This port city sits at the month of Kaladan River where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. Sittwe has at least a two thousands year history of inhabitation, though in its modern form city started as a trading port around two hundred years ago and further developed after the British occupation in 1826. During the British era, international trade along the coast bloomed. Today’s Sittwe has some interesting places to visit, such as the State Museum displays the glory of the Rakhines in the past, historical evidences and artifacts of the ancestors. Other exhibits include dioramas of ancient cities; replica of a crocodile xylophone and a coconut-shell violin, local school children’s sketches of Mrauk U pictographs; and the famous “64 kinds of Coiffures of MraukOo period”, which adorn a row of mannequin heads in a glass case on the museum’s upper floor.
Mahakutala Monastery has several collections of antiques, found in this region and the bustling local market. Above all, the Point, which is a land projection at the confluence of the Kaladan River and Bay of Bengal, is a good spot to catch the breeze and contemplate the beauty of the sunset.
There are several hotels available for international visitors but not much. The best ones are 3* quality with bathroom and toiled attached as well as the air-conditioned. The local restaurants serve good sea foods. Trishaws are available to experience to go around the town and to get closed to local people.
Wethali (Vesali) Village & Mahamuni Temple
The ancient capital founded in 372 AD is just 10km from MraukOo, it is now a small village and on the way, we can observe plenty of rice fields, which define Rakhine State as “The Land of Bounteous Rice”. The ancient SutaungPyeBuddha Image is worth seeing and Buddha and its pedestal are said to be made from one piece of solid stone. Pilgrims are starting to gild the image from the top down by handing leaf squares to an attendant, who climbs a bamboo scaffold to affix them to the head of the image.
Mahamuni Temple located 40km from MraukOo (two hour-drive approximately) was the original site of Mandalay’s famous Mahamuni Buddha, a huge and very old bronze image which Rakhine kings believed provided supernatural protection for their successive kingdoms. When the Myanmar king invaded in 1784, it was dismantled into three pieces and hauled over the Rakhine mountain ranges to Amarapura, 11km south of Mandalay. Nowadays, three small stone images sit on the pedestal where the Mahamuni image once sat. A famous sandstone stele found here depicts a Gupta-style Buddha dating from 400 to 500 AD.
A private boat trip of about five or six hours from Sittwe will get to MraukOo, once a center for one of Myanmar’s most powerful kingdoms, it straddles at the bank of Kaladan River. It was founded in 1433, though in the common practice of the time & dynastic legends endowed the kingdom with a make-believe three thousands-year history. In the late century, the city became a free port that traded with the Middle East, Asia, Holland, Portugal and Spain. Today’s MraukOo is surrounded by rice fields, which are well watered by the annual monsoon, which brings up to 508 cm of rain per annum. Also cultivated in the region are coconut, banana, jackfruit, mango, areca nut, citrus, leeches and a variety of vegetables. While Bagan is known as Land of Pagodas, MraukOo is considered as Fortress City in Myanmar. The most complex and well preserved of the surviving MraukOo temples, Shitttaung Temple was built in the 16th century by the most powerful of the Rakhine kings. The name means ‘Shrine of the 80,000 Images’, a reference to the number of holy images found inside. With its thick walls, tiny windows and commanding views of the surrounding area, the temple may have also served as a royal fortress during times of attacks. AndawThein Temple was originally built in 1521 and rebuilt in 1596 to enshrine a piece of the tooth relic supposedly brought from Sri Lanka by king Minbin in the early 16th century. YadanabonPagoda,which is the largest stupa in the area and damaged by WW II bombing; only the ‘bell’ portion and base remain standing, Dukkhanthein Temple, a loose translation of the name is “Ordination hall that spiritually reinforces the town” and it certainly looks like a huge bunker form the outside. The temple which houses 146 Buddha niches along white sandstone relieves depicting 64 different types of hairstyles for the wives of MraukOo nobility, Pitakaktaik, which literally means Buddhist cannon with distinguishing features such as five-tiered roofline and beautifully decorated east-facing entranceway, Laungbanpyauk Pagoda&Sakyamanaung Pagoda are worth visiting. Shwetaung Hill offers the charming beauty of sunset and the experience of taking boat along MraukOo canal in the evening would be fabulous. There are only a few 3* hotels available but with spacious rooms, bathroom & air-condition attached. They are clean and acceptable enough for foreign visitors. Even though we have few choices to dine at local restaurants, the hotels serve good enough foods. Since it is still remote area, the electricity is usually cut out and some hotels offer 24 hours electricity with their own generators.
The very broad, pristine stretch of sand known as Ngapali beach stretches over three km, and is separated from several more beaches by small, easily negotiated rocky headlands. It is the prettiest in Myanmar, back grounded by swaying palms and casuarina trees, the Ngapali area is a good place to relax and take a break from the stress. The water is transparent and the sea is tranquil. There is more to do around Ngapali than just sit on the white sand and splash around the sea, though for many people that is motivation enough. Fishermen begin setting and drawing drift nets before dawn and continue into the late morning, when they load their catches in baskets. Women carry the baskets of fish on foot to nearby villages, then return with lunch for the men; everyone breaks to eat at mid-day, then some pack up while others continue fishing till early evening. We can tour several of the villages by bicycles. If we choose to walk along the beach to the villages, we will pass large areas of the beach where the villagers’ sun-dry fish, shrimp and coconut on cane-mats spread over the sand. Mini-golf playing, fishing, volley playing, wind surfing and hobiecat sailing, catamaran sailing can be done. It can be reached there by flight from Yangon to Ngapali and there is direct flight from Mandalay/Heho (Inle Lake)/ Bagan direct to Ngapali in the peak season. Even though there is land route from Pyay or Yangon, it is not suggested because the road is not good enough to travel and it takes very long time. Due to the monsoon period, it is recommended from mid-October to mid-May only. There are various accommodations in Ngapali ranging from guesthouses to five stars resorts. Among them, Amazing Ngaplai Resort is one of the best available and it is located in the most beautiful part of the beach.