Places with photo galleries in Asia
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Chittagong Hill Tracts
Though Boga Lake is beautiful, it is not so much the place itself than it is the journey to get there that is the real attraction. The trip from Bandarban is just stunning and takes you down the Sangu river and through what must be some of the finest hill country. Rolling green hills dotted with tribal villages, sloping fields and the occasional bamboo hut on stilts. The different tribes which inhabit the area are Marma and Bawn people, where the latter lives right at Boga Lake. The trip to the lake can be combined with a trek up to the highest mountain/hill in Bangladesh, Mt Keokradang (986 m... and not 1230 m as stated other places).
For travel information how to get there, check out the photo gallery.
Sadarghat, Old Dhaka
Renting a row boat (with boat man) to slowly go up and down the Buriganga river is a great way to get some relieving distance to the mind-blowing chaos on land. But since this is Dhaka, do not expect tranquility. The river is equally packed with boats in any size, from your tiny dinky to the big paddle-wheels ferries, along with swimming kids and waste from the whole capital. The big ships have the right of way, while everyone else is dodging for their life. Along the banks people are using the filthy river for cloth washing and bathing, even though the dark water is dense with floating garbage and the river is officially declared biological dead.
Let us be hornest, Cox's Bazar is not the prettiest place on earth, or Bangladesh for that matter. A more appropiated name for this beach town would have been Cox's Bizar, for it is quit frankly hiddious and bizar. It is everything that can go wrong with a holdiday resort area, and makes Costa del Sol looks like an architectorial masterpiece. The shore is lined with neverending concret sceletors of upcoming hotels in the worst third-world design, so ugly that they hurt your eyes. The wide beach is a different story and the reason to come here. It is a surprisingly nice stretch of sand and part of the longest beach in world (see also Inani beach). But even here it can get crowded with lazy cows, stray dogs and curious gawkers. Funny enough, hardly anyone swims in the sea, a group photo knee deep in the Bay of Bengal is the main idea of beach fun. And the scary part, local tourists just adore the place.
Chittagong Hill Tracts near Bandarban
Not all of Bangladesh is flat. Near the border to Myanmar in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the landscape folds into green rolling hills divided by ravines and winding rivers. Here on the slopes, among bamboo forests and rice fields, live different indigenous hill tribes in simple villages. There is the Marma, Mru, Bawn, Tripura and probably a few other ethnic groups. The Bawn people are fairly modern with solid houses and satellite discs on their roofs, but both the Mru and Tripura live in stilt huts made of bamboo and wood. Some of the elderly women there even walk around bare-chested with gaping earlobes. This is probably the most exciting region in Bangladesh and can be explored from Bandarban, either by hiking or by car.
Longest beach in the world (120km)
Inani beach, but actually all the way from Bakkhali river to Teknaf
It is a bit ironic that the longest beach in the world lies in muslim country where the ladies' idea of a beach outfit is a burqa, people swim fully dressed and certainly nobody sun bathes. This the-longest-beach-in-the-world beach does not just have one single name, instead every single stretch has a name of its own. The most famous parts are Laboni, also known as Cox's Bazar beach, Himchari, and Inani. The last one being the most charming of them all with local fishermen and boats looking like toy pirate ships. The beach is actually only the longest natural beach in the world, getting beaten badly by Cassino beach in Brazil at 240km long, but for some reason beyond us, Cassino beach does not officially count as one unbroken natural beach.
One of the reasons to come to Bangladesh in the first place, and probably the reason why you want to leave again, is the amazing people. They are friendly, helpful, curious and, well, everywhere. Being one of the most congested countries in the world, it can be hard to find a quiet corner. Wherever you go someone will come up to you and ask for "the name of your country" and maybe venture into something about your marital status and profession. It is all very sweet and innocent in the beginning, but after week or two it can turn brain numbing. Either you will love them, or simply turn mental.
9km from the Vietnamese border
Angkaul Beach is so new on the travel map that neither locals nor travellers have figured it out yet. It is still just a sleepy fisher village among coconut palms and a beautiful natural coast line only broken by more coconut palms. The beach isn't particularly mind blowing, just a narrow strip of sand mixed with grass, sea weed and garbage from the ocean, but it is pretty idyllic and tranquil with locals drying starfishes in the sun and cheeky kids playing in the water. There is no official accommodation yet but one entrepreneur lady has put up the first beach cafe consisting of a few hammocks and a menu offering coconuts and sea food.
7 km from Siem Reap
Once covered by the jungle and rarely visited, the temple area of Angkor is now part of the beaten track in Southeast Asia, but for a good reason. These magnificent temples were once the centre of the mighty Khmer kingdom (ninth century to the fifteenth century A.D.) and the main temple Angkor Wat is considered the world's largest religious complex. Remember to read up on Hindu mythology to get a chance to understand its outstanding bas-reliefs or just be impressed by the grand scale. Split your explore time equally between the big ones; Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon (picture) and the minor ones; Preah Khan, Neak Pean, and Preah Ko, which lack in scale but win in tranquillity. If your time permits, add some sites that are a drive out of the way, like Banteay Srei, Kbal Spean and Beng Mealea.
Bokor Hill Station
Bokor mountain in Preah Monivong National Park
To escape the tropical heat of the low land, the French built an elaborated hill retreat in 1921 at the top of Bokor mountain, deep in the Cambodian jungle. At 1062 m, the weather here is chilly with clouds rolling in, probably giving the French colonists a flavour of their Alps. The hill station consisted of a catholic church, post office, and the flashy Grand Bokor Palace Hotel & Casino with a ball hall and gambling rooms. The hill station was first abandoned in 1940 and later in 1972 when the Khmer Rouge took power of the area. During the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, the Khmer Rouge withdraw to the jungle and kept Bokor Hill Station as a stronghold, which was still under Khmer Rouge control until the 1990s. Today you can join a tour to visit the ghost town. The company of Sokimex (yes, same company who owns all the gas stations and the entrance to Angkor Wat) has magically gained a 99-years-lease of Bokor Mountain and is now building another 5-stars resort and casino.
Jungle temple of Beng Mealea
About 70 km from Siem Reap
Cambodia's treasure of ancient temples goes beyond the group at Angkor. The mystical temple of Beng Mealea is one of those. Built in the Angkorian period, 40 km from Angkor Wat on an ancient royal highway, it was among the biggest temples. Today, it is a magical ruin that has been hidden under the jungle carpet until recently. Giant serpent-like roots are slowly crushing the walls, while a web of smaller roots are holding the place together. You have to crawl over fine carved sandstone blocks, duck under fallen pillars, and hang in vines to get through the giant maze of closed courtyards, dark chambers and rising towers. Though there are boardwalks at some sections, it is a raw experience to explore this hidden jewel. This jungle temple makes Ta Prohm, the famous jungle temple at Angkor, look like a groomed little brother.