Rangamati is perhaps the most-travelled destination inside the Chittagong Hill Tracts – at least by Bengali tourists, that is. The region’s interest comes from its cultural diversity: the majority of its people are not Bengali. Instead you will find people from many different ethnic tribes. In Rangamati, the majority of people are Chakma, and are perhaps the most well off of the various ethnic groups.
Rangamati is a one-road town that’s fairly spread out. Share taxis constantly buzz up and down this road and catching one is fairly straightforward.
The region’s prime scenic attraction, Kaptai Lake, holds a beautiful but ghastly story. In the early 1960s, Kaptai Dam was built to meet growing electricity demands. The resulting lake displaced over 100,000 indigenous people, and government promises of compensation (emotional or financial) fell by the wayside. Many of the displaced, mostly Chakmas, eventually became refugees in India.
A number of indigenous style restaurants serve up different tastes in Rangamati. Peda Ting Ting is one such restaurant located on an island on the lake. Their steady streams of visitors normally make the lunch stop on the way back from the Shuvalong Waterfall. ‘Peda Ting Ting’ actually means ‘full stomach,’ understandably so because this restaurant features tasty indigenous food that’s worth stopping for.
Rangamati has the best selection of indigenous textiles and handicrafts for sale among the hill districts. If you’re after indigenous cloth for tailoring purposes, check out the Bangladesh Small Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) (tel: 62981) store near the stadium.
Like all the hill districts, prior approval from the District Commissioner is required before your visit, so the appropriate paperwork can be forwarded to the army checkpoints. A tour operator, such as Bangladesh Ecotours, is highly suggested for this purpose in that they are already well familiar with the permission process.
For getting around, Rangamati is just a little too big to walk everywhere. Instead, share baby-taxis buzz up and down the main road, which stop for passengers anywhere and charge based on the distance travelled – usually just a few takas for Rangamati’s short distances.