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.
Factbox: 
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: http://www.dhakatribune.com/weekend/2015/jul/16/travel-there-and-back-again

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:

Rickshaw: 
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?

Bus:
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.


CNG:
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.



Tuk-Tuk:
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. 



Taxis:
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.





Railway:
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.




Airlines:  
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.

WATERFALLS GALORE

NAFAKUM AND AMIAKHUM WATERFALL, BANDARBAN


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.


FOREST FEST

RATARGUL

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.

TEKNAF WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

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.



MAGICAL WATERBODIES

BOGA LAKE, BANDARBAN

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.

SHUSONG DURAGPUR OF BIRISHIRI, NATROKANA

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.

CHITTAGONG NAVAL BEACH

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.

MYSTERIOUS HIDEOUTS

MUKTAGACHA RAJBARI, MYMENSINGH

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.


ALUTILA, KHAGRACHORI

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.



Thursday, June 23, 2016

1000-year-old Hindu temple excavated in Dinajpur


HASIBUR RAHMAN BILU






A group of archaeologists has recently unearthed a rare Vishnu temple with a unique ‘nava-ratha’ architecture at Madhabgaon village in Kaharol upazila of the northern district of Dianajpur.

Archaeologists from Jahangirnagar University’s department of archaeology in Savar, Dhaka, including its director Prof. Swadhin Sen, Prof. Syed Mohammed Kamrul Ahsan, Prof. Seema Hoque and Sabekunnaher Sithi started an excavation at the site in April this year. They received financial assistance from the cultural affairs ministry and the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP) of the University Grants Commission (UGC). They also received the support of the department of archaeology.

The 52-member excavation team included four teachers, 13 students and 13 experienced workers from Mahasthan.

They found a seven-metre-high brick-built structure and a 144-sq-metre solidly built platform, with a 4.48-metre square cell at the centre. The cell represents the ‘garbhagriha’ (sanctum) where the idol was worshipped. The external surface of the platform has ‘ratha’ or vertical offset projections at the west, north and south. There are nine ‘rathas’. That is why the temple is known as a ‘nava-ratha’ temple, according to ‘Early Temple Architecture’.

“The temple is about 1,000 years old. It was constructed in the 10th to 11th centuries. No temple of the ‘nava-ratha’ type has been discovered in Bangladesh till now,” said Prof. Swadhin Sen.
He also said radiocarbon dating of the collected samples would shed light on the precise date of the temple.

“The superstructure of the sanctum is characterised by a ‘shikhara’ or ‘rekha deul’ (curvilinear tower). Among the very few existing brick-built standing temples with ‘shikhara’ in undivided Bengal, the Siddheshwar Temple at Bahulara of Bankura in West Bengal has the closest resemblance,” said Prof. Dipak Ranjan Das, a former professor of the University of Calcutta and an expert on early eastern Indian temple architecture.

The same team had discovered a Hindu temple with ‘pancha-ratha’ variety in Nawabganj upazila of Dinajpur in 2007. The four-pillared ‘mandapa’ was possibly capped with a ‘shikhara’ and is known as a ‘pida deul’ (tiered roof) variety.

The team found more artefacts, including a decorated stone image, a good number of broken fragments of stone sculptures, along with pottery, decorated bricks and stone pieces during the ongoing archaeological excavations at the site. The sculptural fragments represent various iconographic attributes of Vishnu, the Hindu deity.

Prof. Syed Mohammad Kamrul Ahsan said this temple was a very good addition to their research in the northern part of Bangladesh over the past 15 years. He added that their team has already excavated nine sites in this region and documented more than 1,000 archaeological sites in the Dinajpur-Joypurhat region. More than 800 among them could be dated to the early medieval period.
The history of river systems and landscapes was crucial for the development of settlements, which had religious edifices at the core. The excavation accompanied by archaeological studies will continue for the next couple of months.


