My Family Adventure: Trailing Grandparents in Bangladesh

Guest post by: Sarah Panes, Granny to five grandkids

Map: travel itinerary Bangladesh
Travel itinerary, Bangladesh

 

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A Family Adventure in Bangladesh

Boat from Teknaf to St Martin, Bangladesh
Boat from Teknaf to St Martin, Bangladesh

 

We have been visiting Bangladesh annually for the last five years because our eldest daughter and her family live in Dhaka for work. The city is extraordinary; busy, dusty, very hot and humid at times. We prefer to go in the “winter” between November and January, however this is not always possible as their business grows and the children’s schooling intervenes.

This year we went for about three weeks in March and planned to spend a week somewhere in the country. The plan was complicated by the prevailing political situation which involved the opposition party calling ‘hartels’. These involve blockading roads and train tracks on given days and therefore making land travel difficult.

 

Red crabs on the beach at the Mermaid Eco Resort, Bangladesh
Red crabs on the beach at the Mermaid Eco Resort

 

The family decided that the only option was to travel by air to the town of Cox’s Bazar, a town, fishing port and district headquarters in the south of the country, before travelling on to the most southerly tip of Bangladesh, St. Martin’s Island. Air travel is safe as security at airports is high and they are not targeted by the ‘Hartel’ groups.

We landed at Cox’s Bazar and immediately took a taxi to our first stop, which was the Mermaid Eco Resort. The drive there was stunning, the beach from Cox’s Bazar is billed as the longest in the world (124 kms). The sand is clean and expansive but the sea eats in and out of it and tides vary leaving extraordinary variation to the beach.

 

My Family Adventure: Bangladesh
Granddaughters at the Mermaid Eco Resort

 

The eco resort was on a tidal river and the accommodation was a collection of cabins, constructed using natural materials including bamboo, thatching reads and driftwood doors and walls! There was electricity (sometimes), good fans and a very comfortable bed plus en suite bathroom. We had several cabins together and a view of the river, which was filled with fishing boats that came and went at all times of the night! We spent two nights here to recover from the city rush and enjoy the peace and beach.

 

My Family Adventure: Bangladesh
The boat at Teknaf, ready for our four-hour journey to St Martin’s Island!

 

On day three we loaded ourselves into two CNG autorickshaws to travel to Teknaf ,the most southerly point of the coastline and port of departure for St. Martin’s Island. Our family prefer to travel by CNG as it is cheaper, very airy and the children enjoy it.

The drive took in part of the ocean highway, which then ends in the sand so the last lap of the journey is through the country. Along the way there are small villages, the people are fishermen, rice farmers, vegetable producers and salt producers. Teknaf is a great centre for this produce and has a magnificent market.

Due to the political situation the tourist trade has been very hard hit in this area. One consequence of this was that the boat that normally ferries people to and from St. Martin’s Island was no longer running. And so when we arrived in Teknaf, our son-in-law went to the portside to hire a fishing boat to take us over the water.

 

St Martin's Harbour, Bangladesh
St Martin’s Harbour

 

The fish had just been unloaded and there was a boat available. As trailing Grandparents we were relieved to see a captain person and three young fisherman aboard. We were not so thrilled when the “captain” leapt off at the harbour entrance and turned into an official instead who had to complete passport checks! He then waved us off into the deep, piloted by the ‘three Musketeers’ on our four-hour journey!

 

Boat ride, family adventure, Bangladesh

 

The boat lacked proper seating (only wooden planks!) but we managed to ease our aching bones, cover our heads from the sun and the children enjoyed their iPad. The journey went past Myanmar, Burma and we were aware that it also is a troubled area. The journey ended at Narikeldia and we were inundated with people wanting to take us on. We discovered immediately that we were the first tourists to come for about five months. We then boarded a speed boat which whisked us off to Cherradhip the southern most tip of the island.

 

CowsonBeach
Cows along the beach on St Martin’s Island

 

We had a reservation at the Coral Blue Resort, we grandparents were to be housed in an en suite room and the family were to be in a tent. Sadly, however, the place was apparently firmly shut when we arrived! After a time a flustered man arrived and said he was very sorry but never expected us as no one had come for so long. This felt like the real adventure!

