Diary of my first 03 weeks trip to Bangladesh (Part – II)

Dec 12th, 2013: Dhaka

Leaving UK via Dubai arriving Dec 12th – 6.5 hours to Dubai, 04 hours stop over is OK, and onward 4.5 hours to Dhaka. Nothing can prepare you for this city, though we have a nice roomy apartment in a nice area. There are a few political problems and the government have hanged a war criminal today! To bed – after ordering breakfast of course.

Dec 13th, 2013: Dhaka

Breakfast – well its local parathas and vegetable curry which is quite hot so mind the green chilies. It comes in a plastic bag, and omelets which is wrapped in newspaper. Its OK. There are no trains today as main signal box was set on fire – so things are looking up for this trip. Warm and overcast. Noisy dusty traffic fumes, awful traffic jams – rickshaws, some electrified drive so fast, but its quick at times to walk all the same.

Star Masque in Old Dhaka

Richard head off with his new rail friend, we do city tour. Earthquakes and cyclones have destroyed over the years a lot of the important places which are in old Dhaka. You really need to experience this place, especially the smells. The drains are awful and at the end of our sightseeing we take an hour trip on the river. It is amazing and interesting, but OMG the smell – its foul-black inky and just awful.

We head back to Apartment – meet with Richard and walk to a local recommended eatery. Its OK with a Chinese influenced and its good food which we enjoy. Mock-tails are a 03 layers – Fanta orange – Coke and Sprite – how do they do this?

A narrow street in Old Dhaka

Dec 14th, 2013: Sonargaon

Richard goes off. We have trip to Sonargaron the old capital – a really delightful day out. Guide is great and very helpful. We also visit a gorgeous 15th century old brick mosque, Goaldi Mosque. Then an abandoned Hindu city – Panam Nagar. It has a romantic air about it. We are popular with the local school children practicing on the main playing field. Try some lovely round samosas like pastries.

A building on abandoned merchant city Panam Nagar

We take a break at the apartment – meeting up with Richard. He seems to have had quite a way with the local rails fans in town, and are apparently a nightmare and next to useless – get in the way and have been duly reprimanded and sent home!

If you’ve missed the first part of my diary, you can read it here: Diary of my first 03 weeks trip to Bangladesh (Part – I). Also can read the next part here: Diary of my first 03 weeks trip to Bangladesh (Part – III). Consider sharing the story in social media so that more travelers can know about this amazing country which is little known to everyone. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: Have you ever visited Bangladesh? How amazing have you found it? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Contact us to publish your Bangladesh travel story here. Check out our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.

How to get Bangladesh overland visa on arrival in Indian border

According to the new visa rule for Bangladesh, it is now possible to get on arrival visa of Bangladesh in the land borders with India beside the airports. Europeans, Americans, Russians, and some Asian country citizens can get the on arrival visa in some selected land borders with India. Although it is little bit tricky and you need to have enough confidence while in the Indian side of the border to let you go, there are few reports from the western travelers who have recently got the on arrival visa for Bangladesh in the land borders.

Who are eligible to get Bangladesh overland visa on arrival

Visa policy of Bangladesh has been eased recently to help people to get Bangladesh visa more easily, specially to encourage tourists and business travelers. Citizens of Europe, America, Russia, and some Asian countries are eligible to get Bangladesh on arrival visa on the land borders too beside the airports. Please note that Indians are NOT eligible to get Bangladesh visa on arrival in the land borders. They need to apply for a regular visa on the Bangladesh consulates in India. Here is the list of people who are eligible to get Bangladesh visa on arrival – both in land borders and in airports:

  • The nationals of those countries where there is no diplomatic mission of Bangladesh may be granted visa on arrival after examining the genuineness of their visit.
  • Only for the purpose of official duty, business, investment and tourism, citizens arriving from USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russian Federation, China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, UAE, Saudi Arabia (KSA), Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and the countries of Europe may issue Bangladesh visa on arrival after examining and being satisfied by the immigration authority at the Airports and Land Ports.
  • If any foreign national arrives in Bangladesh from a country other than his/her own country, where there is no mission of Bangladesh may be issued visa on arrival.
  • Bangladeshi origin foreign citizens, their spouses and their offspring may be issued visa on arrival, on the proof of their being Bangladeshi origin.
  • On the basis of invitation letters of interested/required body being attested by the Board of Investment/BEPZA, the foreign investors/businessmen may be allowed to issue visa on arrival. In this case, interested/inviting organization must inform in advance the arrival of the foreign visitor(s) to the immigration and passport authority.
  • The staffs/officials of the foreign missions, UN or its affiliated organizations located in Bangladesh may be issued visa on arrival after examining their appointment letters or other related documents. Only UN passport holders will get such facilities gratis (free of charge).