Shared from The Independent

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Art and Adda Hotel

Farhana Urmee


Through both peace and turmoil, this century-old building in the middle of old Dhaka has been a proud sanctuary for many of our most famous minds.

The name Beauty Boarding may sound like your convenient neighbourhood hair salon, but to many cultural figures, this place has a much deeper significance. If you read Bangla literature, you may have heard of it, as it has made an appearance in various works.
Beauty Boarding was the historical hub of the intellectual adda of Bangali littérateurs, politicians, cultural activists and poets. It has been commemorated in their art and biographies.
The hotel and restaurant is a distinctive two-storied old building, standing proudly in the middle of old Dhaka. A witness of bygone times, Beauty Boarding is far from losing its charm. It still has the power of inspiration for creative minds, and a perfect place for adda over the simple and hearty Bangali food it serves.

Age before Beauty
The property belonged to a zamindar named Shudheer Das. The spread of the grounds is in the style of a typical zamindar house. It has an open central courtyard flanked by a long veranda attached to the bedroom and living apartments, with a separate section for the dining and drawing rooms.
Before Partition in 1947, the building was used as the office of the daily newspaper Shonar Bangla. By 1951, due to political turmoil, the newspaper owner moved his office to Kolkata and abandoned the property.
Soon after the newspaper left, the property was rented by local neighbour Nalini Mohon Saha, who thought of starting a restaurant and hotel business.

Due to its location in a busy neighbourhood of Banglabazar, which has long been the centre of book publishing, printing and stationery wholesaling, Nalini’s initiative got a great response from the very beginning.
It attracted book traders from all over the country who made regular trips to Banglabazar, and often had to stay overnight.
Nalini named the boarding house after his eldest daughter, Beauty.

First adda
Shahid Qadri, eminent poet and writer of post-1947 modern Bangla poetry, visited Beauty Boarding and asked one of his friends to come over for a chat during his stay there.
That was Beauty Boarding’s first illustrious adda. Gradually the word spread, and more and more names from the cultural arena started to gravitate towards the place. After that there was no looking back.
The availability of tea and snacks at modest rates, accompanied by the calm greenery of the surrounding gardens, attracted people who sought a homey environment for thinking and writing in serenity.
During his stays there, poet and writer Syed Shamsul Huq wrote his novels Ek Mahilar Chhobi (Portrait of a Woman, 1959), Anupam Din (Best Days, 1962), Simana Chhariye (Beyond the Bounds, 1964). The script for the very first Bangla talkie film, Mukh O Mukhosh, was also written by director Abdul Jabbar Khan in the yards of Beauty Boarding.
Legendary poet Nirmalendu Goon made it his home for almost five years, and his autobiography includes a special mention of this place.
Painter Debdas Chakrabartee, and the poets Shamsur Rahman, Abu Zafar Obaidullah, Rafiq Azad and Al Mahmud were among the many who had their evening tea here.
Even the beloved magician Jewel Aich lived in Beauty Boarding when he first came to Dhaka.

All in the family
Nalini initially ran his business with the help of his younger brother Prohladh Chandra Saha. During the Pakistan period, Nalini decided to move to Kolkata with his family, leaving Prohladh with the authority for the business.
In 1971, Prohladh and 17 others – including guests, staff, and some of Prohladh’s friends – were abducted by the occupying Pakistani army and killed.
He was survived by his two sons and wife, who left the country during the Liberation War. They returned after the war, and the business was restarted by Prohladh’s widow. It was then handed over to Tarak Saha, Prohladh’s eldest son, who has been running the business since 1978.

