Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jessore
September 27, 2007

I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I am going to do after I finish my Fulbright lately. There are a couple of corporate career options open to me – one in the States and one in London. Both are amazing positions with great companies, but I am really feeling the entrepreneurial bug. I have wanted to have my own company for awhile, and the timing just seems right now.

I recently started revisiting my sustainable boutique hotel idea. Initially I thought that Bangladesh would not be a good location for a resort because there is not a lot of tourism here. Then I realized that there ARE a lot of expats living in town and having seen the Bangladeshi countryside now I really think that they would enjoy getting out of the city! The countryside is beautiful and the air is clean. Plus, I was really inspired by Anna’s school and would love to build a resort along similar lines – an eco resort that exists in harmony with nature and with the local community.

The problem with traveling in Bangladesh is that it is quite hard to get around – the infrastructure is terrible. The buses are old and dangerous and it takes forever to get places. A trip that would take one hour in the US takes 4-5 in Bangladesh. Plus, there are so many different bus lines it is difficult to figure out the schedules, even if you do speak Bangla.

So I started thinking about where I should locate a resort if I were to build one here. It should be close to an existing tourist attraction and easily accessible by air so that people could avoid the long, tedious bus trips. Jessore is the natural choice. It is only an hour from Khulna which is the jumping off point for all of the trips to the Sundarbans (the world’s largest mangrove forest.) It is also only a half hour, inexpensive flight from Dhaka and there are three flights a day. Plus, it is on the bus route from Dhaka to Kolkata, so if people are going to India, they could break up the 12 hour bus ride with a night or two at the resort. The proximity to India also opens up the possibility for Indian tourists to visit the resort.

I decided to fly to Jessore to check it out. After spending a few hours there, I fell in love! The countryside is absolutely gorgeous! All rice fields and palm trees…

The first day I was there I rented a rickshaw to explore the area. I started in the town where I went to several stores looking for maps. After I acquired a (very poor) map of the district, I had the rickshawala take me outside of the city. He took me to one of the archaeological sites in the area. There I was kidnapped by a couple of girls. They took me to see their houses and their school. I met their parents and their friends and then finally was able to escape and continue looking around.

I decided that I wanted to locate the resort between Jessore and Khulna, so the next day I told my rickshawala to take me some of the villages south of Jessore city. Coincidentally, he was from the area I wanted to see, so he knew all of the smaller back roads (which are just lovely!) The drive there was lovely – only a small portion was on the main road where the buses travel and the rest was on smaller roads. The streets were nicely paved and were lined with gorgeous trees.

I stopped at the union parishad office (like a county office) for the area I was interested in. I talked to some of the managers there and told them that I wanted to build a small resort and was looking for land. As always, I drew quite a crowd and soon several men were coming up to me telling me that they had land for sale. I saw several properties, but they were all open rice fields and most were near the bazar.

As we were driving back to the hotel that night, however, we drove on this small road through a really beautiful area. I resolved that the next day I would go back there.

The second day we went back to the beautiful area from the night before. The town was so small that it didn’t have its own parishad office, so I just went to the market area. There was a small bamboo shelter next to the stores where many of the men had gathered. I went there (dressed in a sari of course!) and introduced myself. There was one man who was clearly a borolok (literally “big man”; it means someone who is wealthy or influential.) He asked me all kinds of questions, and about a half hour later told me that his grandfather had a piece of land. I went to see it and was blown away! It had everything that I wanted – fruit trees, an open area for sports, a pond, far from the market and other houses... It was even next to a river!

The only problem is that there are three houses on the land. Apparently two of the houses are owned by this man’s grandfather, but the other is owned by two brothers who live in India. The man I spoke to seemed to think they would be very willing to sell though. The owner wasn’t there, so I will make another trip back in a couple of weeks to see if I can acquire the property.

Kidnappers
These are the girls who kidnapped me in Jessore.


School
This is the school the kidnappers took me to. I loved the paintings on the wall!

Street Lined with Trees
The rickshaw ride through the Jessore countryside was absolutely beautiful! Tree-lined streets opened up to lush, green rice fields.

Country House
Yes, it really is this green there!

Palm Trees
I stopped several times to take photos of the beautiful fields and trees.

Here are some photos of the site that I want to acquire for my project:

Pond
This is the pond that you see as you walk onto the site.


Wooded Area
Most of the plot is wooded like this. There is an open rice field across from the site, however, so you feel like you are in a little oasis, not in the middle of the woods.



River
I was thrilled to discover that there was a river in back of the property! There is also a small open field next to the river that would be perfect for cricket or badminton.


Village House
This is one of the three village houses that are on the property.



1 Comments:

At Saturday, May 02, 2009 2:47:00 PM, Blogger Bidesh to Bdesh said...

Looks like the Panigram resort has come a loooong way since this post. Great blog. LOVE the updates.

 

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