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The Financial Express

Saint Martin's Tale

The escape to sea, explore and see!

| Updated: January 14, 2023 15:35:34


The escape to sea, explore and see!

No place in Bangladesh offers more natural beauty than Saint Martin in winter. The breeze of chilled air, the waves' sound, and the ocean's divine view can overwhelm anyone. Resting peacefully on the hammock and enjoying the scenery, feeling the sea from a little distance, gives a heavenly experience. And if you visit the island during a full moon, it'll be beyond any description.

The writer, along with her family members, visited Saint Martin last week. It was a wonderful lifetime experience she'd love to share.

The ship journey to Saint Martin

Saint Martin was a part of our extended touring route. We were in Cox's Bazar and travelled to Saint Martin directly from there. Currently, only one ship carries passengers on this route, MV Karnafuly Express. The ticket price is quite high, Tk 1900/seat; we were on a deck named Gladiolus. However, the ship journey will feel nice if you do not have a water phobia. The infinite waterbody, along with relentless waves, kept us mesmerised throughout the whole journey. And the wind we got felt like from another planet -- fresh and clean.

In the middle of the ocean, Seagulls joined us. They were flying by ship, catching chips, chocolates and other food items thrown by the viewers. But the food price was double the regular price, and the passengers had to buy something reluctantly as it was a 6-hour journey. Our real excitement began when we got to see the island far away from our ship -- something tiny floating on the water kept growing larger as we approached it!

Residence on the island

Saint Martin is an expensive place to stay. Everything was costly there. The average room price is around Tk 4000 per night, which varies according to the room type and season. We booked three sea view rooms to enjoy the ocean view directly from our room. Also, most people prefer to book ocean view rooms so that they can stroll the sea beach any time they want. The hospitality services were good; all the staff were welcoming and warm toward the tourists.

Foods you can't resist

As mentioned earlier, Saint Martin is a place where everything is overpriced. The same goes for the food. You'll definitely want to taste all the fishes you see, but your pocket might not support you. Also, try to avoid food found on the beach side as they'll charge even higher. Another tip if you plan to go there anytime soon: never opt for cooked food if you have fish; always pre-order and try to choose fresh fish yourself.

In Saint Martin, fish items top the list. We ate Coral fish, which is a must-try, and Rupchada and Bowalchada fish in different meals. Bowalchada was new to us, and so was 'Pahari morog' (hilly cocks); both tasted fine. Crabs are also cooked with perfection.

We had meals at our resort for Tk 400-500 per head. For snacks, we went to the local bazaar, which was cheap. Various kinds of fried snacks are found in the bazaar, much like Dhaka streets - Peyaji, Beguni, Alur Chop, Roll, Pakora, Jilapi, Gol-Golla, Puli Pitha, Roshogolla, Chomchom, etc.

Transportation and safety issues

There are 3-seater auto rickshaws for inland transportation. Also, vans are available. But as it's a small island, you can walk to save cost if you know the roads.

Saint Martin is a safe place. It's like a small village where everyone knows each other. Even the police know how many thieves there are. Locals are always welcoming toward outsiders as they earn their livelihoods, mostly during the touring seasons when thousands of people visit the island. You can ask for any sort of assistance from the local people who'll pleasantly help.

A piece of heaven on earth

Nothing can beat the experience of travelling Saint Martin during a full moon. However, if you want to relax on the sea beach and bathe in the moonlight, plan your tour early and book your hotel, as most people will plan their tours in the same period.

Chilling on the hammock during a full moon near the sea beach while listening to your favourite tracks, singing loudly with your group, sitting on a sleeping chair, and having tea/coffee along with some snacks with the roar of the ocean - what more can you ask from an island tour? Add to that the unworldly reflection of moonlight on the seawater and phosphorus dazzling the beach sand late at night if you are lucky enough.

If you plan to sleep early, don't. Because at midnight, ebb happens, and the water goes far away from the main beach. Saint Martin's slope is extremely tourist-friendly as it goes far long. When the tidewater goes away, it suddenly seems like some chars have emerged from the ocean. We walked to the end of the land, uncovered during the ebbtide. Plenty of corals would raise their heads in their own majestic way.

The Chhera Dwip

Chhera Dwip is one of the main attractions of Saint Martin. But going there is challenging now. There used to be boats that carried passengers to the remote corner of the island, which have recently been banned as they cause widespread damage to the marine diversity of the island.

The process now involves renting autorickshaws for Tk 700-800, which will drop you at a certain point from where the tourists walk to Chhera Dwip. The designated vehicle will wait for your return to carry you back inland. You'll have around 3 hours between leaving your vehicle and returning to it, including two 3-kilometres walks. So don't waste time en route, as you must come back before tidal water return, which submerges the road and isolate Chhera Dwip from the main island.

Walking 3 kilometres twice on the sand with the sun gunning overhead made us tired. When we returned to our vehicle with tanned faces, it was an hour late, and we had to pay an extra charge. Yet, the corals, clean blue water, and screwpine forest cured our souls; all the hassles felt worth it.

Well, there are a few red flags when you are visiting Chhera Dwip. Don't leave behind any plastic or other waste, don't take corals on hand and don't spoil the screwpine forest. As corals are dying in the only coral island of our country, we must behave sustainably to preserve them.

BBQ and beach cycling

BBQ party at our resort was a fun event. In the evening, we sat beside the griller, and the resort staff made us Fish and Chicken BBQ. We sat and saw the whole grilling process while playing songs and taking pictures. Coral fish BBQ is the showstopper for any such event at Saint Martin. If you want to do the things yourself, you can simply ask the resort staff to manage the ingredients for you.

However, before you sit for a BBQ party in the evening, a bicycle ride is highly recommended. No doubt you'll need to burn more calories to paddle forward your two-wheeler on the sand, but how often do you get a chance to ride a cycle on a sea beach? Renting a cycle for an hour will cost just 50-60 taka, and you can go to the end of the island where the beach would be waiting for you with fewer people, less noise and more calmness.

We stayed at Saint Martin for three days. Every day was a day to remember. As we onboarded the ship to return, none of us was ready to leave that piece of heaven far away from the mainland of Bangladesh. Saint Martin is not just an island; it's an experience, a charm that'll take you there again and again.

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