Sittwe, known to the Bengalis as ‘Akyab’, is in Rakhine State and used to be a busy trading port. Sittwe was founded by the British in 1826 and is situated at the mouth of the rivers Kaladan and Lomro near the border with Bangladesh. Due to its history as a major town during the time of the Raj, many people who came here to work came from India – to this day approximately 25% of the people are Muslim of Indian origin. Visit the local market where all kinds of fish and seafood are on sale.
Mrauk Oo (once known as Myo Haung) was Rakhine’s capital in the 15th century, when it enjoyed great wealth and was an important commercial port. A visitor described it as one of the richest cities in Asia. Being a great trading centre, it was coveted by many surrounding kingdoms including the Bengalis, the Moguls and the Burmese. The end came about after two disastrous earthquakes in 1761 and 1762, and the takeover of Rakhine by the Burmese King Bodawpaya in 1784. In the wake of the first Anglo-Burman war in 1826, and the subsequent founding of Sittwe by the British as an administrative centre, Mrauk Oo fell into oblivion. Little remains of this wealth but Mrauk Oo has great charm with its many local markets, solid wooden houses, canals, hills and friendly people. Some of the ancient pagodas and ruins can be visited on foot from the town, whilst others require a bullock cart or vehicle.
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