However they assured us that all would be well and whilst there would be no tents (big sigh from the girls), the team quickly made beds, hung mosquito nets, produced fluffy towels and two men were dispatched to go to town and buy food. The town was one hour walk but they could get a rickshaw back.

 

Blue Coral Resort Hotel, the main entrance, Bangladesh
Blue Coral Resort Hotel, the main entrance, St Martin’s Island

 

Despite the shaky start, the beach here was amazing. There was no one else on the beach (apart from a herd of cows), the water was warm, the girls could swim, hunt for shells and crabs and wander around freely. We were looked after by about five staff who cooked superb meals, cleaned our rooms daily and all in all hosted us like royalty.

 

At the Coral Blue Resort, St Martin's Island, Bangladesh
At the Coral Blue Resort, St Martin’s Island

 

At the Coral Blue Resort, St Martin's Island, Bangladesh
At the Coral Blue Resort, St Martin’s Island

 

After three nights it was time to board another speed boat and return to Cox’s Bazar. Fortunately the sea was calm and the speed boat captain persuaded us that he could transfer us all back to port. The captain further endeared himself to us Grandparents by issuing us all with life jackets (sadly health and safety not so good in Bangladesh, you have to do your own!). We covered the journey safely in forty minutes as opposed to our original four-hour journey! The water was very low in the harbour channel so we were relieved not to be in the bigger boat.

 

Walking across the beach with luggage to meet the speedboat on St. Martins, Bangladesh.
Walking across the beach with luggage to meet the speedboat on St. Martins. Great help from the hotel team!

 

The speedboat from St Martin's to the mainland, Bangladesh
The speedboat from St Martin’s to the mainland

 

Our speedboat parked in the harbour on return from St. Martins. Bangladesh
Our speedboat parked in the harbour on return from St. Martins.

 

The boat driver found us a taxi and we sped back to the Mermaid Eco Resort for the last two nights. We had one last day to visit a friend in Cox’s Bazar. He had been asked to project manage the building of a hotel on the beach at Cox’s Bazar, called the Surf Club Resort and apart from being a comfortable hotel it has organised a surf club with a trained Bangladeshi team to give lessons. The girls had a great time surfing and the next day we flew to Dhaka.

 

Surfing in Cox's Bazar Bangladesh
Surfing in Cox’s Bazar

 

The Best Part

Sunset on St Martins, Bangladesh
Sunset on St Martins

 

We could all enjoy this holiday as three generations. The children loved the beach ,journeys on the boats and the freedom on St. Martins. They also loved the surfing. There was time to play cards, eat together, and relax after the pressures of city life.

 

The Best Time to Visit Bangladesh

The main form of transport into town on St Martins Bangladesh
The main form of transport into town on St Martins

 

The best time to visit Bangladesh is during the ‘cool season’, the period from November through February. From March onwards the days get very hot and the monsoon generally arrives sometime around June. Avoid travel when there is a tricky political situation, make sure to check the situation in advance. Travelling with Bangla speakers is very important when visiting off-the-beaten track places like the ones that we visited.

 

Three Things You Should Definitely Do

Surf Lessons! My Family Adventure: Bangladesh
Surf Lessons!

 

1.Dare to travel with your children and grandchildren (if they will have you)!

2.Go to the end of a country and be in a place that is natural and deserted. I will never forget the sunset on the beach at St. Martins.

3.Bangladesh people – their care and hospitality – were outstanding, especially in the remote places.

 

[Tweet “My Family Adventure: Trailing Grandparents in #Bangladesh #familytravel #ttot”]

 

View Sarah’s itinerary via Findery (see map below):  You may need to zoom in (as far as street level) to access any overlapping notes.

