Kuakata: tranquility at the seaside (Photography locations of Kuakata, Bangladesh)
Like most other people of Bangladesh, I have been to Cox’s Bazaar. I mean, who hasn’t? Almost everyone I know has been to Cox’s Bazaar for at least once in their lives. It is one of the most commonly and frequently visited tourism spots of Bangladesh. However, the same is not true about Kuakata. Only about 10-15 percent of the people you know have probably been to Kuakata. There are many, many reasons why Kuakata has not become a tourist attraction magnet similar to the Cox’s Bazaar.
Recently (August 2011), I had the good fortune of going to Kuakata with the renowned Bangladeshi photography & travel group THROUGH THE LENS: BANGLADESH. Check out their site at Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/groups/throughthelens/). The main purpose of the trip was to visit different locations of Kuakata with the overriding objective of practicing some good quality travel photography. We were quite a large group of people, twenty five in total. We had all come from diverse backgrounds; our love for photography & travel had brought us together.
One of the main obstacles of visiting kuakata is the mode of transportation to Kuakata. Firstly, there are no A/C bus transportation services to Kuakata. All the buses are non-A/C ones and the conditions of these buses are not very good, both hygienically and mechanically. We were able to book tickets on Abdullah Poribahan, which is one of the two well known bus transport services to Kuakata from Dhaka. However, it is a well known fact that Sakura is probably the best bus transportation service from Dhaka to Kuakata. We, ourselves, were unable to secure twenty-five tickets on Sakura as it was already booked-up. However, compared to the bus transportation services to places like Cox’s Bazaar or Sylhet, the bus transportation services to Kuakata are indeed very poor. For example, while returning from Kuakata to Dhaka, most of the passengers were constantly bitten by bed bugs (chaar-poka). I myself was a victim of the bed bugs through-out the long journey back to Dhaka. Furthermore, at one point in time, the bus failed to start-up and we, the passengers, had to get down and literally push-start the bus!
The second main obstacle is the length and quality of the journey. This literally means that this is no journey for the faint of heart! While travelling by bus, the journey may take anywhere from twelve hours to eighteen hours. This is mainly due to the fact that the bus journey consists of five (yes FIVE!) ferry crossings, the most difficult hit-and-miss one being the infamous Mawa ferry crossing. For example, on our return journey to Dhaka, we were stuck at Mawa for more than three hours. However, on the way to Kuakata, we only had to wait for about an hour for the ferry. Another fact equally contributing to the difficulty of the journey is the extremely, and dangerously, dilapidated conditions of the road. Major parts of the “high-way” are almost completely unsuitable for travel by bus. I have personally never experienced such dangerously poor road conditions before. At some of the places the road is so rundown and full of pot holes, that the bus was literally rocking 45 degrees from side to side! At first we found the “rocking” funny but pretty soon we were feeling very scared that the bus was going to turn-over due to the road conditions.
By the time we reached Kuakata, after thirteen hours’ night journey, we were feeling sore all over. Incessant “rocking” and bumpiness of the road had put us all on edge. We disembarked right in front of a crumbling and aging Parjatan Hotel. The rooms were modest in nature, and the toilet/washrooms had seen better days. All in all we were not complaining about our budget accommodation (700 tk for non-A/C twin bed rooms).
We were eager to get the beach and the sea as soon as possible but before we did that we were even more eager to fill our tummies. The long journey had made us all ravenously hungry. The road in front of our hotel led straight down to the beach. Adjacent to this road, on both sides were quite a few local restaurants (locally known as “hotels”, which is quite confusing), which catered to the needs of locals and tourists alike. TTL had already organized where we would be having our daily meals and it so happened that the restaurant chosen was also called “Sakura”. We usually had parathas with egg fries and shabzee for our breakfasts during our stay at Kuakata. The quality of the breakfast food was agreeable to us and we literally wolfed down paratha after paratha with healthy helpings of shabzee and egg fries. Lunch/dinner at the local restaurants are also quite good and cheap. Be sure to try out the local seafood, such as the small shrimps, pomprets, hilsha, etc.
Finally, with our bellies full and our minds at rest, we collected our photography gear and headed out to the sea beach!!! It was still quite early in the morning, around 9:00 am – 9:30 am, and we were eager to take advantage of the whole day.