Source: http://bit.ly/1NouktM

Which border to get Bangladesh on arrival visa

Bangladesh has many land borders with India, but it will not be possible to get on arrival visa in every border. Immigration offices require to have some facilities to issue on arrival visa for Bangladesh which are not available in every border right now. You can get Bangladesh visa on arrival in the Benapole / Petrapole border only, which is close to Kolkata.

Reports of getting Bangladesh on arrival visa in the land borders

So far there has been several reports of Bangladesh on arrival visa in the Indian borders on different travel forums. Some of the reports are as follows with their original source:

I recently did this – went in November by bus from Kolkata to the Bangladesh border, got a visa on arrival, carried on all the way to Dhaka by local buses, one hop at a time.. getting the VOA was no problem, the Bangla officials were kind and helpful, I didn’t have to show anything other than my passport, but it did cost $50 and another $8 tax when I came back the same way. I have India multiple entry visa so no issue with Indian immigration either. I went by the biggest land crossing at Benapole/Petrapol.. got the Greenline bus to there at 6am from very near Sudder St in Kolkata.. initially I tried to get a visa from Bangla consulate in Kolkata and they had refused saying just get a VOA at Dhaka airport – they were very busy and didn’t want to answer any questions regarding land crossing, I didn’t want to fly so I just went by bus and it worked fine.

– Peter Lee, United Kingdom (January, 2015)
Source: http://bit.ly/1NouRf8

Firstly: it is possible for citizens of certain countries (definitely the EU, where we’re from, check the official websites for the full list) to get a 30 day visa on arrival at certain land borders of Bangladesh. This does not include the border crossing the Maitree Express, the direct train from Dhaka to Calcutta, uses. We found out the hard way when we were kicked off the train at the Indian side of the border and sent to a different crossing, at Petrapole-Benapole.

If you are travelling overland from Calcutta getting the visa on arrival seems to be the only option, since the Bangladeshi High Commission in Calcutta would not even let us in the door, as we were Europeans and thus did not need a visa. They also told us we would definitely be able to get a VoA where the train crosses, though, so double-check all information they give you.

At Petrapole-Benapole, we had to be very firm with the Indian customs agents, who were convinced that it was impossible for us to get the VoA just a few hundred meters down the road, and did not want to let us leave the country. Eventually they called their Bangladeshi counterparts and asked, and then let us through. We convinced them mostly because we had a multiple entry visa for India, and so would always be able to come back. If you have a single entry visa they may cause you more trouble.

Once on the Bangladeshi side everything was very easy – since the Indians had called ahead we were expected and just made to sit in an office for an hour while a lot of forms were filled out for us. Everyone was very friendly, and even the police seemed mostly just excited to meet tourists. We found a bus to Dhaka (7 hours) and got there just after midnight, 17 hours after leaving Calcutta, though you can save a lot of time by not getting on the wrong train first;)

If you already have a visa the Maitree Express is probably a more comfortable way to get across the border. Tickets are not sold online, but you have to go to the office on Fairlie Place in Calcutta, and enter on the left side rather than the right where most of the other tourists will be (again, we got this wrong initially and queued for an extra hour). We managed to get a ticket one day before departure, 2nd class but still with quite comfortable tour bus-type seats.

– Edulis, Netherlands (February, 2015)
Source: http://bit.ly/1RKstDh

Have you ever got Bangladesh overland visa on arrival in the Indian border? How was your experience? Share with us in comments.

