Mrauk U or Myohaung (Burmese မြောက်ဦး) is a medieval town and archaeological site in Rakhine State, Western Myanmar.
Mrauk U may seem to be a sleepy village today but not so long ago it was the capital of a reasonable sized 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 and the western part of Lower Burma. As the city grew, many pagodas and temples were built. Several of them remain, and are the main attraction of the city.
Before Mrauk U other kingdoms existed in the area. They allow for convenient day trips from Mrauk U, like Dhanyawaddy, Sambawet, Pyinsa, Vesali, Launggret, Parein and Kirt.
Not so much advertisement is on display unlike the rest of the country, which helps make Mrauk U a traditional Burmese town.
The best time to visit is from November to mid-March when it's cooler in the morning with attractive mists.
Overland travel is now possible for foreigners but can be lengthy and remote with no accommodation opportunities along the way.
- 1 Highway Bus Station (at the northwestern end, 2 km outside of the city on the road (around the delta) to Sittwe).
From specific destinations:
- Sittwe – 1.5 hr. Most buses leave every morning, because they have onward destinations like Mandalay and Yangon. However, there will also be smaller short distance buses and pickups/vans between Sittwe and Mrauk U. Sittwe has an airport and therefore allows for incoming travel from all over Myanmar.
- Yangon – 24 hr, 25-30,000 kyat.
- Mandalay – The bus from Mandalay stops at Magway near the bridge across the Irrawaddy river. Mandalay to Sittwe bus cost ~ 25,000 kyat.
- Magway – The bus leaving from Mandalay stops at Magway around 10pm near the bridge.
- Bagan – If you starting from Bagan, you have to take a bus to Magway and switch to the bus to Mrauk U (or Sittwe) near the bridge across the Irrawaddy river or in front of the K.H.M. Fashion store. The bus from Bagan to Magway leaves the bus station near the airport at 10:00, 12:30 and 23:30, and costs 4,000 kyat. The bus from Magway to Mrauk U is about 25,000 kyat and 16 hr. A similar trip is possible via Kyauk Padaung, best ask guesthouse.
- Ngapali – The (mini)bus from Thandwe bus station starts at 11:30 & 13:30, takes 15 hr to Mrauk U and is about 18,000 kyat. Most buses go another 2 hr further to Sittwe. The trip beyond Taungup is quite unpleasant due to the terrible condition of the road—expect to arrive very tired and make sure to get a decent seat in front.
- Taungup – Mostly the same buses that start in Thandwe bus station (Ngapali). They will stop at 14:30 & 16:30 in Taungup and take 12 hr for about 15,000 kyat to Mrauk U. As already mentioned, the trip is quite unpleasant due to the bad condition of the road—make sure to get a decent seat in front.
- Pyay – Served by the Yangon buses that stop in Pyay. Make sure to book in advance to get a seat. 16 hr, 20,000 kyat. Besides the buses from Yangon and by Magway, you can also take a transport to Taungup, from where a (mini)bus leaves at 14:30 & 16:30 for Mrauk U (and Sittwe), which takes 12 hr and costs about 15,000 kyat.
The journey through the backwaters and then up the river is a wonderful trip.
- Sittwe <> Mrauk U, Lwim Taung Quarter, No 98, Mrauk U Township, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. A new boat that can be chartered from the Mrauk U Palace Hotel takes 6 hours against the tide and 5 with the tide. US$180 for 1-2 people, US$200 for 3-4 people, US$250 for 5-6 people, US$300 for 7-9 people.
There were, although the current situation is unclear, 2 large ferries running from Sittwe to Mrauk: the ex-government boat (XGov, now privatised) and the Aung Kyan Moe (AKM) double-decker boat. Prices for both are US$10 (tourists) and they take 7 hr. An express boat is US$20, which takes 3 hr. You will be met at Sittwe airport by a tout selling private boats or places on private boats (5 passengers+, US$20, 6 hr, one-way), which may be useful if it goes that afternoon, as you save a night in Sittwe.
Sittwe to Mrauk U: a ferry goes Mon (AKM); Tue (XGov); F (Xgov); Sa (AKM) at 07:00. Express boat W 14:00 and there one more sailing of the Aung Kyaw Moe, Thu (possibly Wed).
Mrauk U to Sittwe: a ferry goes Tu (AKM); W (XGov); F (AKM); Sa (Xgov); Su (AKM) at 07:00. Express boat Th, 07:00.
