For a little country tucked away in the corner of South Asia,
Bangladesh holds many more surprises and delights than visitors usually
expect. Given the country’s disposition towards natural calamity in the
form of devastating cyclones or vast floods, it is with great relief
that most people learn that Bangladesh actually offers a bumper of
positive stories for those who dare to look behind the headlines.
and foremost among these surprises are the extraordinary kindnesses and
hospitality of Bangladeshi people. The culture is one overwhelmingly
favouring the respectful treatment of guests, as is dictated by not
only Muslim hospitality but also the giving nature of Bangladeshi
people. Everywhere you travel in Bangladesh there is a talkative person
willing to sit down and exchange ideas with you, learn about your
homeland and ask you why you’ve travelled to a country where few others
go. The hospitality is such that even if you were to travel these lands
alone and by foot, the local people would you would give you their own
beds each night and create meals well beyond their capacity, simply for
the honour of hosting you as their guest. Nowhere else in the world
does this extraordinary spirit of giving exist towards foreign guests.
The second most unique feature of Bangladesh is unquestionably
its dominant rivers. As these meandering ribbons have shaped the
landscape of Bangladesh, so too have they shaped the destinies of its
people. As the annual monsoons unleash their pregnant skies in sporadic
bursts over the landscape, the rivers swell to enormous proportions.
God-like, they restore much-needed nutrients to Bangladesh’s heavily
farmed lands, while simultaneously taking lives or livelihoods when
their wrath cannot be controlled by human means. During the dry season,
these rivers are best enjoyed from the deck of a restored historic
sailboat. Beautiful arrays of sky blues, tropical greens and earthen
browns merge over the landscape, blurring the distinctions between them
While Bangladesh doesn’t offer tourists ‘sights’ in the
classic sense of the word, (i.e. think Taj Mahal or Angkor Wat), it
does have some premium draw-cards that offer guests unique and
First among these draw-cards is the Sunderbans.
Meaning ‘beautiful forest’ in Bengali, the Sunderbans is Bangladesh’s
most pristine wilderness, a giant 10,000 square kilometre tract of
forest, where hundreds of Royal Bengal Tigers roam the jungles,
sometimes stalking people as their prey.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts
is our second personal favourite for its varied geography and distinct
ethnic background. The best way to explore this region is to trek,
meandering through hillside villages and interacting with local
Buddhist people. Journeys here blow apart the stereotype that
Bangladesh is a Muslim nation - in fact its diversity of Hindu,
Buddhist and Christian cultures help make it just as diverse as
anywhere else in South Asia.
The tea growing regions of the Sylhet
region make it Bangladesh’s own ‘little Darjeeling’, perfect for
two-wheeled explorations on a motorcycle or bicycle, great for the
simple weekend escapes or for the more adventurous traveller seeking
tranquil retreats from Bangladesh’s three throbbing cities (Sylhet,
Chittagong and Dhaka).
Finally, some mention must be made of
the fact that Bangladesh is a far from programmed experience. Within
its borders there are so many human stories: these range from unending
cycles of misery rooted in systemic poverty, to uplifting tales of
human resilience and emotion. It’s the kind of place where only the
true travellers test their mettle, as the country’s tourism
infrastructure is ‘embryonic,’ to put it kindly. For those willing to
adventure into the unknown, Bangladesh and its people will offer a
helping hand at every turn, and it is that simple and plain fact that
makes this country so special among its neighbours.