Bagha Mosque – A magnificent medieval period mosque in Bangladesh

During the long Islamic rule in Bengal on the medieval period, the rulers made many magnificent mosques, a big part of which is located in current days Bangladesh. These mosques typically had a big pool annexed with it, which was part of charity work by the state, to facilitate the religious needs and also full-fill the demand of drinking water. As stone was not available in Bengal, these mosques were mostly built with burned clay, ornamented with beautiful terracotta. Bagha Mosque is one of these beautiful mosques in current day’s Bangladesh.

Bagha Mosque is a beautiful pre-Mughal period mosque, located in a remote village named “Bagha”, 40 km south-east of Rajshahi. It is known from a inscription stone found in Bagha Mosque complex that it was built in 1523 A.D. by the Sultan of Bengal Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah. He was the son of Ala-ud-din Husain Shah who was an independent late medieval Sultan of Bengal, and founder of the Hussain Shahi dynasty. The inscription stone is currently preserved in a museum at Karachi in Pakistan.

Bagha Mosque in Rajshahi, one of the most beautiful mosques in Bangladesh

Bagha Mosque is 75 feet X 42 feet in length, 24 feet 06 inch in height. It’s walls are 08 feet thick. The whole compound is built in a raised platform, annexed with a big pool. There are two entrance in north and south side to enter the compound. The north entrance is recently built after the renovation. The south entrance is intact and has octagonal pillars with dome shaped top.

The mosque has four octagonal corner turrets, which form a part of the building. These turrets are beautifully decorated with terracotta. Top of these turrets are dome shaped, and still exists. There are five pointed-archways in the east side, and two in the north and south side each, to enter the mosque. The archways in north and south walls are closed by gratings.

The original south entrance to enter the complex of Bagha Mosque which still exists

The mosque has 10 dome in total – 05 dome in 02 rows each, supported by four corner turrets and six free standing stone pillars. The roof of Bagha Mosque was collapsed during the great earthquake in 1897 AD. and was carefully restored later in 1980 A.D. by the archaeological department of Bangladesh.

Central entrance of Bagha Mosque, a beautiful medieval period mosque in Bangladesh, with inscription stone on top of the entrance

In the west wall, the central mihrab is located straight ahead of the central entrance. Two other mihrab is located on the south side of central mihrab, straight ahead of the two southern entrances. Instead of the fourth mihrab on the northern side, there is a beautifully designed panel. The fifth mihrab is small and located on top, which indicates that there was a gallery on this corner, which were normally made for the rulers, higher officials, and their immediate entourage.

Inside view of Bagha Mosque, a beautiful medieval period mosque in Bangladesh

The whole outer walls of Bagha Mosque is very beautifully decorated with terracotta. A 30 feet X 20 feet size paved in-house pool has been discovered outside the mosque during the excavation work in 1997, which has stairs from three sides. It had a tunnel connected with inside.

A Muslim holy man named Shah Doula came to this area in 1505 AD from Baghdad with five companion to spread Islam, who said to be the founder of the area ‘Bagha’. On his fame many people were gathered in this area. There is a shrine of Shah Doula, his five companion, and many unknown people in the northern side of the mosque. Every year a two days fair is organized here during the Eid-al-fitr which is famous as “Bagha Fair”. You’ll see lots of activities here if you visit this mosque on this time.

Old graves outside the decorated wall of Bagha Mosque, a fine example of Islamic architecture in Bangladesh

Have you ever visited the Bagha Mosque in Rajshahi? How magnificent have you found it? Have I missed something here? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Any question about visiting Bagha Mosque? Ask us here! Consider sharing it in social media so that more travelers can know about this beautiful country which is little known to everyone.

Check out our archaeological tours in Bangladesh to visit the most impressive archaeological sites including Bagha Mosque, and our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.

Photo of Bangladesh: Floating timber market of Barisal

The floating timber market of Barisal was started in 1918 on a canal of Sandha river based on the logs coming from Sundarbans. Trading the signature “Sundari” tree of Sundarbans, the largest mangrove swamp in the world, was the main business here on that time. After putting ban by the govt. on trading Sundari tree in 1987 to protect the forest, the tradesmen started trading other trees on this market coming from different parts of the country.

Being located on the heart of Ganges Delta, Barisal has a great network of river connected to the whole country, which was the main reason for this market to become very popular. People could easily transport big logs here through the river from all over the country.

Transporting timber on boat toward the floating timber market of Barisal in Bangladesh.

