“A La La La La Long. A La La La La Long Long Li Long Long Long” – Inner Circle.
The biggest difference between Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka and the second biggest beast, Chittagong, for me was the sightseeing. Dhaka is more about experience, as the main sights are scattered all over the monstrous city. It’s hard to see them all in a lifetime, let alone 3 days. I only typed up a top 6 on Dhaka, as well as covering my visit to the Singer Sewing Machine Shop and the Nagar Valley Hotel.
Chittagong however, is easier on the backpacking eye. It’s more remote and raw. It’s handier. It’s less draining on your soul. It’s actually a bit more hip. There are less foreigners here, but believe me – the city is easy to navigate once you get your bearings. By basing yourself at the Golden Inn, you can be close to a few of these main sights and only a short tuk tuk (CSG) from the others.
I felt like a real tourist in Chittagong. There are virtually no other travellers heading here, so you will love it. You will be a celebrity on every corner, having to put up with endless selfie loving locals who can’t believe a tourist has visited their town. It gets quite emotional and inspiring. But I must also mention that the train journey here from Dhaka was horrendous and rather sad – the previous train to mine derailed with severe casualties.
In the rare chance that you only have the choice between either Dhaka or Chittagong, choose Chittagong. It’s not as busy, crazy and manic as Dhaka. It’s still pretty nuts. But the gems of Chittagong lie in the fact that you will be the only tourist here and you can get to see all the sights easily without getting too lost. Dhaka is a maze of confusion – even the locals get lost. Streets blur into one another with no logical order. Chittagong strips that out and rewards you with a cooler vibe. This is like the cooler younger brother of Dhaka.
By no means is this an extensive overview of the city, but these are my personal top 14 sights in Chittagong. You can get through these in two days at a canter and still have time for a hundred selfies with the locals. I got my Bangladesh Visa in Hong Kong.
An international air of freedom greets Chittagong at the banks of the Karnaphuli River. The great thing is there are no other tourists about and no organised tours. So you just walk by the banks on your own.
If you want you could try asking the boatsmen and locals for a ride on the river. Just seeing the masses of cargo ships and boats by the harbour was enough for me. This is Bangladesh’s biggest port.
- St. Placid Church
A church in a Muslim country? Yes of course. The Portuguese and the British were here in days gone by. While any attempts at colonialism gradually wore off on the locals, some reminders remain. St. Placid church was built by the Portuguese.
It remains intact in the Phatergatta area of the city. It wasn;t open when I was there, but I walked around the outside walls and admired.
- Streets of Phatergatta
Sometimes your guide books aren’t quite correct, or they don’t share your opinion. The Lonely Planet Bangladesh guide insists there is not much to see here, but for me, Phatergatta is the most enchanting district in town.
An ex-Portuguese quarter with virtually no proof of that, this is an area of charming zig zagged streets which eventually work their way down to the river in the south and the central markets to the west.
- Phatergatta Colourful Mosque
I’m sorry I don’t know the name of this Mosque and it might be hard to find, but it is near St. Placid’s Church and it is in the area of Phatergatta. Just dandering through the area, this one struck out at me and it won’t be in any guide books.
- Tulshidham Hindu Temple
The great thing about Chittagong is that I was easily able to visit buildings of four separate religions here – Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Hindu. I’m not sure if this is the best Hindu Temple in the city but it’s a walk up some steps and pretty welcoming and famous.
- Central Bazaar
The Central Bazaar of Chittagong is where the madness returns. Endless vendors selling endless goods. Locals coming over to chat. Cheap fruit. Fake Man United shirts. The Central Bazaar is a place to get lost in.
I’d probably avoid it after dark though – you might get lost and I’,m not sure how safe that would be. I had no issues in the day time though. All the locals wanted a chat and to take selfies with me. It was pure pure madness.
- Cricket Stadium
These days there are numerous cricket stadiums in Chittagong. This was a host city for the 2014 Cricket World Cup.
I headed to the cricket stadium on the corner of Pioneer Road, which is actually a joint cricket and football stadium. This is also the old stadium – the one that didn’t host the World Cup. You can meet loads of locals here and will be invited to play football and cricket with them.
- Nandarkanan Buddhist Temple
The Nadarkanan serves as your Buddhist experience here in Chittagong and is worth a look. However, it takes a long time to find it and the streets can be confusing.
- Zia Memorial Museum and Building
I was able to get a guided tour of the Zia Memorial Museum but unfortunately photographs and videos are not permitted inside. This museum is a complete memorial to Ziaur Rahman (Zia) who was the was Bangladesh’s first military dictator and strongman. Zia formed the Bangladesh National Party and the BDF (Bangladesh Defense Forces). It is inside this Tudor style British building that Zia lived, and died.
He was assassinated in cold blood here in 1981 and you can still see the bullet holes and blood stains on the wall by the stairs where he was gunned down. A visit to Zia’s Museum and Building is a sure fire highlight from your time in Bangladesh.
- Shahi Jama-e-Masjid
Dating back to 1670, the Shai Jama-e Masjid is the city’s most famous Mosque. It sits in the Anderkilla part of the city on a prominent corner.
- Chilla of Badar Shah
Badar Shah is a famous Islamic shrine here in Chittagong and while the shrine itself is cool to see, by far the highlight of this was the journey to get here. I dandered down poky streets and was followed and stared at the whole way by locals. They all wanted photos with me and were so curious.
It was the first time they had seen a foreigner in their lives, from the young dudes to the old guy. A really heart warming time with these guys.
- Chandanpura Mosque
While the other Mosques might take home the busiest or most famous accolade, the real backpacking charm can be found at Chandanpura Mosque. This is the one Mosque you should make an effort to see.
- British City
This area is still known as British City and while I was there, I could not work out why. Nothing looked at all British to me, but clearly they picked a good spot to attempt to colonise. This area is now the CBD, though parts of the streets can be dirty and full of people setting fire to shit at dusk.
- Radisson Blu 5 Star Hotel
As a backpacker and a cheap one at that, I rarely would mention a 5 star hotel on here, but you really should visit the Radisson Blu Hotel here in Chittagong. The contrast is fucking staggering. On the street where this massive hotel sits, there are tramps, beggars, people setting fire to rubbish and poo poo and people sleeping in rags.
Then you step through the security (which is tight) and into the Radisson to see the most elegant hotel lobby I’ve ever seen, staff saying “Hello Sir” at every opportunity.
You can also get alcohol here, but it won’t come cheap. I didn’t buy any, when I heard that a beer was 900 Taka – that’s 11 US for a small can/bottle. Really crazy. You can also get money changed here, use their WiFi and pay to use the gym and swimming pool.
Get back out on the streets, smell the stench and avoid the manic charging tuk tuks flying past. The contrast is insane.
Here are some of my videos from my time backpacking in Chittagong: