Naypyidaw meaning “Royal Capital”, is Myanmar’s soul-less new capital city. It is literally a city built from scratch; construction began in 2002 and Naypyidaw was officially declared the country’s capital in 2005. It was out of bounds to foreigners until around 2010 but it has now opened up with international and domestic airlines starting to use the new airport. It is now Myanmar’s third largest city and is starting to act as a transportation hub.
The Distinct City
The city is unlike the rest of Myanmar. It is the only modern city in the country and there are huge shopping malls and ten lane highways. The roads are lined with flowers and carefully pruned shrubbery. Meticulously landscaped roundabouts boast large sculptures.
The city is organized into zones based on function; the residential, ministry, military, and hotel zones for instance. The whole place was built in a rush at enormous cost and already there are signs of shoddy construction causing damage to structures.
It is also considerably quieter than other cities (some say deadly quiet) though it is growing fast. At present, it doesn’t have the visitor appeal that Yangon and Mandalay have but this will grow in time. The city feels like an extreme test of the “if you build it, they will come” theory.
Perhaps the most notable tourist attraction in Nay Pyi Taw is the Uppatasanti Pagoda, also called the “peace pagoda”. It is the most prominent landmark in the city’ and is a replica of Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda.
The pagoda complex also contains the Maha Hsutaungpyae Buddha Image, the garden of 108 Holy Bo Trees, and Marlini Mangala Lake with the chamber of Shin Uppagutta, as well as many other interesting and attractive areas.
Nay Pyi Taw is also home to the Nay Pyi Taw Zoological Gardens, the largest zoo in Myanmar but this is a long way from the city’s hotel zone. Here you can see more than 420 animals including elephants, tigers, leopards, and kangaroos. It even has its own penguin house. Next door is a safari park where you travel around in electric buggies.
The National Land Marks Garden located on Thaik Chaung Road near Yezin Dam has replicas of the famous pagodas, stupas, caves, bridges, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, beaches, and islands in States and Divisions in Myanmar. The Hotel Ayeyarwady is part of the complex.
Back in the central city, there is a park with a playground and a water fountain behind the city hall, which hosts a musical light show every night. City Hall is one of the prominent land marks of the city and the Naypyidaw Development Committee is based here. State occasions are held with the State Orchestra playing here.
Naypyidaw’s monumental parliament buildings’ complex has a moat running round it. Until very recently the closest you could get, before you were stopped by imposing metal gates and soldiers, made it difficult to make out the buildings properly.
Ngalaik Lake Gardens is a small water park situated on Ngalaik Lake approximately 12 km from Nay Pyi Taw. There are water slides, attractive landscapes, lodging and a beach.
The Naypyidaw Gem Museum is just north of the Royal Golf Course, its driveway lined with that red and white curbing that’s everywhere in the city. The garden has large jade boulders and two white elephants flanking a sculptured map of Myanmar.
The museum consists of three stories of precious jewels and jade with the world’s largest pearl and Myanmar’s largest ruby on display. It opens between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day except Monday.
Just a short distance away from the Gem Museum is the National Herbal Park which preserves and showcases more than 700 species of Myanmar’s herbs and medicinal plants. More than 20,000 plants from all over Myanmar are grown here. Traditional medicines have been used for centuries and many are still in use today. There are treatments for a wide range of ailments. The National Herbal Park is open year round and is free to visit.
Myanmar International Convention Centre was built by the People’s Republic of China and completed in 2010. It has a plenary hall that can accommodate 1900 persons.
Apart from air services, buses and trains serve Naypyidaw from Yangon and Mandalay. Once there you will need a vehicle. Rental cars are available and there are taxis and motorbike taxis.