Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kuakata: A Goldmine of Beauty

KM Ahasanul Huque


Patuakhali is a district under Barisal division in the South-western part of Bangladesh. The southern district is bounded by Barisal on the north, Bay of Bengal on the south, Bhola on the east and Barguna on the west.  The main tourist attraction in Patuakhali is the historical Kuakata sea beach. Called “the daughter of the sea”, this beach is the second largest tourist centre of the country and allows both a view of the sun rise and the sunset. The top places worthy of a visit are the Buddhist Temple, and the Mog and Chakma tribal villages.
Spotlight on Kuakata
Kuakata provides tourists with picturesque views and the promise of time well spent. Expect to find an abundance of natural beauty, a white sandy beach, blue skies and huge expanses of bay water. From the seashore, tourists can get a rare panoramic view of the sunrise and sunset. The beach has immense tourist potential as truth be told, the hidden beauty of Kuakata is still left unexplored.
With the majestic view of the Bay of Bengal on one side and the well-set columns of coconut groves and forests on the other, Kuakata is really an earthly paradise for tourists. Think endless lines of coconut trees that lightly dance in the breeze on one side, and scores of fishing trawlers anchored on another. The inexpressible beauty of the place is difficult to put into words.
Virgin beach
Kuakata can truly be called a virgin beach - a sanctuary for migratory winter birds, wild animals, betel nut and coconut trees and dry sandy beaches. Tourists can explore the traditional customs and costumes of "Rakhine" tribal families who are hardworking and active around the area.
Tourists can also visit the Buddhist Temple that is about a hundred years old. The temple tells tales of our ancient inheritance and multi-cultural heritage, which really is an object of both wonder and pleasure. Interestingly, Kuakata is the ultimate spot for religious pilgrimages for both Hindus and the Buddhists. Innumerable devotees arrive from far and near to visit during the traditional festival of Rush Purnima and Maghi Purnima. During these festivals they take holy baths and attend colourful traditional fairs that are held simultaneously to mark the occasions.
Getting to Kuakata
There is a partially smooth road between Dhaka and Patuakhali district headquarters, albeit marked with uneven pot holes. You can go via air or water to Barisal city. Afterwards you can travel to Kuakata or Patuakhali by air or water. If you're travelling from Dhaka you can reach Patuakhali by bus and from there you may take a microbus to Kuakata. It is, however, advisable to travel up to Patuakhali direct by launch, which is a pleasant, overnight journey, given that you take a luxury cabin. Instead of Patuakhali you can also go to Khepupara by launch, which is an overnight journey as well and from there you can go to Kuakata by microbus. A direct BRTC bus service is also available from Dhaka to Kuakata that leaves from Sayedabad bus terminal at night. It takes 12 hours to reach Kuakata if it's a nonstop trip. However, it might be a hectic bus journey as it involves two ferries.
The best season to travel to Kuakata is during winter. It's recommended that tourists meet the Rakhine tribal people to learn about their way of life. Various handicrafts made by them are also sold here for those interested in indulging in a light shopping session. The closest Rakhine villages are Misripara and Keranipara. Travellers may visit the 100 year old Buddhist temple at Keranipara called Seema Mandir, which is made of eight different metals.
Tourists can visit the Buddhist Temple about 4km off from Kuakata, where the statue of Goutom Buddha (the biggest in South Asia) and two 200 year old wells exist. The regional name of the well is "Kua" and "Kata," which is the local way of referring to the act of digging wells. This is how the name "Kuakata" came to be.
If you are adventurous you may also go fishing near the fishermen's village, where the fresh catch includes hilsa and other sea fishes. Nearby, there are a few local restaurants that serve fresh fish one must try on their visit.
From Kuakata there is scope to visit a fragment of the great Sundarban mangrove forest, called the Gangamoti Reserve Forest. It is a one hour speedboat ride away. Kuakata was once part of the Sundarban forest when the Rakhine community settled in that area in 1784, after being thrown out of Arakan in Myanmar by the Mughals. Basically, the Gangamati Reserve Forest is the additional part of the Sundarban forest in Bangladesh, and it also protects the coast of Kuakata against tidal surges. There are many types of trees and plants in this forest such as the keora, gewa, baen, kankra, goran, hetal, golpata and numbers of wild animals such as wild boars, deer, monkeys and different species of birds.
Gangamoti Lake and Fatrar Char are two other enchanting tourist places near Kuakata that must be visited to really enjoy the beauty and bounty of the place.

Striking features
No other place in Bangladesh can boast of such rare panoramic views of the sunset and the sunrise as Kuakata does.
Jhaubon is another very beautiful place at Kuakata and is close to the sea beach. It has been planted by the forest department for beautification as well as to protect against soil erosion. Jhaubon is surrounded by both Jhau and coconut trees. This place is also ideal if you want better views of the Kuakata sunrise. They also have an eco park that is an excellent spot for picnics. There are many types of trees and plants here as it's a safe haven of birds with over 42,000 plants. It also has two watch towers, five picnic sheds, a wooden bridge, culverts and internal walkways.
Shutki polli is another place tourists can visit. It is located 4km west from Kuakata beach. On the way to Lebur bon/Lebur chor one can visit shutki polli to explore the interesting ways in which shutki (dry fish) is made.
Narikel Bagan or the coconut garden, located east of the beach is also another spot tourists may be interested in. According to locals, the garden is on the verge of being destroyed and demands protective measures to help restore the natural state of the place.
The Kakra Beach or lobster beach is very clean and beautiful, with large litters of lobsters found running all over the beach.

Accommodations
There are several high end hotels, rest houses and holiday homes that you can stay at. The place also offers low priced accommodations from Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation. The corporation has constructed luxury holiday homes as well as other housing for tourists.

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