and back again

Faisal Mahmud

Tour packages are hot on the Eid shopping list this year
Even the dilapidated highways and lack of tickets couldn’t curb the enthusiasm of travel-minded Dhakaites. After all, Eid, with its week-long vacation is a grand occasion to escape from the mad rush of the city.
Officials of travel agencies said packages for Cox’s Bazaar have remained as popular as ever and according to estimates by different travel agencies, over 60,000 people from the capital will visit the beaches this year.
Minhaz Uddin of Starline tours and travels said that they have sold more than 300 tour packages to Cox’s Bazaar and 70 more to Sundarban. “Its not only the locals, but lots of foreigners are also visiting these places,” he said.
He said that despite rainy season, most of the hotels of Cox’s Bazaar are booked. “Cox’s Bazaar is the most popular tourist destination in the country and it is in everyone’s list as a first choice on any occasion,” said Minhaz.
Shumon Hemayetul Islam, manager (operations) of Foring-The Travellers said their Eid package is completely booked. The tour operator which recently became famous for offering weekend trips to Dhakaites now has its package for ‘Beautiful Sylhet’ on offer.
“We look after the utmost comfort of the people who take our trip. So we cater to a small number of people. There are lots of operators offering tour packages to Cox’s Bazaar or Sundarban. We preferred to take the road less travelled.”
Islam said, in their package, tourists will visit some of the hidden treasures of the Sylhet region, including Bichanakandi, Pangtumai and Ratargul. “We just don’t offer tour packages to make profit; our vision is to promote the lesser known but beautiful places of the country. Eid is a great opportunity to so that as many people prefer to utilise the Eid vacation in travelling.”
Meanwhile, all the bus tickets of September 1 and 2 of S. Alam Paribahan and Dolphin Paribahan’s Dhaka-Bandarban route are sold out before mid-August. “For the last five years, each and every ticket to Bandarban for the two after days after Eid-ul Fitr have been sold out, as young people go to Bandarban during Eid vacation for trekking and adventure,” Monsur, counter manager at Dolphin Paribahan said.
Mohammad Golam Morshed, a private bank employee was found looking for a ticket to Bandarban. “My Eid celebration begins on the day after, when I, along with my trekking buddies head towards the hills of Bandarban,” said Morshed.
“My job is very hectic so Eid vacation is my getaway from all the mundane things that I have been doing on a regular basis.”
Meanwhile, cashing in on the young and upwardly mobile crowd, several travel agencies in the city are selling a good number of foreign packages at a discounted rate.
Dipon Ahmed, chief marketing officer of HRC Travels, said: “This year we have already sold 164 packages on the Dhaka-Katmandu-Dhaka route and 118 for Dhaka-Bangkok-Phuket-Pattaya-Dhaka.”
Ashraf Emon, accounts manager of Amazing Tours and Travel said that their Dhaka-Bangkok-Dhaka and Dhaka-Kualalampur-Dhaka packages, at a rate of Tk24,000 and Tk30,000, have proven to be major hits.
“We have sold hundreds of those packages,” he said.
Things to consider when planning a vacation:
  • Where to stay?
  • What to eat?
  • Is the destination safe?
According to the Tourist Plus website, before going to any place, eight aspects have to be kept in mind:
  • local security: safety of the tourist spot; risks associated with sightseeing
  • food
  • accommodation
  • transport
  • medical facilities for tourists
  • availability of technology
  • time management.

Shared From:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Travelling 101: The Kind of Travel Partner You Need

Nusrat Noshin

Your Expectations = Their Expectations
If you want to take a trip, travel with someone who has similar stakes as you do, an associate who constantly defers with you throughout the entire planning is no fun. A perfect vacation with a friend is very simple; you plan together, you party together. Most importantly, make sure you both have similar expectations and interests from the expedition. That way, you will have a companion in almost every part of the trip. If you want to gape at the Great Canyon and be awed by it, try finding someone who wishes the same.

Pro Bono Entertainer:
I believe that the people who can turn a frown upside down are hidden gems that everybody need during a trip. Flight got delayed? Missed your cab? Poor weather hits during the tour? Yes, they all sound tragic, but it would be worse if you have a mate who incessantly complains about the downsides of your trip. At times like these a giggling feat is all you need to make the sun shine even in the dullest rainfall; a lip-curling fuss just will not do. Understanding the compromises and behaving accordingly whilst retaining a smile is one of the best traits a travel companion can have.

