Rakhing State Myanmar
Area : 36776.723 sq-km (14200.083 sq-miles)
Population : 2698000
Capital : Sittway
Religion : Buddhism, Christianity, Islam
Myanmar Rakhing State is situated in the westernmost part of the nation. Rakhine State is bordered by Chin in the north, Magway, Bago and Ayeyarwady division in the east, the Bay of Bengal to the west, and the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh to the northwest. Rakhine Myanmar State is located in tropical monsoon region. Temperatures never rise or fall extremely as it is a coastal region. Myanmar Rakhine State gets a lot of rain annually as the north-west monsoon wind blow from the sea almost right angle to the Rakhine Yoma Mountain. Myanmar Rakhing State gets rain from storms that formed in the Bay of Bengal. Annual rainfall at Thandwe is 221 inches, Kyaukpyu 186 inches and Sittway 203 inches. Torrential rains fall and tidal waves rise from the sea when cyclones that are formed in the Bay of Bengal enter Rakhing Coast line, causing property damages and flooding of salt water in low land areas. Though the storms appear mostly in early and later periods of rainy season, they sometimes appear in the mid rainy season.
Agriculture is the main economic activity and principal crops being paddy, chili, Myanmar tobacco, coconut, betel nut and dhani. Groundnut, maize, rubber, matpe, bocate bean, soya bean, and gram are also cultivated in Rakhine Myanmar State. The Kissapanadi River runs through the region, giving water for plantation. Coconut farms can be seen along the coastal areas and nipa palm plantations along the banks of creeks and rivers. Some people of this Myanmar coastal area conduct both fishing and agriculture.
Present oil exploration is in progress along Rakhing offshore called Shwe Gas. Rathetaung Township, Baronga Island, Cheduba Island, Ramree Island and Muwe Island produce some oil and gas. Coal is found in Sittway Township and marble in Taungup Township. There is a four mile long lime-stone hill on Ramree Island. Half of the Rakhine Myanmar State is covered with forests that yield valuable woods and bamboos. Solar salt making is another occupation in Thandwe, Taungup and Kyaukpyu townships in Myanmar Rakhine State.
Place to see
Propped impressively where the wide tidal Kaladan River mouth kisses the Bay of Bengal, Sittway Myanmar may sound like a quaint spot for water-watching strolls. For most visitors, it's just a hurry and leave transfer point for visitors heading to Mrauk U the Myanmar ancient Rakhine State Capital. The fish market, friendly folk and spicy dishes can easily fill the half a day you need on either side of Mrauk U trip. The population is about 30% Muslim.
A port town of note for a couple of hundred years and inhabited for a couple of thousand, Sittwe boomed when the British moved the Rakhaing capital here from Mrauk U in the early 19th century in Myanmar. Incoming wealth from cargo trade with Calcutta fuelled the construction of some fine Myanmar colonial mansions, but much of the grace was lost under heavy WWII raids.
Rakhaing State Cultural Museum
The Myanmar government run Myanmar Rakhaing State Cultural Myanmar Museum (Main Rd. admission US$2; 10am-4pm, Tue-Sat) is worth a look for its two floors of Rakhaing People's cultural goodies. On the ground floor, diagram, artifacts and signs in English detail how the Myanmar Rakhaing Culture started their civilization here around 3000BC and about Buddha's purported visit in 554 BC. There's an imaginative rendering of Mrauk U in full steam that looks more Jules Verne, with housed archways connecting hilltops.
Upstairs are displays on Myanmar local customs (eg models showing off some of the 64 Mrauk U royal hairstyles), festivals (including the ra hta pwe, a three day tug of war) and water color drawings detailing key moves you may need if you ever undergo a game of traditional Myanmar Rakhaing wrestling.
A life's work by Sittway Myanmar monk Bhaddanta Wannita, who spent 49 years collecting old coins and Buddha images from Myanmar monasteries to protect them from thieves, has resulted (seemingly) in a little tug of war between his former Myanmar monastery and a Myanmar government opened museum.
His former monastery, the Maha Kuthala Kyaungdawgy (large Monastery of Great Ment; Main Rd; admission free), is housed in (of all things) a grand, century old British colonial mansion north of the centre. The modest Myanmar museum upstairs contains cases of of "Union of Burma" notes, Buddhas and votives and coins from the Mrauk U and other ancient periods, plus a full case of more recent golf trophies.
