Dominated by the vast and endlessly fertile Ganges-Brahmaputra river delta – notoriously prone to floods during cyclone season – Bangladesh is a lush, watery, low-lying south Asian nation perched on the languorous Bay of Bengal.
Like its neighbour, India, it was once a highly prized territory of the British Empire, who under the auspices of the British East India Company, established a local plantation economy grounded in exports of sugar, spices, bamboo, cotton, and tea. Since 1971, Bangladesh has been an independent nation. Poverty, famine, and military coups have all plagued the incipient state, but since its re-affirmation of democracy in 1991, the future looks promising. Economists have placed the country in the so-called ‘Next Eleven’ club of fast-growing economies, citing stability, political maturity, and openness of trade as key factors in the nation’s success.
Located between India and Myanmar, Bangladesh is a comparatively unknown destination, waiting to be discovered. Its attractions include a wealth of archaeological sites, monuments, shrines, cities, beaches, off-shore islands, and remote Bengali villages steeped in folklore and traditions. The country’s natural beauty is striking: green hills and fertile plains enclose a staggering mosaic of deep blue lakes, twisting rivers, and exuberant tropical rain forests. Visitors can explore green tea gardens around Srimongal, whilst the brackish Sundarbans or ‘beautiful forests’ are the world’s largest mangrove forest and one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger.
In contrast to the Bangladeshi countryside, the capital, Dhaka, is an insanely crowded and thronging metropolis – ample evidence of the nation’s status as one of the most densely and heavily populated places on the planet. The older part of the city, known as ‘Puran Dhaka’, is crammed with hundred-year-old buildings and narrow lanes, specialized shops and artisan workshops lining the city blocks or ‘mohollas’..
Beyond the capital, Bangladesh is full of intriguing destinations. The world’s longest beach sprawls along the coast at the town and fishing port of Cox’s Bazaar, whilst the Puthia Temple Complex, northwest of Dhaka, is the largest cluster of ancient Hindu temples in the country. Built around a body of water, the temples exhibit a range of sumptuous architectural styles. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy plentiful national parks and botanical gardens in Bangladesh, which all work towards protecting the nation’s spectacular indigenous and endangered flora and fauna.