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Considering how dirt poor Bangladesh is, it will come as a surprise to see how few beggars there actually are. Since most people own very little (about 37% live under poverty line) there are not many to beg from. Nevertheless, you will find beggars in any city, town or village. Scruffy looking street kids, scarily thin old people barely able to walk and horribly disfigured characters walking the streets, standing at mosques or patrolling traffic signals asking for a bit of help. Be prepared for it, for it is heartbreaking to see how miserable some people live.
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.
Everywhere in the countryside
As soon as you leave the densely built area of Dhaka, you will be met by a flat landscape punctuated by tall chimneys. These are traditional brick factories, where slabs of mud turn into red bricks in coal heated ovens (so called kilns). The bricks weigh about two kilos each and some workers carry more than twenty of them... on their heads. The factories only operate during dry season and close down during the monsoon, leaving a strange ghost landscape. Besides being the source of a good part of the country's air pollution, the factories also engage in child labour and pay close to nothing for the bone breaking work. A visit will give you some insight into how harsh conditions some people are living under, and a perspective on how crappy your own job might feel.
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.
Even though Chittagong is the second biggest city in Bangladesh, its old town feels less claustrophobic than its insane big brother, Dhaka. There is not much to see or do here, beside the usual Bangladesh activities like people watching and getting lost in the streets and bazaars. Though Chittagong has once been a proud seaport, these days the town is probably most famous for the many ship breaking plants along the coast, where huge ships are pulled apart by pure manpower for scrap recycling. Unfortunately, these plants can be difficult to get into, for no site manager is happy to see a happy-snappy tourist lurking around these polluting death traps.
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.
In mainly Muslim Bangladesh you will not come across many Buddhist temples, but this one is among the few. It stands a baby taxi (tuk-tuk) ride from Bandarban and is quite beautiful and shiny. Not much seems to be going on here, but the views over the valley and Sangu river are magnificent.
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.
Baby taxi ride out of Bagerhat
This tiny Hindu tower would normally not have made the list, if it was not for the fact that it lies in Bangladesh, and not neighboring India. The official name is Khodla Math temple and it lies forgotten in a suburban neighborhood outside Bagerhat. The hollow inner does not contain many surprises, but can be accessed by asking the neighbor for the key to the iron doors.
The Bagerhat area flourished under a local hero named Khan Jahan Ali in the 15th century. Islam was taught and mosques were built. To this day, some of these old buildings still stand and attract a small crowd of local pilgrims and the odd traveller. They are all very simple and humbled looking. Shait Gumbad mosque is the biggest. It is also called the 60 domes mosque, which is a bit strange considering it actually has 77 of them. Other mosques in the area worth exploring are Singar mosque, Bibi Begni mosque and Dargah mosque. The old mosques of Bagerhat is one of the few World Heritage Sites in Bangladesh.