Chittagong, known as Chattogram in Bengali is the hub of commercial trading and financial center of the South Asian nation of Bangladesh. Fascinated by the thought of exploring this city strongly built during the Colonial period, we (me and friend) decided to explore it with one of our local friends from Dhaka. So we packed our bags and set off from my hometown Guwahati to explore the beautiful coastal city of Bangladesh.
TRAVEL PLANS TO CHITTAGONG
Getting a visa to Bangladesh is not a very tough job. Anyone who wants to travel through the city can apply and obtain a visa. As our friend is a citizen of Bangladesh, he got our tourist visas done by his reference at the Bangladesh High Commission in Guwahati. Our journey began immediately after we had all our documents in hand. Generally, there are several ways to reach Chittagong. The mode of travel depends on the place from where you are starting your journey.
Bangladesh is well connected to various parts of the world by air. If you are travelling from India, you can reach there by first flying from Kolkata to Dhaka which is about a 2-hour journey. From there you can opt for another mode of transport to reach Chittagaon. If you are travelling from other parts of the world, you can directly access flights to Chittagong from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai, Muscat etc. Biman Bangla, Fly Dubai and other flights from the Middle East also operate in the Chittagong Airport(Shah Amanat International Airport). International trains run from Kolkata to Dhaka. From there you can easily reach Chittagong. Since we were travelling from one of the cities closest to the border, we preferred to take a bus. If you too ever plan your trip to Bangladesh via north-east India, this is the best route that you can opt for.
For that, you will first have to reach Shillong and then take a bus to Dawki which is about 2 hours 30 minutes away from Shillong. It’s the place where you will see the border separating the two countries each guarded by their own army officials.Dawkihas a border check post where you will have to go through the immigration process. After completing the process, you can finally cross the border to enter Bangladesh.The journey from the Dawki border to Sylhet took us around 2 hours by bus. From there (Sylhet) it took around 8-9 hours by bus to Chittagong. Here you will again have to go through a security check clearing which you can begin your journey towards your destination.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN BANGLADESH
As Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country, alcohol is banned there. You need to have a legal permit to be able to purchase alcohol. Besides, it is available only in the 3 and 5-star hotels. I later found out that there are some government approved bars too that sell alcohol in the country. But these shops are very less in number. And being a tourist in the country it might as well be hard for you to locate it. Another thing that I discovered about the country is that you cannot travel to Bangladesh if you are an Israeli citizen.
Staying in Chittagong has a lot of options. You have fancy 3-star and 5-star hotels that offer amazing hospitality. Of course, there are other cheaper lodges and hotels too, f you want something that’s lighter in your pocket. Chittagong houses the Radisson Blu hotel where rooms range from $165. Good 3-star hotels include Orchid Business hotel, The Peninsula Chittagong which is at a reasonable distance from the city center. We stayed in the Asian SR which offered good service with reasonable room rates. The residents there, though that this hotel is unique in terms of its delectable breakfasts. Apart from these, there are various paying guest houses apartments etc. where you can stay and enjoy the very essence of the scenery.
WHAT TO DO IN CHITTAGONG
Chittagong houses a lot of beaches and natural sceneries. Patenga, Inani Beach in Cox’s Bazaar are some of the most popular travel destinations here. The scenic splendor of Kaptai Lake is another popular site that attracts the attention of the tourists. It is the country’s largest artificial lake, which was created in 1960 for hydroelectricity. The lake, dotted with islands, is unquestionably beautiful, and a boat trip across it is a fantastic way to spend a day out here. However, it’s worth knowing that approximately 100,000 Adivasis – mostly Chakma – were displaced when it was created, and around 40% of the land they previously cultivated was submerged forever.
OFFBEAT PLACES TO VISIT IN CHITTAGONG
Apart from that there a lot of eco-tourism places like Dulhazra Safari Park and Himchori Waterfalls. These places are in a true sense a beauty and more so during sunsets. You can also visit the memorial of Masterda Surya Sen one of the famous personalities of Bangladesh who is known for organizing the Chittagong Uprising of 1930. Here you can also check out the gallows where the execution took place.
