A blast of hot sticky air hit my face as I got off the bus; my first instinct was to turn around and retreat back into the air-conditioned oasis. But unfortunately for me the bus doors had already closed leaving my family and me in the district-town of Bandarban, Bangladesh. We hired ourselves a driver, one of many found at the base of the mountain to take us to Nilgiri. One of the highest points in Bangladesh, it was a perfect escape from the humidity and hustle of Chittagong. Not only did this trip let us cool off but it also showed us how the Adivasi (the natives) of Bangladesh lived.
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Our vehicle of choice was an open roofed jeep. The strong Bengali sun beat down on us making the jeep stuffy but as soon as the driver got behind the wheel it didn’t matter. We sped quickly out of the small town and hit the twists and turns along the mountainside with fervor. The roads, which wound around the mountain, were originally created by the Bangladeshi army. They’re just wide enough for one car to pass through. This added a bit of danger for at any moment another car could come in from the other direction, and being in a remote area of Bangladesh there are no traffic laws. Thankfully there was no traffic, only the vivid greens of the mountain, hidden waterfalls, and the straw/tin homes of the Adivasi.
This journey up to the Nilgiri resort, one of the tallest peaks in Bangladesh, was the most exciting and enlightening part of the journey. The higher up we went the more I felt myself slipping away from the outside world. The feeling of being on Nilgiri is like no other. I felt disconnected from everyday stress and worries. Watching the Adivasi also gave me a sense of how simple life could be.
We stopped at a small hut, at first I was annoyed which can be expected since it was hot and sticky. Many people warned us not eat food from roadside stores because they could have harmful chemicals. This devastated me completely; one of the joys of coming to Bangladesh was eating fresh fruits like coconuts, juicy mangos, pineapples or dab. But unlike fruits found in the city, the ones grown by the Adivasi were completely organic without any chemicals or preservatives. The difference in taste was astonishing. Anyone who travels there should stop at one of the humble shops scattered along the road and try some fruits.
Almost too soon we stopped at a picturesque resort. Originally built for army officers, it includes normal cottages as well as VIP ones; which are richly decorated and furnished. Our entire cottage was made of glass, giving us a spectacular view of the clouds around us and the mountain below. Staying there felt as though we were above the world.
When we arrived I heard rain pouring, not wanting to get wet I ran to the safety of our cottage. Only when I came out did I realize that it wasn’t raining around us but, under us! We were so far up that the rain clouds were below and rain was pouring on the ground below our vantage point.
Below is a video I created from the experience:
Perhaps the best experience was watching the sunrise on top of Nilgiri. The clouds brush and push against the smaller mountains as the sun slowly peeks above the mountaintops a little bit at a time, extending its rays so that the light could shine in on the valley below. At that moment I have never felt more at peace with myself.
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