From the 15th to 18th centuries, Mrauk U was the capital of a mighty Arakan kingdom, frequently visited by foreign traders (including Portugese and Dutch), and this is reflected in the grandeur and scope of the structures dotted around its vicinity. But after the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1826, the British moved the regional trading centre down the Kaladan river to Sittwe, and Mrauk U went into decline. Today part of its allure lies in its isolation from the rest of the country; the lack of development; and that (for the moment) you are more likely to bump into a cow or a goat than into another tourist.
Formerly called Akyab, sittwe, is the capital of Rakhine State, a long narrow coastal region on the Bay of Bengal in western Myanmar separated from the rest of the country by the Rakhine Yoma (mountain range) and bordering Chin State and Bangladesh. The hinterland of Sittwe is a rich rice growing area and it is also an important fishing port. The state is famous for its distinctive Rakhine longyis. Attractions in Sittwe include a viewpoint at the end of Strand Road overlooking the Bay of Bengal and the mouth of the Kaladan River, the 100-year-old Shwe Zedi Kyaung monastery and the morning fish market next to the Central Market.
Mrauk U, the ancient capital of the flourishing Rakhine Kingdom, is about 11 kilometres east of the Kaladan River and is accessible only by boat from Sittwe. The ruins at Mrauk U date to the 15th century and comprise one of the richest archeological sites in Myanmar. Due to its proximity to the Bay of Bengal, Mrauk U was an important regional trade hub, acting as both an entrepot to the Burmese hinterland and an important port. Mrauk U is noted for its fort-like temples and pagodas built of stone and brick, rich with distinctive statuary and relief. The Shitthaung and Dukkanthein pagodas and the Andawthein Shrine are some of the most archeologically significant sites. The Mrauk U Museum exhibits many of the archeological and cultural treasures found in the area. About 8 kilometres north of Mrauk U is the archaeological site of Vassali, another ancient capital which flourished from 7th and the 10th centuries. The Maha Muni Pagoda at Kyauktaw, about 30 kilometres from Mrauk U, is the original home of one of the most revered Buddha Shrines in Myanmar. This Maha Muni Buddha Shrine is now residing in Mandalay. A wonderful day trip from Mrauk U is a journey up the Lemuro river and into the Chin hills to visit the tribal villages where women with tattooed faces can be seen.
The Chin live in the Northwest border areas or further south in the Rakhine State. Mt.Victoria of 3400 meter high is the perfect place for nature lovers. Soft trekking, butterfly and bird watching are available. Some of the women there tattoo their faces completely in tasteful designs. The ritual is entirely voluntary and as the practice is dying out, not many young women are seen with tattooed faces. But the old traditional of this tattooing face still can be seen in some villages. Their hand woven cotton and silk in traditional designs and colors are collectors’ items. 174 km from Bagan by jeep and roads are still very bad so this excursion is not recommended for rainy season (May to Oct). As for accommodations, only very simple guesthouses are available so this excursion is suitable only for the adventurous clients.