12/28/2009 to 1/3/2009 | Bangladesh

Chittagong to Rangamati

The afternoon of Election Day in Dhaka with the streets eerily void of all traffic due to a ban on all motorized vehicles, I walked to the train station to start my journey south to Chittagong gateway city to Bangladesh’s hill districts known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts.  Chittagong itself is a port city home to Bangladesh’s garment manufacturing industry.  The sprawling metropolis lacks the vibrancy of Dhaka and I found little reason to stay more than the day required to pick up a permit to visit the sensitive border areas of the Hill Tracts.  I met a friendly Bangladeshi man on the train to Chittagong who worked in a water monitoring lab but would shortly be starting training the Bangladeshi Air Force.  He ended up accompanying me to Rangamati, my first destination in the Hill Tracts, and stayed for a day before heading back to Chittagong.  The town of Rangamati sits on the edge of a large reservoir the native inhabitants of the region are primarily Buddhist in contrast to the overwhelming Islamic majority in Bangladesh.  The region both in geography and culture resembles neighboring Bruma rather than the flat delta region that makes up most of Bangladesh.  As a result the inhabitants of this region have been fighting for autonomy from the Bangladeshi government; a struggle which as had little success and has provoked brutal military crackdowns as well as government resettling programs which encouraged Muslims from the plains to settle in the region in a misguided attempt to subdue the region.  While not the most happening place to be on New Year’s eve, which was pretty much a non event (I was in bed by 10:00 pm), I was able to witness an intriguing festival on January 1st by the local Buddhist Chakma Community in which they would light 108,000 torches.  I wondered how many times they counted to make sure the number was right, whether or not it was a 108,000 or not there was a lot of fire, and the locals were decked out in  there finest attire.

The following day along with a German I met (one of a handful of other foreign tourist I would meet in my month in Bangladesh) we tried to venture out on the lake.  Given that the police/military is not very keen to have foreign tourists venture out on there own, this was easier said than done.  We tried to board a number of ferries at the Rangamati boat dock, not really caring where we ended up, but had limited success as the operators did not want to take us without a police escort.  We finally were able to take a large ferry which deposited us in a small market strip on one of the lakes many islands, from there we managed to walk to a few villages.  Getting back was much easier than getting out and we hitched a ride on a banana transport boat back to Rangamati enjoying a sunset cruise on the lake for less than 25 cents.

1 comment to Chittagong to Rangamati

  • Hey Micah!
    Exactly one has passed since that day we spent togehther in the Hill Tracts.
    That peacefull Banana Transport cruise was surely one the most relaxing
    experinces during my time in the otherwise often hectic Bangladesh.
    I hope you are fine.
    We surely will meet again one day somewhere on this crazy planet.
    All the best
    Joerg

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