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In the early hours of November 6th 2005, over 600 military trucks set off from Yangon, driving north in the direction of the small logging town of Pyinmana. This was the beginning of the capital’s relocation from Yangon to the site of a small village going by the name of Kyet Pyay. In August 2006, the new capital of Myanmar, Nay Pyi Daw, meaning ‘Abode of Kings’, was officially opened for business. It has been described by some as reminiscent of 'an Arizona housing estate', and by others as 'a Florida retirement community' or, in British terms, 'Milton Keynes.'
If you do have the time - and only if you do - it is worth visiting for a whistle-stop 24 hours. The Uppatasanti Pagoda is in the mould of Shwedagon and is just less than a foot shorter than its Yangon prototype. Unlike Shwedagon (and in keeping with the dystopian character of the city) the terrace at Uppatasanti is empty and the stupa hollow. It is a bleak place with a suitably dark genesis. One journalist visiting during its construction in 2008 claims that she saw fifty or sixty children working on the base of the new pagoda, "carrying huge amounts of rocks on their heads, and breaking up the rocks into smaller rocks with pick-axes."
At some point during your stay, take a ride up to the Parliament along one of the large empty highways. Only officials can enter the heavily fenced complex but this ornate and slightly saccharine site is the most interesting thing to see in Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar’s very own ghost city. Rumours of miles of tunnels snaking underneath the complex add to the intrigue.
The Jade Museum at Nay Pyi Daw is dour and the entrance fee disproportionately high, but the market below is a good place to buy souvenirs and presents. In terms of wining and dining, visitors to Nay Pyi Daw should expect neither a wide-selection of bars nor a buzzing social scene. In fact, there is barely a scene at all. However Golden Hill towards the northwest of the city offers a selection of nice local and international restaurants. One can take a tipple at the Kempinski Hotel’s fancy Diplomat Bar, or alternatively, a walk around the Water Fountain Garden when the lights are turned on at dusk is a pleasant enough way to spend an evening.
For more information about Nay Pyi Daw or to find out how you can incorporate it into a trip to Myanmar, please feel free to contact one of our operatives.