‘Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside.’ runs the hundred year old British Music Hall hit.
Well, it seems that some things never change in this rapidly developing world, and Laboni and Kolatoli beaches at Cox’s Bazar offer this generation of Bangladeshis much of what appealed a hundred years ago to the increasingly affluent working and lower middle classes of Europe. And , even in those parts of the world, the only difference in the appeal of the seaside that attracts tends to be in the warmer and culturally different locations of foreign lands. A difference already detectable in the burgeoning local tourist industry in Bangladesh, where some are beginning to head to Thailand and India rather than returning to there native beaches.
There may be no brass bands in Cox’s Bazar, but loud, broadcast popular music is a not infrequent phenomenon. But there remain the universal pleasures of sea bathing, socialising, family gatherings and people watching to enliven the days. Seaside enthusiasts of a hundred years ago would even find familiar the fact that most bathers and revellers take their pleasure on the beach and in the water in everyday clothes, just like then. No speedos, and even one piece bathing suits were as unknown then, as they are unfamiliar today on the beach.
Lines of deckchairs have been replaced by lines of sunloungers, and beach umbrellas now offer shade from the burning sun: rubber tyres and even the odd surfboard make Laboni a little more contemporary, together with the whining of jetskis and quadbikes. But maybe the most conspicuous difference between 21st Century Cox’s Bazar and 20th Century Coney Island or Blackpool, not that this can be said with the confidence of personal experience, is perhaps the absence of spade and bucket pleasure at Cox’s Bazar.
Perhaps the scattering of Mughal Forts across Bangladesh lack the romantic appeal of the European castles that so informed endless hours of childhood pleasure on the beaches af Europe, but, somehow, the absence of the sandcastle culture seems a sad omission from the unquestionable contemporary pleasures of a day at the seaside in Cox’s Bazar.