We flew down to Cox's Bazar, the seashore area with golden sands
along the Bay of Bengal, during the last Eid holiday--three American
men and nine teenage boys.
Like other outdoor types, we crave the seashore when the weather
turns warm and the idea of a camping trip further whetted our appetite
I had looked forward to a Cox's Bazar visit ever since an American
educator who had worked for U.S. AID in Dacca told me about his
camping trip there with his family. They traveled there by auto.
We decided to fly down and made arrangements with Pakistan International
Airlines. But there was plenty of preparation.
We loaded up a Wagoneer with borrowed tents, coats (for the adults),
sleeping bags (for the younger bones), cooking utensils, kerosene
lanterns, food and other necessities and sent this off with a cook
and bearer on the day before our departure.
We left Dacca the next morning in a PIA Fokker Friendship, leaving
a rapidly warming city behind. Members of the crew were most cordial.
One of the two pilots visited us in the passenger area for a few
minutes. The stewardess was from Karachi and did her duty for Pakistan
tourism, stressing there were many interesting places to visit in
that area, too.
After a brief stopover in Chittagong, where we had to leave the
plane for awhile, we were once more on our way, finally arriving
at Cox's Bazar Airport, which consisted of the airstrip, a small
tower and a few buildings here and there.
Our Wagoneer and driver were on the spot and one of the men in our
group, who had been at Cox's Bazar before, took off in an advance
party to scout a camp site. The rest of us wandered about, taking
a few pictures, until the Wagoneer returned, loaded up with boys
and departed again. The rest of us wandered through town, looking
at the boat-building spots and a few of the shops. I was busily
snapping color photos but mostly looking longingly toward the beach
and thinking about getting into my swimming trunks and diving into
the water. But there was more walking and some work to do first.
Along the way, we observed high on a hill to the left, near a VIP
rest house, a Buddhist temple with its dazzling white spire rising
into the blue sky. That became an immediate subject of several photos.
We ambled along slowly in the beach areas and saw really impressive
modern motels, built on concrete pillars so that the ground floor
had plenty of space for parking autos.
Turning into the beach area, we stopped off at Motel No. l, where
my 17-year-old daughter was spending the Eid weekend with several
of her teenage American girl friends. They were accompanied by a
teaching couple from the Dacca American Society school and their
The girls were anxious to go for a swim so we didn't get a chance
to take a look at their rupees-ten-per-day motel unit. I looked
them over carefully later, however, and thought they were comfortable
enough considering the rental fee involved. Each room had two single
beds and there was a small kitchen and a bathroom with hot and cold
shower. You bring your own portable stove for cooking.
Before long our Wagoneer came churning through the sand and we ground
our way over the soft dunes (four-wheel drive is essential for this)
to harder sand surfaces paralleling the water, and then moved easily
along. Minutes later we found the campsite, about four miles south
of the motel area.
The boys were already hard at work setting up their tent on the
sand some 100 feet from the water. We men decided to back off a
little and drove our tent stakes within a grove of small trees a
couple of hundred feet away. An awning went up next, nearby, to
keep the sun's hot rays off while we had our meals. Then the kitchen
area was cleared and we were in business.
"This is the life," one of the men campers said with a
contented grin a short time later as we relaxed with a cool drink
after our working spree. It was completely peaceful, a place of
solitude, where the soft air from the Bay in the evening wiped away
the cares and pressures consistent with the humdrum existence of
modern city living.
Part of the therapy of being at Cox's Bazar was putting aside the
artifices of man and placing into perspective the works of nature.
Such as gazing at the breakers on the shore or watching the sun
turn colors at dusk and suddenly vanish in seconds as if it was
sinking into the sea.
I recall the enjoyment of walking along immense stretches of the
beach, gathering a collection of colorful shells and stones for
my small daughters, at home in Dacca. I also remembered during the
peaceful evenings President Ayub Khan's remarks in his book, "Friends
Not Masters," when he found time for a few hours of relaxation
and meditation at Cox's Bazar. It is certainly an ideal spot for
long, deep thoughts and rest.