The beauty of Bangali food
Whenever someone mentions the food of old town, the first thing that typically comes to mind is Mughlai delicasies. The cuisine served at Beauty Boarding, however, is of a more home-grown variety. Everyday its restaurant cooks up delicious, authentic-flavoured classics such as shorshey ilish (hilsa fish cooked in mustard sauce), gulsha fish gravy, chicken, spicy lentil soup, vegetable curry and steamed rice – all served in stainless steel plates and glasses.
Two people can feast on a lunch of fish, chicken, lentil, vegetable, and dessert, all for only Tk400.
The restaurant serves lunch to around 120-150 people daily. Book traders still come here for business. Other regulars include neighbours and visitors from new Dhaka, who also frequent Beauty Boarding for its healthy and authentic “Bangali Bhoj” (feast).
For those who fancy an overnight stay, there is a total of 25 rooms in the hotel: 12 single-bed rooms at Tk200 and 13 double-bed rooms at Tk300.

Board of Beautians
The current owner Tarak Saha was a little boy when his mother captained the business. He grew up hearing stories about the addas of the famous personalities who frequented the hotel over the years.
The lost tales from his uncle were somewhat revived when Tarak took the initiative to reunite those writers and poets, who had spent a good amount of quality time here in Beauty Boarding.  In 1994, the reunion of those old “Beautians” inspired them to form a community of Beauty Boarders, who get together here to share fond old memories.
In 1995, they formed an official association under the banner of Beauty Boarding Shudhee Shongho. It also has a 60-member trustee board that has been honouring former “Beautians,” as they call themselves, since 2000.

Reviving a tradition
Although this old Dhaka hotel is is no longer a hotspot, it has not lost its touch. A group of young poets from Dhaka regularly meet at the Beauty Boarding premises. It has also been used as a venue for several exhibitions.
Tarak Saha dreams to recreate the vibrant intellectual adda scene that took place during the Pakistan period and after independence.
While flipping through an autograph book signed by at least 300 renowned personalities who had been guests at the hotel, Tarak says: “I hope to create a platform for young people who can come here and sit for hours and have a productive time.”
He plans to start construction of a library in the hopes of attracting more readers and thinkers.
Tarak admits: “The adda that used to take place here may not be possible in the same manner, as writers no longer need to come to Banglabazar for the printing of scripts. Technology has brought so much change.”
Today, the building and its establishment stands unchanged by time, proud of its legacy.  The banner bearing the names of its writers and poets is one of the first things one sees upon entering the office room.
Tarak also plans to build a monument honouring the 17 martyrs who were killed by the Pakistani army, and install a plaque with all the names of the famous guests Beauty Boarding has hosted over the years.
For a trip down the memory lane of some of our nation’s greatest minds, Beauty Boarding – its corridors, hallways and restaurant – is definitely worth visiting.
Shared from Dhaka Tribune
Link: http://www.dhakatribune.com/weekend/2014/aug/29/art-and-adda-hotel

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Depleting Destinations in Bangladesh


Subah Shaheen

Bangladesh is a beautiful tropical nation housing several booming tourist attractions. The beaches, hill stations, waterfalls and islands of this small South Asian wonderland offer tourists a memorable experience at an affordable rate. However, after centuries of taking mother earth for granted, nature has finally begun to retaliate. Climate change is here and its effects will be getting more prominent in due time. The areas best known for their natural allure will thus, in a few years, start to display signs of global warming, resource depletion and worst of all contamination. Bangladesh will be no exception to that rule, in fact, according to National Geographic- Bangladesh is most vulnerable to climate change. This is because the country is located at the bottom of three ferocious rivers and watered by fifty seven trans-boundary ones. Already some areas of the country are at risk of losing their enviable pristine beauty in a few years time. The clock is ticking to explore the unique magic of these endangered destinations.
Bhola
This is the largest island of the country and has been awarded the honorary title ‘‘Queen Island of Bangladesh,’’ due to its immaculate, subtle beauty. The beauty of Bhola lies in its simplicity and the serene calmness it provides to onlookers. The long palm trees swaying gently against the afternoon breeze, and the mighty sun making the water shimmer as a particularly feisty silver fish jumps out to get some fresh sunshine for himself are mesmerizing scenes in the most soothing sense. Bhola is easy on the eyes and allows respite to troubled souls as the calmness of the surroundings balances out the turmoil raging inside one’s mind. Being an island nation, the seafood of the place is exquisite and a particular desert item- the buffalo curd- has enchanted the taste buds of all those who have tried it. Bhola is, therefore, an exquisite destination
for a few quiet days to oneself but alas, due to the low altitude of this gentle island, it is soon to be in grave danger of floods and tsunamis. The government has already started preparing in advance but one can naturally conclude that Bhola might not be the same in a couple of years.



