Introducing Mrauk U (Myohaung)
‘Little Bagan?’ Not by a long shot. Myanmar’s second-most-famous archaeological site, Mrauk U (pronounced ‘mraw-oo’) is a centuries-old city of hundreds of temples around which village life thrives. The temples – previously mistaken for forts due to thick bunker-style walls built against the fierce Rakhaing winds – are smaller and younger than Bagan’s. Being here is as much about seeing temples in the gorgeous scenery of rounded hillocks as about mingling with the goatherds and vegetable farmers who live around them (unlike Bagan).
Much of the locals’ daily activity seems to be taken up with water trips. Instead of the usual clay pots or rectangular oil cans, Mrauk U residents carry shiny aluminium water pots (imported from Bangladesh) on their hips or heads.
You’re likely to have many temples to yourself: in a good year, only about 3500 to 4000 foreign visitors come. The site’s remote location, a five to seven hour boat ride up a creek of the Kaladan River, and lack of government promotion, means this is unlikely to change in the short term.
For visitors coming on pre-arranged private boats, it’s necessary to let the driver know how much time you’ll need in Mrauk U (though it can often be changed, with an extra charge). Two full days is the minimum necessary to see the area; add on another for the day trip to the Chin villages (recommended) and another if you plan to explore on your own after you’ve seen the greatest hits.