Food is available for purchase. The ferry is not in good 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 hr) for US$80 (as of 2008) depending on your negotiating skills and the number in your party. The principal advantage of renting a private boat is that you are no longer tied to the ferry schedule. In high season 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, count on at least two days to get from Yangon to Mrauk U (including flight), longer if you arrive the day before a ferry off-day.
There are some concerns regarding the security on the boat, robberies have occurred.
The surrounding area is not restricted to foreigners anymore, except maybe for the Chin villages. Up to date information can be obtained from MTT (Myanmar Travel and Tours, the a governmental agency and Burmese version of the Tourist Office of State) in Yangon.
In Mrauk U you can walk, rent a bicycle (available from most hotels or along the street), hire a trishaw, tuk tuk or a horse cart. Renting a bicycle (2,000 kyat) is a good idea, especially if you want to see the sights out of town. It's also possible to rent a bike per day or per hour.
Foreign nationals must pay a 10,000 kyat city fee in Mrauk U. The official counter is in the Shitthaung Pagoda, but the government fee collectors will track you down sooner or later, e.g. at the royal palace, if you miss them, or you might be lucky.
For the 1 Royal Palace ruins go early in the morning. This will allow for some different pictures with the palace still wrapped in morning mist.
Just walking around, especially around Shitthaung gives you a good view of many picturesque and interesting sights. Walking or riding along the more remote tracks reveals sights normally not seen by tourists.
- 1 Shitthaung Pagoda (Ran Aung Zeya) (1 km northeast of the royal palace, between the other sides). This pagoda is still being used by local people. Many angled corridors can be found inside, along which interesting stone carving work can be admired and photographed, like the 550 Jakata (birth name of Buddha) reliefs. The name means 80,000 Buddhas, and so more than 80,000 (actually 84,000) displays of Buddha can be found here. The other name of the pagoda, Ran Aung Zeya, means "victory over the enemies", which refers to an attack of the Portuguese by sea before construction of the pagoda began, which was repelled. The pagoda was built in 1535 by king Mong Ba Gree (Minbun), who ruled from 1513 to 1553. Built in a year by 1,000 workers. Use the northern entrance and turn right immediately if you want to avoid the fee. However, walking towards the Buddha in the center, you will have to walk by the foreigner booth - or just walk back the same way..
- 2 Htukkam Thein Temple (Just opposite of Shitthaung). This temple was built in 1571 by king Minphalaung on sand stone. The entrance is to the east and the temple is famous for its internal stone sculptures. It inhabits many displays of live at the royal court. In addition, 140 Buddha statues are lines along the interestingly circling corridors.
- 3 Mya Tan Zaung (west) (Northwest of Htukkam Thein Temple). Erected by king Minsawmon in 1430 and part of a sibling pagoda right next to it.
- 4 Pitaka Taik (Further north from Shitthaung Pagoda). Great for sunset due to its location uphill, to whose feet Shitthaung and Htukkam Thein can be found.
- 5 Sakya Man Aung (About 1 km northeast/east of the palace). This is an attractive pagoda. Dating to 1629, this pagoda was built by king Thirithudhammaraza. At a height of 33 m, this sight displays the ground layout of a lotus blossom. City pass might be checked here.
- 6 Koe Thaung Temple (2.5 km northeast/east out of town). This used to be the biggest pagoda in Mrauk U but has fallen apart during the past centuries.
- 7 Archaeological Museum (Just inside the royal palace). 09:00-16:30. 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 are all that remains of the royal palace itself. 5,000 kyat for foreigners..
- 8 Letse Kan Gate & Let Se Lake (sunset) (Walk straight south Ottama Rd through the no car zone (10-15 min) over the bridge until you reach the stadium). Also a great 2 sunset point (aim for the GPS marker) and allows for a stroll through the less touristic areas of the city. Great pictures of the nearby pagoda can be taken at dusk from the western side of the opposite sports ground.
- 9 Sunrise Hill (Up the hill from Alodawpyi Monastery). Walk into the monastery and from there up the hill. This set of pagodas allow for a great view of Mrauk U and the surrounding area. Depending on the time of year, it could be that a lot of mist blocks your view.
Out of the city further sites, such as Mrauk U itself, exist. They can be explored using local transport or by rented motorbike.
- 10 Wethali (8 km north of Mrauk U). 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.
