Mrauk U

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Mrauk U is a medieval town and archaeological site in Rakhine State, Central Myanmar. It was formerly known as Myohaung. All foreign nationals must pay a US$5 fee for their stay in Mrauk U.

Understand[edit]

The Andaw Temple in Mrauk U

Mrauk U, which means "North Far" may seem to be a sleepy village today but not so long ago it was the capital of the Arakan empire where Portuguese, Dutch and French traders rubbed shoulders with the literati of Bengal and Mughal princes on the run. Mrauk U was declared capital of the Arakanese kingdom in 1431. At its peak, Mrauk U controlled half of Bangladesh, modern day Rakhine State (Arakan) and the western part of Lower Burma. As the city grew, many pagodas and temples were built. Several of them remain, and these are the main attraction of Mrauk-U.

Get in[edit]

Map of Mrauk U

By boat[edit]

The journey through the backwaters and then up the river is a wonderful trip (contemplative and delightful). In Nov 2011 there were 2 large ferries running from Sittwe to Mrauk U, the ex-government boat (XGov) (now privatised) & the Aung Kyan Moe(AKM) double decker boat (on both tourists 10 USD, 7 hours & an Express boat (20 USD, 3 hours). You will almost certainly be met at Sittwe airport by a tout selling private boats / places on private boats (2-5 passenger 20 USD pp, 6 hours, one way), which may be useful if you want to go that afternoon, as you save a night in Sittwe.

If taking a private boat it is best to book the one way trip only, and arrange your return from Mrauk-U. There is a guy whose card reads "Environmental Decorator" among other things selling boat places there, and he grouped all of his passengers who had booked (and paid for) a private return into a single boat. The best rule of thumb is to hand over your money only when you see and are satisfied with the boat. Private boats will typically have coffee and tea, and sometimes water for passengers, so bring your own food as the journey is about 5 hours.

Sittwe to Mrauk U, a Ferry goes Mon (AKM) Tues (XGov),Fri(Xgov),Sat(AKM).at 7am Express boat Wed 2pm.& there one more sailing of the Aung Kyaw Moe probably Thurs (possibly Wednesday).

Mrauk U to Sittwe a Ferry goes Tues(AKM),Wed(XGov),Fri(AKM),Sat(Xgov),Sun(AKM).at 7am Express boat Thursday 7am.


Food is available for purchase. The ferry is not in great condition but seems safe enough. Be warned though that the ferry has been known to skip a day or two every now and then so, if relying on it for travel, keep a reasonable buffer to avoid getting stuck. Private boats are available for rent in Sittwe and may do the trip considerably faster (4 to 6 hours) for US$50-80 (2008 price) depending on your negotiating skills and the number in your party. The principle advantage in renting a private boat is that you are no longer tied to the ferry timings. In the main season in 2011 there were private boats leaving Mrauk U seemingly every day, which you could join for negotiated fare. Flights from Yangon arrive in Sittwe in the afternoon and it is easy to rent a boat and be in Mrauk U in the evening which means a travel time of one day from Yangon. With the government ferry (US$6 or Ky 7'000), count on at least two days to get from Yangon to Mrauk U, longer if you arrive the day before a ferry off-day.

The Sittwe-Mrauk U Ferry

By road[edit]

From Nyaung U (BAGAN), take a local bus to Magwe (3-4h). From the new bus station in Nyuang U there are 3 buses to Magwe,10am,12.30pm,and 11.30pm,4000kyat (sep 2014). In Magwe, you can catch the direct bus Mandalay-Sittwe between 11pm & midnight in front of KHM fashion shop, for the full fare price Ky 25'000 + an additional Ky 3'000 supplement agent booking fee. The ticket can be brought in Magwe at K.H.M Fashion Shop, tel 095680758 opposite side of roundabout from the Rolex Guest House(you cannot see the KHM store from Rolex guesthouse due to trees blocking the sign),its to the right of the big bluetooth phone shop sign, the shop owner Minn is very helpful and speaks good English. The bus ride from Magwe to Mrauk U takes about 14-19h, possible in rainy season (Sep 2015).

Get around[edit]

In Mrauk U you can either walk, rent a bicycle (available from most hotels), hire a trishaw or hire a horse cart. Beware that Hotels & Guesthouses charge very high commission for chin village tours, trips, bus tickets and rickshaw hire. You can get cheaper prices at the agent in town (details in the Get Out section, at bottom of page), or at low budget hostels, but always ask the hotel price first, so you have something to compare with.

It is illegal to leave Mrauk U with a motorcycle (except motor taxi). You won't be able to pass any police or military check point! Even at night they are sometimes on duty in contrast to the info you might get at your hostel.

See[edit][add listing]

Foreign nationals must pay a 5000K fee in Mrauk U. The official counter is in the Shittaung Pagoda but the government fee collector will track you down sooner or later if you miss him. It is only required at Shittaung Pagoda.

