In the west of Myanmar, on the Bay of Bengal, lies the Rakhine (pronounced Ra-Khine) State, comprised mainly of impassable mountains with a long, narrow strip of coast dotted with offshore islands. Most common way to reach the historic heartland of Rakhine, therefore, is to take a voyage of several hours by ship up the Kaladan River, bringing one to the once-mighty and cosmopolitan ancient capital of Mrauk U. The unusual architecture of the local pagodas, built of sandstone blocks, are also evidence of the region’s long-standing cultural autonomy, which also produced the quasi-legendary Mahamuni Buddha, the holiest statue in all Myanmar.
The land of the Chin race lies northwards of Rakhine State and some Chin tribes have settled near Mrauk Oo. The women of this tribe tattoo their faces with fine blue lines in elegant patterns, saying their ancestors did it to prevent marrying tribes to carry off the beautiful women. However, the lines enhance the structure of their faces and make them even more alluring.
PORTUGUESE AND SAMURAI
Portuguese merchanries have been serving in the armies of S.E Asia since the 15th century and hundreds served in the Rakhine kings’ navy. There was also a Portuguese trading port in Mrauk Oo and their own church. Another group of settlers but far smaller in number are the samurai who had escaped to Mrauk Oo in 1632 from a revolt in Japan and served as the king’s bodyguards.
Interesting places in Mrauk U: Shit-thaung pagoda, Andaw Pagoda, Ratana-bon Pagoda, Dukkhan-thein Pagoda, Le-myet-hna Pagoda, Laung-ban-Pyauk Pagoda, Pitakataik, Mahabodhi-Shwe-gu Pagoda, Ratana-man-aung Pagoda, Sakya-man-aung Pagoda, Shwe-taung Pagoda, Min-Kham-aung Temple, Jina-man-aung Pagoda, Laksay Kan, Loka-man-aung Pagoda, Parabaw Pagoda, Lak-kauk-zay Monastery, Palace, Museum of Mrauk U.
Sittwe is a town in Rakhine State, in the westernmost part of Myanmar (Burma). Sittwe formerly known as Akyab, is located on an estuarial island created by the confluence of the Kaladan River, Myu River, and Lemyo River emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The 2006 population 181,000 and it is the provincial capital.
The city is predominantly Buddhist but there is a large Rohingya community as well as other Muslim groups causing ethnic and religious tensions. More than 40 percent are Muslims by religion.
Originally a small fishing village, Sittwe became an important seat of maritime commerce, especially as a port for the export of rice after the British occupation of Arakan, now known as Rakhine State, following the First Anglo-Burmese War. Sittwe was the location of a battle during the conquest of Arakan by the Burmese king Bodawpaya in 1784. This defeat opened the route towards the inland Arakanese capital of Mrauk U, which was soon conquered, ending the independence of the Arakanese.
The name Sittwe, which means “the place where the war meets”. When the Burmese King Bodawpaya invaded the Rakhine kingdom in 1784, the Arakanese defenders encountered the Burmese force at the mouth of Kissapanadi (Kalandan) River. In the ensuing battle, which was waged on both land and water, the Arakanese were defeated. The place where the battle occurred came to be called Saite Twêy by the Arakanese and colloquialized as ‘Sittwe’ by the Burmese.
During the First Anglo-Burmese War (1823-1826) the British forces landed at Sittwe and stationed their forces by the ancient pagoda, Ahkyaib-daw, which is still standing at the head of the city. The British adopted the name Akyab for the place. In 1826, the seat of government was transferred from the old Arakan capital of Mrohaung to Sittwe on the seacoast. During the first 40 years of British rule it increased from a village to a town of 15,536 inhabitants, and by 1901 it was the third port of Burma with a population of 31,687.