- 11 Mahamuni Pagoda (35 km north of Mrauk U along bumpy roads). Once housed the Mahamuni Buddha that now resides in the Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay. There are several ancient artifacts on view here and at the small museum nearby. Hire a jeep ($30-50) for a day for Wethali and the Mahamuni Pagoda, or take a local pickup or shared taxi up north. 7,500 kyat per person for a tour Wethali and the Mahamuni Pagoda booked in town or at your guesthouse.
- 12 Launggret and Parein (5.5 km southeast of Mrauk U take the road left). The trip there is done by boat and takes 30 minutes. The only things left to see are Taungmawtaung hill and the Kadothein shrine (15 km south). Further sights around Mrauk U like this are Pataw and Vesali. Take a local pickup or bus.
- 13 Kyauktaw, Dhanywaddy & Salagiri Hill (45 km north of Mrauk U along the road to Sittwe). Salagiri Hill offers spectacular views of the river, nearby bridge and surrounding area.
You will be quite busy with visiting all sights. However, just riding around with the bicycle in the nearby villages can be a relaxing and interesting experience. Around Mrauk U there are further sights and former kingdoms.
- 1 Hari Taung, Yonegyi St. Climb this hill for a great view of the underlying royal palace and the city.
- Chin Villages. Day trips to semi-remote villages of the Chin people can be arranged at most hotels. The trip there takes about 3 h one-way, includes lunch and 2-3 villages. Tickets are most probably sold by your hotel or guesthouse, but they will inherit a steep extra fee. Better try the agents or cheaper guesthouses in the city centre and compare prices. $30-80 (per tour, 2-8 people).
Change money before you get to Mrauk U as exchange rates are reportedly to be very bad. Likewise, withdraw money before Mrauk U, in case the ATM there is not working.
Just walk around in the area of the guesthouses and near the market, and you will see many options. Also, many of the more price intensive hotels have their restaurants open to non-guests, with the to expect cleanness standards.
- 1 Mo Cherry Restaurant (follow the Yangon Sittwe Rd 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). Offers good Chinese and semi-authentic Rakhine food. The food is good and less risky than the places in the market but, if you have the time explore other restaurants, often unnamed, and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
- Shwe Moe Restaurant, near the Mrauk U post office on the main road. Local rice and curry are available starting from 1000 kyat and upwards.
- 2 For You, Min Bae Gyi St (On the way to Happy Garden on the left side). Highly recommended, offers a wide range of dishes. 1,000-3,000 kyat.
- 3 Pyae Wa Restaurant, Min Bae Gyi St (West of the market). Authentic Rakhine food. The cashew chicken and butterfish is good.
This region is quite remote, and therefore the prices are somewhat higher. A bottle of Myanmar beer is about 2,500 kyat.
Most guesthouses can be found along 3 Min Bar Gyi St.
- 1 Happy Garden, Min Bae Gyi St (just west of Kan Hla Lake). 5 decent bungalows including breakfast. From 15,000 kyat.
- 2 Lay Myoe River Guest House, Min Bae Gyi St (Next to For You restaurant), ☏ . Highly recommended on Tripadvisor. Good value for money. Friendly staff. Single from 6,000 kyat.
- 3 Kyaw Soe Guest House (=Min Bae Gyi St south on the left side right before the bridge), ☏ . You have to take your shoes of at the entrance, hence it should be clean inside. Very nice staff and including breakfast. Cold showers only. 8-14,000 kyat double with bathroom.
- 4 Golden Star Guest House, 116, Min Bar Gree Road. Rooms are rather basic and old already. You probably get better value for money somewhere else. 8,000-20,000 kyat.
- 5 Kant Kaw Phue Guest House.
- 6 Pleasant Island Guest House (on a tiny island near Royal City). Shower, WC. Bungalows, simple and close to the market.
- 7 Prince Hotel, No. (536) Yangon-Sittwe Road, Mraund Bwe Rd, Alzee Quarter (on the eastern way out of the city), ☏ , , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Bungalow-style rooms a bit away from the city (an easy bike ride). US$28-39.
- 8 Royal City Guest House & Bungalows, 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. A little overpriced nowadays. US$10/35/40 (sgl/dbl/bungalow).
- 9 Mrauk U Palace Resort & Restaurant (Next to Alodawpyi Monastery), ☏ , , , , , ✉ email@example.com. AC, breakfast, WiFi, warm water. Email firstname.lastname@example.org . 30,000/35,000 kyat (sgl/dbl). Probably cheaper if you ask or book via email.
