Discover the nature of Bandarban: Heaven on Earth

The title of this blog is named “Heaven on Earth”, a pretty bold statement right? Well, in the Bandarban you are literally above the clouds in the highest point of Bangladesh, giving you the feeling as if you left the planet and got a VIP ticket into heaven! Let me educate you real quick first about the Bandarban before I tell you a little bit more about all the amazing stuff you can find here.


Bandarban district

The Bandarban district is located in the South-East of Bangladesh. It is a part of the bigger Chittagon district (you can see districts like provinces or states within Bangladesh). There are a total of three hillside destinations in Bangladesh, but Bandarban is the most remote and less populated of the three. Bandarban litteraly means, the dam of monkeys. There used to be a lot of monkeys everywhere, sadly the local citizens are very poor (minority) and eat everything. This has decreased the wildlife population tremendously. It is one of the most exotic tourist destinations in Bangladesh, and it is yet to be discovered by foreign tourism. The three highest peaks of Bangladesh (Tahjindong (1280 meters, also known as bijoy), Mowdok Mual (1052 meters), and Keokradong (883 metres)) are located in this region.

The region is home of over fifteen tribal minorities, with a rich history of protest and violence. If you want to know more about the background of the whole region I suggest to Google it, it is a pretty interesting read. The region is also rich culture wise, with influences from Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. The area has a rich agriculture, with a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits being harvested by the locals. Also bamboo and tobacco grows vast here.  As you can read, a lot of things are going on on these hills!

How to get there?

There are possibilities of taking a public bus from either Dhaka (8 hours), Chittagong (2-3 hours) or Cox’s Bazar (3-4 hours). There are arranged tour busses who will take you, or if you are adventurous you can take the public transport. The best thing to do is hire a private driver. We went from Chittagong to the valley of Bandarban for 5,000 Taka (50 euros). After you arrive you can try to take a tempo or public jeep to go up, but we recommend you hire a private driver.  Especially when you are a foreigner to the country. For around 6,000 Taka (60 euros) the driver will take you to the top and also be your guide. Keep in mind: you are obliged to take a guide with you through the area, there the tribal people are not so keen on tourists. There are military outposts everywhere, so you will not be able to go to the top!

Things you need: permission

The most important thing you need is: permission. The whole district is under military control and you need permission from the government to access different sights. Without permission, no access!!!! Permission can be obtained from the D.C. (deputy commissioner).

This is a very important detail! I was lucky enough to be travelling with Sam’s family who lives in Bangladesh and through an acquaintance of her family we received permission for my entree. Make sure that if you go through any travel agency that your permission is approved before you end up to be stopped.

Booking a hotel should be done in advance. There are tons of resorts to stay at, be sure you are allowed to book it! Some resorts are under military control and are only accessible for people with connections to the army. We stayed in the Nilgri Hill resort which was one of those resorts. More on that resort later!

Be sure to bring cash money with you. There are gonna be a lot of interesting things you want to buy while staying from the locals. Believe me, the people who live in bamboo houses do not have a credit card machine. Water is available everywhere, so no need to bring liters of bottles with you.

Things to see

Now comes the interesting part! Bandarban is a part of Bangladesh and if you ever visited the capital, Dhaka, you know that the locals can be very disgusting. Trash bins are an alien thing to them and that is just an understatement. People have no respect for their environment and leave their filth everywhere here.

In the Bandarban’s sadly this can be seen as well, but occasionally. Because the sight is under military control, tourism is limited. This prevents the swarm of Bengali tourists to flood the hills. And I am not lying, after first visiting Dhaka and Chittagong the Bandarban was the first place where I saw trash bins!

The drive up

The ride up is an interesting one. Our driver was very knowledgeable about the region and the route up took about 2,5 hours to reach our destination, the Nilgri Hill resort. Here we would stay for one night.

During the trip up you will encounter a lot. The road is small, people are reckless drivers. Luckily our driver was skilled and got us up safe. Manoeuvring through small bridges next to settlements of the local tribes.

Across the road you will encounter interesting stuff. Wild pigs roaming around, local tribal people with big baskets carrying wood or food, locals carrying a caught pig, pineapple trees and much more! Oh, also vehicles overloaded with people are common, like this:

Be sure to stop at local stops to buy some local fruits and handmade stitch work. The fruits are super tasty and have not been touched by chemicals, while the handmade stitch work are of amazing quality.