Temples (with nice interior):

  • Shittaung
  • Kothaung
  • Htukhan Thein
Inside the Shittaung Pagoda

The Archaeology Museum (Free), just inside the Royal Palace has a collection of artifacts from the Mrauk U sites - Buddhas, slabs with inscriptions, Wethali era coins, paintings that show Mrauk U in its heyday, and an excellent model of Mrauk U that will help you get your bearings. Crumbling walls is all that remains of the Royal Palace itself.

As of January 2016 you can explore some of the surrounding countryside by car or bike, but if you venture down a road leading to one of the camps where the local Muslim population has been confined, you can expect to be turned back, either by a helpful local or a military checkpoint. Most locals seem to know which roads are no-go for foreigners. The road to Wethali, Mahamouni is good to go.

Do[edit][add listing]

Chin Villages Day trips to semi-remote Chin villages and garden villages along the nearby Lemro River can be arranged at most hotels (US$80). Note the actual price for the Tuk-Tuk 15'000 Ky to the jetty both way, and a boat for a day 25'000 Ky. Hostels and tour agencies organize tours for 20000-30000K (depending on the number of persons) from 2 person onwards. Lunch included, 2-3 villages, back before sunset. (March 2016)

Wethali Now a small village but fifteen hundred years ago Wethali was the capital of an ancient Arakan kingdom. While temples are probably buried under the many mounds that dot the area, the only thing to see today is the layout of the palace and a statue known as the Great Image of Hsu Taung Pre. Wethali is a pleasant one - two hour outing from Mrauk U by bicycle one way.

Mahamuni Paya This pagoda is 40 km north of Mrauk U and once housed the Mahamuni Buddha that now resides in the Mahamuni Paya in Mandalay. There are several ancient artifacts on view at the Paya and at the small museum near the shrine. Hire a jeep (US$30-US$50) for a day outing to Wethali and the Mahamuni Paya from Mrauk U.

Guesthouses organize tours on request at negotiable price (ca. 7500K per person) with a Tuk-Tuk to see Wethali and Mahamuni as a half day trip.

L Amitié Art Gallery (Close to Laymyetnha Paya) The owner of the art gallery warmly welcomes any visitor. He has great knowledge about the Mrauk U area and the Chin Villages he likes to promote by its art.

Buy[edit][add listing]

A market is located south-west of the temple area.

There is a KBZ bank on the main street with an ATM which accepts VISA and Mastercard. The bank itself opens at 9:30am, but the ATM is always available. The bank also exchanges US dollars for Kyats.

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • A number of small restaurants, food stalls and tea shops are available in and around the market.
  • Pyae Wa Restaurant (main road, opposite the market) offers authentic Burmese Chinese & Rakhine food. The cashew chicken and butterfish come recommended.
  • Kaung Thant (Rice Shop) (near the bridge on the main road, south of the market) is a great place to sample a variety of Rakhine curries and fresh vegetable dishes - quite popular with locals. Vegetarian options are available. Portions are generous, and the tamarind flowers are a must-try. 2000-4000k per person.
  • For You (south on the main road, just past Golden Star Guesthouse) is another good place to load up on Burmese Chinese food, including excellent renditions of fried rice & noodles. The tomato salad is very tasty as well. 1000-3000k per main.
  • Mo Cherry offers good Chinese and semi-authentic Rakhine food. To get there, follow the Yangon Sittwe Road by the Narawat hotel and Mrauk U hotel east to the crossing, then turn right. After a few metres you see the restaurant on the left side.
  • Good meals are served at the Nawarat hotel, the Shwe Thazin Hotel, the Vesali Guest House, and the Mrauk U hotel, see the Sleep section below.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Even remote Mrauk U plays host to a handful of beer stations, and at least one beer garden. A bottle of Myanmar beer should cost no more than 1500 kyat - slightly more than most areas of Myanmar. Andaman Gold, Tiger, and Dagon are also available around town.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Budget[edit]

