Humayra Gulshan Tumpa
I have been planning for a while to go on a vacation with my family to Bandarban. It has been a hectic and tiresome last few months but somehow managed to find out some leisure time of everyone. We were not particularly interested in the traditional resorts and were looking for an opportunity to experience the local community and culture.That’s when I got to know about Munlai para. After some research I found out that it’s a community-based tourism location. I figured it would be a decent place for a family trip for me, my siblings and my parents. The idea or concept of community tourism is still quite new in our country. This spiked up my interest even more. I have been to Bandarban before but never heard of Munali. Did some research on it and got the impression that it was a new venture. As soon as I planned for the trip, collected all the information and set off to our journey to Munlai. Got on the bus at night and we reached Bandarban early morning next day. We finished out breakfast at the Bus Stand. Our trip was pre-planned and so from Bandarban we set off to Munlai in a jeep.
Bandarban is always an amazing place to visit. Through long winding roads and across couple villages; a natural beauty which is absent in city life, we finally reached Munlai. It took us around two and half hours to reach there. As soon as we stepped into Munlai I realized that this village was very different from the usual ones in Bangladesh.
Seeing such a clean and well managed village, I was both surprised and amazed at the same time. As soon as we got out of our car, we were greeted and welcomed with flowers by the Manager of the local Munlai Community Tourism and with him were couple of native young “Bawm” ladies who were dressed in their cultural outfit. After settling down our luggage I looked around and I noticed an office space. The manager informed me that this is the office where all the important decisions, relating the village, takes place. A newly built school has also been established for Bawm children where they are taught English, Bengali, Math, Bawm language and other classes. There were no such schools in this region before. We were informed that they have nurtured and planted treesthat are unique to the region and were extinct. They also planted 1400 new trees in the region.Seeing such a clean and well managed village, I was both surprised and amazed at the same time. As soon as we got out of our car, we were greeted and welcomed with flowers by the Manager of the local Munlai Community Tourism and with him were couple of native young “Bawm” ladies who were dressed in their cultural outfit. After settling down our luggage I looked around and I noticed an office space. The manager informed me that this is the office where all the important decisions, relating the village, takes place. A newly built school has also been established for Bawm children where they are taught English, Bengali, Math, Bawm language and other classes. There were no such schools in this region before. We were informed that they have nurtured and planted trees that are unique to the region and were extinct. They also planted 1400 new trees in the region.
Strolling along the area I noticed it was very clean and they even have two-chambered Bins for both “recyclable materials” and “plastic” materials. I curiously asked the manager “Habib bhai” what happens to this trash afterwards. He told me that these are later transported and dumped in a bigger bin nearby which are then used as fertilizer in the cultivation of Jhum and the plastics are burned. It looked like a model town to me. I am not just talking about home-stays or toilets, I am talking about roads, houses, trekking routes and all around, there are no signs of littering. Seeing such cleanliness, we were trying to be a bit cautious as well. Habib Bhai told us that it was a concern of “Base Camp Bangladesh”. I went to Base Camp by myself before and had a wonderful experience.
All the services consisted of a native cultural vibe and feel. I thought to myself “Community tourism done right”. After a while our whole family went for trekking to Rijuk waterfall. We were amazed by the scenic beauty when we were trekking beside the Sangu River. We came back and freshened up and rested for a while before tree-top activity in the evening. There are several activities in this trip everyday which was really engaging. There are 8 hurdles to be crossed in the tree top activity and with each hurdle the difficulty level increases. Everyone couldn’t finish it all, but it was fun nonetheless. The safety gears used in the activities made sure we were not afraid to try any if the activities. The next day we went for kayaking in the Sangu River. It was an amazing experience. I could never imagine that kayaking would be such a fun activity. Me and my siblings were on a trip down our childhood memory lane. I am sure my parents loved it as well and I could see it in their eyes. The next day we did the zip line activity. At first it was a bit scary but moments later, we could taste the amazing experience.
Each day during our stay at Munlai, we ate mouth watering and healthy food. Besides the regular rice, daal and chicken, there was also a variety of other luxury food items like barbecue chicken, traditional food like chong-mong, nappi, vegetable and binni rice pitha. The kerosene lamp lit dinners with an amazing view in front was just incomparable. It was another highlight of our trip there. We absolutely enjoyed this 3 day trip to Munlai. We didn’t realize when it ended, courtesy to the hospitality of the native people there. Far away from the busy cities, Munali’s mornings were of sounds of waterfall and birds chirping. We used to get hyped up in conversations under the quiet and open skied nights. It would be great if the street lights weren’t there but Habib bhai told us that it was for the safety of tourists and natives from snakes and other poisonous insects.
Few other facilities caught our attention like the stairway that has been built to go to nearby water streams. Since the natives take shower there, changing rooms were built for their convenience. It is unimaginable that so far away from the city there is such an amazing place with such scenic beauty all around. What else would you need to have a relaxing time? On our way back, we got onto an engine run boat from the Munlaighat towards Bandarban, a perfect ending to the trip. Surrounding greenery, Jhum cultivation, blue skies and an amazing weather were enough to not get distracted by the uglynoise of the engine. In short, my family just got back from one of the best trips of our lives.