Sittwe: An Introduction

On Myanmar’s north-western coast in the state of Rakhine, gazing out over the Bay of Bengal, Sittwe is a long-established harbour city that grew from a small fishing village into a crucial maritime stronghold during the 19th century.

The reality of life in Sittwe today is very hard, and since the town’s 19th Century heyday when the British moved the capital from Mrauk U, things have slipped somewhat. Today the state of Rakhine is amongst the poorest in Burma and this is no more evident than on the streets of Sittwe. Illegal immigrants flood over the Bangladeshi border, stopping en route to their goal of working in Yangon or oversees. Water shortages, unemployment and poor sanitation are common problems throughout the city.

Signs of a military past are still visible and you can find Colonial remnants too – the Maka Kuthala Kyaungdawgyi museum is a grand ex-Colonial mansion that today houses not only the museum but also a monastery. Founded by a monk, Bhaddanta Wannita, his collection of Buddhist artefacts is now open to the public. There is also the Shwezedi Kyaung Monastery housed in a dramatically decayed Colonial-era building.

Other highlights include the Payagyi Temple, and the Lokanada Paya that looms over the town – the fact that it was built with forced labour under the junta sours the experience somewhat. The smaller streets that run between Set Yone Su St and Strand Rd are also of interest; brimming with typical Rakhine culture and trade and where you’re just as likely see a pig run across the road as you are a dog!

For early risers, a local custom is a visit to the fish market, and at the other end of the day attention turns to ‘The Point’ where locals gather to catch up with the day’s events as the sun sets over the Bay of Bengal.

Rickshaw driver in Sittwe

Sitting on an estuary at the Bay of Bengal, Sittwe is the  bording point for your cruise up the Kaladan River to the ancient capital of Mrauk U.

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Photos of Sittwe

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