After living in China for six years I thought I fully understood the meaning of words like "crowded," "dusty," "noisy," and "chaotic." As it turned out, I couldn't have been more wrong—Bangladesh makes China look deserted! With 160 million people crammed into an area a third the size of Sichuan, it is the most densely populated large country in the world. It is intense, it is messy, it is unique.
One of my friends told me that he had heard stories of people going to Bangladesh and then getting back on the plane out the very same day. I can believe it.
I landed in Dhaka, paid 50 USD for a visa on arrival, and my adventure began. To fully experience the intensity of the place, I stayed in the old part of the city. I thought I was prepared, but even with my previous exposure to the Indian subcontinent, Bangladesh tested my nerves and patience and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I will never complain again about the bad traffic back home! I will appreciate the effectiveness of Chengdu's traffic light system, the importance of bus schedules, and the comfort of brushing my teeth with tap water.
But there would be no Bangladesh without the people! Despite facing poverty, corruption, and vulnerability to climate change, the people I encountered were incredibly friendly, generous, curious and open-hearted, at times bombarding me with questions. Besides encounters with locals, the country has a lot to offer: Tea plantations in the northeast, the biggest mangrove forest in the world (Sundarbans), the world's longest natural sandy sea beach, fishing with otters, amazingly sweet and tasty cakes and desserts are a few of the things that make the country worth a visit.