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Mrauk U need to know

Many visitors get confused with how to pronounce Mrauk U. It is pronounced “Meow ooo”, make sure you get that right or you’ll end up in Nyaung-U like we almost did! Alternatively, don’t ask the woman at Golden Dream Hotel in Mandalay to book the bus for you (she didn’t understand where we meant) or even better, write down the name ‘Mrauk U’ and show it to the bus ticket buyer on a map.

There is no electricity in Mrauk U from 12am – 6am (and quite often during the day time also), which is a royal pain in the arse for charing things as most day time activities start at dawn.
However… Shwe Thazin Hotel claim to be the only hotel with 24hr electricity and if I had the money (cheapest room $55) and forethought I would have stayed there, the management was lovely and the room looked really nice and not damp.
edit: A new power station is being built and there are claims that from 14th December 2014 there will be 24hours power in Mrauk U. Let’s see…

Tractor taxi is still a major form of transportation here.

The food options are worse than the rest of Myanmar. If you can’t handle spicy, stick to fried noodles. I couldn’t handle the spice in this town, although my travel buddies loved the local food so it really depends on taste. It is at least cheap and you get a lot of bang (from both ends) for your buck.

Pregnant goats and generally goats are everywhere. This made me very happy as I truly love goats and most of my videos and pictures of Mrauk U feature just goats. In heinseight I regret this and wish I’d taken more of the scenery and daily life.

The town is full of tiny old women smoking big cigars all around you and lots of betelnut splashes everywhere. This was the part of Myanmar where you find the women with red teeth and gums giving you un-trusting looks and then spitting the red betelnut/saliva mix on the pavement in front of you. It’s not blood, don’t worry.

Accommodation in Mrauk U
For the backpacker budget (around $25 a night) you will generally find the same type of prison cell style concrete walled room. Some slightly damper than others and some with a bucket shower over a regular one.
After trudging around the town for an hour in the heat looking for a decent room (we hadn’t pre-booked anywhere) we settled on the first one we’d seen. A dark and damp place across the bridge that at least had a nice breakfast area. It was next to the River Valley restaurant. Despite it only being a 5 minute walk from the town center, I was still anxious every-time we crossed that bridge at night-time that we would get thrown in, there was just a strange vibe.

How to get around Mrauk U?
Due to a tourist crashing his motorbike in the past, tourists are not allowed to hire or even ride on the back of bikes. They are a little bit strict on this, and it can be hard to find a moto-taxi who will take you. Unless you meet the woman with the huge megaphone when you get off the bus (my theory is she is head of the Mrauk U mafia) who will willingly and literally pull over a random citizen on a bike, plonk you on it and demand 1000Khat for the favour she just did you.

Luckily Mrauk U a small-ish town, with everything you need such as accommodation and food centered in one small area. However you will want to see the sights and all the temples and for this you will need either a guide with transport or a bicycle. We did both, hired a bicycle and paid a local guy to come with us for half the day to explain what we were looking at and show us where things were.

Do hire a bicycle, but don’t expect it to be in decent condition. Count yourself lucky it has two working wheels and a seat.

Riding a bicycle around Mrauk U and the outskirts of the town at sunset was one of my favourite moments in Myanmar. It’s a magical time of day when the weather is cooler and people begin to come out of their houses and get busy with being normal.
The man at the end of this video was so curious about my phone and asked to re-watch the video maybe 10 times, he then shook my hand and went on his way.

How to get to Mrauk U?
This town is remote and feels faaaar away from everywhere. From Mandalay it was a 19 hour uncomfortable bus ride and the even longer journey from Mrauk U to Yangon on the bus was one of the worst, in fact it was THE worst bus ride I took in all of South East Asia. The road is unfinished, bumpy, winding, and our bus had to stop a few times to get repaired as parts of the engine has fallen off as the driver flew around the mountain corners. There are many security stops, so keep the passport handy.

My travel sickness pills were a god-send not only for myself but also the local lady in the seat in front of me who spent a few hours vomiting until there was nothing left to bring up. Unlucky for me the wind was blowing the wrong way and both our windows were open, I spent the next 20 hours smelling like vomit. You can read the full experience about my Mrauk U to Yangon bus ride here

There is also a more exciting [read: dangerous] was of getting to Mrauk U by boat from Sittwe, however I don’t recommend it due to the unstable violence still going on in the area. A couple of french backpackers in the same hotel as us actually gave us their home address and contact details incase they went missing and asked me to tell their parents they love them! They were taking the boat and were terrified.

Any scams?
Kindof. Standard bus station/transportation scam. You will be told the bus station is 2km out of the town and you have to pay around 3000khat extra to get there in a pick up truck. However, once you get on the bus, and are 5 minutes into the journey and just getting as comfortable as you can considering the circumstances, the bus will stop in the town, likely 5 minutes from your hotel! SO, to spell it out, don’t bother paying more to get to the bus station. At least if you are heading to Yangon, make sure to arrange the pick up from the restaurant where the megaphone lady hangs out at, opposite the Nawarat Hotel. The bus stops there for about 15 mins before starting the long journey to Yangon, make sure to go to the toilet while you are here aswel, I had to squat at the side of the road in a traffic jam.

Mrauk U need to know
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