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States and divisions - Rakhine state
Rakhine state | Map | Google map
A long narrow coastal region in the south of Bangladesh and Chin state has been physically separated by the north-south Rakhine (Arakan) mountain range to the country proper. Topography is hill ranges on the north-east and east which slope down toward the Bay of Bengal in the west. The coast is mostly rocky with some lonely beaches. The islands dotted the nearby sea, found mostly in the northern part, are in fact tops of the submerged mountains. The coastal plain is generally narrow and not continuous as the hills reach down to the sea in many places.
The largest plains are located to the east of Sittwe, the capital. These plains are formed by the deltas of May-Yu, Kissipanadi (or Kaladen), and Laymyo rivers. These fertile plains are the main rice growing areas of the state. In the north and north-east, rivers originated in the high hills run down the mountain slopes forming rapids and strong currents amids the mountains.
The state receives heavy rainfall. The storms from andaman sea usually hit the state in April or May, and might come again in October or November. The hills are covered with tropical rain forests.
Majority of the population is Rakines; there are also Chins, Bamars, Daingnet, Mro, Khumi, Thet, Bengalis living in the state.
Rice is the main economic crop grown largely in the Sittwe plains. Coconut palm, ground nut, onions, chillies, tobacco, bananas, sugar cane, maize, jute are also grown. Fishing and sea food processing has been developed gradually. Due to the lack of good fishing boats and gear, some of the foreign fishing companies have been granted to fish in the sea. Small scale hydroelectric power plants could be built at the sites of some rivers in the northern and north-eastern areas. Electricity supply has so far never been enough. Timber is still used as a source of energy.
Transport and tourism
There are two roads passing the Rakhine range from the middle of the country. The northern one is from Magwe to Ann, and the one in the south is from Pyay to Taung Gok from where there is a road to Thandwe and Ngapali beach. The southern road is used by few foreign tourists. It takes many hours and possibly need to overnight in Taung Gok. Northern road is rarely used by foreigners since it is a very long way from any other tourist spots in the country. Besides, none of these roads are in good conditions (2003).
The south-north highway along the coast from Kanthaya beach in the south passing Ngapali beach, Thandwe (the airport location for Ngapali), Taung Gok, Ann, to the places in the north such as Mrauk U, Kyauk Taw and up to the border with Bangladesh is under the development. Bridge building across many streams have not yet been finished (2004). When this highway is completed it will be possible to travel from Ayeyarwady division (Pathein, etc.) to Sittwe in the northern Rankhine state in cars.
Currently most foreign tourists would fly to Thandwe and use a hotel transfer service to Ngapali beach. The southern beach of Kanthaya is reached from Ayeyarwady division by road. From Yangon it is around 293 km that would need about 8 hours (2003) driving. The road connecting Kanthaya and Ngapali beaches is usable (5 to 6 hours if it is dry) though sometimes flooded.
Travel to Sittwe is mainly by flight from either Thandwe or Yangon. Other ways are by boat, either passenger boat or cargo boat, from Thandwe or Taung Gok or Kyauk Phu island. From Sittwe tourists would go by boat or car to Mrauk U and Kyauk Taw, the ruins of ancient Rakhine cities. Mrauk U (15th to 18th centuries) is famous for its fortress style city structure and tunnel architecture of its many pagodas. There are ruins of several other smaller cities around there. It is possible to go up the Laymyo river to southern Chin villages by permission. Road travel to Chin state may not be currently possible for foreign tourists.