Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Nazimgarh on The Daily Star Lifestyle page

All text and pictures © The Daily Star

An urban view of rustic treasures

Imagine being perched atop a hill, sitting on a sizable balcony with a cup of tea in hand, gazing on an expanse of green below that soothes the eyes. Having taken in this scene of idyll, you leave the balcony and cross the room, stepping over the hardwood veneer that lends the area a touch of charm and class, and enter the bathroom where a Jacuzzi filled with warm water awaits to coax away your city-bred anxiety.

Such are the creature comforts offered by Nazimgarh Resorts in Sylhet-- unbridled luxury! Started two years ago with its latest and most magnificent addition completed last October Nazimgarh is the ultimate luxury tourist destination in Bangladesh.

The resort, standing on six acres of hilly land in Khadimnagar, just a fifteen minute car ride from Sylhet town, comprises three residential buildings a Villa, a Bungalow, and the Terrace with a total of 49 rooms, all fitted with state of the art amenities, and of which only the Premium rooms are without Jacuzzis; a spa complex that houses a pool and a conference centre for corporate clients; a nightlife centre with a pool table and bar; and two high quality restaurants that serve Continental, Oriental, and Indian food to rival the eateries in Gulshan.

Turning into a narrow road off the highway to Tamabil and Jafflong, Nazimgarh is reached through a winding road that soon leads to a deceptively unadorned gate at the foot of a hill. It all goes uphill from there, literally and otherwise.

Ascending the hill, more and more of this fine resort comes into view. First is the Terrace, a wonderful piece of architecture built in a way that accommodates the contours and elevation of the hill. The Terrace houses 35 rooms, and each and every room looks out through its balcony or sundeck on the lush green paddy fields and clusters of dark green trees that stretch out in the distance beyond the boundary of the resort.

The car stops near the top of the hill having gone round the Terrace to its top, and opposite the Terrace the hill continues its ascent with the Spa Complex built on its apex, similarly constructed around the hill's contours. Sharing the first floor is a fully equipped gym and spa, the latter containing many of the elements that make this a luxury resort. The spa is fully equipped to relieve guests of any stress that is left over from their city existence; a steam room, a sauna, and to top it off, separate massage facilities for men and women.

Climb to the second floor of the complex and you will find a lovely, shimmering pool, with beach chairs lining its boundaries, and a children's pool and Jacuzzi installed along its edge. Right beside the pool is the Hilltop restaurant, serving continental cuisine. Stairs lead to an open rooftop, used as a venue for rooftop parties; ideal events for corporate get-togethers and large family vacations.

From this vantage point, the whole of the resort can be seen in all its glory. To the South can be seen the Villa and the Bungalow, both throwbacks to an old-world charm that sits well with the region's history of British occupation, foreign travellers like Ibne Battuta, and Muslim saints that the town of Sylhet is so famous for. The rooms in the Villa and Bungalow fitted with modern amenities that provide all the comfort guests can desire open out to balconies that stretch across each floor, enabling its occupants to feel at one with their green and tranquil surroundings.

The decor of these old fashioned buildings, especially in the common seating areas, will resonate with anyone who has been exposed to life in tea garden bungalows. The large common seating areas meant to entertain guests in the context of tea gardens serve the purpose of bringing visitors to the resort together in the evenings to watch a few DVDs and socialise.

Down the hill from the Villa and Bungalow sits the Meghalaya Lounge. It has a TV room and bar on the ground floor, and a pool room with a brand new pool table on the first floor. For those who want to stay indoors and enjoy themselves, watching a few movies and challenging each other over a game of 8-ball or 9-ball, the Meghalaya Lounge is the place to be.

Opposite the Meghalaya Lounge, across a quaint, lush green garden with charming benches adorning its borders, is the Garden Bistro. This is the only eatery of the resort that is open to the general public, and it offers a wide variety of cuisine, serving Continental, Indian, Thai, and Chinese food. Each type of cuisine is as delicious as the other; whether it is a rare steak you order or a Tandoori chicken, you are bound to be satisfied.

