Tuesday, 13 January 2015


Hmmm, big change of plans, sort of, and due entirely the Myanmar public transport fiasco…  I mean system!  Thinking we had until 7pm to kill at the internet café, we got moving late, only to find out upon booking our bus tickets, that our previous information, although correct to a certain degree if we had of wanted the ‘local’ bus, was not entirely accurate. 

It was now midday and we were informed that a tuk tuk would collect us from the ‘hotel’ to meet up with our new bus at 12.45pm, for a 1.30 departure.  We also learned that this bus would take us direct to Mrauk-U, instead of Sittwe as planned.  Our only real reason to visit Sittwe, however, was to then take a boat upriver to Mrauk-U, so it saved us the time and expense, though the river cruise would have been nice I’m sure.  Oh well, just roll with it!

It seems most people fly from Yangon to Sittwe, then take that river trip to Mrauk-U.

So began a 15 hour bus trip through more of Myanmar’s mountains and horrible roads, the trip wasn’t so bad aside from the duration, plus arriving in Mrauk-U at 4am to nothing open.  The going was so slow for most of the trip, that it took us 2 hours to cover only 40km at one point, as with most of our travelling so far, the distances weren’t that great but the journey’s were so slow.

Fear not, there was a couple of motorbike taxi’s and a tuk tuk waiting for the bus arrival in the early hours and we were soon checked into the Golden Star Guesthouse at $25 a night, the most over priced room I have had the misfortune to custom in my entire travels.  I don’t mind staying in shitholes, but I do mind paying a fortune for the privilege! 

We grabbed a few hours sleep, caught up on laundry, wandered around town, used Myanmar’s slowest wifi connection at the Skynet internet café and organized a temple tour and new hotel for the following day.  Then of course, had a beer! 

Early the next morning after a bit of cheap market shopping, we moved our gear over to Lay Mro River Guesthouse, where our room was a steal at $15, normally $10 per person but they agreed to reduce the price for us.  The room was small, but far better than our $25 room at Golden Star.

The owner’s son was quite the sharp young business man, a bright beacon in Myanmar, a huge help in probably anything you could need or want organized.  Speaks great English and really understands the traveller’s needs, he is sure to be a great asset to the small town of Mrauk-U going forward, don’t hesitate to stay there or ask for assistance, if only everywhere I travelled had this level of service.

 After what we have seen so far, he is the example they should be striving to emulate, nothing was too much trouble and he was very knowledgeable about the whole area.  Don’t get me wrong, he is in the industry to make money from us tourists, but by providing a quality, reasonably priced service and not by simply cornering the market and overcharging. 

 Lay Mro River Guesthouse – probably my number 1 pick for service so far.

The night before we checked in, he helped organized a tuk tuk for the following day to take us around visiting all the temples.  From my experience I figured it would be $15-$20 and agreed to the original asking price of $20 without haggling. 

 When I’m beat down from a long bus ride I tend to be a bit softer and pay more, after doing the trip I would say it should be between $10 -$15.   Though in the driver’s defence, I think he wanted to show us more, but we were a little ‘templed out’.

  Another factor in me paying a little extra is that when somebody throws a reasonable figure, of what I think something is worth, at me, I more inclined to go easy.  Hit me with a crazy price straight up and I will screw you down to the last cent! 

 I don’t simply haggle to get somebody down to their absolute bottom margin, I just know what most things are worth, plus what they are worth to me personally, and like to pay accordingly. 

I still remember at Mt Bromo in Java, 2 German tourists were being a bit snide and boasting proudly to me how they had managed to get the horse ride to the volcano for $7.50 instead of the $10 that I paid.  I knew I could have haggled, but my thoughts at the time were that those people really needed the extra $2.50 more than I did, and that the whole experience to me was easily worth $10.

  Never forget that when travelling, just because you can get it cheaper, doesn’t always mean you should. 

After the expense and hassle of actually getting to Mrauk-U, I was weighing up whether or not I felt it was worth the trouble.  After spending the day exploring the temples and countryside I was no longer undecided, it had been worth every bump, hour and dollar getting here, the place was just amazing.

We jostled and bumped around in the tuk-tuk from temple to pagoda on rough bush tracks, through villages and sometimes town itself, a really great day out and not to be missed.  We loved the fact that you can still climb around and walk inside most of these old temples, allowing you to almost step back in time whilst walking the quiet passages.

I seriously enjoyed my time and the temples of Mrauk-U more than Angkor Wat, easily.  Although not as old as the Cambodian ruins, they were not any less impressive, I would almost say better but I have just spent today in Bagan…  more on that later! 

The whole town is just a special place - it’s dirty, rundown, old, the restaurants have dirt floors, people are still using ponds and wells to wash their clothes in the street, and as with most of Myanmar, the power goes out regularly, but it just has something charming about it.  Add the people, scenery, sunsets and temples into the mix, not to mention just the journey getting there and it really becomes one of those places you never forget.

I have been to nearly all the major temples in SE Asia and Mrauk-U rates right up there with the best of them, as I said, more enjoyable to me personally than Angkor.  The best part being that for basically the whole day, there was only Noi and I at these temples, plus they were still in a natural setting, most of them still among the villages, with crops growing mere meters away from these ancient relics.

It was really great to see, unlike Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Borobudur in Indonesia, where you are scrambling among thousands of people, here we only had to share with the occasional goat!

 Though the funny part was, we originally went to Mrauk-U because it was apparently so far out of the way that hardly anybody went there, yet we saw the most farang’s here than we had anywhere!  Maybe it was simply because the town was so small that you couldn’t help but bump into each other!

Day around Mrauk-U

Inside the amazing Shitaung Pagoda 

All these great temples and nobody around

Crops growing right nearby