Naypyidaw, a cold and too urbanized capital
Wow! Wow! And wow again! This was the most surprising city we’ve seen so far during our journey. It was not necessarily a good or a bad surprise, but just unexpected.
Naypyidaw is the capital of Myanmar since November 2005, a city built in secret by Myanmar Junta in the early 2000s. It is very large and has only few inhabitants compared to its size, so we have experienced the amazing, unprecedented and I guess unique experience for Asia to be the only ones on 8 to 20 lanes roads! Yes, 20 newly-built lanes on the Naypyidaw highway that is so incredibly large in order for a plane to be able to land there in case of some military emergency.
The city is “cold” and has nothing of the welcoming feeling we’ve got used to throughout Asia. Everything is urbanized and/ or organized and/ or controlled. Hotels for tourists are all grouped in the south-eastern part of the city, hotels for Burmese in some other part, residential zones, commercial zones, ministries…nothing is mixed. One can know the occupation of people according to the roof color of their block of apartments: blue for healthcare workers, green for agriculture and so on. There are restricted areas where only Burmese wearing a special permit can go…
Al in all, it is not a tourist friendly destination. The only way we could get an idea of this military city was to share a taxi with 3 other British tourists on a tour of the main attractions before leaving to our next destination. Even the 20 lanes highway was like an “attraction” as it was well protected by the military and we could only take photos from far, not really walk or drive on it. However, we liked Uppatasanti Pagoda, which is similar in size and shape to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, but newer, with opened interior nicely decorated and modernized (we used an elevator to go up).
Next to the pagoda they keep one of the rarest and most worshipped animals on the planet: 7 white elephants. The legend says that every powerful emperor has to have at least one, as a sign of greatness and for the divine protection of his Kingdom.
The massive Myanmar Parliament is not accessible for visitors and can be admired only from far away. Like the rest of the city it was built with fear of an armed attack in mind: you have to cross a suspended bridge before entering the Parliament, remembering the European medieval castles. And the presidential palace is even more protected, being situated just behind the Parliament and not even visible from afar.