Myanmar Travel Log

Myanmar Travel Log Part 6 - Odyssey to Mrauk U and dreaming on Ngapali beach

In the afternoon we decided to move on to Mrauk U from Bagan, but we didn't quite know what to expect. The hotel booked the last two seats on the bus for us. We take a taxi and drive past Mt Poppa.

Myanmar: temple complex with Mount Popa

Due to a cold we are both quite sluggish today, crawling at snail's pace through the temple complex that thrones majestically on the rocks.

After tasting some palm wine, we hop back into a cab and drive to the small village where we are supposed to catch our bus. After waiting for nearly 10 hours in a Burmese tea house, the bus finally arrives -- at 1am.

I am sure we'll remember this ride for years to come: wedged between Burmese locals and vegetable-filled crates, we make our way through Myanmar in a rusty old jalopy.

Whenever we arrive at a check point, all the locals have to get off the bus. We are asked to hand in our passports but get to stay on the bus at least. What can I say, it's slightly unsettling to see uniformed men disappear in a little shack with your passports...

Meanwhile, our fellow travellers are lined up next to the bus while their particulars are being checked. Then the journey finally continues. With passports back in our pockets, we brace ourselves for the mountain passes that lie ahead of us. The seats on the bus are tiny and the ride is bumpy (to say the least).

We also noticed a while ago that the Burmese like to spit (the women as well). Since we're sitting at the back of the bus we have to be careful about opening the window...

Hung over and befuddled we arrive in Mrauk U -- just in time to roast in the afternoon heat. Now we both have a fever, so we decide to hole up in a hotel.

A tour of Mrauk U

The bulky temples of Mrauk U look very different from the ones in Myanmar
The bulky temples of Mrauk U look very different from the ones in Myanmar

Burmese for beginners: Mrauk U is pronounced [ meouw-u ] -- just like the cat noise.

Still a bit shaky from the flu we hop onto bicycles to explore Mrauk U. Although we start early in the day, the heat is already beginning to become a problem.

The bulky monuments of Mrauk-U

Picture: thousands of stupas -- unique to Mrauk-U
Picture: a temple with thousands of stupas, something that is unique to Mrauk-U.

If you can't get enough of temples and palaces, Mrauk-U is the place to be for you. Temple and palaces clutter the once city of kings Mrauk-U and they all look very different from similar monuments in Myanmar.

The monuments in Mrauk-U are bulky and drab and look more like fortresses. But if you look closer, you'll notice lots of embellishments, i.e. little figures and stupas.

On the inside, you will find nice cool hallways with lots of ornaments chiseled into the stone (e.g. buddhas and statues).

In and around Mrauk U

Those willing to travel to Mrauk U will discover a small city with an impressive temple complex open to visitors.

Mrauk U is easy to reach by bike. There's also lots to see around the city. Booking a guide is highly recommended if you want to race through the bumpy streets in a tuk tuk. There are more temples, palaces and buddha statues around the city as well. The tattooed Chin women are also worth a visit.

According to the legend, the beautiful women of the Chin tribe used to be kidnapped by barbarians. In order to appear more fearsome to the barbarians, the women began to tattoo their faces. While their faces and tattoos might still seem beautiful even today, we didn't actually manage to visit the Chin women. Instead we looked at more pagodas and temples. The temples in Mrauk U look different from similar monuments in Burma. They resemble bulwarks and look rather imposing. But they do sport lots of ornaments too, mainly buddha figures and stupas.

Temple interior: dark but cool hallways decorated with thousands of buddha figures
Temple interior: dark but cool hallways decorated with thousands of buddha figures

We explore Mrauk U in record time and decide to visit the Ngapali beaches via Sittwe in order to spend a few days in the shade of the palm trees.

From Mrauk U to the Ngapali beaches

On the ferry from Mrauk U to Sittwe you are pretty much guaranteed to meet locals. From Sittwe the journey to the Ngapali beaches continues on the plane. Soon we'll be relaxing in the shade of the palm trees!

Relaxing on Ngapali beach

Myanmar Journey - Relaxing on Ngapali beach

Dreams come true on Ngapali beach: kilometres of sandy beaches, clear water, dense palm trees -- and not (yet) a hotel in sight. That's because none of them (and there are quite a few, actually) are higher than the palm trees. The hotels are breezy and comfy, though, and well worth a visit.

There's nothing much to add, really. Just go there, order a pineapple juice and relax on the sunbed.

A journey through Myanmar - Summing Up

If you intend to visit Burma, you should pick a cooler season. Looking back, we regret visiting the country in March. At least it only rained twice during our entire stay -- and both times it was just a few drops (the rainy season is a different matter, though).

Should you be travelling during the rainy season, you will have a whole different set of problems. The ideal time to visit Myanmar is between October and December.

And if you pick the right season without any floods or dry spells, you will find Myanmar to be a green, flowering place.

Myanmar is definitely worth a trip; it has remained virtually unchanged, sporting only few of the architectural sins and shopping malls that blight the landscapes of other Asian countries like Thailand or Vietnam.

But ever since the country opened its borders to tourists, Myanmar has been changing too. Nyaung Shwe (on the Inle lake) is a good example of that: it is cluttered with tourist agencies, all offering the same tours.

In case you decide to visit the country, we wish you a safe, beautiful trip to Myanmar. [ Enter your own travel log here or send us a message! ] Before you hop onto the plane, make sure to read our 14 Burma Travel Tips.

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