Transporting logs has become very easy and cost effective because of the river. They tie logs on both side of an engine boat floating on water and move very slowly. Sometimes there are 10-15 boats tied together with loads of logs tied both side of them, and an engine boat drag them from the front. This is a common scene before the 02 market days of the week – Monday and Thursday. They sell these logs sitting on the boats, which make this a floating log market. This is the largest market of it’s kind in Bangladesh.

Lifting logs manually on the floating timber market of Barisal in Bangladesh.

There are also permanent timber shops on the bank of the river. They dump the logs on the river bank and sell from here – 7 days a week. Every log has an unique number from the shop. Lifting and transporting the logs are done using the favor of tide, which makes it less laborious to do manually.

Wire house of the chopped wood for retail sale in the floating timber market of Barisal in Bangladesh.

People come here from everywhere of the country. They buy logs, and chop them in the numerous saw mills according to their needs. There are about 200 saw mills around the floating timber market to do this. Buyers are mainly the owner of furniture shops from all over Bangladesh. About 13-14 hundred people work based on the floating timber market of Barisal. When there is no work, people gather in the huts on the shore drinking tea and socializing. It could be a great experience to have couple of cups of tea with them and hang around for a while and share culture.

A Saw mill on the floating timber market of Barisal in Bangladesh.

Other business also flourished based on this market. A cottage industry is grown here to make local cricket bats because of the cheap timber available on this market. Also grown dozens of nursery to sell trees to plant, which itself has a different floating market in Barisal, and would be another story to tell.

A video on life in the floating timber market at Barisal

Have you ever visited the floating timber market of Barisal in Bangladesh? How amazing have you found it? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Check out our Backwater Photography Tour to experience life on Ganges Delta at Barisal including visiting the floating timber marker.

The charming Jagannath Temple of Puthia in Bangladesh

Puthia is a culturally rich sub-district (Upazila) of the Rajshahi District in Bangladesh. The largest number of historically significant Hindu structures in Bangladesh is found in Puthia. Many of these structures are well preserved and Puthia is an interesting area for tourists to explore and gain insight into the history and culture of Bangladesh. A charming small temple to visit here is the Jagannath temple, also known as the Roth temple.

This Bangla-style miniature temple known as the Jagannath Temple is situated adjacent to the large Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple overlooking the big pond named Shiv Sagar. It is built out of brick, resembling the shape of a Bengali bamboo hut, with a single tapering tower.

The charming Jagannath Temple of Puthia in Bangladesh

The Jagannath temple of Puthia measures only 5m (16ft) on each side. The single tapering tower rises to a height of 10m (33ft). Its western facade is adorned with terracotta panels of geometric design. The temple is octagonal in design and has a corridor surrounding it with 8 pillars.

The charming Jagannath temple of Puthia viewed from the adjacent Shiva temple.

There are two entrance in the north and east side to enter the temple. The entrances has nice decorations on basalt stone frames. This temple is believed to be built by Rani Bhubanmoyi Debi in 1830 AD. It is currently abandoned. Check out here to know more about Puthia and it’s amazing structures: Puthia – An amazing village in Bangladesh full of beautiful temples.

The single tapering tower of Jagannath temple in Puthia, Bangladesh.

Have you ever been to Puthia and visited the Jagannath temple? How amazing you’ve found it? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Any question about visiting Jagannath Temple of Puthia? Ask us here! Consider sharing it in social media so that more travelers can know about this beautiful country which is little known to everyone.

Check out our archaeological tours in Bangladesh to visit the most impressive archaeological sites including Jagannath Temple of Puthia, and our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.

The amazing Pancharatna Gobinda Temple of Puthia

Puthia is a small village in north-western part of Bangladesh, containing the largest number of historical temples. Among them, Pancharatna Gobinda Temple is the most significant, located inside the palace, on the left-hand side of the inner courtyard. It was erected between 1823 and 1895 by Prem Narayan Roy, a Jaminder (feudal land owner) from Puthia royal family.

This ornate temple is an imposing and excellent example of the five spire style (Pancha Ratna) temple architecture mixed with typical Jor-Bangla style. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, as the Puthia royal family were converted to Vaishnavism by Radhamohana Thakura. Today the temple has a Krisna deity in the sanctuary for worship.

