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.
Mrauk U, the capital of 48 kings for 355 long years, was founded by the king Nara Meikhala in 1433. Mrauk U could rightfully be claimed as the "Open-air Museum of art and culture of the people of Rakhine. Many Shrines and pagodas flourished in Maruk U.They formed the pride of the golden city. The Golden days of Maruk U city, those of the 15th,the 16th and the 17th centuries were contemporary to the days of Inwa, Taungoo and Hanthawady Kings of Myanmar.
The Buddhists of Mrauk U worship the chaityas and stupa. They believed that one can acquire great merit by building and decorating them. According to tradition and the historical annals, Buddhism was introduced into Rakhine during the life-time of Buddha himself. The inscription Ye Dharmar verses with on one of the Mahamuni sculptures was solid evidence for dating the upper limit of the introduction of Buddhism in Rakhine. These writing can be assigned to sometime about the 4th or the 5th century A.D.
As with the pagodas of Myanmar, the Mrauk U religious structures could be derided into two chief type: the pagoda which one of a conical structure without any access to the inner chamber and the temples which are with vault access from one or more sides. In construction, all these buildings rarely have identical designs. The architectural regulatory of these buildings lies in fact that the root is vaulted.
Check with the FCO for travel advice before visiting as two British backpackers were caught up in civil conflict in 2019 at the Koe-thaung temple in 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), 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.
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):
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.
The Mrauk U Jetty is a place where you can watch locals come and go on boats, and you can rest under the shade of palm trees that surround it.
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.
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.
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.
Via Magwe: 32000K, 14h + waiting time + 3-4h. Sometimes long waiting times. Check before buying the ticket!
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.