Ibn Battuta, the 14th-century Moroccan traveler, wrote that the Bengalis referred to their homeland as "a hell crammed with blessings." Most travelers today would have to look hard to find the blessings. Nearly every year, Bangladesh, one of the most heavily populated countries in the world, is afflicted with catastrophes.

Famine and disease visit the land, but it is flooding that makes Bangladesh one of the most disaster-prone places on Earth. Storm clouds and hurricanes travel up the Bay of Bengal, hit the Himalaya along the nation's northern border and stop, pouring water on the land. When the rains come, villagers head for large concrete platforms scattered throughout the coastal areas to wait out the high waters. When the flooding recedes, villagers sometimes find that the local river has changed its course: It now flows around their bridge and through the center of town.

While you may not want to make a special trip to see the country, if you are visiting nearby countries (India or Southeast Asia), a visit to Bangladesh offers the opportunity to see a resilient people untouched by mass tourism and unconquered by nature. All the water makes Bangladesh a lush country with mangrove swamps and a large expanse of rain forest. It has two pleasant hilly areas—large expanses of rolling hills covered with verdant tea estates and tropical forests.

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