Pancharatna Gobinda Temple of Puthia in Bangladesh

Pancharatna Gobinda Temple is a large, square structure, built on a raised platform. It is 12.25 meters in size on each side. It has one central room which is the sanctuary, and four square size small rooms in four corners. There are four entrance in four side of the sanctuary, but the main entrance is located in the west side.

The Cornish of the temple is a little curved in design. It has four ornate tower in the four corners, and a big central tower. Unlike the Kantaji Temple in Dinajpur, it has it’s towers intact. In 1886 and 1897 A.D. there were two great earthquakes on this area when most of the structures were severely damaged, including the palace of Puthia and not so far the towers of Kantaji temple. But because of the building technique, nothing happened to this temple. The stairs of this temple to go upstairs is located in the south side of the temple beside the entrance.

Decorated wall of Pancharatna Gobinda Temple, a magnificent temple at Puthia in Bangladesh devoted to Hindu god Krisna.

The Pancharatna Gobinda Temple has exquisite terracotta ornamentation depicting the divine romance between Krishna and Radha as told in the Hindu epics. It also has battle scenery from Ramayana and Mahabharata, the epic Hindu books, and scenery of different Hindu deities, general life of people and culture, and floral and fauna.

The Pancharatna Gobinda Temple is a must visiting place while visiting Puthia. To know more about the temples and the palace of Puthia, check out here: Puthia: An amazing village in Bangladesh full of beautiful temples.

Terracotta works at Pancharatna Gobinda Temple, a magnificent Hindu temple at Puthia in Bangladesh.

Have you visited the Pancharatna Gobinda Temple in Puthia? How amazing have you found it? Have I missed something? Share your experience and thoughts with us in comments. Any question about visiting Pancharatna Gobinda Temple of Puthia? Ask us here! Consider sharing it in social media so that more travelers can know about this beautiful country which is little known to everyone.

Check out our archaeological tours in Bangladesh to visit the most impressive archaeological sites including Pancharatna Gobinda Temple of Puthia, and our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.

Breath-taking Bangladesh: Our unforgettable experience

I had never imagined that I would find myself in Bangladesh, but you never know where life will lead you: the man I fell in love with grew up in Bangladesh. He had survived his visit to my native Essex, so it was only fair I visited his country! My husband is from Dhaka but it had been a while since he had visited, and he wanted to use a tour company to take the stress out of organizing outings and negotiating the formidable traffic.

Our research led us to Nijhoom Tours and we decided they were what we were looking for. We booked two day trips: the Sonargaon Old Capital Tour and the Old Dhaka Tour.

Day-01: Old Capital Sonargaon

Sonargaon was once the capital of Eastern Bengal, centuries before British rule, and is the site of reminders of a bygone age. Mushfiq our guide for the day arrived on time to pick us up from our hotel – no mean feat in Dhaka’s traffic. He introduced himself and our driver for the day and outlined what sights we were going to see. We were joined by just one other tourist – a nice small group.

He apologized about the traffic but pointed out that we would see many interesting scenes from our car windows on route. He was not wrong – at one point we were joined by an elephant at some traffic lights! The traffic was bad but Mushfiq kept us entertained by talking about Dhaka’s history and people. Eventually we left the traffic and hustle and bustle of Dhaka behind, and were cruising through lush green countryside.

Our first stop was an enchanting 500 years old red brick mosque, not used anymore but preserved as an example of the architecture of the time.  While in the area, we dropped in on a school made out of bamboo where we were invited in to see the end of an English lesson. The children seemed delighted to have visitors and were very keen to practice their English and have a go on Mushfiq’s iPad!

Children being taught English on a school at Sonargaon in Bangladesh.

Waving goodbye to the children we continued through Sonargaon’s sleepy back roads to a beautiful pink and white palace. Now a museum, it was once a Hindu merchant’s home that has been beautifully preserved.

Taking a respite from the history tour, Mushfiq wanted to show us something of life on the banks of Bengal’s mighty rivers.  Being close to the confluence of 03 rivers (the Meghna, Brahmaputra, and Buriganga), he led us through a street market to the shore, where we cast off in a motor boat for a small village on an island in the middle of the water. The river is so wide you can’t see one bank from the other. Through the haze we saw many brightly painted dredgers in action in their daily battle to clear the silt clogged river, boats laden with red bricks and small fishing boats- their occupants waving enthusiastically as we passed.

