bandarban, bangladesh – It is late afternoon and the skies are threatening rain again over the mountains of Bangladesh. Wait a minute, you say. There are mountains in Bangladesh? Believe it or not, there are and they are some of the most impressive areas of this South Asian country.
The vast majority of the country is flat. Rising about 30 meters above sea level, it is the home of over 700 rivers that move slowly across the Bengal plains. Most of Bangladesh is nothing more than the delta of the Ganges/Padma Rivers. Many smaller rivers flow into these rivers, having started out as rushing, white-water streams in the Himalayas. Once they reach India, they slow down to a crawl as it make their way toward the Bay of Bengal.
The eastern part of Bangladesh finds the hills rising upwards from the Bay of Bengal east of the port city of Chittagong as the country joins with the northern border of Myanmar and the small Indian states that surround this country. These are the foothills of the Himalayas. The Burmese hills continue to rise as you make your way north toward Darjeeling, Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan where the snowcapped peaks rise to their absolute majesty.
The eastern region of Bangladesh is known as the Hill Tracts region, and is composed of three semi-autonomous district of Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachari. The highest of the peaks are in the southernmost district of Bandarban where I spent six wonderful days exploring this fascinating region.
The Bandarban is known for Bangladesh’s Buddhist population where majestic Arkanese pagodas rise on hilltops. There are waterfalls, ethnic villages and some natural lakes. The rivers cut deep gorges into the landscape, making for great scenic views from the many overlooks along the road.
The highest peaks in the country are located in Bandarban District. Mt. Kewkradang rises 882 meters near the Myanmar border. While it doesn’t compare to the 8,000+ meter peaks of Nepal, the hills fast rise from the flat plains of Bangladesh making it look most impressive. From these heights, you can see into Myanmar as well as look out over the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal to the west.
I traveled on the night bus from the capital city of Dhaka to the port city of Chittagong along the main east-west highway and then up the road into the hills of Bandarban. I arrived on Sunday, being greeted to a very cold morning. I stepped off the bus shivering, having left warmer temperatures behind. The hills can be colder with the higher elevation. It was early February, and it turned out that this was the last day of the colder winter weather.
I pick up a green baby taxi for a very cold 3 ½ km ride up the hill from Bandarban Town to Hillside Resort which overlooks the Sangu River valley below. The high hills are smoky in appearance as the fog is slowly burning off.
It was at the Hillside Resort where I met Hasan Mansur, the owner who is the pioneer of tourism in the country. I am warmly greeted and enjoy breakfast from the overlook of the valley from his restaurant at the top of the hill at his resort…..