Have you ever questioned yourself what is the most bizarre capital city in the world? CNN mentioned Astana of Kazakhstan. Many people would say Pyongyang off North Korea. But my answer would be Nay Pyi Taw or Naypyidaw, the new capital city of The Republic Union of Myanmar.
For an intrepid traveler like me, who is always curious for something new and interesting, Nay Pyi Taw is a perfect place to find something extraordinary during my recent trip to Myanmar. And my visit to the city turned out to be an unforgettable experience. That’s why I want to share a short travel guide Burmese Capital, Nay Pyi Taw, one of the world’s most bizarre metropolitan areas.
Nay Pyi Taw was officially named as the capital of Myanmar in 2005. If we draw two axis connecting Mandalay and Yangon (North and South) and Bagan to Inle Lake (West and East), Nay Pyi Taw lies right in the intersection. Why is it bizarre? There are many reasons; here you will see massive boulevards of 20 lanes with virtually no vehicles in sight. My Burmese told me that the city is built as a project for the future. The vision is when Myanmar grows in the next couple of decades; this already broad capital city can accommodate the needs of rapid urban development. So while most major cities in Asia is struggling to do this, Nay Pyi Taw is now already well-prepared.
Air: Several domestic flights operate daily connecting Nay Pyi Taw with Yangon (the country’s biggest city and its international tourism hub). You can also fly directly from Bangkok several times per week. Bus: Nay Pyi Taw is located in between the two most populous cities in Myanmar, Yangon and Mandalay. You can easily catch a bus to the capital city for only $4 or $5. Train: Several train journeys connect the North – South axis of Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon daily. This is how I chose to travel to Nay Pyi Taw as I could experience the locals’ life as well as seeing the landscape on the way.
There are not many options like in Yangon or Mandalay. With nearby places and attractions you can take a walk but I would recommend a taxi because there’re not much things to see on the streets.
By far (and so far) the most visited attraction in Nay Pyi Taw the 100-meter tall golden pagoda of Uppatasanti looks somewhat similar to Yangon’s Shwedagon. The pagoda can be seen from almost anywhere in the city thanks to its impressive height and especially at night when it illuminates. Inside the pagoda is a depiction of the life of Buddha and important events of Myanmar’s Buddhist history.
The government-owned zoo consists of 80 different species of animal, bird, and reptile spreading across 612 acres. You can also witness the black-footed and Humboldt penguins in an air-conditioned pool house, along with an impressive planetarium.
One of the most impressive parks in Myanmar, the Water Fountain Garden features a viewing platform, water show performances which are played at night.
For us foreign visitors, we have to stay in a designated hotel zone. Selections are not abundant and most hotels focus on business travelers. I chose to stay at The Lake Garden Nay Pyi Taw MGallery, a nicely-decorated boutique hotel with a view to the tranquil lake.
So here’s my quick guide to those who are planning to travel to Myanmar and would like to discover the country’s unconventional capital city. My final advice is as a mere traveler, I’d suggest only one or two nights at the city since they're not too many places to see and do, apart from the main attractions, relaxing at the hotels and witnessing the bizarre sites like the empty boulevards.
So if you want to travel by train or bus between Myanmar’s Big 4 destinations (Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake, and Bagan), a trip to Nay Pyi Taw will be an interesting experience to have.