The boat push off on the way to a remote village in a river island at Sonargaon in Bangladesh.

The villagers gave us a very warm reception and were keen to show us the new houses they were building and the new village toilet. Mushfiq acted as translator so we could answer the villager’s questions and them ours. We found out that they grow several types of rice and also catch fish to earn income. We wandered through the village with a growing number of excited children behind us and ended up on a bridge with a breath-taking view of the various islands spanning the river.

I was reflecting on what it must be like to live in such a remote place as we made our way back to our boat, when one of the children requested that we ‘like’ the village Facebook page!

Once back on the boat, Mushfiq made a phone call to place our lunch order at a local restaurant so that it would be ready just as we arrived at the restaurant on the other side of the river. He informed us that before adding a restaurant to their list, Nijhoom tests out and makes sure that their kitchens have good hygiene standards before taking any guests there.

Our delicious lunch consumed, it was time to head off for what was the highlight of the day for me – the abandoned merchant city Panam Nagar.

Decoration on a building at the abandoned city Panam Nagar at Sonargaon in Bangladesh.

The city grew up in the late 19th century as a trade center for cotton fabrics during British rule. The grand colonial European inspired houses were built by Hindu cloth merchants. Falling into disrepair at the end of British rule and the area being abandoned after the Second Kashmir War in 1965, these beautiful buildings are now gently decaying and being reclaimed by the jungle.

Fortunately the area is now protected under the Department of Archaeology of Bangladesh. Many intricate details have survived however and we spent a long time marveling at the houses and imagining the lives of the former residents. There are people living nearby, so despite the houses being empty, the street was quite busy and we were also much in demand for selfies with the locals!

The last stop of the day was the remains of a very grand Indo-European house. Many locals refuse to go near it as it is said to be haunted. The encroaching jungle has shut out most of the daylight and with it’s overgrown courtyard and damp crumbling passage ways, it was indeed a little spooky.

A haunted house at abandoned city Panam Nagar in Sonargaon.

Leaving the countryside behind we soon found ourselves back in Dhaka traffic but spent the time laughing and joking with our fellow traveler, Mushfiq, and the driver, and before we knew it we had arrived back at our hotel.

Day-02: Old Dhaka

Mushfiq and the driver arrived on time and we set off by car but quickly swapped to rickshaws, as these are far better at navigating the narrow streets of old Dhaka. Again, Mushfiq explained the sights we would see on the tour.

Our first stop was the brightly colored Dhakeshwari Temple, where we saw Hindu worshipers making offerings and dancing, followed by another adrenaline fueled rickshaw ride that took us to the Star Mosque with its beautiful mosaic interior. We were also able to admire the Armenian Church, set up by the community that migrated to Dhaka in colonial times, but have now moved on.

Family on a rickshaw at Old Dhaka in Bangladesh.

The next sight – Lalbagh Fort, was a haven of tranquility away from Dhaka’s crowded streets. Inside the pale pink walls are green lawns, water features, and well-tended rose patches, which make a perfect backdrop for Dhaka’s young love-struck couples to stroll through. Work on the fort was started in 1678 by the Mughal price Muhammad Azam. He was called away by his father and work on the fort stalled. Shaista Khan, the new subahdar of Dhaka, felt unable to complete the fort when his daughter Pari Bibi died there. His daughter’s tomb is one of the main features of the fort.

The highlight of the Dhaka tour for me was a short boat trip on the Ganges with commuter boats, steamers and ferries negotiating their way along the almost jet black river.

Commuting Ganges style on the river Buriganga at Old Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Throughout the day, Mushfiq informed us about the history of each site in a very engaging and articulate way. He is clearly passionate about his city, and his enthusiasm for it definitely rubs off on you.

Why I will be back!

Bangladesh is a breath of fresh air compared to many well-worn tourist routes where you are constantly hassled by touts or traders and subjected to phony ‘local’ experiences, dressed up for the masses with a gift shop at the end. It is a country where tourism is in it’s infancy and people will be delighted that you have made the effort to visit their homeland. You will become a tourist attraction for the locals, so expect to appear on many Bangladeshi Facebook pages!

