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A foray into the mysterious hills of Bandarban

It was a summer evening when some of my friends and I met near the bus counter with a plan for a weekend escape. The destination is one of the most known districts of Bangladesh, Bandarban. We were visiting in summer despite me preferring Bandarban in the monsoon because mountain rain enhances the beauty of the hills. The bus arrived an hour early to the bus stand, which was great for us as the heat was getting unbearable. Without further adeu, we got on the bus.

The bus left right after we got comfortable in our seats. I had office beforehand, so I was pretty tired. As a result, I dozed off into sleep, missing the satisfying view of leaving Dhaka for a vacation. When I woke up, the bus stopped by a restaurant near Comilla’s Dhaka-Chittagong highway. I got off the bus, freshened up and finished my dinner, all done in perfect timing; The bus started within a minute or two after I was done. The Dhaka-Chittagong highway is almost like a NASCAR track. All of the buses run quite fast in a straight line, and nobody was willing to let anyone get past them. Eventually I got bored and closed my eyes for catching another nap.

By dawn, I woke up and realized that the bus was quite close to Bandarban. I was close, but I was unaware of the terrible traffic jam. it took the bus two more hours to get to Bandarban city. After reaching Bandarban,  I got off the bus immediately, freshened up, finished breakfast, and fixed on a jeep for going to Thanchi Bazaar as we had no time to spare thanks to traffic jam.

Passing through the zigzag, uneven roads of the hills, our jeep was on it’s way to Thanchi. After almost four hours, we reached Thanchi Bazaar. We finished lunch from here and went to secure permission from the police and BGB for getting on a boat by Shangu to Romacri Bazaar. And thus started the journey through the mesmerizing Shangu.

Shangu is a mountain river in the eastern hilly regions of Bangladesh. It is one of the rivers that originate within Bangladesh. Shangu is known for it’s natural beauty as the poison of urbanization still hadn’t reached the river. While on my way, loads of tiny hilly villages and the rural lifestyle based on the bank of the river caught my eyes. The river provides a brief glimpse of the lifestyle by a mountain river, as some travel the river on boats made out of bamboo, some are busy fishing with small nets and in some places while kids play with each other on the river. Clouds playing hide and seek with the mountains by the river was quite a sight indeed.

We had to reach Romacri on a boat through Shangu. The path from Romacri to Thanchi gradually elevates, which is how Shangu has strong currents. The river descends from a feet or two to upto four feet at places. The mountains on sides of the river are wrapped in in a pretty shade of green.

The sun sets quite quickly in hilly areas. Add winter on top of that and you get very little time to enjoy this beautiful sight. It was already dusk by the time we reached Romacri. The entire place is doused in pitch-black darkness. At the moment, our journey had to be halted, so we decided to spend the night in a house in Romacri Bazaar. After finishing dinner, we spent some exploring the Bazaar and went to sleep, since we had a long journey ahead of us from the next morning.

As soon as the light of dawn tore through the darkness,we started walking through the zigzag hilly path by the Remacri lake. Because of the fog, our visibility was quite reduced. We encountered massive boulders, uneven roads and even had to cross the lake a few times because the path ahead of us was blocked. On one side, we had the lake and on the other side we saw massive mountains wrapped in dense fog.

The atmosphere was shrouded with pindrop silence. Only sound following us was the sound of the river flowing and our own footsteps. At times, natives came as signs of life as some were fishing, some hunting, some silently walked past with basket full of equipments.

We finally reached Nafakhum Waterfall, dubbed as the Niagra of Bangla, after two and a half hour of walking. One of the known waterfalls of Bangladesh, this stands as one of the greatest attractions of Bandarban. All the efforts of walking to Nafakhum seemed worth it as soon as we reached here. The unprecedented sight of this waterfall and the beauty of the hilly ways is bound to impress anyone.

After half an hour of watching the beauty of the waterfall, we started for Jinnapara on foot. We paced forward enjoying the hidden beauty of Bandarban. Sometimes we walked on stony walkways, sometimes on sandy terrains, and behind us followed the sound of birds singing in merry tunes. Almost as if we were walking through paths of heaven. The beauty seen in one’s eyes can never be described in words, to be entirely honest.

After three and a half hour of walking, we reached Jinnapara, located deep inside Bandarban. We were tired and didn’t get breakfast yet. Some dry food and some water from the river was our main source of energy till now. We asked the housekeeper of the house we took tenure in for setting up lunch for us. After setting up inside the house, we set out for the water flowing under the residence for a bath.

Getting on the clear waters in winter refreshed us. Even after an hour or two of taking a bath, we didn’t feel like getting out of the water. Hunter eventually caught up to us and we got out of the water and changed, getting ready for lunch. We finished our lunch with Joom rice, small chillis mixed with mashed potatoes and eggs. We then got off to see Jinnapara and Thuisapara.

After exploring Jinnapara, we decided to go to Thuisapara. We walked to Thuisapara. Spending some time there, we decided to head back to Jinnapara after dusk. The darkness of the night wasn’t really a problem thanks to the full moon shining on us. When we reached our destination, we discovered that we had a dinner consisting of Hill cock, mashed potatoes, daal and more Joom rice waiting for us, thanks to our landlord. “Dada, get yourselves freshened up, the food might get cold.”

We figured he wanted to go to sleep early, as people in these areas go to sleep around 8 or 9 PM and wake up early in the morning. We freshened up and finished dinner, then we sat on the couches outside the house, watching the full moon. After an hour or two, we went to sleep.

We woke up just before the sun started rising. After freshening up, we packed our bags and got on our way to Bandarban through Romacri. Witnessing the beauty again, we reached Nafakhum and stayed for two hours. Then, after arriving to Romacri, we got on a boat. We planned to reach Bandarban right before dusk, so we didn’t have a lot of time on our hands. After reaching Thanchi, we finished our lunch and got on a jeep. We reached Bandarban right after dusk started settling in. After exploring for an hour or two, we started for Dhaka.

But our hearts remained in the dangerously beautiful hills of Bandarban. My heart kept asking one question time and time, when can I return to these enigmatic hills again?

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