The air is like soup mixed with exotic spices and a hint of pollution. The colors around me keep my gaze in a constant struggle. I sit in the middle of a sea of rickshaws Unable to comprehend the madness that surrounds me. When I close my eyes I hear thousands of bicycle bells serenading the absolute insanity. This is the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. It’s a gritty mess of poor infrastructure, mass poverty, heavy pollution, and extreme overcrowding. Dig past all of this and you will see what Bangladesh is truly about, its deep rooted culture, amazing cuisines, incredible hospitality and historical sights hiding in plain view. It is an absolute assault on the senses, but if you brave Dhaka and dive in, you will be rewarded with one of the most spectacular destinations on earth!
Why Visit Bangladesh?
Bangladesh is one of the least touristy countries I have ever visited. This is strange to me as there is so much to see and do here. First, Bangladesh’s culture and history are very unique and should not be mistaken as being the same as India.
The 8th most populated country on earth is devoutly Muslim and some of the most stunning Islamic architecture can be found here. Bangladesh also hosts national parks that are teeming with wildlife. Seeing the elusive Bengal Tiger is a possibility here.
My experience in Bangladesh was amazing and apart from the sights, wildlife and adventure the hospitality of the Bangladeshi people was the real draw for me. As the people do not see many tourists they treat travelers with the utmost respect and will often go to great lengths to make sure you are felt welcome.
The Sights and Experiences of Dhaka
This is my favorite sight in Dhaka. Set on the shore of the Buriganga River here is where you can see the lifeline of Bangladesh, its intricate river systems. At the port, locals from all over Bangladesh paddle here to sell their good. The river is covered in a array of boats selling everything from livestock to fruits. The market spills over the banks of the river and makes for amazing photography! The Sadarghat Port was the gate to Bangladesh at one time.
One of my favorite experiences in Bangladesh was boarding a row boat at the gritty dock of Sadarghat and paddling around the Buriganag River!
Babu Bazaar and Dhaka’s Old City
In the heart of Dhaka is the Babu Bazaar. This is the most chaotic are of Dhaka and even possibly Asia. It can be maddening to traverse the area on foot, but also immense fun. You can sample spicy Bengali cuisine, shop for traditional outfits and sip tea with comical characters. There’s also a few seedy avenues dedicated to the hermaphrodites which are believed to have mystical powers.
Mughal fortress dating from the 17th century is unfinished, but well worth the visit. The fort mirrors many of those in Agra, India. Locals come here for picnics along the Buriganga River.
Dhaka’s Historic Mosques and Shrines
Dhaka has a plethora of Historic Mosques and Shrines, many I visited were not in the guide books or even had names! The easiest way to explore Dhaka’s mosques is by hiring a local guide to show you around. He will also make it possible for you to enter many of Dhaka’s sights that are usually forbidden to enter!
Riding a Cycle-Rickshaw in Dhaka
Do as the locals do, hop aboard one of the millions of Dhaka’s cycle rickshaw and set off into the madness of Dhaka City. This is easily one of Bangladesh’s most enthralling experiences.
I found the best way to see Dhaka, is to rent a colourful rickshaw and slowly make your way through undercover, this way you can see life go on in a natural setting.
Bangladesh’s Delicious Food in Dhaka
Weather its fragrant saffron rice, spicy biryani or Smokey kebabs, Bangladeshi cuisine is scrumptious and extremely underrated. Head to the streets and sample some of the most flavourful food of your life and wash it down with endless cups of strong Bangladeshi Tea!
Riding the Rocket Paddle Steamer in Dhaka
Transport in Bangladesh used to be solely done by its waterways. In the old day’s explorers and intrepid travelers would slowly make their way to locations in Bangladesh by steam boats. These journeys would be long, but peaceful. Luckily many of these old steam boats are still in operation! The most famous is dubbed the Rocket Paddle Steamer!
The Rocket is an orange steam boat equipped with a large circular paddle wheel, boarding this piece of history gets you the opportunity to travel Bangladesh as travelers did long ago. From the Sadarghat Port the Rocket departs and heads deep into the Sundarbans National Park. You will slowly move past lush jungles, remote communities and see stunning fiery sunsets of the rivers. It’s an amazing experience that I highly recommend.
Head down to the Sadarghat Port to check the boat times as they change frequently, but the trips depart daily from Dhaka at 6:30 PM, reaching Morelgonj the gateway to the Sunderbands, at 2:30 PM the next day. I highly recommend getting a first class cabin, it’s not expensive (about $45.00) and you will get a private room.
Dhaka Bangladesh Travel Information
Location: Dhaka Bangladesh
Guide Book: Lonely Planet Bangladesh
Top Tips: Dhaka can be very overwhelming, rent a rickshaw for the day to get you around, it’s cheap and you will make a friend!