The country’s capital is as absurd as everyone says. Few tourists come here and all Burmese, not living here, hate the it. It was built in secrecy and inaugurated 2005, still deep in the military times, meant to be modern and representative. In 2013 and 2014 the city hosted ASEAN Summit, quite a step forward for the country’s international recognition!
You arrive at a dusty remote bus station, however, as we learned later, everything in Nay Pyi Taw is remote. We knew immediately that a few hours stay in this city will do the job and tried to book the onward bus at the spot. Squeezed between a super cute sales girl in the bus booth and a super annoying betel chewing taxi driver who hasn’t gotten his daily customer yet, we managed to get our tickets to the desired destination later in the afternoon. Toilet costs 5 cents at the bus terminal, tissue 20.
At lunch, we met a lively woman who turned out to be the owner of the fashion shop across the road. “Women, men, beauty.” After we finished eating, we spontaneously went over (I spontaneously sent over Marie) to ask whether she knew someone who could show us around in the city. Big excitement!, she brought a brother, lots of betel chewing, she could drive us by herself in her own car and her small sisters would watch the business. One hour, two hours, all the sights, two hours minimum!, Nay Pyi Taw is not like Yangon, it’s a large city, “long distances”. I was as naive as to believe, the lady would offer us the ride in exchange to meet Europeans; and would have paid as much of a generous tip of 20$. We ended up in an awkward negotiation about the compensation, it turned out that she expected $100 … “Big city! Long distances!” Finally we not only found ourselves in her overheated car with yet another, younger brother, not betel chewing (yet?), but also with some minor intern relationship tensions – regarding the negotiation result. Which was $50 – an average monthly income in Myanmar. Shame on me!
And then saw we this Größenwahn of an urban Verrücktheit: a parliament building so huge and so remotely cordoned that it’s hard to imagine the people’s representatives. Megalism that’s only exceeded by the prime minister’s home?, house?, palace!. Completely empty roads with up to 12 lanes, insane architecture dropped here and there along the way. A 1:1 rebuilt of Yangon’s Shwedagon pagoda. Just ugly, with surveillance cameras behind mirrors, and completely deserted. NOT quite the spirit of the original.
There are “normal people’s houses” in villages outside the city. Having said “outside”, there’s only outside in Nay Piy Taw: there’s no center, only different zones, for each governmental department, military, the ministries, plus the “hotel zone”. The official’s residents aren’t as prestigious as you could think. Maybe they were perceived as super posh by the planners around millennium shift in a still completely locked off country – and compared to the desolate situation in former capital Yangon.
We also visited the Water Fountain (sic!) Garden, a questionable touristic highlight with tiger sounds from loudspeakers and discovery trails beneath artificial water falls. But there were real people here. Nay Piy Taw is said to be one of the 10 fastest growing cities in the world. Despite the beating artificiality, there is also a breeze of real life but it’s unclear how many people actually live here.
In the evening, already in the bus heading out of town, we finally saw the real highlight of Nay Pyi Taw: LED light strings along all roads’ side walks and landmarks’ outline and around the artificial lake. In all beaming colors, including the rainbow. Pride!
What a city! But we were happy that we didn’t follow all advices who strongly discourage us from coming here.