Bangladesh is for real adventure travelers only. More than 50 rivers make this a place to be explored by ferries, motorboats and river cruisers. The rivers of Bangladesh, with their flotillas of primitive boats, have been compared to the Nile of thousands of years ago. It’s a land of low-lying rivers and lakes surrounded by hills, rain forests, beaches and rice paddies. Only Java is more densely populated.
The culture of Bangladesh was formed much as India’s was, as Mughal conquerors brought Islam to a land of Buddhists and Hindus; then came Portuguese, Dutch, French and British traders. British colonialism began in 1757, when the last Muslim ruler of Bengal fell to the British. In 1947, when the British left the Indian subcontinent, it was divided into India and Pakistan, with Bangladesh becoming East Pakistan. In 1971, Bangladesh fought a war of independence against Pakistan that was won after nine months of intense fighting.
Bangladesh is tropical with a mild winter running from October to March, and a moist summer from March to June. The monsoon season runs from June to October pouring an average of 225 inches per year, about five times New York’s annual rainfall. The Sundarbans are the largest mangrove forest in the world and home to a dwindling population of Royal Bengal Tigers. To explore the mysterious Sundarbans, visitors usually go to Khulna on the Rupsha River. You can travel hours through the Sundarban backwaters without seeing another soul. It’s a 19-hour ride on the Rocket Steamer from Dhaka to Khulna. Bangladesh can be thoroughly explored by water. Barisal, a port also known for its rice paddies, offers boat rides on the Rocket Steamer.
Hill tribes populate the mountains above Chittagong. Mostly Buddhists, the tribes feature compelling rituals. The tribes follow a matriarchal social structure with the women being the real drivers in both the families and the villages. Each tribe features its own dialect, dress and rites. Some still hunt with bows and arrows, and produce beautiful handicrafts.
Cox's Bazar has a beach that stretches for 75 miles and as such it’s the country's top beach resort. The monsoon runoff of Nepal’s Himalayas makes its way through Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal and the Ganges Delta, the largest delta in the world.
With plenty of rice and curry, the food in Bangladesh is similar to India’s except that as a Muslim country, beef is a popular option. Otherwise, as in India, lentil or daal and fish are popular.
British Airways, Emirates, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Turkish Airlines all fly to Dhaka’s Shahjalal International Airport.