Mrauk U. Even the world travelers rarely heard about it. Most of my friends asked me, why I was heading to Mrauk U as most of the people are not aware of that, even some local doesn’t know what to do or see there. It is totally not well-known but let me highlight it as the “hidden treasure”. Mrauk U is a small town with hundreds of ancient temples but fewer tourists; compared to Bagan. Some may say Mrauk U is similar to Bagan. But for me, I viewed them as the different creations from different eras.
Mrauk U (Pronounce Marak Oo) is Southeast Asia’s most remote ancient Buddhist city as it is being located in Rakhine (Arakan State) of Myanmar. Mrauk U used to be the capital of the most powerful Arakan Kingdom from 1430 till 1785.
Though I have made several trips within Myanmar; I took quite a long time to explore Mrauk U due to challenges – mainly due to accessibility, accommodation and … Along with the changes in Myanmar, the tourism industry of Myanmar is better than before and finally I made a 2nights, 3 days trip to Mrauk U (pronounce – Marak Oo), which is in the most western state of Myanmar in February 2016. Everyone have been talking about Bagan, Mandalay and Golden Rock, but I rarely notice the tourists/travelers made the trip to Mrauk U. But I can 100% recommend you that it is totally amazing destination to explore and feel yourself like Indiana Jones.
When to visit
I visited Mrauk U in February to experience the pleasant weather. The weather was perfect that time with around 15C in the morning and afternoon around 25C. The weather from November to April is great as it is cool and dry but recommend to avoid Monsoon time, which is from end of May to end of October.
How I reached there
Being located remotely, reaching there is one of the challenges. Some are brave enough to take 18-20 hours bus ride from Yangon, the main gateway to Myanmar. For me, I took a different option by flying to Sittwe Airport which is the nearest airport for Mrauk U. Upon reaching to Sittwe, I was waived by many taxi/ rental cars who are warmly warming the tourists/travelers as there isn’t much travelers there. You don’t have to bargain much as they offer really reasonable one. From there, I rent a car to reach Mrauk U which took me about 2.5-3 hours (thanks to new road as previously it took 6 hours car drive). If you wish another option, you can take a boat from Sittwe to Mrauk U which may take 5-6 hours but I heard the view is amazing too as bonus.
Where I stayed
The hotels are quite basic but I felt happy with my choice “Shwe Thazin Hotel”. The service was nice and the location of it is great to move around the town. You can just grab the bicycle from the small shops and explore around easily. The receptionists are so helpful for next day plan.
Remark: Most of the hotels, inns and guest houses are local owned. So don’t bother to explore the international chained.
What I did and what I recommend there
Mrauk U is full of ancient temples as I briefly mentioned and my purpose there is to explore around the small town, enjoy the sunrise, visit the temples and see the locals.
Everyone said “the sunrise of Mrauk U is legendary, you can’t miss it”. So I decided to wake up 5AM, grabbed camera, phone (to use as touch light as there is NO street light), and started all my way to “Shinmyawa Temple” for the best sunrise views of Mrauk U. The hill is quite steep to reach to the top so I took sometimes not to slip. The pleasant cold weather 15C is making me feel motivated enough to reach the top. The 360 view from the top took all my tiredness away. The view can’t be described enough with “the words”. The morning fog, the smokes from the villages, the new day rays from the sun spread upon the hundreds of ancient temples.
Remark: There are some other places where you can enjoy Sunrise. I tried the one near to “Shaithaung Temple” but I still prefer the view from “Shinmyawa Temple”. But there is another view from “Shwetaung Paya” which I didn’t have a chance to visit.
I spent one morning, walking around the small lanes, seeing the locals cooking the breakfast, chitchatting on the street and … The best part is saying Hello to the small kids and talking with them. We can’t find that kinda simple life in the big cities anymore.
There are hundreds of temples that survived till now. Most of the temples are made from the stone bricks. Let me share the notable temples that I recommend.
- Shite-thaung Temple (80,000 temple)
- Htukkanthein Temple
- Andaw-thein Ordination Hall
- Le-myet-hna Temple (4 faces Buddha)
- Mingala Man Aung Pagoda
- Ratana Man Aung Pagoda
- Lawka Man Aung Pagoda
Eastern and Southern Group
- Koe-thaung Temple (90,000 temple):the most symbolic temple of Mrauk U where you can find 90,000 of images, statues or stupas in one temple.
- Sakya Man Aung Pagoda
- Zina Man Aung Pagoda
- Pizi Phra : A small hill where you can enjoy the view over Koe-thaung Temple.
Mrauk U is a unique place for travelers who love to explore the heritage temples and troll along the small lanes. Hope you all got a chance to be in Mrauk U to witness the legendary sunrise.
Written by Hein Thant