Sundarbans
Bangladesh is renowned worldwide as the home of the Sundarbans- the largest mangrove forest in the world- and the treasure trove of wildlife present there. It is a
UNESCO world heritage site and a must see for all adventure lovers. The islands of Sundarban buzz with activity and there is excitement in the very air. One can hear several varieties of birds and monkeys even while on a ship cruising on the waters surrounding it. One always has to be on the lookout as animals are abundant in the forest and some of them aren’t too shy. They will peek from trees and bushes to get a glimpse of their latest guests. Of course, the Sundarbans are home to the Royal Bengal Tigers and these big cats don’t react well to uninvited visitors but if people familiarize themselves with the mindset of the tigers beforehand, there does exist the chance of one simply walking by in front of you. The mighty mammal with its lush orange fur and dramatic black stripes would prove to be the most awe aspiring view in its natural
habitat where it would walk with the delicacy of a cat and the dignity of a lion. Though many have spotted the king of the jungle on their excursions, a more common and welcome sight to many have been deers, alligators, various birds, monkeys and other fauna. The Sundarbans are amazing but sadly they are depleting as well. Rising sea levels, deforestation, urbanization and hotter, drier summers have started to take its toll on this island of exquisite flora and fauna. The Rampal powerplant shall probably catalyse these changes making our Sundarbans- literally meaning, ‘‘Beautiful Forests,’’ an entirely different area 10 years from now.

Sonargaon,Lalbagh Fort and Ahsan Manjil
Bangladesh has hundreds of years of history as part of the Indian Subcontinent and many archaeological and architectural sites exist today as proof of that glorious heritage. While the country has several constructions to satiate the thirst of every history or fine art enthusiast, some of these places have become extrem
ely popular with tourists and in that group- the sites of Sonargaon, Lalbagh Fort and Ahsan Manjil are noteworthy. The rich history of these places and the spell binding raw beauty they hold have earned them the right to win admirers from all over the world but unfortunately, beauty cannot freeze time. The latter makes the former wither away until only the legends of its supremacy remain, nothing more. Though these structures have withstood the test of time and stand tall today, the withering has continued. They are not as magnificent as they were 10 years back and their state will continue to depreciate. Various preservation and renovation efforts are routinely performed but these are weak defenses against the test of time which now has air pollution to aid its task and the protection policies of the government fail to fully tackle the situation at hand.

The above featured only a few of the fast depleting destinations of Bangladesh. With the onset of climate change, the whole world is unaware of the full extent of the changes that will befall us and this applies to Bangladesh as well. Being a low lying developing country, Bangladesh is both at risk of facing terrible consequences and having the inability to protect itself fully from the consequences. However, the most must be made of the country’s resources till then and its tourist destinations shall continue to be a promising sector for the country over the next few years- offering wonderful holidays for tourists to come and cherish for a lifetime.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Big Cat of the Mangrove

Faisal Mahmud

On account of International Tiger Day, July 29, 2015, Dhaka Tribune took a look at the current situation concerning habitat, population and overall well-being of our majestic national animal.

