Why inspect Bangladesh? Colleagues slightly amazed! It was pointed out the old slogan “come before the tourists come” might give some clues as why Bangladesh is a place to avoid.
Densely populated, 150 million people living on flat lowlands that easily flood, in an area the size of Wales means this is a hard country to survive in. But one thing you learn is that people of Bangladesh are survivors.
The energy of the place, the use of space and creative use of resources will amaze. Houses made of plastic bottles and toys crafted from tin cans. This list is endless. On the drive to Chittagong we passed whole ships being stripped bare on the beach. Everything is re used. As a result Bangladesh souvenir shops stock brass fittings and lights from boats and are interesting to browse.
In 2009, the London School of Economics had Bangladesh as the world’s happiest country. A good example of how materialism is not a driver of happiness. In that same year the USA was well down the list. Bangladesh is a country where a large proportion of the population exist on an income of less than one dollar a day.
Our arrival was a slow descent over flooded fields with houses on islands. Dhaka airport was well presented. Some confusion over the visa fee caused amusement rather than anger. The bank clerk collecting the visa on arrival fee did not know the rate and was made complicated as each country has a different rate. Maybe not many Australians visit? All sorted and emerged to a mass of humans, all smiling and shouting.
Dhaka is the main entry point and most flights come from the Middle East due to the high number of Bangladesh workers that work in those countries. Other main connection points are Singapore and Bangkok.
It took nearly as long to reach downtown Dhaka as to fly from Bangkok, traffic is bad. In fact very bad, in fact so bad that it hardly moves. A plus is that you are rewarded with a visual feast as you sit in the taxi.
Dhaka does not have much to offer apart from excellent food and many restaurants, most of the best ones in the expatriate area of Gulshan and Banani. The large hotels are not so cheap but we found some excellent guest houses in Gulshan which were very reasonable in price and offered good friendly service. Guest houses are what the many visiting aid specialists use.
A river cruise proved to be fun as did a trip to the Old City. But that was enough of Dhaka.
Bangladesh is not set up for tourists so only good for those who want to experience the real Bangladesh. Hotels do exist in major towns and some not too bad and they tend to be very functional. The drive between towns is an adventure with heavy traffic and you feel every moment you are about to witness a major accident. Sadly you might where at least 8 people die each day.
Driving to Chittagong, the second largest city in Bangladesh, you will pass through rural life and the endless fields of rice. Further south is Cox’s Bazar.
Not sure you would go to Bangladesh for beaches but the longest beach in the world is at Cox’s Bazaar. Very popular with locals and hotels are available.
Inland from Chittagong are the Chittagong Hill tracts. This is worth visiting to see the indigenous tribes and trekking in the hills. However due to security concerns in this area an armed guard is needed and your trip has to be organised by a tour company and not possible to just enter on your own.
Heading north to Sylhet takes you to the tea gardens and part of Bangladesh where there are small hills and contrasts with the flat lowlands.
The Sundarbarns was much more interesting and is the largest mangrove forest in the world. An area of wild beaches and creeks. We did see a glimpse of the Royal Bengal Tiger that is the big drawcard. If you miss the tiger there are monkeys and if lucky, dolphins and much birdlife. If you have time and want adventure then take the Rocket Steamer from Dhaka to Khulna that takes 22 hours. The alternative is to fly to Jessore and then a combination of road and ferry. Accommodation is basic.
The Rocket is a paddle steamer that was built in the 1920’s. Passengers are organised by class. Do not travel in third class, which is really a class to fill in any gaps that exist on the deck. First Class is not luxurious but you do get a cabin and dine in relative peace. The best experience is sitting on the deck and watching the life go by on the river banks and the river. Bangladesh has more water in its rivers than all the rivers of Europe combined.
Overall Bangladesh is an experience! Not a place with an organised set of attractions to visit and tick off. It is very much about discovering it yourself. A plus is that costs are relatively low so good for those on a budget. There are no real stand out reasons to visit and so Bangladesh will always remain one of those off the beaten track places.Write a Review