A less satisfying collection, borrowed from some of Wannitas collection apparently, is at the Buddhistic Myanmar Museum (Baw Dhi St; admission free), an official looking building made by Myanmar government in 1992. Inside are dozens of small ancient Buddha images and votive tablets.
The big pagoda between the museum and the centre is the Lokananda Paya, put up by Myanmar General Than Shwe himself in 1997.On Saturday, soldiers shuffle to scrub clean the giant walkway around it. Just north is a small ordination hall, which houses the Sachamuni image, a 1.5m bronze Buddhas. Apparently the image was found by Mrauk U Myanmar fishers in in recent years previously thrown in the river to escape British destruction. One Myanmar local said. It was housed at the Bandoola Monastery in Mrauk U until Myanmar government moved it here in 1997. It's (unrealistically) claimed to date from 24BC.
Mrauk U Myanmar
Simple the journey to the Myanmar ancient Rakhaing capital of Mrauk U (Myohaung) 65km by boat from Sittway on an increasingly narrow waterway gives a sense of time and place to this lovely area in the foothills of the Myanmar Chin Mountains. Once in Mrauk U, its 150 or so Myanmar temples stand atop, under and between rounded hillocks so curved and perfect they look like they're from a child's drawing.
For those who've visited Bagan, Mrauk U (roughly pronounced m'yawk-oo) is at once smaller in temple size and scope but more alive in the sense that thatched hut villages perforate the site, with refuse fires adding a smoky haze at dusk, as shepherds lead their animals home. Curiously, Myanmar locals call out "bye bye" and wave.
The town is intersected by several chaung (canals), the main source of Myanmar transport and up with water trips, Instead of the usual clay pots or rectangular oil cans, Mrauk U Myanmar residents carry shiny aluminum water pots (imported from India) on their hips.
Since 1996, Myanmar government has funded a massive restoration of Mrauk U. So far 37 temples have been restored of 145 planned. Not all visitors (or residents) share equal wnthusiasm for how they look. One-time cracked stupas now look as it they're made of potters' clay.
One of the most interesting times to visit Mrauk U is during the huge weeklong payapwe (pagoda festival) held near Dukkanthein Paya in mid-May.
Some harmless characters are likely to find you to say "hi". There's a "literature man" who makes a point to chat with all foreigners, and another guy who likes to murmur in various languages in your presence.
Andaw Paya Mrauk U
Immediately northeast of Shittaung stands a smaller, eight-sided monument with a similar linear, eight-sided monument with a similar linear layout: rectangular prayer hall to the east, multispired sanctuary to the west. Sixteen zedi (stupas) are aligned in a square-cornered U shape around the southern, nouthern and western platforms. As at Shittaung, small windows admit light and ventilation, but here fluorescent glare is dimmer. Two concentric passageways are lined with Buddha niches; in the centre of the shrine, an eight-sided piller supports the roof.
The original construction of the shrine is ascribed to King Minhlaraza in 1521. king Minarazayi then rebuilt Andaw in 1596 to enshrine a piece of the tooth relic supposedly brought from Sri Lanka by king Minbin in the early 16th century, Most likely the roofline sikhara date to his later reconstruction, as their slender, terraced style is very different from that found at Shittaung.
Daukkanthein Paya Mrauk U
Across the road to the northwest of Shittaung, the Dukkanthein (the name loosely means "ordination hall that spiritually reinforces the town") smacks of a bunker (with stupas) set impressively on its small bluff amid a green field. Wide stone steps lead up the south and east side; take the latter to reach the entrance.
Built by king Minphalaung in 1571 in particularly troubled times, Daukkanthein's interior features spiraling cloisters lined with images of Buddha and, as per astrologers' strategic advice to the king, of common people, landlords, governors, officials and (notably) their spouses, who famously show off all of Mrauk U's 64 traditional hairstyles. Along the way, stairs lead off to an ordination hall. The passageway nearly encircles the centre three times before reaching the sun-drenched Buddha image set above the inner stairway. A fine paya pwe is held near the paya in mid-May.
The laymyetnha paya, 100m north, looks a bit like a squashed-up version of the Dukkanthein, but was actually built 140 years earlier. Inside the unrenovated padoda, a round passage lined with Buddha images.
