| keep asking for ‘Goaldi Masjid’.
Eating If you don’t bring your own picnic, you can grab lunch from any one of a cluster of roadside restaurants opposite Sadarbari.
Expect to pay between Tk 100 and Tk 200 for a simple rice-and-curry meal.
Getting There & Away Buses (Tk 35, one hour) leave frequently from Dhaka’s Sayedabad bus stand and drop you at a crossroads on the main Dhaka–Chittagong Hwy, from where rickshaw-wallahs will be keen to show you to the sights.
The area also makes for pleasant walking.
Dhamrai This predominantly Hindu village with a few surviving metalcraft workshops makes an unusual day trip from Dhaka and is particularly rewarding during major Hindu festivals.
The main strip is a busy market street, but it also contains a dozen or so extravagant century-old houses built by the wealthy Hindu families who once lived here.
One such house contains the Dhamrai Metal Crafts Workshop ( 01713 003136) , the most accessible of three workshops in the village that have revived the ancient lost-wax technique of making brass and bronze statues.
The owner, Sukanta Banik, speaks excellent English and is more than happy to give visitors a guided tour of his family’s beautiful old house and its fascinating workshop.
There is no pressure to buy anything, but there are a number of objects on sale that make excellent souvenirs.
The workshop is at the far end of the town, on the left just after the Jagannath Chariot , a multistorey chariot adorned with painted images from Hindu mythology, which sits in the middle of the road and is paraded down the street during the Hindu festival of Rath Jatra .
Just beyond the workshop is an alleyway on your left, which leads to the village’s principal Hindu temple, built close to an ancient Shiva temple, which is now being swallowed by the undergrowth.
Buses to Dhamrai pass the National Martyrs’ Memorial (Jatiyo Smriti Saudha; pronounced ‘jat-ee-yo shmree-tee shod-oh’), a tapering 50m-high memorial to the millions who died in the struggle for independence and which is housed in well-kept gardens.
The memorial is on the outskirts of the industrial town of Savar.
Getting There & Away Buses (Tk 30, one hour) leave frequently from Dhaka’s Gabtali bus stand and drop you at a junction on the main road.
Turn right here and keep walking for a few hundred metres until you reach Dhamrai village.
Keep walking straight to get to the workshop.
Buses between Dhamrai and the National Martyrs’ Memorial cost Tk 5.
Mymensingh 091 / 230,000 A leafy town built on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra River, Mymensingh enjoys a lovely riverside setting, a sprinkling of Raj-era buildings and one of the most interesting old quarters in the country.
It also acts as an ideal launchpad for off-the- beaten-track excursions further north – a rarely visited region dotted with Garo villages and swathed in lush, green landscape.
BANGLADESH’S GOLDEN CITY The ancient capital of Sonargaon (or ‘Golden City’ in Hindi) flourished as the region’s major inland port and centre of commerce during the pre-Muslim period.
By the 13th century it was the Hindu seat of power.
With the Muslim invasion and the arrival of the sultan of Elhi in 1280, its importance magnified as the region’s de facto Islamic capital.
Some 42 years later, the first independent sultan of East Bengal, Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah, officially established his capital in Sonargaon.
For the next 270 years, Sonargaon, known as the ‘Seat of the Mighty Majesty’, prospered as the capital of East Bengal, and the Muslim rulers minted their money here.
An envoy from the Chinese emperor visited Sultan Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah’s splendid court here in 1406.
He observed that Sonargaon was a walled city with broad streets, great mausoleums and bazaars where business of all kinds was transacted.
In 1585, famous traveller Ralph Fitch noted that it was an important centre for the manufacture and export of kantha (traditional indigo-dyed muslin), the finest in all of India.
Ancient Egyptian mummies were reportedly wrapped in this kantha exported from Bengal.
When the invading Mughals ousted the sultans, they regarded Sonargaon’s location along the region’s major river as too exposed to Portuguese and Mogh pirates.
In 1608 they moved the capital to Dhaka, thus initiating Sonargaon’s long decline into oblivion.
Yet its legendary fame for incredibly fine muslin fabric continued undiminished until foreign competition from the British (and their import quotas) ruined the trade.
Sights & Activities Old Town Area MARKET Offline map The original alleyway-riddled core of the town, located between the train station and the waterfront, is a fascinating place in which to get lost.
It’s filled with market stalls selling all manner of food and goods.
Keep an eye open for the gold workshops, huddled away in the mess of streets, where people hammer down minuscule gold pieces found in the riverbed in order to make jewellery.
The town has a large Hindu minority and there are several noticeable Hindu shrines in the old town area.
The most obvious is the rotting stone Shiva temple Offline map just by the water.
Mymensingh Sights 1 Mymensingh Rajbari B2 2 Old Town Area C2 3 Shiva Temple C2 Sleeping 4 Hotel Amir International C2 5 Nirala Rest House C2 Eating 6 China Green Restaurant B2 7 Rom III Restaurant B2 8 Rom III Sweets & Bakery B2 9 Sarinda B2 10 Sarinda Park Cafe B1 Riverbank Parks PARKS The thin stretch of park area on the waterfront at the western edge of town makes up one of the most enjoyable public spaces in this part of Bangladesh, and come late afternoon locals take full advantage by decamping down here to lull about in the shade of trees and watch multicoloured boats criss-cross the river.
There are several small tea stalls and a few benches dotted around, or else rest up at Sarinda Park Cafe .
In the playing fields just behind the parkland, numerous cricket matches add their thunk and whack to proceedings.
Should you want a closer look at the other side of the river, one of the small wooden boats will happily take you over (Tk 2).
From the far bank, set off across this rural oil painting towards one of the many little villages whose inhabitants are likely to be overjoyed to have you around.
It’s a perfect setting in which to create your own adventure! Mymensingh Rajbari HISTORIC BUILDING Offline map Built between 1905 and 1911, this well-kept former mansion in the middle of the city is now occupied by an organisation that trains female teachers, but much of the original structure remains.
An ornamental marble fountain with a classical statue of a semi- nude nymph lies just beyond the arched gateway entrance.
Behind the main building is the Jal-Tungi, a small two-storey bathhouse once used as the women’s bathing pavilion.
You can politely ask the security guard for admittance to the grounds, but it is doubtful whether he will grant you a glimpse of the interior of the building.
Botanical Gardens GARDENS (entrance Tk 5; 9am-5pm) Three or four kilometres east of town, next to the Agriculture and Fisheries College, are the large and peaceful botanical gardens.
Well laid out, although not particularly well maintained, they make a decent place to relax on a bench with a book.
You can also get boats across the river from here.
A rickshaw from