Following a 6+hour boat ride up the Kaladan river in a loud but relatively comfortable diesel-powered boat, we arrived late to the ancient city of Mrauk U. This area is home to some of the most significant archeological sites in (Burma) Myanmar. It is smaller, more ancient, and significantly more remote and less visited by tourists than the larger and more famous city of Bagan. Mrauk U’s hilly topography and misty fog from the nearby rivers gives this area its own unique and exotic beauty. The ancient capital of the Dannavati Kingdom was believed to have been established here more than three thousand years ago, with the more recent city of Mrauk U beginning about 1430 as the capital of the Arakan Kingdom. It remained a very important trading port in Southeast Asia until the 18th century, serving as an important transit point for rice, ivory, elephants, slaves, cotton, spice and textiles. It is popularly believed that a powerful Arakan kingdom once stretched from the Ganges to the Ayerwaddy River in central Burma and included more than half of what is now present-day Bangledesh.
Buddism is intricately woven into the fabric of everyday life across Burma but the Rakhine claim a special place among the first followers. The ancient city is believed to have been visited by Gautama Buddha himself more than two millennium ago. It is said that Buddha agreed to allow them to create an image of him for them to remember, which was treasured by the local people for centuries.
What is remarkable both to myself and others that have witnessed it, is the indefatigable spirit of the Myanmar people. This place is very poor and life is hard. Despite the many challenges they exude optimism and hope balanced with the realism that societal change is a slow process.