MRAUK U lies 750 bumpy kilometres north-west of Yangon. Poor timings on flights ruled that option out. With the historic city of Pyay on the way, self-drive became the best choice.
Burma switched from driving on the left to the right, on the advice of soothsayers, leaving a mix of left- and right-handed cars, fighting it out with chickens, bullocks, kids on motorcycles, grandpas on bicycles, dogs, wagons, food carts, prehistoric trucks and untuchables in Mercedes. Luckily the sights and stops on the way justified the scary traffic conditions.
Getting from Yangon to Mrauk U by public transport was going to be painfully uncomfortable and time consuming.
I've ridden bikes for 30 years in Asia, but this was the first time (exc Japan) I hired a car.
Once out of Yangon, it was reasonably calm, although I had to always be on the watch for carts, livestock, bicycles, motorcycles cutting in, trucks going slow, or fast, dogs.
Our first stop was Pyay, which takes its name from the 5th century Pyu Kingdom, remains of which are outside town.
The 4th century Bawbawgyi Paya (Big Grandfather Stupa) is the oldest and most impressive monuments of the capital known as Thayekhittaya.
A small museum on the sprawling site contains many fine religous artifacts.
Around 9 centuries of monuments of various styles, design, function and state of repair dot the flat site.
A 7.5km loop covers the major sites, making for a good afternoon's viewing. Apparently cycling is not permitted, but I had no issues driving.
Pyay had a busy night market serving up plenty of treats.
Do leave room for desert.
One sight has dominated Pyay for several hundred years, Shwesandaw Paya.
From the east a giant seated Buddha, Sehtagyi (Big Ten Story) Paya eyeballs the paya, which is 1m taller than Yangon's Shwedagon.
Shwesndaw follows the design of Bagan's Shwezigon, and is one of Burma's major pilgrimage sites.
Pyay's importance as a trading post began under the Bagan Mons, and boomed with the arrival of the British Irrawaddy Flotilla Company.
As with anywhere in Burma, the glory days of Pyay are long gone, but the city continues to attract traders, pilgrims and tourists.
Another quirky site in the vicinity is Shwemyetman, where the Buddha has sported some big spectacles since before the British invasion.
Off the north-south highway, rural Burma was all around.
I was not far west of Pyay when I was stopping again, at a country market by the side of the road.
Fish traders spread their wares on plastic tarps on the ground.
Others had more permanent facilities.
It was the sort of unexpected discovery which makes independent travel fulfilling.
It is 485km from Pyay to Mrauk U, through several checkpoints, up and down mountains, on roads of varying standards.
So when I came across a wedding later that morning, it made it impossible for us to make Mrauk U that day.
The final part of the journey took us close to the Bay Of Bengal.
Estaurone waterways cut the landscape.
Wooden slatted bridges took us across wide rivers. Not far from here,the port of Sittwe is a gateway to Mrauk U.
A quick fill of delicious noodles at a nameless thatched-roof hut was our last stop.
A back-breaker bus may have ultimately been quicker, but the sights and people on the way made the car the best choice.