 

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Family Adventure: Cox's Bazar & St Martin's Island, Bangladesh with kids via @globetotting

 

[author] About the author: Sarah Panes and her husband, Christopher, have three children, two of whom live and work abroad; their eldest daughter and family in Bangladesh and their son and his family in Mexico. As a family they travelled but never with three generations and never with people who are resident in the country. They find this adds a special and extra dimension as they explore their family’s new country with them.[/author_info] [/author]

 

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67 thoughts on “My Family Adventure: Trailing Grandparents in Bangladesh”

  1. I LOVED reading this! I am from Bangladesh and I rarely come across any other travel posts on my beautiful country. We are moving back here next year after 11 years abroad. Reading about Cox’s Bazaar Teknaf and seeing the images has me even more excited about going back and travelling here with my kids! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. It’s so wonderful that three generations of your family could enjoy this adventure and make memories together. Bangladesh looks like a lovely place, its such a shame that their political situation is hitting their tourism industry so hard.

  3. Hi! Thanks for you post. I never imagined Bangladesh as holiday destination but now I can see that there is so much to do. And the pictures look amazing, too! I think it must e one of those places where it’s not crowded with tourists yet. I will consider it for my list! Happy travels to you!

  4. I have been reading increasingly about Bangladesh as a tourist destination lately. I am guessing it still is very unexplored and perhaps more authentic for this reason. I would be keen to go 🙂

  5. This sounds like a wonderful trip! How sad that tourists hadn’t been there in 5 months! Glad they could accommodate you however!

  6. You know, traveling with family always sounded stressful to me, but people like you make it seem possible! Hooray for family travel! Glad you are getting them to surf young. I haven’t even been surfing yet!!

  7. Thanks for sharing – I’ve heard that Bangladesh is an absolutely stunning country, and your account certainly reiterates that. LOVE the photo of the red crabs. Sad to hear that tourism to the area is almost non existent, I guess it’s a balancing act because while it would be an amazing boost to the economy I’m sure, if you get too much mass tourism you run into problems like Thailand is having.

    I’ll make sure I add Bangladesh to my list, we just got to Aus and don’t have any current travel plans for the end of the year so maybe I’ll try and get in a trip before monsoon season hits. Thanks!

  8. I have some really outstanding memories of traveling with my parents and grandparents. One trip in particular that stands out is an Alaskan cruise I went on with 47 of my family members…all the way from my then 80-year old grandma down to my cousin’s 1-year old!

  9. Really enjoyed reading this and seeing your pictures – I lived just outside Dhaka for three months earlier this year when the hartals were at their worst, so unfortunately didn’t make it to Cox’s Bazaar. Bangladeshi’s are lovely people and it’s a very interesting country, culturally speaking. So glad you and your family enjoyed your time there 🙂

  10. What true adventurers the Paneses are ! I do not know of many grandparents who would take their grandchildren on such a unique journey, but I am so very impressed (and a little envious). How lucky those girls are !

  11. I love the chaos of Bangladesh, but sadly I’ve only ever visited in a work capacity.

    We were hoping to visit it on our current trip, however we fear that time has simply gotten away from us, so it will likely have to be another time…

    I’m curious what work your daughter does in Dhaka (I used to be involved in the ‘rag trade’ (clothing)), so am curious to see what other opportunities are available.

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks for this. Yes the chaos is still there especially in the city which made this escape even better. Our daughter and son-law have started a business, Tinder capital, it aims to identify small and medium size rural based businesses and match them with impact investors. They have had an interesting and challenging 5 years! – Sarah

  12. What a fun adventure! Traveling between places by speed boat is new and intriguing, and seeing things through the eyes of both your children and your parents is a fantastic addition. Love this!

    1. Yes the man driving the speed boat was an expert and a gentleman. When we arrived in Teknaf he got us ashore then found a taxi and saw us through to the next stage of the journey. – Sarah

  13. I never thought that Bangladesh would look like this. You’re the first tourist in 5 months? That’st’ really sad. I like that you make time to travel as a family. We used to go every so often, but now with everyone’s schedule being so busy, it is hard to find a common time. We try our best though.

  14. How wonderful that you could travel with three generations! My husband and I have recently found ourselves in the same position. Just spent a week in NYC with my daughter and her husband and their one-year old son. Challenges? Yes. But lots more fun than I realized!