For Bangladeshis, the Royal Bengal tiger is not just a mere beast. It’s a little more than that.
Aside from being the national animal of the country, this big cat has been playing an important role in enriching our literature and remains a central character in many folk tales like Gazir GanBonbibir Kotha. The tiger is also a symbol for many of our national agencies.
The emblem of the East Bengal Regiment, which fought for the country's liberation, the logo of the national cricket team and the hologram in our national currency are some of the examples of using the tiger symbol taking pride of place.
Even it’s presence in our political culture is also evident. The great politician AK Fuzlul Huq is called the 'Tiger of Bengal' for his outstanding contribution in favour of humanity.
Things however are not looking bright for our tigers in the Sundarbans. While unsustainable forest use and climate change threaten to reduce the area in which tigers can live, poaching of prey reduces the capacity of the forest to support tigers.
All these make the life of the king of the jungle very difficult indeed.
The shrinking tiger population
The world has been trying to save tigers since the 1970s, when it was discovered that populations had shrunk precipitously, and in some places vanished, throughout Asia, home to all the wild tigers left on earth. But conservation has largely failed.
Drastic loss of habitat, half-hearted efforts by the governments of many of the 13 tiger-range countries, uncoordinated objectives of competing NGOs, and, above all, an unstaunchable and illegal market for tiger parts in China have reduced the number of the world's wild tigers to a meagre 3,200, at a high estimate.
The Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest of the world has long been a safe sanctuary for tigers but it’s not anymore. Data analysis of the recent tiger census in the Sundarbans suggested that the number of Bengal Tigers in the forest's Bangladesh part might have come down to half of what it was 10 years ago.
The 2004 Bangladesh-India joint tiger pugmark survey in the Sundarbans put the number at 419. The recently finished census said that the number is less than 200 in the Bangladeshi part of the Sundarbans.
A new report of the Global Tigers Initiatives (GTI) shows Bangladesh is lagging far behind other neighbouring tiger range countries, including India, Nepal and Bhutan in conversation activities.
The report released during the Global Tiger Stocktaking Conference in Dhaka in last year was prepared based on nine activities regarding tiger conservation. Among the 13 tiger range countries, Bangladesh has not been able to fulfil any of the targets.
Reasons behind tiger losses
Both anthropogenic and natural causes are responsible for tiger loss in Bangladesh. The most significant cause of tiger loss is direct poaching to supply the increasing demand for tiger products, experts said.
Moreover, Tiger-Human Conflict (THC) is very high in Bangladesh, which is evident from high rate of human killing, livestock depredation and ultimately the killing in retribution of tigers by affected local communities. In addition, prey poaching, unsustainable forest management and climate change induced natural calamities also affect tiger population.
Several million people directly depend on the Sundarbans for their subsistence. They collect wood, honey, gol-pata and other forest products from the Sundarbans. There is a common perception among policy makers that those forest dependent people are responsible for the Sundarbans' degradation.
Researches however explore that commercial extraction by outside people through corrupted forest officials is mainly responsible for the Sundarban's degradation.
The outsider commercial extractors collect forest resources beyond sustainable limit by violating resource collection rules. Hence, the balance of the forest ecosystem has been dwindling. In contrast, the forest dependent communities are living in the Sundarbans area for centuries by collecting forest resources more or less sustainably using their traditional knowledge.
Thus, the most evident threat to tiger habitat is unsustainable commercial extraction of forest resources that degrades the habitat quality.
Effects of climate change
Experts said that a major reason for frequent straying by tigers may be a growing prey crisis due to greater frequency of cyclones and tidal surges triggered by climate change.
The critically endangered tigers have been seen to leave their jungle habitat most frequently at two forest ranges in Bangladesh – Burhigoalini range in Satkhira and Sharankhola range in Bagerhat.
Renowned environmentalist Dr Ainun Nishat said that large populations of the Sundarbans deer might have perished in recurrent cyclones. “The population cycle of the Sundarbans deer will be adversely affected as their habitats become prone to cyclones and more saline because of climate change.”
“The tigers are coming out of the jungle for food and cyclones may very well have caused the food crisis there,” said Nishat.
“After natural disasters pass, the affected regions are naturally hit by a prey crisis. Deer often die in large numbers, which is likely to affect the tigers though they themselves are not particularly vulnerable to such natural disasters.”
He said tigers were seen leaving forests more frequently than usual after cyclone Sidr in 2007 and Aila in May this year.
Tiger poaching in the Sundarbans
Even though the government has taken various measures to protect Bengal Tigers in the Sundarbans, its poaching is on the rise with 49 being killed in last the 14 years (2001-2014), according to forest department data.
Among the 49 tigers, 17 were killed in the Sundarbans east zone of the forest department while 15 were killed in the Sundarbans west zone. According to the data, the forest department recovered 17 tiger skins from different parts of the country between 2001-2014 while being smuggled out of the country.
Although official data shows that some 49 tigers were killed in the last 14 years, the locals of the Sundarbans claim that the actual number of poached tigers is much higher.
They said wildlife poaching continues rampantly in the Sundarbans while poachers frequently hunt tigers, deer and other wildlife using traps and guns. There are a number of wildlife poachers' groups in the nearby villages of the Sundarbans and they are poaching wildlife in both the Sundarbans east and west zones. The groups are linked with international wildlife smugglers, according to local sources.
The local poachers bring their hunted wildlife to the nearby villages and process the hides, bones and other limbs of the animals. Later, they sell those to the international smugglers, they added.
The residents of Banglabazar, Uttar Rajapur, Sonatola, Bagi and Khuriakhali villages near the Sundarbans also said there are a number of active wildlife poachers' groups in their neighbourhoods and the villagers can hardly raise their voice in fear of reprisal.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the Sundarbans East Zone Amir Hossain Chowdhury said many plans are being implemented to protect Bengal Tigers while the Forest Department's Wildlife Circle has been strengthened, officials of the department have been trained and coordination among the forest department, Coast Guard, Rab and police has been strengthened to check wildlife poaching.
He said officials of the forest department are conducting drives across the country to arrest poachers and they are often detaining members of wildlife smugglers and also recovering hides of tigers and deer.