There were moments of hubbub and confusion, too, particularly when
nine hungry boys crowded under the awning after a day of swimming
and exploring. And they were usually up at the crack of dawn to
see what the new day would bring.
One day we visited a small and picturesque waterfall at Himcheri,
a few hundred yards off the beach some seven miles from Motel No.
l. It was nestled in a valley cut into the sheer rocky palisades
that soar from the sand and hold back the jungle. The silver stream
came tumbling from the jungle and spouted some 15 feet into a pool,
which sheds its excess water into a small creek that twists and
turns through small farm plots.
Our teenagers visited this lovely spot twice and some of the daredevils
managed to crawl up on top and leap down into the water below. The
temperature of the water was much cooler than the Bay but felt delightful.
Some of the youngsters lathered up with soap and washed away the
salt and sand they were coated with from the beach.
The natural wonders at Cox's Bazar are countless. One of the boys
spotted a group of wild monkeys scampering along the beach one morning.
When they caught sight of him, they swung up the cliffs and fled
shrieking into the protective jungle.
Huge jellyfish also attracted a lot of attention. Several washed
up on the beach by the overnight tide and waves were more than three
feet in diameter and lay like sodden masses of gray plastic. Some
of our young swimmers were flicked by the strange creatures and
suffered minor burn-like ailments that had little lasting effect.
All of us confined our swimming to daylight, leaving the water in
late afternoon when the jellyfish seemed to move toward shore.
There was a lot to see in the area. We wandered around Cox's Bazar
town one day, capturing with cameras some of the scenes we could
take with us to observe on the slide screen: the people, including
little boys and girls all decked out in their best clothing for
Eid; shops; homes; old cars that somehow keep running; the spinning
looms the women operate to skillfully weave fabrics for saris and
other clothing and the airstrips built during World War II to carry
the war over the "Hump." Some of the group took in the
tobacco rolling works where the ladies produce the cigars for smokers
in Dacca and elsewhere.
Some of us took a quick trip to Ramu, a Buddhist spot some ten miles
north of Cox's Bazar on the narrow road to Chittagong, and I would
recommend a visit there for any tourist or vacationer. Here are
wooden temples of unique design and residences, all within an enclosure.
Two ponderous temple bells outside were targets for several camera
shots and we were permitted, after slipping off our shoes, to enter
two temples. One of them contained the largest statue of Buddha
in Pakistan, we were told. It was cast in bronze and measured some
12 feet or more from its base to the top of its head. Another temple
had several small statues of Buddha.
Some of the slender Buddhist ladies guided us around the grounds,
politely pointing out interesting features. An elderly Buddhist
monk, wearing the saffron robes so common in Southeast Asia, nodded
a greeting as we walked through one of the temples. It was with
reluctance that we decided we would have to leave for out motel
All good things come to an end and so it was with our adventure
at Cox's Bazar. We had hired autos in town to take us to Chittagong,
about a hundred miles away to pick up our connecting PIA flight
back to Dacca. This we did without incident and returned to our
homes in the provincial capital.
Most of us were struck by the natural beauties of Cox's Bazar and
I am sure that many westerners will be coming along as time goes
by to partake of the relaxation afforded by this potentially magnificent
resort spot. I found it similar in many ways to some of the sandy
beaches along the coastlines of America. The camping trip was not
greatly different from another my family had enjoyed in the summer
of 1965 at the National Seashore Park, stretching a sandy finger
south along the coast of North Carolina: the same salt water, cooling
breezes, beautiful sunsets. Even the mosquitoes seemed the same
after dark, so some words of advice to campers to motel residents:
Bring Mosquito Netting...
The American teenagers, who have a jargon all their own, were ready
to return for another trip almost before they stepped off the plane
into Dacca's hot windless air.
What did they think of Cox's Bazar? One of them said, in one breath,
"fun, boy! Was that neat; cool, man; swell." Somehow I
got the message.