It was my work that took me to Teknaf four years ago in December 2018. Now after long four years, on the eve of leaving, I feel like the years I have spent in Teknaf would remain as some of the great and memorable times of my life. I used to be an introvert and a man of very limited movement. I never came to Teknaf before 2018. Like everyone else, I used to have a shady idea about Teknaf as it has often been on news for its disrepute about drug trafficking. However, my experience has been incredible. I think it has a lot of different reasons to be well-known. I have grown up a lot here. I immensely enjoyed its breathtaking natural beauty and I have often been impressed and amazed by the love, kindness and hospitality of its people.
I have visited every corner of it and it has always been exciting and has given me a different sense of life. Teknaf is a unique and geographically rich border town in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh. It is surrounded by all beautiful natural landscapes - from beautiful hills in the north to the sandy beach and aqua sea in the west, the Naf River in the east and the only coral island of the country in the south – Saint Martin’s. It is home to many distinctive dishes and fruits. It is often known for its huge betel nut, betel leaves (paan), fish and salt production.
The most amazing thing about living in Teknaf is that you will have a great opportunity to travel through Marine Drive. I have travelled through it almost on a weekly basis over the last four years, but I never got tired of seeing the spectacular sea and mountain views. I guess there is no human on earth that will not be impressed and amazed by seeing the natural beauty along the way. It is always refreshing and draws people irresistibly. The most fantastic thing that I have sometimes been very passionate about is the unique, colourful, and aesthetically designed fishing boats that are often docked in rows on the beach.
I used to go to Teknaf beach on the weekends to see fishing at the beach. I had a great passion for fishing from my childhood. Maybe everyone who has grown up in the village has the same. To me, in the winter, seeing fishermen dragging nets and catching different sea fish is another thrilling experience that often becomes headlines as huge fish are caught. Sometimes after coming from office in the evening, I loved to go to the beach for a short walk by the shore. Walking on it in the evening and seeing the moonlight is so energising. I found it is a great way of healing from long day exhausting work stress.
Teknaf beach is crowd free and far quieter and cooler than Cox’s Bazar. It is increasingly becoming popular to both tourists and local people. There is an eco-friendly restaurant fully made of bamboo and wood. It is so closed to the beach that you can enjoy the sea breeze sitting in the restaurant. It is a perfect place to have a lovely evening with friends and family. The sunset is stunning from Teknaf beach, and it is good spot for people who love taking photos.
Jahidul Islam, a development professional with focus on child protection who lived in Teknaf for more than four years, says he still misses many things of Teknaf, such as the cool beach, the Naf River, fresh fish and not to mention Saint Martin's island. He also added one thing that surprised him; local people in Teknaf do not care about the price of things while buying, especially fish, meat, or vegetable. They just choose and pay without any bargaining. This is unusual for people from outside of Teknaf and it is one of the reason prices of things are comparatively high in Teknaf.
The long jetty on the Naf River is another beautiful place that people often visit, and I often loved to go there. From the jetty, the cool, pristine Naf River and the high hills of Rakhine state are well viewed. If one goes to the end of the jetty, he will find himself almost in the middle of the river. The water becomes very eye soothing when the blue sky is reflected on it, and it looks like pearls sparkling when the sun shines on it at noon. People often catch big fish by hook sitting on the jetty which is also amazing to see.
The area of Teknaf town I lived in is called Oliabad and it’s very close to Shapla Chattar. One of the interesting experiences of living in the area that often gave me a fascinating feeling is like I live next to the house of the Gatsby, the tragic hero the American novel “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald. I felt so because the house is beautiful, it has many fancy cars, often there was music playing, parties, people coming in and out and sports in the front yard of the house. These things often interestingly reminded me of the lavish mansion of Gatsby who always loved to keep his house full of people and parties.
Another popular tourist spot in Teknaf is the over-hill-road turning point at the entrance of Teknaf municipality from where a beautiful arial view of the Naf River, the islands in it are seen. Saint Martin's and Shah Porir Dwip (an island) are located in the south of Teknaf. It takes only 30-40 minutes to go to Saint Martin's Island from Teknaf via speedboat.
One of the things that used to make my Friday in Teknaf is the yogurt made from pure buffalo milk. Such pure yogurt is becoming rare. It is made in homemade clay pots that keep the natural taste of the yogurt. I loved it and I would miss it. I would also miss the mild weather of Teknaf, big green coconuts, Burmese pickles and different kind of shells washing up ashore.
In the beginning, I was a bit upset when I came to know that my work base will be in Teknaf. After four years now, I feel like if I could spend some more years, exploring more of its striking beauty.
* Parvez Uddin Chowdhury is a humanitarian worker formerly based in Teknaf.