Shares the same value for Money:
Planning with your partner and deciding how much you both are willing to spend is a good idea, pre vacation. In addition, both of you should have similar generosity when spending; it is a lot more fun when you do not have to count every dime to split the bill equally. However, it is also a bummer when your companion does not pay their share of expenses, or drags you into overpriced shopping. You may also feel awkward if he/she does not want to spend as much as you do. Talk it through and make sure you both are on the same page, so that you can enjoy the trip without any financial bumps.

Curiosity does not kill the Cat:
Travelling is all about making memories worth cherishing and experiencing new things. Hence, you will want someone who likes exploring, or has enthusiasm towards everything. Taking pleasure in every small moment is contagious and it helps you get some relief from your normal life.

Knows Yoga of the Mind:
Try finding a companion who is flexible and willing to change in order to gain the fullest experience out of the expedition. If you go with someone who sticks to his/her own ways, it will heavily influence the authenticity of the trip. Compromise is key, starting from palette, to attire, behavior and even habits.

To Cling or not to Cling, that is the Question:

You may want the perfect travel partner, but you really do not want someone who’ll be attached to you, hip-to-hip, throughout the entire trip. Vacations also involve finding a sanctuary. A clingy friend will not help you achieve. Hence you need a partner who understands the concept of “alone time”. Sometimes finding peace may simply mean to behold the beauty of a tourist site or to reflect on an eventful day right before going to bed at night. Whatever it is, a good companion will know when to be quiet and to give you space; knowing when to be silent makes everything better, period.

Motivator and Memory Maker:
When on a trip, the best moments ooze out of the most spontaneous and unusual plans. To clarify my point, I am not leaning on any illegal or very dangerous activities! Vacations are all about saying “yes”. You make the best memories from the most impromptu plans; the ultimate fun happens when you do something that is unprecedented to you. It gives you something intriguing to talk about when you return home. Sometimes all you need is approval from just one person when you are in doubt and your companion should be there next to you, ready to give sanction. Moreover, he/she should also encourage you to do things that you normally would not do.

Life Saver Maybe?
I know it sounds like a buzz-kill, but accidents happen. Emergencies may arise and they are inevitable sometimes. An ideal friend could, if they had to, talk to the police, or know how to do a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or even relay on your medical history. Whatever it is, a sincere and useful partner like this is indispensable whether on vacation or in regular life.

Social Butterfly:
One of the main purpose of any trip is to meet new people, especially the locals. If your companion does not have the ability to blend in with newly met people, or shows any sort of repulsive behavior, chances are those people will be unwilling to interact with you too. It is compulsory for your comrade to uphold an affable attitude and an outgoing personality.

Cultural Sensitivity:
You will most likely come across some culture which will seem alien to you whilst travelling and in cases like these and it is extra important for you and your companion to be respectful to foreign traditions. A friend who ridicules or criticizes the hosting culture will probably not be well received. Travelling with someone who takes interest in the local custom has its own perks. You will not only have a good time, you will be also treated hospitably and you can even get the opportunity to learn a great deal about a foreign culture and/or language. For instance, if you meet an Indian host, greet them with the famous “Namaste”.

Street Smart:

Do you want to wander helplessly on your first ever trip to, for instance, an exotic island? Surely, no one would like that. However, you may encounter this misfortune if neither you, nor your mate have a good sense of direction. A great navigator, with good map reading skills is a crucial trait for a smooth trip. When wandering the streets of an unfamiliar city, “street smart” is the way to go.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Types of transportation in Bangladesh

By Irfan Aziz

Bangladesh is known for a lot of things. Its greenery, the Royal Bengal Tiger, the longest natural beach in the world and oh, its traffic; being the most densely populated country in the world it comes as no surprise. The big cities, especially, are notorious for traffic jams. Lucky for us, there are plenty of ways to get around in Bangladesh. Do keep in mind that some of these transports are exclusive to certain regions of Bangladesh. Without further ado let’s take a look at them:

The number 1 choice here in Bangladesh, the most popular form of transport. Although it was invented in Japan, Bangladesh made it popular. Paris is the city of Light; Dhaka is the city of rickshaws. With approximately 600,000 rickshaws running each day, Dhaka City is known as the Capital of Rickshaws. It is very convenient to travel short distances and even fairly long distances at times. Although one of the major contributors of traffic jam, rickshaws are also responsible for a fair
chunk of employment. In addition to that, they do not require any fuel, do not emit any harmful gasses, are very reasonable and energy efficient. Of course, we must not forget about rickshaw art. With each rickshaw having its own unique artwork done on their backsides, it just adds so many pretty colors to the cities. Still wondering why the rickshaw is the peoples’ champion of transports?