Fact Box
New projects on hand
To save tiger population and its prey, a new project titled Bagh Activity, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was launched recently. The five-year project is designed to reduce wildlife trafficking and minimise human-tiger conflicts in the Sundarbans.
WildTeam, a Bangladesh-based organisation of tiger conservation activists, will implement the project with technical assistance from the Smithsonian Institution of the US and Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies. It will also collaborate with national and international law enforcement agencies in keeping wildlife out of harm's way.
Interview of Dr Monirul H Khan
Dr Monirul H Khan has a PhD from the University of Cambridge on tigers of the Sundarbans. Currently he is working as a professor of Zoology in Jahangirnagar University. He is known as the foremost authority about Royal Bengal Tigers in Sundarban.
Are tigers numbers decreasing in the Sundarbans?
Yes, they are decreasing at an alarming rate. The problem is that large carnivore species like tigers naturally occur at low densities, which make them particularly susceptible to extirpation and extinction. At present, the only stable population of tigers is found in the Sundarbans, and they are isolated from the nearest human populations by about 300km of agricultural and urban land.
How many tigers are left in the Sundarbans?
First of all, we have to understand that tiger ranges vary in accordance with prey densities. There is no long-term work on the range size of the tigers in Bangladesh.
Some studies indicate that tigers are fairly evenly distributed throughout the Sundarbans at a density of about 1 per 10sqkm, but subsequent studies have suggested that there may be a density gradient, with numbers being highest in the south and lowest in the north. Based on camera-trap surveys, together with track counts, and in the light of prey densities, the tiger population is estimated to be lower, at around 220-230 tigers in the Bangladeshi part and another 65-70 in the Indian part.
What can we do to protect the Sundarbans?
Since the breeding peak of tigers is probably in winter, the season should remain uninterrupted. Unfortunately, winter is also the main harvest and tourist season when human disturbance is intense. I also suggest that some zones should be demarcated, and tourists should be allowed in only those areas. Controlled ecotourism should be developed so that both the government and the local people benefit financially.

Shared from Dhaka Tribune