Nestled on the northern shores of the Bay of Bengal, the country of Bangladesh has become the newest tourist destination in South Asia.
Forget what you think you know about Bangladesh. It is no longer the land of floods and poverty. The nation is emerging as an economic powerhouse in South Asia.
It is a land that features the longest, shark-free sea beach in the world. The warm gentle waters of the Bay of Bengal provide an excellent place for swimming, boating, fishing, scuba diving and more.
In the eastern region of the country, steep hills rise from the Bay of Bengal to form the beginnings of the eastern Himalayas. These foothills rise upward as the land progresses toward Myanmar. Here you will find a large number of tribal people living and working side by side in an amazing myriad of cultures and languages.
In the Southwest, the Sundarban National Park is the world's largest mangrove forest. This is the delta of the sacred Ganges River system, covering 10,000 square kilometers. It is home of the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger.
Cox's Bazar in the southeastern part of the country is noted for its wonderful sea beaches that stretch for hundreds of kilometers. These broad beaches are popular with visitors and you will find over 500 hotels in Cox's Bazar, ranging from guest houses to Five Star Hotels.
And there is Old Dhaka, the center of the capital city along the Buriganga River with its narrow streets, goldsmiths, palaces, mosques, temples and churches. It is an amazing place to spend a day exploring with each street revealing plenty of interesting surprises.
And there is so much more. There is UNESCO World Heritage sites abound in the country. It is a land of Buddhism tours with incredible temples and pagodas.
But most of all, Bangladesh is the home of the World's friendliest people.
Bangladesh is primarily a lowland country. With the exception of the Hill Tracts Region in the east, the country is around 30 meters above sea level. Around 700 rivers cross Bangladesh, and the people there love fish. And why not? There are over 300 varieties of fish, plus the world's largest shrimp. Some of those shrimp measure more than 37 cm in length!
Bangladesh is an old land, but a new country. It achieved independence from Pakistan in 1971 after a terrible nine months war where 3 million people perished. Their freedom came at a high price, and the people are proud of their commitment to freedom.
Bangladesh is mostly a Muslim country, but don't expect to find Islamic fundamentalism like in the Middle East. The Bangladeshi Muslims are very friendly and display incredible hospitality. They are very welcoming of visitors of all faiths.
Bangla is the spoken language of the country, and the people are very proud of their language. In 1952, Pakistan tried to force the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to speak Urdu as the official language. The people protested and Pakistani soldiers killed several student protestors. Every year they are remembered on 21 February which is Language Martyr's Day. English is not widely spoken outside of Dhaka, Chittagong and Cox's Bazar in the tourist zones. There are 23 different tribal groups in the country that speak their own unique language.
Bangladesh is 85% Muslim, and 10% Hindu. Other religions found in the country in clued Buddhism, Christianity and traditional religions on the remote areas.
Bangladesh is primarily sub-tropical and has six seasons. During the monsoon season (mid June to early September) the country gets extensive rains from the Bay of Bengal. The hot season is from April to early June when temperatures can reach 40° to 45° C. Winter (December and January) will see temperatures drop to around 7° - 12° C at night with daytime highs around 22° C.
Bangladesh is a constitutional democracy with a multi-party system since its inception in 1971. The official name is The People's Republic of Bangladesh. The head of state is the president and they have a parliamentary system headed by the Prime Minister. The country has a 345 member parliament called Jatiyo Sangsad. Three hundred seats are directly elected, while 45 are reserved for women, nominated proportionally by the different political parties.
It is estimated that Bangladesh is the most populated country in the world with a population of 170 million. The largest city is Dhaka, the capital with a population of 20 million people and growing.
The economy in the rural areas is primary agricultural. Because the country is so fertile, it can produce in the southern areas three crops a year and they grow enough rice to feed its population nine out of ten years. Jute is the big cash crop, although tobacco has become a major crop in the Hill Tract Areas. Fish is another big product with Bangladesh being the number two producer of shrimp in the world. The country also has a major garment industry that produces clothing for consumption all across the world. The country also produces many pharmaceutical items, along with electronics. In the northwest area around Sylhet, tea is a major export as the country produces some very popular tea.
The local currency is the Bangladeshi Taka. Current rate of exchange is US$1 = BTK 78.
BEST SEASON TO VISIT:
Any time is good to visit Bangladesh. Monsoon season does bring plenty of rain, but there is sunshine almost daily during that time.
Bangladeshis love spicy food. They use a lot of chilies along with turmeric in their cooking. Almost every meal features rice and they drink lots of sweet milk tea during the day. Bangladeshis also love fish and usually will have fish at least once a day. Chicken is also quite common and beef is often eaten on Fridays. Don't expect to find much in the way of pork – this is a Muslim country.
Available upon arrival for citizens of most countries. They are issued for 30 days with a cost of US$50. Visas on arrival are only available at the international airports in Dhaka and Chittagong. On arrival visas are not issued at land crossings. You will need a printed e-ticket showing your return flight and have US$500 in currency or availability to sustain yourself while in the country. You will need to give the immigration officers an address in the country.