Bichanakandi : The unexplored wonder of Sylhet

Imagine different shades of green. Do the same for blue as well, and then try to visualize a transition – a transition from different shades of green into different shades of blue. Having trouble visualizing? Well, you actually don’t have to try that hard. You can see the magical transition with your own eyes!

Sylhet has always been a darling child of nature. This north-eastern district of Bangladesh is gifted with enchanting green tea gardens, magnificent subtropical hills and numerous rivers and wetlands. Some of the most popular tourist destinations of Bangladesh are scattered in or around Sylhet. During the holidays, people from all over the country come here to indulge themselves with fascinating natural beauties of Jaflong, Ratargul and various picturesque tea estates located around the city. But don’t make plans and schedules only for these places only, Sylhet has more to unravel!

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Bichanakandi is a stone quarry that is being used for quite some years now. But it has become a tourist attraction for only six months or so. It’s located in the Goainghat Upazilla of Sylhet just near the Indian border. A stream coming from a waterfall located in India comes down rushing through the mountains and it kisses the Goain river gently, at a narrow stretch which is adorned with stones of different sizes and shapes. This gorgeous meeting point has become known as “Bichanakandi”.

First things first, Bichanakandi is not yet prepared for plenty of tourists, at least as far as convenience is concerned. You just can’t enjoy a leisurely ride while passing by idyllic natural beauties. The road that leads to Bichanakandi is full of potholes here and there and uneven pavements are sure to make your journey – what to call it – not “quite comfortable”. Sure, that does not pose any threat to seasoned travelers; but when you are planning to make a family trip, these are things that you need to keep in mind.

The road journey maybe a bit troublesome to some extent, but it will become less and less trivial as you go on with the journey. Initially the journey may seem very much alike the road journey that takes you to Jaflong, another picturesque place with similar stone settlements. But as you move forward, the mountains that seemed quite a bit far when in Jaflong, are startlingly much closer this time around.

Massive mountains from the Jainta range welcome you from all around as you proceed further into the hidden depths of Sylhet. These mountains are the footsteps of the Mighty Himalyas that stretch across more than half of the continent. They seem to be beckoning, but always staying just a little further evasively.

From Sylhet city, you have to reach Hadar Par Bazaar first in order to rent a motor-boat that will take you to Bichanakandi. Now how to reach Hadar Par Bazaar? You can travel to Hadar Par Bazaar either by a car or a CNG. You can rent Microbuses from Sylhet city for the whole round trip (Sylhet – Hadar Par Bazaar – Sylhet) for around Tk. 5000-7000 for day long, depending on your bargaining skills. Rents are this much higher owing to the roads being not so great(!) and Bichanakandi still not being a popular tourist destination. Whereas, if you reserve a CNG for the total package, the rent should be around Tk. 1000-1500. Much cheaper, eh? CNGs bound for Hadar Par Bazaar are easily available at Ambarkhana point in Sylhet.
The route is also quite simple if you want to go there by yourself. First you have to take the road behind the Airport that will lead you to the Kompaniganj road. After going a few kilometers, you have to take a right turn into Goainghat Upazilla. Then after heading along for about 20 kilometers or so, you have to take left turn at a place called “Bongobir”. That stretch of road will take you straight to Hadar Par Bazaar.

From Hadar Par Bazaar, you can easily find a guide-cum-boatman who will take you to Bichanakandi. All the boats are narrow engine boats which can accommodate 8-10 persons easily. A round trip should cost around Tk. 800-1000, not more than that. Remember, no “Chhai”s or canopies on the boat! So don’t forget to take your umbrellas to save yourself either from the scorching heat or the torrential rains.

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It normally takes 20 – 25 minutes to reach Bichanakandi from Hadar Par Bazaar. And in that boat journey, your tired body and mind from the torturous car or CNG journey will start to freshen up. Breathing in the cool breeze, your lungs will be full of fresh mountain air and your eyes nourished with captivating beauty of massive green mountains just within touching distance. The path is like a snake.

You have to pass through one curve after the other. Each curve on the path offer the splendid beauty of classical Bangladeshi landscape with cows and oxen grazing in idyllic emerald green fields, with an uncanny backdrop of mountains of massive scales. You’ll get so engrossed with the surrounding sceneries that you’ll find it rather short-lived before your step your foot on the white rocks of Bichanakandi.

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And then you’ll have that amazing view! The transition, remember? The green-to-blue transition? Layers of mountains lay one after another, slowly changing their colors from darker shades of green to lighter shades of blue. You can count for yourself. After counting 6 or 7 layers or so, you’ll be amazed to discover those layers from both side converging and at the place where they meet, there’s a lovely little waterfall – the waterfall that feeds the stream that runs through Bichanakandi. It’s and ethereal setting, sure to take your breath away. You’ll be delighted to discover that nature has more shades of colors to offer than the pastel-color box of your childhood!

I had the opportunity to talk to Hossain, a local boy of Goainghat who reads in a nearby college. He talked to me about his ambitions of having a stone-collection and distribution business one day. They are petty people who make a Tk. 10 profit for selling one square feet of stone into nearby bazaars. This is livelihood for them. They have kept earning their breads and also maintaining the ecological balance of Bichanakandi for quite a long time. Until, it became a “Tourist Attraction” one day. They are scared, for they have seen tourists destroy Jaflong in front of their own eyes. They are scared that the same may happen to Bichanakandi also.

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As we explore these natural jewels of our country, we have to make sure we don’t dump plastic bags of chips or biscuits or water bottles into the waters of the surrounding places. These are very small things, apparently. But we have instances in our country where these small misdeeds have brought about the downfall of many a one beautiful place. We have to make sure we don’t destroy any more. Happy traveling