Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Formerly known as East Pakistan, Bangladesh came into being only in 1971, when the two parts of Pakistan split after a bitter civil war which drew in neighboring India. Bangladesh spent 15 years under military rule and, although democracy was restored in 1990, the political scene remains volatile.

Most of the country is formed by the alluvial plain of the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system - the largest delta in the world; water flow is second only to that of the Amazon. To the east of the delta lie the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Flooding is normal and life has adapted totake account of this. Occasionally, excessive flooding, as in 1988, 1998 and 2004, causes widespread destruction and loss of life.

The landscape in Bangladesh is mainly flat with many bamboo-, mango- and palm-covered plains created by the effects of the great river systems of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. The Sundarbans in southwest Bangladesh is one of the largest mangrove forests in the world and the area supports a variety of wildlife, including the Royal Bengal tiger, the national animal. Today, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries and poverty is deep and widespread, although the population growth has reduced and the health and education systems have improved.

However, there have been political tensions in recent years. As a result, travelers are advised against all but essential travel to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (this does not include the city of Chittagong) because of the risk of being caught up in clashes between rival tribal groups, settlers and the military.

The People’s Republic of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, is bordered to the west and northwest by West Bengal (India), to the north by Assam and Meghalaya (India), to the east by Assam and Tripura (India) and by Myanmar (Burma) to the southeast. The landscape is mainly flat. A large part of Bangladesh is made up of alluvial plain, caused by the effects of the two great river systems of the Ganges (Padma) and the Brahmaputra (Jamuna) and their innumerable tributaries. In the northeast and east of the country, the landscape rises to form forested hills. To the southeast, along the Burmese and Indian borders, the land is hilly and wooded. About one-seventh of the country’s area is under water and flooding occurs regularly.

Bangladesh Food & Dining

There are plenty of good restaurants in Dhaka and main towns around the country. Western food can be found in most hotels and in some large restaurants.

Things to know:
Alcohol is expensive and strict Muslim customs severely limit availability and drinking times, although leading hotels have bars which will serve alcohol.
National specialties:
• Curries such as korma, bhuna, masala gosht, kashmiri and tikka.
• Dishes are usually served with rice, naan or paratha (griddle-fried flat breads).
• Kebabs arewidely available.
• Seafood and fresh-water fish are in natural abundance and smoked hilsa, fresh bhetki, chingri and prawns are definitely worth trying.
• Desserts tend to be sweet and milky, such as misti dhohi (sweetened yogurt), zorda (sweet rice with nuts) and ros malai (round sweets floating in thick milk).

National drinks:
Chai (milky sweet tea).
Lassi (yogurt drink).
• Coconut water.

Most services expect a tip in hotels; give 10% for restaurant staff.

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