Another place of interest for the tourists here is Rangamati in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. This place houses a lot of Buddhist Shrines(Viharas) and Pagodas. Foreigners must register their details before entering Rangamati. Foy’s lake is an artificial lake in Chittagong created in the British era of 1924. You can also visit the Amusement park near the Lake which is one of the main attractions of the city.
Near the lake, there is Batali Hill which is good for sightseeing if you can make it to the mountaintop which is not a very challenging task. Once you reach there you will also see the 1971 War Memorial which a mark of the tribute to the deaths is that happened at that time. You shouldn’t miss the Chittagong Zoo near the park as it has all most all the fauna which are mainly found in the Indian Subcontinent. Apart from that one can watch the tribal culture of Bangladesh in the Ethnological Museum in Chittagong which stands up as the lone ethnological museum of the country.
The shrine of Bayazid Bostami can be visited where you can view turtles in the shrine which are named as Bostami turtles.Masjid e Siraj ud Dwala is another famous spot which was made popular by its striking architectural construction in bright colors which a tourist can marvel upon. Also, to Enjoy a Beautiful Sunset in Chittagong you have a Sunset point in Bhatiyari Lake to enjoy the view.
Although a Muslim country by nature, Chittagong also houses one of the Shakti Peeth which is known as Chatteswari Kali temple, which was destroyed by Pakistan Army in 1971. The temple complex is one of the major tourist destinations in Chittagong. If you want to have a pleasant view of the Portuguese architectural view you can visit the Mohsin is a beauty to look at. In the old city, one can view up the Chandanpura Mosque which has the fines architectural beauty and mesmerize the eyes of the tourist.
Chittagong has the Veterinary and Agricultural University which is the only Veterinary University in entire Asia. Also, if anybody loves butterflies or is a lepidopterist he should never miss the Butterfly park in Chittagong which houses 4000-5000 butterflies. There is a WW2 war memorial dedicated to 700 soldiers who gave up their lives in Burma Campaign maintained by Commonwealth War Commision.
WHAT TO BUY IN CHITTAGONG
Ramu in Chittagong has a lot of Buddhist handicrafts and locally made cigars. If you are in Chittagaon you should definitely try them once. Baatighar, Bistaar, Afmi plaza, Sea Marine plaza and Fred plaza are some of the most the exotic markets where you can buy a variety of things.
THE BANGLADESH CUISINE
If you are travelling across Bangladesh or are at any specific city there, trying out their cuisine is a must. The Seafood here is the most popular and delicious. Sutki is a must try local fish out there. Chingri malai curry is the best try among seafood delicacies. You can also enjoy fried fishes and Rohu. Apart from the seafood, you can also pamper your taste buds with the local Biriyanis, Kala Bhuna, Mejbani Mangso, Various Kormas, and meats. In desserts definitely, feast on ras malais and rosogollas.
THE UNIQUE TOUCH OF CHITTAGONG
Chittagong is one of the few cities that lets you eerily enjoy the essence of the scenery from both the plains and also from the awe-inducing mountain tops that stare down at the seas. It is also home to the Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, which as history recalls is the only veterinary college in Bangladesh.
TRIP ADVISOR & TAKEAWAY
You should always try to take a tourist guide arranged from hotels fluent in Bengali This is because most of the locals do not understand other languages which may cause a hurdle for Tourists. A budget of 50,000 is ideal for submerging yourself with the cultural diversity and green landscapes of the city. You should be careful while entering a restaurant as many of the street restaurants do not practice good hygiene and this could lead to an upset stomach in tourists. Never try to buy adulterated alcohol in Chittagong, as this can be fatal. Being a foreigner, you can purchase alcohol from licensed pubs and shops, which are easily available in Chittagong.
Try avoiding beggar nuisances in Chittagong even though they try and grab attention. As far as visiting the city, if you are a type of person who likes to engulf yourself with the sumptuous aroma of nature filled landscapes, exotic beaches, then on a scale of 1 to 10, I would place Chittagong at the top of the scale.
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Meet Your Local Traveller
RAUNAK RAJ SINGH is an undergraduate Microbiology student. He is fond of playing chess, studying history and traveling. Raunak loves discovering new places and connecting with new people.