This is the cheapest way to travel within the city and cover long distances.  However, there are several classes. You have the “local” buses which are the cheapest and often feels like travelling in an oven every now and then.  Also, fair warning, it may break your heart when you find out that the term “sitting service” is quite often proven to be a myth.  If you are willing to spend a bit more though, there are services such as Falgun and Anabil which actually live up to expectations. Then there are companies that provide you with buses from brands such as Mercedes and Volvo although they can only be used to travel long distances. In short, buses are a really convenient way to travel.

Auto rickshaw/Baby taxis:
The happy little yellow automobile. Someone decided to give the rickshaw an engine and this is what we got. Banned in Dhaka, although some variations exist in the form of tempos, these are more popular in cities like Sylhet. Slightly more spacious than a rickshaw, the baby taxi is a great mode of travelling short distances in the city as they can make their way through any road regardless of how crowded or narrow they might be. In rural areas, however, baby taxis are the principal mode of covering long distances.

The baby taxi’s green cousin that runs on natural gas. CNGs have replaced baby taxis in Dhaka. They pretty much serve the same purpose as their yellow counterparts.
Fun fact: The green color symbolizes the fact that each vehicle is eco- friendly.

The ever popular Tuk-Tuk from Thailand is also used in some regions of Bangladesh, mainly Cox’s bazaar. The tuk-tuk is basically like a three-wheeled go-cart. Very much like in Thailand, this vehicle is extremely popular among tourists who enjoy the novelty. 

More common in the metropolitan areas of the country. Taxi is your go to mode of transportation if you want to travel in luxury. The quality of taxis have improved drastically over the years with companies like Toma Taxi bringing you state of the art vehicles in the form the more recent Toyota models.

Up until this point, we have been mostly talking about the smaller forms of transportation. Let us look at some of the comparatively larger means. 

Boats, Launches and Ferries:
Because of Bangladesh’s numerous water bodies, ferries and launches are useful ways to travel long distances. In rural areas, the use of boats is a very common sight to see. In popular tourist spots such as Cox’s bazaar, Jaflong in Sylhet and even the Sundarbans, boat rides are perceived as a novelty.

Established during the British period, the railway connects many districts of Bangladesh. It is not only used to travel from one city to another but also within a specific city. Much like buses, there are several classes of trains with local services offering cheaper rates.

Last but not least, we have the various airlines of Bangladesh who offer domestic flights. Certainly not the cheapest mean to travel, not by a long shot, but it is most definitely the quickest.

There is a wide variety of transportation systems Bangladesh-- they are a dime a dozen. Although some of these means are yet to live up to their full potentials, we have seen a drastic improvement over the last couple of decades.  Hopefully in the coming years, we will see more state of the art technology being implemented. Not on the rickshaws though, they are evergreen!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why Rajshahi is the Place to be Right Now

 Nusaira Amreen Hassan 

As the unpredictable weather patterns in the country swings between hot and cold, the average Bangladeshi enjoys the quintessential fruit of the season that is mainly mango. With Eid knocking on the doors, the modern Bengali family rushes to the major fashion outlets, and one of their favorite sartorial choices include silk clothes. This silk and the fruit have one thing in common, which is the fact that they both belong to Rajshahi, one of the biggest divisions of Bangladesh.

Rajshahi is especially renowned for delicious and mouth-watering mangoes. In the monsoon season, not only the people of the region, but also those of the entire country enjoy these tasty fruits. In fact, in the western part of the main city of Rajshahi, in close proximity to the railway station, a garden known as Kashia-Danga is located, which is comprised of groves of mango trees . As a result, the city has also paid tribute to this delicious type of fruit by constructing a landmark of concrete mangoes.
The sumptuous list of delicacies does not stop at mangoes. Rajshahi is also famed for its characteristic sweetmeats, which are unique to the region.

Rajshahi has a roaring silk trade; the sarees are especially famous and are bought by people from all over the country along with being coveted by foreigners. As a matter of fact, Rajshahi is home to numerous silk industries and the Silk Research Institute. Also, the division’s sericulture or silk farming output accounts for almost the entire silk output in Bangladesh.

