Mrauk U, which means “North Far” may seem to be a sleepy village today but not so long ago it was the capital of the Arakan empire where Portuguese, Dutch and French traders rubbed shoulders with the literati of Bengal and Mughal princes on the run. Mrauk U was declared capital of the Arakanese kingdom in 1431. At its peak, Mrauk U controlled half of Bangladesh, modern day Rakhine State (Arakan) and the western part of Lower Burma. As the city grew, many pagodas and temples were built. Several of them remain, and these are the main attraction of Mrauk-U.
The journey through the backwaters and then up the river is a wonderful trip (contemplative and delightful). In Nov 2011 there were 2 large ferries running from Sittwe to Mrauk U, the ex-government boat (XGov) (now privatised) & the Aung Kyan Moe(AKM) double decker boat (on both tourists 10 USD, 7 hours & an Express boat (20 USD, 3 hours). You will almost certainly be met at Sittwe airport by a tout selling private boats / places on private boats (2-5 passenger 20 USD pp, 6 hours, one way), which may be useful if you want to go that afternoon, as you save a night in Sittwe.
If taking a private boat it is best to book the one way trip only, and arrange your return from Mrauk-U. There is a guy whose card reads “Environmental Decorator” among other things selling boat places there, and he grouped all of his passengers who had booked (and paid for) a private return into a single boat. The best rule of thumb is to hand over your money only when you see and are satisfied with the boat. Private boats will typically have coffee and tea, and sometimes water for passengers, so bring your own food as the journey is about 5 hours.
Sittwe to Mrauk U, a Ferry goes Mon (AKM) Tues (XGov),Fri(Xgov),Sat(AKM).at 7am Express boat Wed 2pm.& there one more sailing of the Aung Kyaw Moe probably Thurs (possibly Wednesday).
Mrauk U to Sittwe a Ferry goes Tues(AKM),Wed(XGov),Fri(AKM),Sat(Xgov),Sun(AKM).at 7am Express boat Thursday 7am.
Food is available for purchase. The ferry is not in great condition but seems safe enough. Be warned though that the ferry has been known to skip a day or two every now and then so, if relying on it for travel, keep a reasonable buffer to avoid getting stuck. Private boats are available for rent in Sittwe and may do the trip considerably faster (4 to 6 hours) for US$50-80 (2008 price) depending on your negotiating skills and the number in your party. The principle advantage in renting a private boat is that you are no longer tied to the ferry timings. In the main season in 2011 there were private boats leaving Mrauk U seemingly every day, which you could join for negotiated fare. Flights from Yangon arrive in Sittwe in the afternoon and it is easy to rent a boat and be in Mrauk U in the evening which means a travel time of one day from Yangon. With the government ferry (US$6 or Ky 7’000), count on at least two days to get from Yangon to Mrauk U, longer if you arrive the day before a ferry off-day.