Dhaka is usually characterized as noisy and chaotic with its mind-numbing traffic, excessive population and pollution. But dig deeper and you find the capital of Bangladesh to be extremely rich and proud in its history and heritage. Dhaka is not only the cultural but also the economic center of the nation.
Kick-start the trip by heading out to Dhakeshwari Temple, that dates as far back as 1,200 years. This ancient Hindu temple is state owned, thus giving it the designation of being a 'National Temple'. It is now said to be most significant Hindu place of worship in Bangladesh. History buffs can visit the Lalbagh Fort - a 17th century incomplete fort. This Mughal fort complex is perched before the Buriganga River in the southwestern part of Dhaka. Do visit the small museum inside, exhibiting Mughal paintings and calligraphy, along with swords and firearms.
Another interesting place to visit is the Khan Mohammad Mridha's Mosque. Built in 1706, this Mughal structure is designed similar to Lalbag Fort. Some of the highlights include being erected on a raised platform - up a flight of 25 steps. Other features are three squat domes, with pointed minarets at every corner, dominate the rectangular roof. To get an authentic taste of Dhaka, be sure to visit the Sadarghat River port, one of the biggest river port in the planet with about 30,000 passengers daily. It is a chaotic and dynamic place, staying true to the character of the city.
When it comes to religious shrines, do visit the Aremenian church, housed at Armanitoal, named after the Armenian colony that settled here in the late 17th century. The church is the residual reminder of this now almost extinct community. Dating as far back as 1781, it is a picture of serenity in the hub of the crowded city. One of the must-see mosque in Dhaka is the Star Mosque (Sitara Masjid), one of the city's most popular attractions, dating back to early 18th century. The walls of the mosque is adorned with mozaic stars.
Served as a residence of the Nawab of Dhaka once upon a time, the Ahsan Manzil is a British Raj-era building. Perched on the banks of the Buriganga River, popular for its pink stonework. It features 31 rooms and a massive dome that can be glimpsed several miles away. It has recently been revamped into a museum with a plethora of displays showcasing its history, with a stunning garden, accompanying the building.
When it comes to shopping, be on the look-out for the famous pink pearls, hand-loom fabrics, silks, printed saris, coconut masks, bamboo products, mother-of-pearl jewellery, leather crafts, , wood and cane handicrafts, folk dolls, pottery, brass, Nakshikantha (a traditional form of embroidery) and Jamdani sarees. There are several huge shopping complexes in Dhaka that offer international brands and designer labels.
As for food, epicureans can delight themselves with all kinds of cuisine available. If you want to try local delicacies, then Old Dhaka can offer cheap and affordable Bangladeshi meal where a meal can be for a mere TK 50 ($0.70). The stay options in Dhaka is abundant where the best luxury hotels, cheap accommodations and rental apartments are available. Tourists can decide which kind they prefer based on their budget and taste.
Dhaka experiences tropical savanna climate. The best time to visit would be from September to March when the temperatures are pleasant and comfortable.