The westernmost part of Myanmar is Rakhaing (Arkan) State, screened from the Ayeyarwaddy Valley by a long wall of jungle-covered mountains. It is today one of the most remote, under developed parts and isolated from central Myanmar by a series of hardly mountain ranges. The region is not the easiest part of the country to visit, while access by sea or by road is certainly possible, these are slow and unreliable options. The visitors obliged to fly from Yangon or Mandalay, the great majority landing at the Rakhaing capital of Sittwe. The popular attractive sites of Rakhaing are Mrauk-U, Danyawadi, Sittwe, Chin villages and Ngapali Beach.
Mrauk-U, once a capital founded in 1430 by King Man Co Mwan (Naramithla), today the ruins of the great city stand smothered in creepers and weeds, its brickwork crumbling into the fields and forests. Comparisons with Bagan are inevitable, the houses and other secular buildings that would once have lined the city’s streets have long since disappeared, leaving in their wake dozens of religious structures marooned amid the bleached grass, tropical foliage and fields. Encircle by fragments of a 30km fortified wall, Mrauk-U’s surviving monuments are spread over a 5 sq km area, extending north and east from the village center and the remains of the former royal palace. Mrauk-U is all the more atmospheric for its neglected area and getting to the site is a real adventure. Most visitors fly to the coastal town of Sittwe and from there proceed 65km upriver by boat.
Danyawadi (Maha Muni)
In 554 BC, an event commemorated by the casting Myanmar’s most revered Buddha image is Maha Muni, which was made from precious metals donated by the local nobility. Worshipped for centuries by the Arkan kings, Maha Muni was most of the powerful protector deity and attracted streams of devotees until King Bodawpaya took the statue home as war booty in 1784. It’s now enshrined in Mandalay, but the temple survives, however in a heavily modernized from, and it’s three presiding stone images, housed on the topmost level, still command great adoration among the Buddhist population of Arkan and beyond. The temple is the most visible vestige of a city that thrived here between 4th and 6th centuries AD, encircled by a 10km oval of perimeter walls, remains of a square palace compound.
The convergent of the Kaladan, Mayu and Lemro, at the mouth of estuary is a breezy site, Sittwe, capital of Rakhaing State was founded in 1826 by the British. During the First Anglo-Burmese War, daily streamers from Calcutta (Kollata) used to dock here in the hey-day of the Raj, whose Anglo-Indian legacy can still be traced in the architecture of the grid-planned center. For a foray trip, the main market district, on the river front at the northeastern edge of the center is lively and colorful throughout the day. The visitors bound for Mrauk-U are obliged to pass through Sittwe, from where boats leave early in the morning for the five to six-hour trip upriver to the archaeological site. Most spend at least a night here, as the boats nearly all leave at the crack of down.
Mrauk-U is beginning point for boat rides up the idyllic Lemro River to visit villages inhabited by Chin subsistence farmers and fishing communities. One of the Myanmar’s most marginalized and poorest minorities, the Chin are famous above all for the facial tattoos traditionally worn by their women.
Ngapali Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in South East Asia. It is located on the Rakhine Coast of the Bay of Bangal, in the western part of Myanmar. This un-spoilt natural beach is a 45-minutes flight away from Yangon and 14 hour drive by over land. Stretching along with sands and blue sea of alluring Ngapali Beach, it offers stunning views as well as easy access to local tourist attraction. There’s plenty to do in the surrounding district including fishing, boating, windsurfing, sailing and sun bathing in the Bay of Bangal, or a visit to Thandwe for shopping or to simply observe the colorful life and customs of the local Rakhine people. Golfing enthusiasts can enjoy a lush 9-hole golf course that’s only ten minute drive from the resort.
Along the beach, south of the hotels, is the fishing village of Jate Taw (Gyeik Taw), which offers a slice of local life that is quite different from the immaculately groomed resorts of Ngapali. Further south, in the next bay, you will witness traditional rural Myanmar existence, as yet largely unaffected by modern development.
The first fishing village is about two or three kilo-meter down the beach from the main stretch of hotels (the distance depends on which hotel you are staying at), and can be reached by foot. To explore further south into the next bay, it is advisable to hire a bicycle or take it in as part of a fishing boat tour. These can be arranged through your hotel.