  15. Oh wow that’s great that you go on this trip with your granddaughters. Glad you guys made the most of it despite of it being off peak season as well as the beginning of the trip. I haven’t been here yet but I will definitely keep in mind when to go during peak season in order to avoid the monsoon.

  16. What wonderful memories you are making. We love multigenerational travel. There is no better way to get to know each other. How exciting for You guys!

    1. Thanks for this comment.Yes we have found ourselves in unexpected places and cultures that we would never have experienced without the families’s enthusiasm for travel. – Sarah

  17. The whole trip looks and sounds amazing, but Cox’s Bazar sounds like our ideal spot. Beautiful piece.

  18. I so want to go to Bangladesh just to see those cute cows on the beach! I’m a sucker for cows and a beautiful beach. 🙂

  19. Wow I just found your blog and I love it! I don’t think there’s anything more valuable than travelling young, do good on you for sharing such am incredible experience with your kids! I hope you have some beautiful memories to look back on 🙂 xx

  20. Thank you for sharing this post. I would never have known such a place existed in Bangladesh. You must have done something right- your kids seem to have a sense of adventure! It’s great to be able to travel with your grandparents we enjoyed it when we were kids and our kids enjoyed it in turn. Great memories.

    1. Thanks for this comment. I’m not sure that we can take credit for the adventurous side of the children, but they all have it and we have benefited! The memories are special and lasting in our uncertain world. – Sarah

  21. What a great trip to share as a family. I’d love to do that someday with my folks who have sadly never travelled to the extent myself or Gabby have. Some day hopefully.
    Bangladesh is way up the top of my ‘must visit’ list and can’t wait to make it there. Consider your post bookmarked as these experiences sound perfect ways to spend time exploring the country. Cox Bazaar in particular 🙂 Great post.

    1. Thank you for this,if your folks are nervous,we had a week in Sri Lanka on our way back from Bangladesh this year, Globetotting arranged it all for us and it was a very good way to recover from the more rigorous travel in Bangladesh! – Sarah

  22. What lucky kids you have getting to have this cultural experience as well as adventurous holiday. Beats the package holidays to Tenerife us Brits are usually taken on where eggs and chips are found on every restaurant menu.

  23. This is definitely the first time I read something about Bangladesh from a fellow travel blogger. Arrrghhh my head is exploding with too many questions about the country and by the looks of it, this country is really interesting to explore. I hope you can write more about Bangladesh (i.e. safety, food, etc!) Thanks for sharing! Xx

    1. Glad this stirred your interest if you do want to follow up Bradt have a very good travel guide titled Bangladesh!We usually check the foreign office travel advice before we go ,it is very good and measured.Hope maybe one day you will get to experience Bangladesh. – Sarah

  24. When I first went to Bangladesh, it surprised me. Not what I expected at all. Which was a good thing! Your pictures bring back many good memories! Thank you!

  25. Very happy to hear that people are visiting apparently troubled and off-beat places like Bangladesh. For all its troubles, it is still one of the richest countries in terms of natural splendour and sheer human resilience. Great job 🙂

  26. Cox’s bazaar and St. Martin is the beach travel destination best value by family travelers accessible by air or morning / overnight sleeper class Volvo journey. many Bangladeshi families take a trip to Cox’s bazaar and St. Martin island in the holidays. St Martin island is accessible by ship from Teknaf ( October to March ). Reggae tourism going to build a ship which launch from Cox’s bazaar to St. Martin island with all classes people facilities on board.
    Bangladesh Expeditions highly recommended this article as author write their family trip experience on a family convenient travel destination.

  27. A nice read! Really enjoyed reading your adventure. Thanks for sharing it! I can see from the comments that it made everyone so curious about Bangladesh, most of whom never even thought anything about visiting this country ever! No wonder, this is the least traveled destination in the world.

    Regards from Bangladesh!

    Hasan

  28. Wow, I really don’t know how can I share my feelings with you. I am form Bangladesh, I always like to meet with forger and try to help them always my level best, hope we can meet.

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