Another virtue of Rajshahi is that it is known as the “Education City” of Bangladesh and is one of the most important centers of spreading knowldege in the country.The University of Rajshahi is the second oldest public university in the country and also happens to be have one of the largest campuses in Bangladesh. Built in 1953, the massive establishment overlooks a glistening body of water.

Rajshahi University is also responsible for the maintenance of the oldest museum in the country, Varendra Research Museum. Built over a hundred years ago, this ancient museum is dedicated to showcasing the history and culture of the region.

The educational institutions of the division of Rajshahi are engulfed by verdure. Whether it is the Polytechnic Institute or one of the main colleges, Rajshahi College, the buildings are flanked by trees and the former establishment overlooks a glistening body of water.

Rajshahi College, one of the oldest establishments in the country, not only serves as a place to sharpen the future minds of the country, but also stands as a relic of the Colonial era. The British style of architecture makes this college a historical site. The greenery is not just restricted to the educational institutions but also extends to the parks of the division, with the Central Park being a sight for sore eyes with acres of tall trees which provide shade to passers-by.

Recently, Rajshahi was credited as being the least polluted region of the country. Before, the northern division of the country was infamous for being one of the most polluted cities in this part of the world. In accordance to recently published United Nations data, Rajshahi has created history by getting rid of harmful air particles that were detrimental to human health. Funnily enough, the residents of Rajshahi were pleasantly surprised to discover the feat achieved by the people of this region. As a matter of fact, there was a whopping 67.2% decrease in the concentration of the chemical particle PM10, a dangerous pollutant. This amazing deed was attained largely due to a green-drive initiated almost fifteen years ago in the city, which involved tackling traffic issues by importing battery-powered rickshaws from China as well as banning the mobility of large vehicles such as trucks on the main roads of the city during the daytime. Efforts were also made to veritably cover every inch of soil with trees in an initiative known as “zero soil”.  The collective endeavour to save the environment also involved the construction of pavement for the benefit of pedestrians. And Rajshahi did not stop there; they are also building the first bicycle lane in the country, to reduce the number of private cars on the roads.

Modern Rajshahi is located in the ancient region of Pundravardhana. An examination of historical remains has revealed that the foundation of Rajshahi city goes back to the early 1600s. The region has more than its fair share of ancient buildings, with the Shiva temple in Puthia (a place in Rajshahi), which is particularly noteworthy. The Puthia Temple complex is comprised of the oldest and the largest number of historical temples in Bangladesh. The unique architecture of these temples, coupled with the intricate terracotta designs that adorn the walls of the places of worship, attract many visitors to the temple complex.

Starting from mangoes to silk sarees, Rajshahi has it all. In fact, whether it is the fresh air or the historical attractions that have caught your attention, Rajshahi is the place to be at right now. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hidden Treasures of Bangladesh

Rainul Islam

We often hear people proclaim the richness of the natural beauty of our country but have you ever wondered why? Sure, you’ve visited the long shores of Cox’s Bazar, trekked to the heights of Keokradong and peaked through the lovely clean waters of Saint-Martin. But to limit ourselves to the mainstream is to grossly under-sell the natural beauty of our country. Today, we invite your attention to some of the lesser known and /or lesser traveled destinations of Bangladesh which deserve just as much love, admiration and acclaim as its more popular counterparts.



Often hailed as the “Niagra Falls” of Bangladesh, Nafakum Waterfall is one of the largest and most gorgeous waterfalls in the country. Despite its jaw-dropping beauty, however, Nafakum is also amongst one of the lesser ventured destinations due to the relatively extreme journey that it demands from would-be travelers.
For instance, for someone traveling from Dhaka the journey would be something like this: an 8-hour bus journey to Bandarban followed by another 3-4 hours bus journey to Thanchi where travelers would need to take permission from the BGB and enter their contact details for safety reasons. Thereafter, you would need to hire engine-boat(s) for the exploratory journey to Remarki through giant rocks dispersed in the Sangu River. At this point, travelers are well-advised to spend the night here at the hospitable local tribal houses before continuing their journey to Nafakum early next morning which will include hours of walking and trekking too.
Clearly, the journey is a major obstacle for many interested in travelling but this is also what puts Nafakum, along with Amiakhum, at the top of our list of Hidden Treasures of Bangladesh. The water is still clean and the nature still innocent of manly interventions, and quite frankly, the journey itself is worth it for the more hardcore travel-enthusiasts.

