Mrauk U or Bagan?
If you want to travel to Asia to get lost in ancient cities, there’re very few countries that could be a better choice than Myanmar. With a rich history of several different powerful kingdoms, there are two places in this magical land that will make you feel like travelling back in time: Bagan and Mrauk U. On photos, these two ancient cities in Myanmar look somewhat similar, with temple ruins scattered across a deserted plain. But because Bagan is much more popular, many people dub Mrauk U as “the second Bagan” or "Little Bagan". However, this is completely wrong. To prove that, here are 3 obvious differences between these two magical lands.
Though often named as "Little Bagan", Mrauk U (left) is unique in its own way
First, Bagan was built from the 9th to 13th century as the capital city of Kingdom of Pagan whereas Mrauk U was the former capital of Mrauk U Kingdom, the most powerful Rakhine (Arakanese) kingdom from the 15thto 18th century. Secondly, the ruins in Mrauk U were made of stone with thick walls to cope with fierce winds. Meanwhile, the 2,200 or so temples in Bagan were made of brick. And, the last difference is, unlike Bagan which is one of the must-visit destinations in Myanmar, Mrauk U receives only 5,000 foreign visitors per year. Although this number is expected to rise in the near future with the overall development of Myanmar, it is unlikely that Mrauk U will turn into a popular destination due to the remote location, plus it takes a seven-hour boat ride to get there from Sittwe, the tourism hub for the whole Rakhine State.
Hot air balloon over Bagan
A high view of the less-visited temples of Mrauk U
Traditional horse cart ride in Bagan
Mrauk U in a misty day
So, with that in mind, Mrauk U is definitely a perfect destination for getting off the beaten path in Myanmar. Exploring one of the biggest and richest medieval cities and trading ports in Asia with no virtually no other tourists in sight, the secret land of Mrauk U promises some memorable experience during your luxury trips to Myanmar.
Exotic Voyages say: While Bagan remains a must on your Myanmar itinerary, the inclusion of Mrauk U would probably take one flight to Sittwe and a lengthy boat ride as mentioned, thus even two days would be a rush for traveling to this western part of Myanmar. Do consider your length of travel before deciding to visit Mrauk U. It is harder to get to than Bagan, but the journey will be rewarded with some magical experience. For a great tour which includes both Mrauk U and Bagan, we suggest this two-week tour: Venture through Secrets.
Novice monks collecting alms and offerings in Bagan
Boys in Mrauk U with thanakha - Burmese traditional face paint