The bustling town of Meiktila jumped to world attention in early 2013 when vicious anti-Muslim riots led to the deaths of dozens of people and displaced more than 10,000 predominantly Muslim residents. The mob violence, which was suggested to have been prompted by the vitriolic Buddhist monk Wirantu, led to a state of emergency being declared over the immediate town which temporarily pushed it off the itineraries of most independent travellers. The state of emergency has since lifted.
As of late 2013 the situation, at least on the surface, had settled considerably and the city was fine to visit. This is a good thing as Meiktila, sitting at close to the centre of the country, is an important transport hub, at the junction of the Bagan to Kalaw and Taunggyi highway and the Yangon to Mandalay highway (the Yangon to Mandalay train line passes through Thazi, around 45 minutes to the east).
This recent tragedy wasn't the first time the town grabbed world attention -- in early 1945 it was the site of the decisive Battle of Meiktila between the British and Japanese, which led to the deaths of more than 20,000 and flattened the city.
Today Meiktila sits on the northeast bank of the sprawling Lake Meiktila and the town's position delivers on both impressive sunrises and sunsets, with a large lake frontage and a couple of temples within easy walking distance of the most convenient hotel that is permitted to take foreigners.
By Stuart McDonald.