Myanmar’s second most important historical site, Mrauk U (‘Old City’) was the capital of the Rakhaing civilisation during its golden age from the year 1430 onwards. Founded by King Min Saw Mon, the city, 45 miles from the Bay of Bengal up the Kaladan River, became a free port with a European Quarter visited by Dutch, Portuguese and Middle Eastern traders. Father Sebastiao Manrique, a Portuguese priest who came to live in the city, attended the coronation of King Thudhamma in 1635 and wrote of the palace’s riches. He described ceilings covered with vines and fruit – made from gold, life-sized gilded images of past Kings and a chest of jewels containing rubies the size of a chicken egg. The city and civilisation’s heyday came to an abrupt end with the invasion of the Bamar, led by King Bodawpaya in 1784. In 1826, Rakhaing State became a British possession and was ruled from the coastal town of Sittwe; Mrauk U fading to the pagoda-studded farming backwater it remains today.
Mrauk U is also the starting point for daytrips further into the interior, to the ancient city of Wethali and the Chin ethnic villages of the Lemro River. Whilst almost all visitors to Myanmar travel to Bagan, this whole area, a tentative world heritage site, sees only some 4,000 visitors a year. If you have some time, and a sense of adventure, we certainly recommend a visit to this remote and fascinating corner of Myanmar.
Andaw Thein Pagoda.
The temple’s prayer hall leads to two passageways. The outer chamber is lined with over 1,000 sandstone relief slabs showing scenes from the Jataka, as well as daily life featuring dancers, musicians and wrestlers. The inner chamber has scores of Buddha images and what is said to be a Buddha footprint. Outside the southwest entrance is the Shittaung, or Anandacandra pillar. This 10 feet sandstone obelisk dates from the 5th Century and lists the succession of Rakhaing Kings between 638BC and 729 AD.
Daytrips from Mrauk U.
Wethali and Mahamuni Pagoda.
Near Kyauktaw, 25 miles north of Mrauk U lies Mahamuni Pagoda. This centuries-old site was the original home of the ancient and highly venerated Mahamuni Buddha image, housed in Mandalay since its capture by the Bamar King Bodawpaya in 1784. The current pagoda, built in the Konbaung style dates to the 18th Century and boasts three golden Buddha images. The hilltop pagodas visible to the east mark Salagiri hill, a site supposedly visited by the Buddha himself in 554BC.
Mr Myanmar Travel can arrange good value hotels in both Sittwe and Mrauk U. The first high standard hotel has recently opened in Mrauk U and we can obtain very competitive rates for you here if you would like more comfort and facilities. Our friendly and knowledgeable guides will take you on comprehensive tours of the best known, and lesser known pagodas of Mrauk U and also accompany you further afield should you wish to visit Wethali and / or the Chin villages.