As a bonus for those who dare to take the aforementioned journey, you will be rewarded with the equally enticing scenery of Amiakhum which is also situated in Bandarban, near Myanmar border.

Notable Mentions:
·         Jadipai: also situated in Bandarban; the water is transparent and on a lucky day, you may be blessed with the awe-striking view of a rainbow forming at the bottom of the fall
·         Richang Waterfall (often pronounced “Risang”): located in Khagrachori, Chittagong; relatively easy to get to and covered in more greenery than the other waterfalls on the list.



Ratargul Swamp Forest, located in Sylhet, is the only swamp forest in Bangladesh. The forest can dive as deep as 30 feet under water during monsoon and usually sits at about 10 feet deep in other seasons.
It is the creation of a surreal marriage between a freshwater swamp and an almost poetic forest of Koroch trees “growing” out of the cool, clean water. Admittedly, the forest has become more famous in recent years but with its unparalleled capacity to provoke one’s senses, we felt it was too big a risk to leave it out in case the reader hasn’t visited this luscious forest yet.


Located in Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar District, and on the banks of the Naf River, it is the only game reserve in Bangladesh and a truly bio-diverse one at that. The sanctuary comprises an area of an astounding 11,615 hectares and boasts a number of attractions, none more so than the opportunity to see wild elephants in all their magnificence and the Kudum Cave, which harbours two different species of bats and is often known as the “Bat Cave.” Additionally, the destination has a plentiful plant-life, a wide species of birds and activities including hiking trails varying in terms of length and difficulty.



Much like Nafakum Waterfall above, Boga Lake really is one of the must-visit places yet quite a challenge to get to as well. In fact, it is inaccessible by any means of transport. For those who take the trouble to take the uncomfortable steps to this destination, however, awaits glad tidings indeed. It is unquestionably one of the most beautiful destinations on the list with its heavenly view that’s soothing both to the eyes and the heart. The lake is bounded by lush greenery, hills, cliffs and rocks. It is a perfect place for nature or peace lovers to stay overnight, watch stars, read books or share ghost stories, especially in light of a famous legend about the very birth of the lake.


Also known as the China Clay Hills, its main attractions are the ceramic hills beside the water that culminate into possibly the most picturesque destination on the list. Those into water travels will also appreciate the chance to row-boat along the Someshwari River.
Unfortunately, though, all things worth having (or visiting in this case) do not come easy; this particular place is as remotely located as being near the Indian border itself.


You hear Chittagong and beach – what do you think about? Cox’s of course. While Cox’s, St. Martin and Teknaf rightfully attract more tourists we feel the naval beach (dockside) in Chittagong is also worth a quick visit. The main attractions here include three distinct parts of the beach each giving quite a different feel than the others. The abundance of hair-floating breeze that makes for great selfies and the thumb-sized local piyajus are alone enough to regularly attract a swarm of young adults every Friday.

Notable Mentions
·         Shitalakshya River, Demra: the main attraction is the short trip from the center of Dhaka. It’s easy to rent out professional tour guides who will take you on a private cruise with delicacies including fish grilled on the boat itself. It makes for a perfect get-away or celebration of something dear with a large group.
·         Floating Rice Market, Barisal: technically not a tourist spot but worth a mention nonetheless.



Reminiscent of the iconic monkey temple in Jungle Book, the famous Rajbari is one of the oldest Zamindar palaces in Mymensingh. While some may find it undesirable that a large portion of the complex is not properly maintained, it is the lack of proper maintenance that makes it a must-visit destination for anyone with a taste for unadulterated history and culture.
Sweetening the destination further, quite literally, is the renowned Gopal Pali Prosida Monda Sweet Shop – home to what are probably the best monda sweets in the entire country.


Shaped like a man-made underground passage, Alutila is the longest natural cave in Bangladesh stretching about a 100 meters in length. It is enclosed by deep green forests all-round and is rocky, slippery and blindingly dark inside.
Perhaps not for the feint hearted but makes a great choice for the brave and adventurous looking for a different experience.

What’s your favourite hidden destination of Bangladesh? Is it something that falls outside the list above? If so, please write to us in the comments section and let your fellow travelers know too.