A mosaic of cultures, the land of six seasons, the golden Bengal allows you to see her in her many facets with the turn of every season. Summer brings the smell of ripe, sweet mangoes and jackfruits in every household; winter paints the picture of a mother sitting over her mud stove cooking hot rice cakes and spring heralds blue skies and windy evenings.
Arguably though, the best time to enjoy Bangladesh is monsoon. Almost lyrical and poetic in its clouded splendour, rural Bengal washes away grit and grime and adorns an even greener veil of beauty. This monsoon, Lifestyle puts together some must-see places in Bangladesh and some best to avoid owing to the risks they may involve.
Places to go:
Rolling hills, forests, a different dialect, spicy food and the sheets of rain pouring down make Sylhet a must-visit. Although most attractions in Sylhet are best observed in the dry season, this place offers a retreat from the busy city life.
Tucked among the small hills and greenery there are many resorts offering views of the forests, small villages and distant hills. A boat ride in Lalakhal or through the Shari River or simply an evening spent immersed in your favourite book whilst the relentless rain pours down can be rewarding.
For the more adventurous -- take a tour in the swamp forests of Ratargul in Sylhet while the clouds offer respite and a beautiful sky to complete your tour.
Not one of the top tourist places in Bangladesh, North Bengal is pristine and untouched. Small villages, large prairies, small pockets of Shal forests, temples, old ruins and packed with a uniquely country culture -- it is worth a try.
Visit Jaipurhat in Rajshahi and find yourselves among the old ruins of zamindar mansions, on a boat cruise, or just walking along the beaten road of a village. Or book your tickets to Tetulia, the northern tip of Bangladesh. Motor-cycle rides, walks around the tea-gardens of Panchagarh, the fat white rice drowned in thin gravy and the rain all make for a quintessentially Bengali experience.
Haors in Sunamganj
The wetlands take on a whole new look come monsoon. The land is washed away to be replaced with vast expanses of water. Tanguar Haor in Sunamganj, Hakaluki Haor in Sylhet or Hail Haor in Srimangal all offer a unique niche for travellers looking for something different. Spending nights on a boat, casting your net to catch fish -- your meal for the day -- or counting the stars as night falls on the water-lands: here is a promise of something new.
Places not to go:
It is often difficult to put pen on paper to name places where we should not go. After all Bangladesh moults its skin every season to take on a new look. However monsoons do pack in considerable amount of risk owing to the possibility of cyclones, floods or landslides rendering some places best not visited.
Packed with tourists during the winter, Cox's Bazaar remains mostly isolated during monsoons, for good reason too. The sea is restless and very rough during the rains making it highly risky to even go for a swim. With such a low number of tourists, the hotels too take on a ghostly look. Heavy rains could also result in landslides blocking off the streets for hours. All said, Cox's Bazaar is best experienced in all its bustle and business in winter.
River Cruises in the Padma or Meghna
Heavy rains usually also make our rivers high-risk zones. Although river cruises can be very rewarding, a swim or a bathe in the river becomes almost impossible in the heavy rains owing to strong currents and also makes the cruise a little dangerous with chances of capsizing.
Chittagong Hill Tracts
Some of the highest elevations in the country with some of the most beautiful sights, the hill tracts become auspices of danger during monsoon. Trekking becomes highly difficult as the mud turns slippery along with imminent threats of landslides due to heavy rains that continue for days.
Photo: Sakib Ahmed