History comes alive when you visit Mrauk U, earlier known as Myohaung. This is one of the most famous places in Myanmar appreciated for its archaeological marvels of ancient medieval times, situated 11km eastward of Kaladan River in the northern Rakhine state. Founded in 1433, it served as Rakhine’s capital and was the business hub for international trades, till 18th century.
The city is populated with temples, pagodas and buildings which are centuries old, the eminent ones being Shite Thaung temple, Koe Thaung temple, Htukkanthein temple and five ManAung pagodas, and hence the name Myohaung, meaning the “old city”. The entire village thrives on these temples and the visiting tourists. Earlier, the temples were mistaken as forts due to their bunker style wall architecture built to withstand the strong Rakhine winds.
As a foreign tourist you need to pay US$5 as an entry fee to stay in Mrauk U which you can pay at the official counter at Shittaung pagoda. To get in, you can easily take a flight to Sittwe, one hour from Yangon and then connect to Mrauk U on private boats which will take around 5 hours and charge you $10-$20 depending on the whether it’s a normal speed or express one. You can also rent a private boat from Sittwe that will save you travel time and also a night in Sittwe as you won’t have to rely on government ferry timings but will cost you US$50-80 depending on your bargaining skills and the headcount in your group. There are buses too but recent developments don’t permit independent foreign nationals to travel by road.
With its archaeological significance, Mrauk U houses an Archaeological museum inside the Royal Palace which exhibits a collection of antique artifacts. Few options to go around in Mrauk U are bicycles, trishaws or hire a horse cart to try day trips in Chin villages, habitat of the Chin tribe and also visit Wethali which was the capital of Arakan kingdom 1500 years ago. Mahamuni Paya and Great Image of Tsu Taung Pre are notable sites to visit. Do not forget to try the authentic Rakhine cuisine.