Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
80Trip End Apr 08, 2006
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I got a rickshaw out to Laldighi Park, grabbed some roti and jumped on a bus. No more than five minutes later we stopped by the side of road and waited there for almost three quarters of an hour. I was almost convinced that I wouldn't make the ferry for St Martin's Island, and faced the possibility I may have to spend the night in the end of the earth smugglers town of Teknaf, which was something I really didn't want to do
The bus stopped a few times once it got going, and at around 9:15am I noticed a few well dressed locals get off the bus. There was nothing unusual about the stop, and I figured people would tell me when I had to get off, so I stayed in my seat. As soon as the bus started moving again a few people turned their heads slowly and looked at me, and at once I realised that I'd missed my stop. I had no choice but to draw even more attention to myself and ask the driver to stop, and then walk a few minutes back down the road.
The scenery around here was was quite interesting, with rice fields and a few small mountains and villages. I saw what I figured were a number of Burmese refugee camps, evident by the men with thanakha on their faces.
The ferry to St Martin's Island was a pleasant two and half hour journey, with Bangladesh on one side and Burma on the other side of a very wide river to begin with. Further out to see there were a few sandbars and waves crashing onto hidden reefs. It was the first time I'd seen the sea since I was in Thailand, five weeks earlier. As usual I managed to attract a bit of attention, but I spent most of the journey talking to a few teenagers
Upon arrival I was astounded at the beauty of St Martin's Island, the only coral island in Bangladesh. The entire island seemed to be surrounded by a huge beach, and the interior was covered in palms. However one of the best things was the fact there wasn't a single car on the island! I wandered around for half an hour more to get my bearings than to find a hotel, but in the end I settled for a 150Tk dive near the restaurant strip.
After another lunch of rice and vegetables I spent the afternoon on the beach, relaxing, getting into my book and going for a few dips. Unfortunately, for the first time in Bangladesh I was hassled here. This ruined what could have been the perfect afternoon. Children constantly hassled me to by shells and coral that had been hacked off the rocks, and were unrelenting in their persistence in speaking to me in Bangla. Not to mention the twenty or more people who came over to ask me which country I was from. I just had to remind myself that I wasn't an everyday occurence in this country, and the locals were genuinely interested in me. Later on I went for a walk to see the sunset and was pursued by a 14 year old Burmese boy who was after my money
It was a restless nights sleep thanks to what must have been some pretty large rats in the ceiling of my hotel room, and the first thing I did after breakfast was find a new hotel. Given that it was very difficult to find a place that sold coffee, I bought some mixture in Dhaka before I continued on. It was obvious that "coffee" was a completely alien concept on St Martin's Island, as my waiter simply put the mixture into a cup of tea!
My new hotel was more than double the price of my previous one, but it had a great location right on the beach. I spent most of the day relaxing at the same spot as the previous day, but at around 4pm I went for a walk south along the beach before cutting inland through some small villages nestled amongst the hundreds of palms. I just couldn't get over how beautiful it was here, despite the constant "Hello country!" It certainly was worlds away from the overpopulated filthy city of Dhaka.
I saw another stunning sunset that evening and spent the following morning chilling out a little more before getting the 3pm ferry back to Teknaf. St Martin's Island certainly had character. Friendly inquisitive locals and beautiful long beaches. I was glad I took the Dutch traveller from Yangon's advice on visiting the island. Unfortunately, the stares, constant questioning and complete lack of decent food was starting to annoy me though, and I made the decision to head for India from here. There were going to be some long bus rides to look forward to.