Travelogue through Mrauk-U

An article on BBC travel about Mrauk-U, the capital and centre of the Arakan kingdom from the 15-18th centuries.

Ancient Burma’s playful side
BBC Travel, 19 March 2012

The atmosphere of a ruin fuels the imagination, and no ruin is as “alive” as Mrauk U, where goat herders and radish farmers still live and work amid the 700 temples. From 1430 to 1784, the city served as the capital of the Rakhaing people – an ethnic group still in the area. Per some fanciful depictions, Rakhaine emperors, surrounded by Japanese samurai bodyguards, built a skyline of skyscraper-tall towers connected with air bridges.

It is moments like these that link the site to Angkor Wat, a expanse of ruins in varying states that can feel like entering a dreamy film set. The difference is Mrauk U is not only historical site. Here, the ruins are merely a backdrop to everyday life. Streams of young women fill tin pots at temple-side wells and take short cuts over cracked pagoda steps to farms sandwiched between 500-year-old stupas. Elders crouch below trees, amid smoking refuse piles and goat herds. One man I met, sitting in a meditative pose by a ruined city wall, told me his name was the “Divine Protector of Buddha”. And I found no reason to doubt him.

Full story here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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