Sunday, April 29, 2012

#995 Mrauk U, Myanmar (Burma)

The first amazing thing about Mrauk U is its isolation. To get there, you have to fly to Sittwe, which is a tiny little town in Rakhaing State on the western coast of Myanmar, and then take a small boat for several hours up a river to reach the Mrauk U site.

The next amazing thing is the size -- ruins and temples are scattered over several kilometers. The best way to see them all is by bike. European travellers who visited in the 16th century compared it to the large cities of Europe for its greatness.

The third amazing thing is that some of this ancient Rakhaing capital is current after centuries. The Buddha statues still have flowers and offerings, and many of the temples have active monks and nuns participating in rituals and chants. Many Buddhas are still dressed on a regular basis, and many temples are still painted and repaired. On the other hand, and this is amazing too, many are derelict and ruined. Why one survived and another didn't is an interesting puzzle.

The fourth amazing thing is the living civilization that is threaded throughout and is continuing to exist - the fields and farms next to temples and palaces, the children that come up to you while you're on the sites, the bullock carts sharing the narrow dirt roads. The sense of timelessness exists here -- people seem like they are living as they were when it was a great city.

The fifth amazing thing is that almost no one has heard of it.

Kothaung Temple
Outside of Kothaung Temple

Outside of Kothaung Temple

Inside Kothaung Temple
Inside Kothaung Temple

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