Dhaka is one of the most populous cities in the world, and those not used to such cities could feel overwhelmed or get hopelessly lost! Using Nijhoom Tours meant that we could focus solely on safely enjoying the many attractions whilst our capable guides dealt with the logistics.

I can’t wait to go back!

If you’ve enjoyed the story, consider sharing it in social media so that more travelers can know about this amazing country which is little known to everyone. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: Have you ever visited Bangladesh? How amazing have you found it? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Contact us to publish your Bangladesh travel story here. Check out our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.

Diary of my first 03 weeks trip to Bangladesh (Part – I)

On a long haul flight to Asia seated at a window seat, I saw a strange odd area of land. The on-board map showed it as was on the India-Bangladesh border. When I got home I had to learn more. An area called the Sunderbans with tigers unknown to me. The following year in India I read a book I picked up in a hotel called “The Hungry Tide”. Coincidence? I was hooked!

Research showed it easy to visit from the Indian side. But the more I read the more there was to do in this flat low lying country of Bangladesh next door. I knew it as a place of flood disaster, but it has so much to offer. And a trip was born.

When you travel a little off the beaten track, you need a knowledgeable enthusiastic agent, and Nijhoom gave me confidence to visit. Tons of information and hundreds of ideas. It was hard to try and fit them all in but with Hasan’s help we did. He quickly and constantly answered a million questions and queries immediately. I do ask too many! He has amazing patience.

Trip one: 21 days – simply amazing!

A daily discovery of friendly people.

Great food.

The longest beach in the world.

Tea regions.

So much more!

Helen trying to drive a rickshaw while brother Richard giving instructions

This trip came at a time of Hartals – basically transport strikes, and he worked around them and it wasn’t always easy. There were cancellations. All the locals were sorry for inconvenience and quick to help out and most accommodating. We loved the trip but missed a few things along the way and well some things were so good we had to do them again.

The rocket steamer oh………how I love that boat!

Which is how we got to Trip 2 – another three weeks just 2 years later!

If you’ve enjoyed my diary, you can read the next part of it here: Diary of my first 03 weeks trip to Bangladesh (Part – II). Consider sharing the story in social media so that more travelers can know about this amazing country which is little known to everyone. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: Have you ever visited Bangladesh? How amazing have you found it? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Contact us to publish your Bangladesh travel story here. Check out our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.

Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple, the largest Shiva temple in Bangladesh

Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple is the largest Shiva temple in Bangladesh. It was built in 1823-1830 A.D. by Rani Bhubonmoyee Devi, the widow of Raja Jagat Narayan Roy. While entering Puthia temple complex, this massive temple will be the first to spot overlooking the big pond named Shiv Sagar. This ornate temple is an imposing and excellent example of the five spire style (Pancha Ratna) temple architecture common in northern India.

Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple of Puthia in Bangladesh

The temple is 14.30 meters long, square shaped, and built on a raised platform of 04 meters height. It has an wide stairs in the south side on the main entrance. Surrounding it has corridors in four side with 05 entrance each side. There is one entrance each in east, west, and south side to enter the main sanctuary.

Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple in Puthia overlooking the pond. It is the largest Shiva temple in Bangladesh.

Inside the sanctuary, lies a very large black basalt Shiva Lingam, which is the largest in the country. It is decorated with stone carvings and sculptural works, which were disfigured during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The invading Pakistani army attempted to displace and break the Shiva Lingam, but were unable to move it from its position.

Main entrance of Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple in Puthia, the largest Shiva temple in Bangladesh.

There is a separate stairs in the north side of the temple to go to the pond. In the roof of the temple, there are four towers in for corners, and one large tower in the center. The central tower in 20 meters high. This temple is now a protected monument by the archaeological department of Bangladesh. Check out here to know more about Puthia and it’s amazing structures: Puthia: An amazing village in Bangladesh full of beautiful temples.

The Shiva lingam inside Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple in Puthia, which is the largest Shiva lingam found in Bangladesh.