Another impressive facet of this resort is that at or near every dwelling is a TV room with a big screen TV and a huge collection of popular and recent DVDs, with plush sofa sets that allow guests to curl up and watch their favourite movies in the company of friends and loved ones.

With the resort also offering guided tours of Northern Sylhet's natural riches, guests have a choice between going out to explore the region's treasures and staying indoors to let the mind and muscles relax.

A visit to Nazimgarh Resorts is not a vacation; it's an experience that will make friends green with envy when they spot the palpable signs of rejuvenation in your being on your return to the harsh grind of the city.

For more information on the resort and special offers, please visit www.nazimgarh.com

By STS, back from Sylhet
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Exploring Sylhet's riches

It is not all about looking within and staying indoors; a good resort encourages guests to look outwards at the beauty and wonders the region has to offer. So it is with Nazimgarh. Nazim Farhan Choudhury, the resort's owner, wants the resort to be a base from which the natural wonders of Sylhet can be explored.

Northern Sylhet is a treasure trove of natural splendour, and the resort arranges guided tours to many such sites. There is the ever-popular Jaflong, less than an hour's drive from the resort. Across the river from Jaflong are Khasi Punjis (Khashia villages), where guests can catch a glimpse of a different way of life.

Very near the resort is a tea garden, and guests can drive through the garden and gaze upon hills manicured with tea bushes. The tea garden also has a rainforest that is being developed as a national park. Visitors can drive, bike or hike on the sandy roads that wind through it.

Trips are also available to Lawachara rainforest and Madhabkunda eco-park, both ninety-minute drives away from the resort.

Then there is the crowning glory as far as natural beauty is concerned. Lalakhal is a blissfully unspoilt location, and Choudhury has taken it upon himself to develop the spot as a tourist heaven. From their boat station on the Sharee river, some 25 km from the resort, guests are taken by speedboat in the summer, or by shallow draught boats in the winter to a spot where the Sharee river enters Bangladesh from the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya.

As you make your way through the winding river, with small, green hills lining its banks full of lush foliage, you begin to realise how unspoilt the area is. Coming closer to the spot known as Lalakhal, Meghalaya's mountains can be seen half-faded in the background, almost dissolving into the blue sky. The resort is building a restaurant right at the point where the river bends and makes its way across the border to India.

The restaurant, designed by Jamal Masood-ul-Abedin, is built in the form of olden river steamers, with a large circular front that takes in the bend of the river and provides a wide panoramic view. There is also an observation point on top of a nearby hill that affords an untrammelled view of Meghalaya, and the Sharee river winding its way across the landscape. It is indeed a sight for sore eyes.

There are also plans afoot to build a resort/hotel similar to Nazimgarh at the location. It will be a spot for the adventurous minded; canoes and kayaks will be available. For those who like to trek, there are miles of interesting trails among the hills and the nearby Lalakhal tea gardens. There is also a river beach, where those seeking leisure can lounge and bask in the glory of the incredibly unspoilt vista.

The restaurant at Lalakhal will be completed by the end of this year, and unlike the resort, this will not be exclusive to the resort's guests. It can be reached by road, located 7km from the highway, but the river experience is so much richer. 5 km of the 7 km stretch of road have been developed to drivable condition; the rest should be complete by the time the restaurant opens.

“Whenever people talk of tourism in Bangladesh, it is always Cox's Bazaar, and not much else,” said Choudhury. “But there are so many unexplored and undiscovered sites in Bangladesh. In Northern Sylhet alone there are many places that are left to be explored.”

A large portion of the clientele at Nazimgarh consists of the corporate classes. Choudhury wishes to attract more of the general public so that the profile of tourism in the region is raised, which will have many knock-on benefits, such as increasing local employment.

Therefore, there are lots of reasons to make your way to Nazimgarh besides indulging your need for romance, adventure, and luxury. And if you are in Sylhet, know that there are other places to visit; places like Lalakhal that are yet unspoilt and will please the eye and soul.