Rantanabon Paya Mrauk U
This massive stupa (sometimes called Yadanapon), just north of Andaw Paya, is ringed by 24 smaller stupas. It was apparently built by Queen Shin Htway in 1612. During WWII a bomb nailed it, but it had already been picked at by treasure hunters attracted by the name, which means "accumulation of treasure" recent renovations repaired the enormous bome-made crack and reinserted the tall chattra (spire).
North of Ratanabon
Around the hillock northeast of the Ratanabon are a few worthy sites. The first is this squat hilltop Mahabodhi Shwegu (built in 1448), above on the right, with a narrow passageway leading to a 1.8m central Buddha and four Buddhas in niches. The best are the 280 Jataka scenes, acrobats, worshippers, and animal love scense (!) engraved onto either side of the narrow, arched entry walls.
Back on the road, and 120m north, is the actagonal Laungbanpyauk Paya, a slightly leaning zedi built by King Minkhaungraza in 1525. Some locals call it the "Plate Pagoda" as its outer wall is still adorned with glazed platelike tiles in bright colours. Encircling the zedi are 16 Buddhas in niches with still-surviving detail. Its restoration feels more authentic than some temples.
At the end of the road, 20m north, the compact, highly ornate Pitaka Taik is the last remaining of the 48 libraries that were in Mrauk U. It was built in 1591 by King Minphalaung as a repository for the Tripitaka (Three Baskets; the Buddhist canon), which was received from Sri Lanka in the 1640s. It's wee only 4m long and 2.7m high. The Pitaka Taik is near the old city wall, which ran east-west just to the north.
Roughly 1km northeast of the Palace walls, and behind Shwegudaung hill, this graceful zedi was erected in 1629 by King Thirithudhammaraza. At this later stage, stupas were built more vertically and ornate than before absorption of Burma and Shan styles).
The lower half of the well-preserved 85m zedi features a multitiered octagonal shape as at laungbanpyauk Paya, but beyond this the bells reverts to a layered circular shape mounted by a decorative hti (umbrellalike top). At the western gate are a couple of half-kneeling, painted giants.
To the west is Ratanamanaung which offers fine views.
Almost 10km north of Mrauk U are the remains of the kingdom of Wethali (aka Vesali, or Waithali in local parlance). According to the Rakhaing chronicles, Wethali was founded in AD 327 by King Mahataing Chandra. Archaelogists believe that this kingdom lasted until the 18th century. Little remains to see of the oval-shaped city. Many of the hillocks around the area are actually stupas, which have become covered. The walls of the 500m by 300m central palace site are reasonably well-preserved; its prayer hall is now used as in irrigation tank during the rainy season.
The main attraction for visitors en route toe mahamuni Paya is the so called Great Image of Hsu Taung Pre (Pye), home to a 5m Rakhaing-style sitting Buddha. It's said to be craved from a single piece of stone and date to AD 327 (most visitors argue the features look more modern). The highly revered image is swathed in embroidered red holy cloth and attended by monks and nuns, who live nearby. Just behind are remnants of the moat and stupa-created hill ocks or two.
Regular Myanmar transport is rare in Myanmar Wethali. It's possible to reach here by bicycle (take the sign that says "VSL" and "you are here" east from the Myanmar main road).
Many Myanmar local Rakhaing recollect, with fresh, fiery passion, how the Bamar king Bodaw paya sent soldiers to dismantle and remove the Mahamuni Buddha in 1784. Originally housed here at the Mahamuni Paya, 40km north of Mrauk U and just north of the former ancient capital of Dhanyawady, the image is one of the country's most famous and venerated. Still, it's fascinating to visit the site.
Some Rakhaing believe the image was cast when Buddha visited the area in 554 BC. Others say the Burma Myanmar unknowingly took a counterfeit back to Amarapura (it now resides in Mandalay) and the true one rests under the banyan tree at the site's southwest corner. The Myanmar Rakhaing don't let go easily.
The current Konbaung-style shrine dates from the 18th or 19th centuries, as earlier ones were destroyed by fire. The Mahamuni Buddha is gone, but Mahamuni's brother is now one of three fine golden images resting inside. Outside, on the southeast wall, is a 5th century AD slab depicting a Naga queen.down the steps, near the south walls of the shrine, is a Myanmar museum with a couple of dozen relics and engraved stones. An 18th century bell, placed nearby to keep invaders at bay, mysteriously disappeared a few years ago in Rakhine Myanmar division.
