There aren’t many cities left in the world that can throw the visitor from the 21st century seemingly back to the 11th century as they turn a street corner, but Dhaka is without doubt one of the most extreme examples still out there. Bustling, teeming, colorful and perpetual serve well to describe this most overwhelming of destinations, seemingly always on the edge of collapse yet seemingly sustained solely by it’s endless commotion.
Dhaka offers the open minded visitor absolute sensory overload – and a number of unmissable attractions hidden a midst levels of poverty that will shock even the most extreme traveler. However, for those willing to take their place in the crazy flamboyance of daily Bangladeshi life, there’s 1400 years of epic history to appreciate and enjoy here.
Take An Auto-Rickshaw Tour:
While it may hardly sound the most thrilling of experiences, be assured that even for visitors on the tightest budget auto-rickshaws are the vessels that keep this city in motion. Overwhelming congestion and kamikaze driving ought to rule out any notion of hiring a private car or extremely rare taxi, but for very little outlay one of the cities hundreds of thousands of auto-rickshaw drivers will gladly spend the day weaving between the traffic on your behalf.
Most of the larger syndicated operators have a few drivers who speak good English and can serve as rudimentary tour guides as you traverse the maze of streets, and are happy to wait while you explore one of the many destinations they will show you.
Tip well – especially if planning on using the service again – and expect to have a knowledgeable and friendly personal concierge for the duration of the stay in Dhaka.
Baitul Mukarram Mosque:
The world’s tenth largest mosque serves as an astonishing example of how important their religion is to the citizens of Dhaka, often being incredibly overcrowded, stiflingly hot and noisy. Even though the majority of the building was constructed in the 1960s, it is an impressing architectural effort that stands resplendently clean compared to it’s neighborhood, and visitors – especially female – are required to follow strict guideline on appropriate attire. On the plus side, visitors are typically rare and those who attend prayer will find themselves warmly welcomed according to traditional islamic hospitality.
The Lalbagh Fortress:
Compared to European castles it may not look much, but the Lalbagh fort is an essential part of the history of Dhaka and a rare spot of open peace and quiet in such a full-on city. Dating from the 17th century the fort has seen a vast array of battles and intrigue, and there’s an array of guides-for-hire who will happily explain the site for a matter of pennies. There is a small mosque on site, so remember to dress respectfully.
The Baldha Gardens:
After just a couple of days it’s perfectly normal for the visitor to Dhaka to feel a need for peace, quiet and green spaces, all of which the Baldha gardens serve to provide. Long regarded as one of South Asia’s principle sites for botanical conversation, the immaculate gardens are lovingly tended and home to over six hundred different types of flora and fauna. The aroma is enough to make this site forever memorable, as indigenous and imported flowers assimilate into a cascade of colors.
It can be rare to find zoos in the developing world as well thought out and pleasant as this, especially considering that it is home to some of the world’s rarest species. Be assured that international funding and local expertise have shown that it is possible to protect and breed iconic creatures here, and that entry prices are kept extremely low to encourage both locals and visitors to appreciate the best of the natural world.
The Liberation War Museum:
It’s no secret that Bangladesh has had a long and sometimes bloody path to becoming an independent state, and this museum focuses upon much more than guns and battles. In truth it is a vivid and inspired telling of the campaign for national liberation that provides Bangladeshis such a sense of their unique place in the world, and is probably the finest museum in the entire country.