  • Royal City Guest House, Mini Ba Gyi Rd (Around the corner from the Sittwe jetty). Simple rooms, some with attached bath. Two bungalows (concrete rooms) across the street. Friendly and helpful but, as it is on the main path to the jetty, it can be very noisy! No generator. Avoid buying bus tickets from the owner, some travellers had a bad experience. US$10-35.  edit
  • Prince Hotel, Mraund Bwe Road, Alzee Quarter, Mrauk U, (+9543) 24200 Ext: 50174 (), [1]. Bungalow style rooms a bit away from the city (easy bike ride). Friendly breakfast and dinner area. Some rooms are much better than others, ask to see yours before you agree. Hot water almost never. US$20-45.  edit
  • Pleasant Island Guest House, (On a tiny island close to Royal City). Shower, WC; Bungalows, simple and close to the market.  edit
  • Kyawsoe Guesthouse (Pronounced Ch/Joe Saw) (on the main road, south of the market before the bridge to the bicycle rental shop). Family business adjacent to their own shop. Note that there is no clearly visible sign marking this as a guesthouse, but it's easy to find. The young sister speaks perfect English. The rooms are nice and clean - the showers are cold water. But they can provide hot water in a bucket, amazing Burmese food on the table and the cheapest bus ticket that westerners can find. For the prettiest room, with bathroom and two bed inside it was 5$. The family is really welcoming and joyful. Tel 500-03
  • Tha Zin Pan Khaing Guest House, Myothit Street. This hotel is not licensed for foreigners.  edit
  • Mya Nann Thein Gyi Guest House, Maung Bwe Road (Next to the market). Excellent location but is not licenced for foreigners.  edit
  • Lay Myoe River Guesthouse, Main Road, Bandoola Quarter, Mrauk U, + 09 (0) 852 2139. Single and double rooms with little more than the basics - clean sheets, fan, mosquito net and a private bathroom. Towels available upon request. Access to electricity and running water can be sporadic, but for the price, it’s hard to complain. No Wi-Fi or breakfast. US$5-10.  edit
  • Golden Star Guesthouse, No. 116, Min Bar Gree Road, near Thakan Hla Lake, +95 9 49 67 44 72. Long-running backpacker staple that could use a little TLC. Singles, doubles and triples available. The place has a cool vibe, but the rooms can be a bit dank and dismal - try to get one with a window facing outside, for ventilation's sake. Having been featured in Lonely Planet, they will not negotiate on price even in low season, even though other options in town offer much better value for money. Still, the staff is very friendly, and the included breakfast is quite good. No Wi-Fi. US$13-26.  edit

Mid-range[edit]

  • Nawarat Hotel, E-27, Yangon-Sittwe-Road, Nyaungpinzay (approx. 200m from the Shitthaung Pagoda), 951-703885 (). Very friendly, pleasant hotel; air-con, shower/bath tub, WC, TV, refrigerator; clean and beautiful, not too large rooms in bungalows US$38-60 incl. breakfast.  edit
  • Mrauk U Hotel (Yangon-Sittwe Rd., Nyaungpinzay Qtr., opposite the Narawath Hotel, phone: 23060) - air-con, shower, WC, TV, fridge; very large rooms; large garden; well equipped; note that this hotel is run by the government of Myanmar - US$30-50
  • Vesali Resort Hotel Rooms are bungalow type (near the Shwetaung Hügel; phone: 01-526593, 525609 Fax: 01-526325, E-Mail vesaliresort@gmail.com vesali@myanmar.com.mm) - including breakfast; good food - US$ 35-45. A guide by the name of Nyi Nyi, who works at the Vesali, has excellent English and good relationships with villagers up the river if you wish to visit the garden villages and Chin villages up the Lemro River.

Splurge[edit]

  • Mrauk U Princess Resort, Mrauk U, Aung Tat Yat, +95 43 50232

Get out[edit]

All foreign visitors must sleep in the town itself. For day trips, see the See and Do sections.

The bus station is located in the north outside of town. However, if booked at your hotel or at an agent busses will pick you up at a suitable stop on the main road.

  • To Bagan: 8-10am, 28000 or 32000K, the bus to Sittwe-Mandalay (March 2016)

Via Magwe: 32000K, 14h + waiting time + 3-4h. Sometimes long waiting times. Check before buying the ticket!
Via Kyauk Padaung: 25000K + 3000K, 16-17h + waiting time (2h?) + 0,75-1,5h
The latter has the advantage that you can travel longer in the more comfortable Sittwe-Mandalay. Since Kyauk Padaung is only about 50km from Bagan it sould also be possible to go by taxi (as a backup plan). The bus Sittwe-Mandalay costs 25000K no matter where you hop on and off on the journey. If you leave to via Kyauk Padaung you will be in Bagan/Nyaung U at around 4am, ready for sunset :) I did not try via Magwe.

  • To Yangon 11-12am, 22-25h, 25000K stopping at Pyay after about 16hrs (March 2016)
  • There are also daily buses to Taunggok (Sittwe-Mrauk U-Ann-Taunggok).

Bus tickets can be bought cheaper from an agent in town (looks like a tea shop has an Air Bagan and Air KBZ sign out front), located on the main road passing around the town, same road buses pass through on. Walking away from the Mrauk U hotel towards Na Wa Rat hotel continue walking 5 min past the hotel, the agent is located on the right just after the bend in the road before you get to the bridge. He speaks good English, and also offers Chin villiage trips etc. Cheaper than hotels.
Another agent is on the junction of the main road an the one hitting Htukan Thein temple.



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