- 10 Mrauk U Hotel, Yangon-Sittwe Rd, Nyaungpinzay Qtr (Opposite Narawath Hotel), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Air-con, shower, WC, TV, fridge; very large rooms; large garden; well equipped. Former government-hotel. The hotel is now run by private company, Azura Hotels Group. US$50-100.
- 11 Nawarat Hotel, E-27, Yangon-Sittwe-Rd, Nyaungpinzay (200 m from the Shitthaung Pagoda), ☏ , , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Very friendly, pleasant but worn-down hotel; air-con, shower/bath, WC, TV, refrigerator; clean and beautiful, not too large rooms in bungalows. US$38-60 incl. breakfast.
- 12 Vesali Resort Hotel (Near the Shwetaung hill, on the eastern way out of the city), ☏ , , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Rooms are bungalow-type. Includes breakfast; good food. Also try firstname.lastname@example.org . US$35-45.
- Shwe Thazin Hotel (near the intersection of main road and u Ottama street). AC, hot and cold shower, TV, fridge, large rooms, well decorated. They provide pretty good breakfast. Rooms can be apartment or bungalow. ~US$25 and upwards for locals..
- 13 Mrauk U Princess Resort, Mrauk U, Aung Tat Yat (At the southwestern end of the city), ☏ , , . This is the top place on Tripadvisor, but is not the cheapest but the opposite. US$190-240.
Road travel is increasingly popular. In the past it was only possible to fly into Sittwe and take a boat to Mrauk U (or the other way around) due to travel restrictions for tourists. Tickets can be bought at the bus station, the agents in the city or your guesthouse/hotel, but compare prices.
- Sittwe – Not particularly interesting, more a transport hub for in- & outbound travel from & to Yangon. Many buses leave from the Highway Bus Station north of the city. But there are also local pickups and so available leaving starting from 07:00 until afternoon. They costs from 5000 kyats to 10,000 kyat. Also boats are available to Sittwe. One leaves in the morning at 07:00, takes 3 hr and costs 20,000 kyat. Try: 09 49660076, 09 421720296, www.mraukutraveler.com, www.mraukukyawmoe.com, (email-)email@example.com. For more information on boats have a look at #Get in.
- Taungup – Is nothing special, but there exist some tourist accommodation options. It can be a convenient hub for road travel between Mrauk U, Sittwe, Pyay and Ngapali. There are at least two buses a day heading for Ngapali with a stop in Taungup. The trip is quite unpleasant due to the terrible condition of the road: expect to arrive very tired, and try to get a decent seat in front. 12 hr, 15,000 kyat.
- Ngapali – Has the most beautiful beaches in Myanmar, but is mostly a resort place with few budget options available. There are at least two buses a day heading for Thandwe Bus Station, 6 km away from Ngapali at the highway, with a stop in Taungup. Please note the remark before about the terrible road conditions. 15 hr, 18,000 kyat.
- Bagan – One of the most famous attractions in Myanmar. There are no direct buses available to Bagan, you will have to take a bus to Magway (09:00 & 12:00, 16 hr, 24-27,000 kyat) or Mandalay (08:00 & 10:00) and get off at Magway or 1 Kyauk Padaung (19 h, same price as Mandalay). From there it should be easy to catch onward transport, pickup/van or another bus. Make sure the bus does go there (Kyauk Padaung), especially when boarding the bus. Often the ticket seller and the bus are different companies, because passengers are shuffled around depending on availability. The Kyauk Padaung route is preferable, because Kyauk Padaung is very close to Bagan and you can visit Mount Popa on the way to enjoy the sunrise on top of the pagoda. 20 hr, 28,000 kyat.
- Pyay – Famous for the nearby and ancient Pyu city. Mostly served by the morning buses to Yangon that start in Sittwe. 16 hr, 20,000 kyat.
- Mandalay – Famous for the U Bein Bridge, the Buddha face washing, as well as the nearby mountains by train. 09:00, 21 hr, 25,000-30,000 kyat.
- Yangon – Most buses to Yangon start in Sittwe and leave early morning between 06:00 & 09:00. You have to get to the bus station early, even at 05:30 to ensure you get a seat, or book sufficiently in advance. The first bus starting in Sittwe will arrive in Mrauk U around 07:00, The last bus is between 12:00 & 13:00. All buses will make a stop in Pyay after 16 h. Duration 24 hr, costs 25,000-30,000 kyat.