Bangladesh: Why You Should Come and Where to Go
"We're a very new country, that's why nobody knows us"
By Sierra Sumner
"People should come visit Bangladesh because there is no place like Bangladesh. It is absolutely ridiculous. It's hilarious. It's shocking. Every sense of your body will be amazed," says Nujhat Purnata, a resident of Dhaka, the country's capital.
"We're very cultural. It's very rich. We have specific dances, beautiful language, art and culture."
Bangladesh has only been a country for 40 years. The "parents" generation of the country remember when before it became independent in 1971 after separating from India.
It is located near India and Myanmar, with the Bengal Sea on its southern side. Bangladesh is split up into districts: Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong, Khulna, Barisal, Rangpur, and Rajshahj.
Bengali culture you treat your guests very well. "If your worst enemy were to walk in the front door, you would ask them to eat," says Purnata. "The people are so giving... that's the kind of the norm."
"Even though religion is one the major thing that constitutes human identity, in Bangladesh, there exists no boundary between the people of various religions. In happiness, sadness, or even celebration, we live here like the perpetual siblings of a common motherland," says Visit Bangladesh.
"Some festivals are so intensely rooted in our cultural and social base that they are still being continued after centuries. Some festivals are based on social and political significances with marking our communal and national value, some are religious, and some are even observed seasonally. Bangladeshi people have so many reasons to cheer their life and soul. This is why this land is called the Land of Festivals."
"If you want to seek happiness with no condition applied, go visit our rural areas. The way of life has always been primitive and there exist no complications. The people in our village areas live by the nature," says Visit Bangladesh.
Bandarban is located in the Chittagong district and its literal translation means "monkey forest." Anyone can hike through the jungle and see the many waterfalls. Bandrban has three of the highest peaks in Bangladesh: Tahjindong (or Bijoy), Mowdok Mual (or Saka Haphong) and Keokradong.
Within the area, there is the Buddha Dhatu Jadi, which is a Theravada Buddhist temple also known as the Bandarban Golden Temple. It is known as a holy site followers of Theravada Buddhism.
Meghla Parjatan Complex is a well-known destination for visitors. Meghla has a mini-safari-park, zoo, boat journey, a hanging bridge and an artificial lake made at the bottom of the hills.
Sundarbans' literal translation is "beautiful forest." It covers 10,000 km2 of land and water, though half of it is India, and it has the largest mangrove forest in the world.
Sundarbans is the home of Royal Bengal tiger. Since the tigers live in such an aquatic environment, they have learned to swim long distances and feeding on fish, crab, and water monitor lizards. Other wildlife include monkeys, fresh water alligators, and countless deers.
According to UNESCO, "The land area in the Sundarbans is constantly being changed, molded and shaped by the action of the tides, with erosion processes more prominent along estuaries and deposition processes along the banks of inner estuarine waterways influenced by the accelerated discharge of silt from sea water. Its role as a wetland nursery for marine organisms and as a climatic buffer against cyclones is a unique natural process."
Cox's Bazaar is the longest natural sea beach in the world. It's about two hours from Sundarbans and is located in the Chittagong district. Nearby there are many hotel accommodations and places for shopping; there are stores along the beach and a town market filled with unique handcrafts.
There is a Buddhist village called Ramu that is close to the beach and it has monasteries, khyangs and pagodas with great religious importance.
The slopes of Sylhet, known as “the land of two leaves and a bud," are bountiful with tea gardens. The area has a unique layout of flora, fauna, rivers, and natural lakes that all together make the land good for tea gardens.
The people have a very specific way to pick the tea leaves: the take a leaf, take the part they need and put it in their baskets. "There's a certain way you pick it and you do it all day. The basket on their back and kids on their front. That's their way of life," says Rafsan Rahman, a native of Bangladesh.
The weather is always warm since the Tropic of Cancer runs through the country.
In monsoon season, it paints a new picture. "Rain is the most beautiful... when it rains, you know from the morning it's going to rain. It gets really windy and your doors starts banging. Then, when it rains, it downpours. It rains like crazy and then it stops," says Purnata.
The rain benefits all of the plants. Waterlilies, called "shapla," are the national flower in Bangladesh and they are known for their beauty. This is also where jackfruit, the national fruit, grows abundant as well as other produce, such as mangoes.
"The entire country is filled with old temples, mongol kings, castles, " said Nujhat Purnata.
Bangladesh is filled with history and change. In 1947, after about two hundred years under British rule, Bangladesh was partitioned as part of Pakistan. It was renamed East Pakistan and Dhaka was declared the capital.
Tensions and dissent grew when Pakistan's government declared Urdu as the national language. On February 21st, 1952, Bengali students protested this decision and were fired upon by police, killing several of the students.
Bengalis everywhere observe this day each year as International Mother Language Day and many pay their respects at the place where the students were killed. However, this tragedy was not the end. It wasn't until December 16th, 1971 that Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan.
The Problems Facing Bangladesh
According to the US Department of State, "Despite significant development achievements, poverty remains a challenge as do infrastructure shortcomings, weak governance structures, and the need for greater investment in human capital."
"Bangladesh’s high population density compounds these challenges. Extremist violence also presents a common challenge. The United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Bangladesh in our effort to defeat extremism," says the USDS.
"There is a lot of political instability. Strikes. Wouldn't go to school for months because of it." The biggest problem? "Population. No space to make roads or money for infrastructure," said Purnata.
Since gaining independence in 1971, "the US is committed to helping achieve its goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2021–its 50th year of independence." The economy has grown at six percent annually for more than two decades.
Bangladesh is a growing, new country. It is very economical to visit; the most expensive thing would be the plane ticket.
For all Americans traveling outside the country, should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
Sierra Sumner is a writer from Massachusetts, Hawaii and California. She loves the outdoors, such as hiking and kayaking, and has traveled all across the US. She hopes to continue her explorations and to encourage others to expand their horizons.