Our trip to Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan was the perfect choice of countries with dramatically different experiences. The 74-year-old head monk informed us we were the first foreigners he had ever met or to enter the monastery.
Mrauk U was founded in 1433 and once was the center of the medieval Arakanese kingdom, whose naval force of 10,000 war boats dominated the Bay of Bengal. The city was a major regional trade hub, growing to a size of 160,000 residents by the early 17th century; its rulers boasted that the kingdom of Arakan extended from the Ganges to the Irrawaddy.
Today, a visit to Mrauk-U offers fantastic opportunities to explore a little-known corner of Burma and discover the fascinating history of pre-colonial times here. Landmarks and activities include the Mahamuni Pagoda, a sacred Buddhist site; a village inhabited by the Laytu minority, known for their beautiful, blue-black tattoos; and Shittaung, a sandstone complex that serves as a sprawling, impressive repository of Buddhist art and relics.
Meet An Asia Expert
From Our Blog
Our co-founder & CEO Catherine Heald enjoys going to Myanmar and trekking in remote hilltribe villages, where the way of life has remained the same for hundreds of years.
Visit the ruins of the city palace, and the Archaeology Museum within, for a firsthand glimpse at artifacts gathered from the many temples around Mrauk U. Receive a private tour of the museum’s collection and meet a senior member of the museum’s staff.
Take a full-day trip by basic motorboat to a village of the Laytu minority people, distinguished by the spider-net tattoos on their faces. Meet local residents and learn about their lives and tribal history in this remote region of Burma.
The “temple of the 80,000 Buddhas,” Shittaung is an impressive fortress-like complex. Erected during the mid-16th century, the temple extends through a maze of tunnels constructed with sandstone six feet thick: the result is a haunting, labyrinthine complex, believed to house over 84,000 relics of the Buddha.
Another Mrauk U highlight, Andawthein Pagoda is believed to house a tooth of the Buddha brought from Sri Lanka (where the better known “Temple of the Tooth” in Kandy is a UNESCO World Heritage site).
Maha Kuthala Monastery (Sittwe)
The town of Sittwe is mainly passed through as the gateway to Mrauk U. With that said, there are a few sights that are worthwhile if time permits. One is the Maha Kuthala monastery, home to centuries-old works of religious art and punctuated by a series of stupas.
Sittwe Fish Market
On your way to or from Mrauk U, visit the Sittwe fish market, where a cornucopia of seafood is sold wholesale for distribution throughout Myanmar.
According to legend, Mahamuni is home to one of only five likenesses of Buddha that were cast in his lifetime. The large bronze statue is said to have been commissioned upon the Buddha’s visit to this area in the 6th century BC; today, it is a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists throughout Southeast Asia.
Cheik and Sinke Villages
Visit settlements of the Cheik and Sinke people, famed for their hand-weaving. The residents are usually happy to give visitors a hands-on demonstration and lesson in their centuries-old craft techniques.
Spend 9 luxurious days taking in Myanmar’s ancient culture in ancient Mruak U, and lazing on its stunning coastline on beautiful Ngapali beach. You’ll meander through age-old temples and palaces, make friends with Chin tribespeople, and enjoy free time looking out upon the Bay of Bengal, while staying in luxury hotels.
This hotel has previously been described as one of Burma’s best kept secrets. The Mrauk Oo Princess superbly balances luxury and unpretentiousness. Situated on the banks of Mrauk Oo River, the hotel is surrounded by magnificent views of the blue mountain ranges, green rice fields and large pools punctuated with pink lotuses. The structural inspiration for the property was taken from the traditions and culture of the local Rakhine people. The hotel is laid out in the style of a traditional Rakhine village; each house boasts an eye-catching thatched, monastery-style, 7-tier roof. From the well-appointed spacious rooms, guest can look out from their own veranda to romantic views of the rice paddies, ponds and river. Rooms are furnished with traditional Burmese furnishings made from rich teak and other woods. The large bathrooms have his and her’s sinks and a separate bath and shower. The restaurant serves traditional Rakhine, European and vegetarian cuisine, and private candle light dinners are also available on request. The hotel has a delightful bar with an extensive wine list and signature cocktails. Those wishing to relax and indulge may head to the spa, which offers a range of treatments, using local aromatic and healing herbs. The hotel also offers guest the chance to try something different with their wood or stone carving lessons with local artisans.