Explore Mrauk U - Ancient Myanmar’s Playful Side on your next trip to Myanmar Explore Mrauk U - Ancient Myanmar’s Playful Side on your next trip to Myanmar

Explore Mrauk U – Ancient Myanmar’s Playful Side on your next trip to Myanmar

Explore Mrauk U – Ancient Myanmar’s Playful Side on your next trip to Myanmar

The 15th century ancient city of Rakhine Kingdom is located in the north-western corner of the country. It was the centre of a mighty kingdom and one of the richest cities in Asia trading with the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

Today little remains of the original city except for the many interesting temples and stupas, partly in ruins, dotting the small hills around the new town of Mrauk-U. It is famous for its old temples with wall paintings and religious statues showing the Indian cultural influence.

Mrauk-U which straddles the Aungdat Chang river has the feel of a lost city. It is an archaeological site of vastly underestimated importance and also an area of great natural beauty set amidst rolling hills.

The monuments of Mrauk U are roughly split into northern, eastern, southern and western groups. There are many hundreds of temples in Mrauk U, many of which primarily remain day-to-day places of worship for the local Rakhine villagers; what follows is a guide to the most beautiful and historically significant structures.

The monuments of Mrauk U

Most temples have name plates in English, with date of construction. Unlike in Bagan, where some of the temples are shut, the interiors of virtually all the temples in Mrauk U are open, ready to be explored.

However, the problem with Mrauk U, and the reason why it has yet to “take off”, is its difficulty of access. Visitors to Mrauk U must first fly from Yangon to a place called Sittwe in western Myanmar near the boarder with Bangladesh. There is a distinct Bengali feel here, unlike anywhere else I’ve visited in Myanmar. 

Depending on the timing of the flight, visitors will either be required to first stay overnight in Sittwe, or immediately board a boat for a long, five-hour trip up river to Mrauk U. The journey is arduous, but well worth the effort.

Mrauk U holds considerable historical significance, and this was quickly apparent from the temple ruins in the area. Where Bagan has the greatest volume of temples, Mrauk U has the quality and soul. While this may sound a bit esoteric, this ill-defined element is what makes Mrauk U so very special in my opinion.

The journey to get there – which some may find a fun adventure – only adds to the attractiveness of this old Rakhine capital, certifying it a place to experience Myanmar’s rich archaeological and cultural make-up, unhindered by commercial tourism.

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