When Cox’s Bazar was chosen as a candidate for the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World, Bangladeshis were not at all surprised. To people in the country, the beach this location holds is easily among the most remarkable natural treasures of Bangladesh, it being that every other beach in the world pales in comparison to its breathtaking spread: this natural beach has an unparalleled length of 125 straight kilometres, uninterrupted and unbroken by any hindrances, either manmade or natural. As might be expected of that, it is also one of the beaches with the lowest beachgoer traffic in the world, for it would take a great many persons indeed to fill up that entire stretch.
Ironically, though, Cox’s Bazar is not very well known just yet. One may refer to Bangladesh’s relative youth as an independent country and its history of recent internal turmoil for root causes, as well as the fact that the government has thus far focused on promoting travel domestically, not internationally. Plans are underway to change this, though, and though there are still relatively few major hotels in the town abutting the beach, more and more developers are popping up, often coming by way of nearby Chittagong (a fast-developing city, also the busiest port in the country).
The town itself is dwarfed by the beach: it is below 7 square metres in area and largely dependent on aquaculture for its economy-as might be expected of a town that is bounded by a river and a bay. This is changing, however, as more and more businesses in the service and accommodation industry are being set up. Tourism is fast becoming the firm source of revenue for most persons in the town, so you can expect most of the locals to be friendly… although you can also expect them to be as in awe of foreigners as other Bangladeshis in the country are, even so.
If you hear the locals referring to the place as Panowa or Palongkee, by the way, it is perfectly normal: these are alternative names for Cox’s Bazar, which was named after Captain Hiram Cox, a well-loved British officer stationed here who perished at the very conclusion of the 18th century. The name used to be “Bazaar” and not “Bazar” (since the captain’s name was originally granted to the town’s market or bazaar”) but the widely-accepted spelling became the latter over time.
There are many things to see in Cox’s Bazar besides the enormous beach stretching on the coast. For instance, one can go on a trip to see Himchari. If you start from the town, you shall be a mere 12km away from it. Himchari has a waterfall and is a national park endowed with some superb flora and fauna, the latter including elephants and the royal Bengal tigers for which the country is known. This is also the place where you can see the “Broken Hills”, which really need to be seen and cannot be described in mere words. Then there is the nearby island of Maheskhali, which has both a Hindu and a Buddhist shrine. Then there is Teknaf, a remote town that those eager to really “rough it” and experience raw nature should visit-as well as a perfect jump-off point if you want to head to St. Martin’s Island, the one coral island in Bangladesh.