I was in Sittwe and Mrauk U about 2 weeks ago (late Nov 2013) so these are somewhat recent experiences.
Sittwe was an odd one. As soon as I walked into the airport from the tarmac there were guys trying to sell me boats telling me that there were NO public boats, at all, not that day, not the next, not at all. Guys trying to book me into hotels saying there are NO hotel rooms AT ALL in Sittwe. This was my second trip to Myanmar and the first time I've had any pushy touting experiences like this.
They were correct that there were no more public boats that day but there WERE public boats the next, I just had to stay overnight. If you're coming to Sittwe consider booking ahead for accommodation as with all the NGOs and the UN in town lots of the hotels/ guesthouses get booked up. The Prince hotel, listed in the LP as the cheapest place in town no longer accepts foreigners. Mya Guesthouse is incredibly clean and had probably the most comfortable bed I slept in the whole 3 weeks but it's way overpriced at $20 for a single. Most of the cliental at the Nobel Hotel will be NGOs.
I found Sittwe the most unfriendly town I experienced in all of Myanmar. I walked through the market doing the normal thing, smile, "mingalaba!" and for the most part was met by unsmiling faces, no greeting in return, often no one would look me in the eye. It was VERY strange and unsettling. I later found out that other people I met had similar experiences until they were asked that critical question by a local, "are you a tourist?" and then people got friendly. Seems the town has real issue with all the NGOs/UN and many locals consider everyone working for them until they find out otherwise.
The LP talks about a run down but very cool looking mosque in town. It's there and it does look really cool from what you can see over the wall but you can no longer go in, there are police blockades at every entrance.
I took the standard 7AM public boat to Mrauk U. Nothing fancy, the boat ride took 5.5 hours but after talking with people (and after our private "speed boat" ride back) I learned, like pretty much all means of transport in Myanmar, what takes one boat 5.5 hours will take another 8. On the same day.
In Mrauk U I stayed at the Golden Star Guesthouse. Nice folks but whatever you do single travelers do NOT take the tiny, $10 room in the courtyard. I stayed there 1 night and then moved into a twin room that luckily I was able to share for the same cost. The $10 was TINY, filthy, the mattress was maybe 2 inches thick and after dinner I found fresh mouse poop on it. The $20 twin was world's better in all respects. Other negatives of the Golden Star were that the first day my friends and I were bombarded by the manager every time we walked in about doing a Chin Village tour the next day. Sure ask us once, maybe follow up but he must of asked us half a dozen times. He also booked us a guide to show us around and the guide barely spoke English.
Mrauk U is entirely different than Bagan. I can't say that it's BETTER than Bagan or that it's not that great, it's just totally different. Unless you are really into pagodas you need 1 1/2 days, 2 days TOPS.
We booked a Chin Village tour and a boat ride back to Sittwe through the Prince hotel (other friends were staying there and they booked it first). The manager of the Prince did the Chin Village tour himself and while the tour was fine there is no going about the fact that it IS a little human zoo-ish. You're going to specific villages to take photos of tattoo'd women. You take their photos, chat a bit, and leave. It's a bit uncomfortable because I'm not sure exactly what the villages get out of these tours. Do they get any of the $80 USD that the hotels charge for a boat? A couple ladies that we went with bought a huge pile of notebooks, pencils, pens, etc at the market and took them to the villages, that went over really well, I wish I'd thought of it myself!
We went to 3 Chin villages and a couple non-Chin villages. The first non-Chin village was right across from where we got the boat from and we were all a bit confused as to why we went there. To walk through a market? The 2nd non-Chin village was nice, an incredibly tidy village, but the visit seemed overly long since, of course, we were on a day trip to CHIN villages. The first 2 Chin villages didn't seem touristy at all. Obviously tourists come there but they weren't anything like the 3rd village where the elderly ladies were selling weavings, bracelets and other items, were somewhat pushed into "showing" us how they do their weavings, really the 3rd village was pretty awful. Like the elderly ladies were being forced to perform for the tourists.
The absolute WORST part of the whole tour was how open the manager of the Prince was about his attitude about the Rohingya Muslims. All day long comments about how dirty the Muslims are, how they are NOT Burmese, how they don't belong in Burma, how they just breed like animals. It was all highly uncomfortable.
As I mentioned before we also booked a boat back to Sittwe with Prince. A few of us had flights in the early afternoon and HE said we needed to leave at 5AM. My friend and I who were staying at the Golden Star were at the jetty at 4:45AM. The ladies from the Prince didn't show up until 5:30AM, seems the manager wasn't there to drive them to the jetty as he said he would be. He then tried to tell us that we wouldn't make our flights, that there wasn't time to take the boat, the tide was out, etc. We finally left around 6AM, managed to get to the airport in Sittwe by 12:30pm, and not 10 minutes after we arrived at the airport but so did a bunch of others, who had left on a public boat at 7AM.
Long story short I would NOT advise staying at the Prince Hotel or giving them any business in any way. I'm sure many of the locals in the town feel the same way he does which has really led me to some inner conflict about giving businesses in that area my tourist dollars. While I'm glad I saw Mrauk U those few days were really tainted by my experiences in Sittwe and the experience with the manager of the Prince.