Have you visited the Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple in Puthia? How amazing have you found it? Share your experience and thoughts with us in comments. Any question about visiting Bhubaneshwar Shiva Temple? Ask us here! Consider sharing it in social media so that more travelers can know about this beautiful country which is little known to everyone.

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Diary of my first 03 weeks trip to Bangladesh (Part – IV)

Thu, Dec 19, 2013: Srimangal

06.40 Parabat Express – but there is a delay and about 1,000 folk waiting for train. We are exhibit a here, so we make use of a waiting room. A few street kinds, amputees, and beggars – we are sitting ducks for them. Getting on is well a really bun fight, especially with our luggage and the need to haul yourself up 3 large steps to get on board. Its every woman for herself, and we didn’t get 1st class seats. Poor Julie lags behind and is dragged onto train by Richard like she is a puppy pulled from her neck – bless her!

Once we find seats and put luggage up and once all the pushing and shoving is done, it’s not too bad and an interesting albeit slow journey – a new speed restriction is in place, given the derailments recently. So we arrive late into Srimongal, heart of the tea region. Verdant green small hills 100 meter high maximum. Its run down one horse kind of town. We are staying outside in an Eco-lodge. Hmm more like garden sheds on legs. A lot of mossies too. We are close to the Indian border here.

We visit late afternoon a tribal village and head of to try a famous 7 layer tea. It does have 7 layers and 7 flavors. The secret to its making is a secret needless to say. The layering is in the sugar I feel sure. Dinner average chicken curry, nice aubergine fritters, rice, daal, usual fayer.

Inside a Bangladeshi train

Fri, Dec 20, Srimangal – Dhaka

Breakfast is good. Richard goes to station while we head to national park. Really nice place and we have it all to ourselves with a good local guide. We are also very lucky to find Hoolock Gibbons quite quickly – only 200 left in the world. We also see golden cap languor’s and leaf monkey. Some nice birds. We enjoy this. We visit other tribal villages too. They are well laid out, bordering on smart, and have a really good agriculture infrastructure, and are quite well-off. Betel leaf and nut production earn them a lot.

Tea plantations of Srimangal

We visit a tea plantation, collect Richard at Station, visit pineapple farm, take more 7 layer tea as the boys likes it so much. I love the ginger myself. Itinerary seem to change over the next few hours as train is cancelled. There are different ideas on getting us back to Dhaka. We need to connect for a steamer tomorrow evening, so it’s a quick pack and hasty check out. 26 hours here only – not enough, but we have to work around blockades. We take supper at the soon to be opened “Grande Sultan Resort”, meeting GM Toni Khan, a world famous chef in his day. It’s a lovely place and meal is OK. A real treat! Such a luxury place they have. Some way to go with service and open Xmas day.

Everyone else is heading back under cover of darkness. Its slow going, and bad driving – we dodge or seem to dodge anything from huge Lorries to pedestrians in the darkness. Arrive at apartment after midnight – Made it!

The creator of 7 layer tea at Srimangal

Sat, Dec 21, 2013: Rocket Steamer

A lay in. It rained heavily last night, so there is a lot of fog about. A day to crash really. So catch up on paperwork, luggage, laundry etc. Shop for picnic stuff etc. Head to famous Sadarghat for our boat at 4pm – takes almost an hour in traffic to get there.

It’s hard to describe the chaos. I feel Like Michael Palin. Lots of boats moored up and YES, the rusty one at the end is ours! It’s a bun fight to get on. Folks are getting off as well up to flights of stairs to 1st class! 08 cabins, a 1st class deck crew including toilet attendant. All on the smelly Buringanga river. Food is amazing – soup-fish and chips for dinner, roast chicken, and creme caramel – all agree best fish and chips ever! Cabins are basic and small to say the least. Ian and I do go to bed and wake into the night to the fog horn blowing and find us tied for safety alongside another boat. The fog lifts and we head on our way again.

Toilets well………any port in a storm!

Century old paddle steamer still on service in Bangladesh

If you’ve missed the previous parts of my diary, you can start reading it from here: Diary of my first 03 weeks trip to Bangladesh (Part – I). Consider sharing the story in social media so that more travelers can know about this amazing country which is little known to everyone. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: Have you ever visited Bangladesh? How amazing have you found it? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Contact us to publish your Bangladesh travel story here. Check out our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.