If Cox’s Bazaar can be considered as a tourist attraction spot, then Kuakata will have to be considered as a fishing village. Yes, that’s right. My first and lasting impression of Kuakata is that it is a reasonably quiet fishing village where some adventurous travelers dare to venture. The population of the area is not very dense and the whole of kuakata is not very developed. There are a few smatterings of new buildings, mostly labeled as some kind of hotel or other. Unless you are a traveler with a keen sense of adventure or interested in photography, there isn’t an awful lot of things to do at Kuakata. The Beach and the seaside are beautiful, clean and tranquil, with none of the dense crowd or hawkers commonly associated with Cox’s Bazaar. You can have your peace at Kuakata. You can just walk the pristine beach or sit under one of the few beach lounging chairs available or enjoy cheap local sea food (be sure to try the local small shrimps!). People tend to go about their own business there. I have heard that Kuakata is one of the few beaches on the planet from where you can witness both the sunrise and the sunset (although I personally didn’t have the good fortune of experiencing it first-hand due to the poor weather conditions prevailing during my maiden visit). Most of the local crowd consists of fishermen busy with their fishing nets and their boats. Local transportation mostly consists of travelling by by-cycle or motor-cycle. Interestingly, there is a marked absence of rickshaws at Kuakata.
The name “Kuakata” is actually comprised of two separate words “Kua” meaning “well (watering hole)” and “kata” meaning “cutting”. Legend has it that the indegeneous local settlers of the area, the Rakhine people, somehow became stranded in the area, and in search of water, they started to dig a well. It is from here that the name Kua-kata (meaning well digging) was given to the area. The original well can still be found in the Rakhine settlement area or polli. The Rakhine people also call the area “Sagar Kannya”, which means “Daughter of the Sea”. The Rakhine are mostly Buddhists and thus a large part of the local population consists of Buddhists. A very old Buddhist Temple supposedly dating back more than a hundred years can also be found in Kuakata and will definitely be a point of interest for visitors.
Kuakata is quite close to Khulna and the Sundarbans and a short bike ride from the main beach area in the left direction will take you to the mangrove forests at Gangamoti. An area called kakrachar (crab beach) which red crabs frequent, is also a point of interest for tourists. You will be able to visit Kakrachar en route to Gangamoti. On the other hand, a short bike ride towards the right from the main beach area will take you to Lebu Bagan (Lemon Garden). Other than these areas, other points of interest include a visit to the Rakhine Polli where you will be able to visit the century old Buddhist Temple and also where the Rakhine weavers weave cloths using traditional manual weaving machines.
When I first embarked upon the world of photography, I started with a point-and-shoot Sony digital camera. After using it for a couple of years, I had saved up enough money and courage, to actually buy a dSLR camera. After much thought and research, I chose the NIKON D3100 dSLR camera. I chose this dSLR because of a number of reasons, mainly being, the low price, the year of manufacture, the specifications and because this camera is very easy to use for someone using their first dSLR. Furthermore, the options provided by this camera and its capabilities to take photographs and also the quality of its captures are very close, if not the same, as that of NIKON’s much more expensive D90 and the newer D7000. The shots shown in this article are all taken by me and taken with the 18-55 mm kit lens. You can check out some of my photographs at Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/30905253@N06/) or by searching "sarfaraz_hyder" on Flickr.
My overall conclusion is that if you are on a tight budget, you love the sea-side and you are not shy of some adventurous extreme traveling, then Kuakata is the place for you! Compared to Cox’s Bazaar, the expenses associated with Kuakata are considerably lower. However, on the downside, there aren’t as many activity options when compared to Cox’s Bazaar. Choose Kuakata for the love of travelling, adventure and access to a treasure trove of photography subjects!
Check out some of my other Hubs as well if you have the time! Thanks!
- Fields of gold (Mustard fields photography)
Some of my favorite photographs from a recent trip with 3 of my photography enthusiast buddies to a mustard field near Dhaka
- Dhaka: a city beyond definition (Photography locations of Dhaka, Bangladesh)
I have written and included details about interesting photography locations within Dhaka that I have personally visited and shot at.
- Timeout: Sylhet (Photography locations of Jaflong, Sarighat, Lalakhal, Sylhet, Bangladesh)
My personal travel and photography experience while on a relaxation/photography trip to Sylhet, Bangladesh. The blog includes a number of photographs taken by me with my Nikon D3100.