The hilltop golden stupas visiable (barely) to the east mark Salagiri Hill, the fabled site where Buddha visited in 554 BC. The area is closed to foreigners.
The easiest way to get to the site is by hired jeep (about US$20 or US$25 from Mrauk U, including a stop at Wethali Myanmar). It takes about three hours from Mrauk U Myanmar. Public Myanmar transport is infrequent.
Ngapali Beach Myanmar
Myanmar's most popular beach destination features a 3km plam-backed stretch of (for the time being) pretty quiet, pretty empty white-sand Myanmar public beach. Named, some say, by a wayward Italian thinking of his Naples home, Ngapli has about 10 Myanmar bungalow hotels, with Myanmar traditional fishing villages in the area.Myanmar local life still shares the sand with (mostly European) foreign guests, as occasional ox carts meander by sunbathers in Myanmar Ngapali beach.
Historically isolated the Myanmar bus trip here still remains the monster trip of Myanmar's most popular desolations the nearby Thandwe Myanmar airport has triggered a more midrange crowd streaming in. At research time, five new Myanmar hotel projects (some joint ventures) were under way (these are listed on the map), and one-time cheapie Myanmar guest houses have scrubbed their rooms clean and upped their prices.
No topless or nude bathing is allowed Surfing is possible during monsoon season (mid-May through to mid-September) when malaria precautions should be taken. Most Myanmar hotels stay open all year, but it's quiet from April to October in Myanmar.
The December 2004 tsunami essentially had no impact here. The earthquake was felt, but the area suffered no injuries or damage, as only a very subtle change in the tide was noticed in Myanmar Ngapali Beach.
Through it plays a tertiary fiddle to Ngapali in terms of travel appeal, "thandwe (akaSandwway or Thantwe)" is what your Myanmar air or bus-ticket stub will read. Located about 10km inland to the northeast of Myanmar Ngapali Beach, Thandwe is home to some 50,000 residents (30% of which are Muslim) and nicely fills a hilly valley with its low-key streets in Thandwe Myanmar.
Thandwe has been a key Myanmar Rakhaing centre for many centurires, when the British stationed a garrison here around the turn of the 20th century; they twisted the name into Sandoway.
Three golden (and rhyming) Myanmar stupas stand on hilltops at four points around Thandwe. None are spectacular in themselves, but each offers excellent viewpoints of the town's tin roofs peeking out of a sea of palms and hills leading in east and west. It's worth visiting at least one.
The tallest, Nandaw Paya, 1.5km west of the Myanmar market, was supposedly erected in 761 by king Minbra to enshrine a piece of a rib of the Buddha. The long shrine facing the stupa to the south houses some nice wood-carving reliefs of Buddha's life. Most visitors skip the overgrown steps up and walk up the hill-encircling road that starts on the hill's northeast side.
Just east of town, right across a small river about 1km from the Myanmar market, the Sandaw Paya was supposedly built in 784 by Rakhaing Myanmar king Minyokin to house a Buddha hair, and was rebuilt by the Myanmar Burmese in 1876.
Across the river north (past the Myanmar bus station and east on a stone road about 2km from the Myanmar market), the Andaw Paya is the lowest, but has revealing looks at the river's fork from the hills east. It claims to house a Buddha molar relic and dates from 763.
You can get a trishaw to take you to all three for k2000 or so.
This small Myanmar Rakhaing coastal town, 130km south of Thandwe and 26km north of Gwa, is a struggling attempt at a new Myanmar beach resort in Rakhine State. It isolation has meant few Myanmar people make it here, and the beach doesn't have the reputation of Ngapali's. There are a couple of plain Myanmar guesthouses that accept foreigners, if you're looking to break the journey between Thandwe and Yangon using the Gwa route but the road here are not good.
Taunggok Rakhine State
This surprisingly hopping town 80km or so north of Thandwe is a stopping-off point for Myanmar travelers between Pyay and Thandwe by bus, or for catching a Myanmar boat to Sittwe.
If you're staying overnight, the Myanmar Royal Guest House has clean basic rooms with private bathroom a couple of blocks from the Myanmar bus station. Fast Myanmar boats leave from the Tunggok docks to Sittwe (US$40, eight hours) on Monday, Wednesday and Saturaday. Several Myanmar buses leave for Pyay (K2500) around 4am and 7.30pm daily.
Map Of Rakhine State Myanmar