Bangladesh, the Land of Bengal, is a South Asian country marked by lush greenery and many waterways. It is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet with over 150 million inhabitants living in a fascinating way with their environment. About half the total area of the country is no higher than 10m above sea level, which has led to a unique river-based way of life. The Ganges and Brahmaputra are the two main rivers of Bangladesh, carrying tonnes of silt from the mighty Himalayas. Apart from these two rivers, there are hundreds more comprising a very wide and complex river system. Bangladesh is home to the largest mangrove forest in the world, the Sundarbans, best explored as the locals do: by boat. The hilly areas of the North and South-east are lush green landscapes of terraced tea plantations, occupied by smaller tribal groups. The capital city Dhaka, with nearly 17 million people, is a gloriously noisy and chaotic place, bubbling with energy. Predominantly Muslim, Bangla culture is warm and welcoming, and with tourism still in its infancy, there are wonderful opportunities to get to know the locals.
The Kingdom of Bhutan, known to the locals as Druk Yul, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a small landlocked nation in the Himalayas. Mainly due to its physical location, Bhutan was never colonised or conquered and retains its strong sense of national identity. Nearly three quarters of the country is covered in forest. Its highest peak, Kulu Kangri, is over 7,500 metres. The country’s population is very small at just 700,000. Most are Bhote Buddhists and ethnic Nepalese. The Taktsang monastery (known as Tigers Nest) is the country’s best known icon but there are many more highlights on offer. While Bhutan may be one of the least developed societies, it may just be one of the happiest. The Gross National Happiness philosophy developed by ruler King Jigme Singye Wangchuk measures the well- being and happiness of the people, rather than material wealth measurements.
If you’re the sort of traveller who enjoys connecting with friendly locals, in a place where you’re unlikely to bump into many tourists, then this is the trip for you.
||15 November 2024|
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