On paper, Bangladesh lacks attractive assets and has a number of sad records. The highest population density in the world, high rates of poverty and illiteracy, rampant corruption, various forms of pollution, and great fragility in the face of global warming are all challenges to be met by a country the size of Greece. While the social and environmental reality is undeniable, the footprint left by a visit to the country is quite different. The overwhelming kindness of the inhabitants clings to their smiles and is ingrained in the depths of their benevolent glances. Tourists are rare in this country, and your mere presence provokes curiosity and attention, synonymous with enriching encounters. The immense Bengal Plain, crisscrossed by rivers and rice fields, hides many Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim remains, all traces of the religious involvement in the country's history. Without forgetting the majestic rajbaris, these small palaces now abandoned and eaten away by the ravages of time, which bear witness to a glorious past and a great cultural wealth.

Bangladeshis are lovers of music, literature and poetry. You will hear about Lalong Shah or Kazi Nazrul Islam, two of the greatest poets the country has ever seen. You may come across some bauls, carrying on the tradition of the minstrels. And how can we forget that evening on a boat cruising in the impenetrable mangrove swamps of the Sundarbans, surrounded by Bangladeshi people singing lyrics or reciting poems? Culture is also an expression of ethnic diversity that is unparalleled in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, from the steep hills inhabited by indigenous people whose identities are reflected in their clothing, jewellery, features, languages and ways of life. As one of our local contacts told us, "Bangladesh is not a holiday destination, it is a country for those who love the richness of encounters". It is in any case a country that will challenge many preconceived ideas, which we have tried to transcribe in this guide while making you discover the wonders that the country conceals.

Astrid Latapia

Warm thanks to Sami Hamidur, Jewel Rahman, Hasan Mansur, Sharmin Rahman, Stéphanie Sermage, Patrick Maringe and Hector Baron.

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