Plus side, you be supporting the locals by buying it from them directly.

The local tribal people are not so keen on tourists, because they are scared of the pollution it will bring. Be sure to ask if it is OK to take their picture and do not upset anyone. Respect gets you a long way in life, also here! Like this cute local kid we captured:

Above the clouds

Now to the most interesting thing about the Bandarban:  you can go on top of the hill and be above the clouds. Yes, above the clouds! The view is astonishing!

 

Be sure to ask your driver to visit the Nilgri Hill resort. If you are able to stay here, absolutely recommend it! The resort is located on top of  a hill and gives you an amazing view over the sunrise, sunset and the clouds forming a sea around you everywhere you look. It is breathtaking! The resort is open for public between 10 AM and 5 PM, so if you cannot stay the night, you can at least visit!

Staying the night is the best, because there is almost no electricity or man made buildings. You know what that means right? A clear view over the stars at night, just as if you are wandering around in the Sahara desert of Morocco!

As I stated before, we stayed at the Nilgri Hill resort, staying at a room with quite a view:

The Bandarban district is huge, with different peaks for you to visit. As you can see on the photo below of the map of the region.

As you can see above, there are plenty of hills to explore. We did a one night stay and were able to do a lot. If you want to see more interesting places, feel free to extend your stay to your wishlist. Be sure to view the cloud ocean like me did!

Buddha Dhatu Jadi temple

The Buddha Dhatu Jadi temple (also known as Shorno Mondir or Kyang) is located near the valley of the Bandarban, close to Balaghata town. It is the largest Buddha temple of the country, with the second largest Buddha statue of the country located in it. It is a fairly new temple, built in 2000. Bandarban has a large ethnic minority population who follow the Buddhist religion.

When you arrive at the scene, you have to pay small entrance fees (yes, multiple) to the Buddhists. 50 Taka for entering the parking lot, another 30 Taka to enter the temple.

Once you arrive, you have to take of your shoes (or flip flops) and continue bear feet. You will be guided towards a long stairway with on top the actual temple itself.

The temple entrance is a big golden gate. Once you passed it you will see different statues surrounding the temple walls, with little shrines in front of it.

There is also a big bell with a dragon on top, a pretty good stop for a picture!

If you go back to the stairway and leave the temple you will come back to the hallway where your journey started. Here there are two rooms filled with Buddhist statues which is also an interesting sight. You will see people praying to these different gods as well.

Nilachol

We also visited the Nilachol look out point. Entrance was 160 Taka for foreigners and 60 Taka for locals. We recommend, DO NOT VISIT. The view is over the village, which is OK. But if you go higher up you will have the view over the entire Bandarban region. It is a waste of money and time!

Concluding

We can definitely recommend you to visit Bandarban district if you are travelling towards Bangladesh! Escape the madness and the rubbish, enjoy the fresh air, sweet fruits, selfmade stitch works and remoteness of the area.

Bandarban has not yet been discovered by the public and is under heavy protection of the military. They check up on you on a regular basis if you arrived to your hotel and if you have left the district in one piece. It is absolutely safe to go, just be sure to get the right permissions and bookings before you go!

 

 

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4 Comments

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  2. i wonder whether the permission is needed because it is solely for the fact that the whole district is under military control or because of something else.

    there is one area in eastern part of java where tourists have to get permission to get there to decrease some irresponsible tourists like those who came in earlier days. hmmm.

    anyway, i’ve only been to dhaka first and i gotta agree that the locals there could be a little too disgusting to the point that i was a bit afraid to randomly touch anything and i’m not the kind of person who could find something gross in anything. 😀

    also, i lost focus on the local product sold there. so beautiful, there’s always something about bangladesh and their textile i suppose. bought some clothes when i was in dhaka too! 😀

    • Robert Dolmans

      Hi Marya, permission is needed. I tried to get in to another park for which I did not have the permission and I had to turn back! At for good reasons, the tribal people are not keen on tourism in their regions and could be aggressive. It is for your own safety to get the permission, and they do phone check ups multiple times a day.

      Yeah the local stuff they sell is really on point and good quality! 🙂 My Dhaka guide will come up in the next few weeks, keep checking 😉

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