Mrauk-U is another interesting historical site in Rakhine, fast becoming a tourist attraction. Mrauk-U was founded in 1430 AD and flourished till 1785 as recorded in its history. Known as the Golden City by foreign travelers of the era it was a focus of trade due to its strategic on the coastal region of Bay of Bengal. There have many historical sites such as the old palace grounds and ancient pagodas principally Shitthoung Pagoda (Eighty thousand pagodas), the old city of Vesali, the Mahamuni Image of Kyauktaw offers a glimpse into the Rachine state.
A new tourist site, which is becoming increasingly more popular in recent years, is the old capital of Rakhine (Arakan) called Mrauk-U. Some of the local people refer to it as Myo (or Mro) Haung, the old city. It was first constructed by the Rakhine King Min Saw Mon in 1430 AD, and remained its capital for 355 years until 1784 when the Rakhine Kingdom ceased to exist as a separated entity and became an integral part of the Myanmar Kingdom.
The Great Image is of course, the Maha Muni Buddha Image, which is now in Mandalay, though originally it was made and venerated in this area about 15 miles from Mrauk-U where another Maha Muni Buddha Image flanked by two other Buddha images is now worshipped.
There are innumerable pagodas and Buddha images all over the old city and the surrounding hills. Some are still being used as places of worship today; many in ruins are now being restored to their original splendour. The most famous and well worth seeing are the Shitthaung, the Andaw, the Dukkhan Thein (Sima or Ordination Hall), the Kowthaung, the Laymyetnha and the Shwe Daung pagodas.
Situated near the Palace Site. This site is right in the center of Mrauk-U, which was built in a strategic location by leveling three small hills. Recently the Archaeology Department has been excavating the Palace Site, which was occupied by Rakhine Kings for over two hundred years.
Even the pagodas are strategically located on hilltops and look like fortresses as indeed they were once used as such in times of enemy intrusion. There are moats, artificial lakes and canals and the whole area could be flooded to deter or repulse attackers.
The Shitthaung or "temple of the 80,000 Buddhas"
The Shitthaung or "temple of the 80,000 Buddhas" is a fascinating place full of small images, scenes in sculpture of Buddhist stories with the kings and queens, countries and common people portrayed in their mediaeval costumes and head-dresses, all frozen in stone throughout the ages. You should take a good torch light to examine the myriad interesting scenes and figures lining the dark corridors of this temple. You can see some Rakhine men boxing and wrestling, some girls dancing and playing, and then there are also the mythical birds, beasts and half-human celestials and demons. Try and find the figures of both the male and female Vasundhra / Vasundhari symbolizing the God / Goddess of the Earth.
The Shitthaung Pagoda, located about half a mile to the north of the palace site was built by one of the most powerful kings of the Mrauk-U Dynasty, called by the people, Minbargyi, but according to records on inscriptions as King Minbin who reigned from 1513 to 1553. The king built this fortress-temple after repulsing a Portuguese attack. The Portuguese mercenaries later served under Rakhine kings. There was also surprisingly an elite corps of Japanese bodyguards protecting the kings of Rakhine.