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.
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.
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.
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).
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), but always ask the hotel price first, so you have something to compare with.
Foreign nationals must pay a (US$5 Ky 5000) 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.
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.
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.
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 two hour outing from Mrauk U by car, or all day outing by bicycle.
Mahamuni Paya This pagoda is 40 km (forty bumpy kilometres!) 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.
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.
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.
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.
The area around Mrauk U is restricted and all foreign visitors must sleep in the town itself. For day trips, see the See and Do sections.
It is now possible to travel by bus to Bagan. You have to take the direct bus Sittwe-Mandalay and stop in Magwe (14h) where you can continue with a local bus (4h) to Nyang U. Another possibility is to change in Kyauk Padaung. This has the advantage that you can travel longer in the more comfortable Sittwe-Mandalay bus and only 1h with a local bus. Since Kyauk Padaung is only about 50km from Bagan it sould also be possible to go by taxi (as a backup plan).
Daily buses to Yangon leave between 11am and Midday stopping at Pyay after about 16hrs. Total trip approx 22-25h for $30-40USD!
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.