Burma Myanmar Capital CityMyanmar capital
Burmese capital for Myanmar royalty and SUVs
Visiting Burma's weird new capital Naypyidaw: a city with extensive areas and long walk. Almost nobody in Burma knows anything about Naypyidaw, the new capital of the country. A lot of natives don't even know what to call it by interpreting its name as "clay brick of kings" or "royal capital" or "new capital" - or simply from its closest neighbour, "Pyinmana", a motorway city five nautical mile to theheast.
When you ask about your visit to the city, some natives warn: "No, it could be hazardous. "Even the Myanmar Tours & Travel officials in Rangoon are not sure: This is Burma, a country ruled by an ever-secret army regime, so it's not too unexpected. Burma Chieftain, Senior General Than Shwe, never declared why he abruptly relocated the capital from Rangoon (250 leagues south) to this dry, mountain-framed place in the centre of Burma in November 2005: a place where virtually no one has settled for the last 2,000 years.
Until the British took power in the eighteenth centuary, for hundreds of years monarchs were playing capital hoopscotch, with each regimes looking for "cheap" locations to secure perpetual wellbeing. For example, King Bodawpaya's capital Amarapura (also known as the "City of Immortality") took only a decade. The construction of Naypyidaw will cost immeasurable tens of millions to build a city that is said to oversize 120 Manhattans and will accommodate a million people.
It comes from Burma's abundant reserves of crude oils, tea and jet water that have been shipped to willing neighbours who have not subscribed to US/EU sanction. When you consider that few Burmese get more than three hrs of powers a days and many deserve only $1 for a day's work, a native said to me: "It's a depression.
" The Chinese, Burma's close friends, were shaking their minds over the parade. A lot of people outside Burma compared Burma to North Korea, but a visit here is a completely different learning process than in this regime, where the visit is restricted to strictly regulated (and expensive) group travel. You can plan your route in many parts of Burma by stop in casual towns and teahouses, stay in boarding houses, drive with local people in shaky busses or drive on the back of a cart to local fair.
At the end of December, a Taungoo Mandalay coach took me on a stress-free trip through the city. "Naypyidaw?", the first motorcyclist at the local Pyinmana stop, kept repeating when I asked. There are no signposts, no government offices, no pass controls, no "city". Looks like another one of Burma's signature streets.
"We' re going to Naypyidaw, right? We walked a few miles up, past a huge expansive China-styled house standing on an open square; a fistful of sentries at the door had slung M-16s sluggishly onto her lap, not to mention being pushed away. "My rider called over his shoulders.
" People all over Burma are longing to talk to outside parties. In spite of Aung San Suu Kyi's travelling manslaughter, everyone you see in Burma seems thankful to see travellers. What little we have seen or hear about the city is restricted to the long out of date Google Maps satellites and a unique one-day invite to a "Potemkin Parade" in March 2007 with the sculptures of three renowned, battle-tested monarch.
An article in the New York Times about the incident contained some quotations from local people who did not seem convincingly in favour of their new home. Nobody seemed to be observing when my motorcycle cab and I were driving into a $65 luxury $65 luxury motorcycle resort in the two miles long "hotel district" on the street to a small new one.
Contrary to the $10 Burmese pensions where I lived elsewhere in Burma, nobody welcomed me. I was calmly check-in in my room with a few English-speaking receptionist and then apologised preventively: "Sorry you have to have dinner in your room or you have to stay until 8 pm when the Ministry of Information has finished your dinner in our place.
I was taken to a souvenir store with pants with pleats from Singapore (for little men) and then to the small reader's collection containing an edition of Time with a ripped-out piece on the Myanmar war.
Basically, every "native" in Naypyidaw is a graft from somewhere else looking for work in a fast-growing city, he said. A lot of them work on streets or construction sides. I had no idea where to go or what to see, so I found another type of motorcycle cab and proposed driving to some of Burma's common destinations:
"and a teahouse. In front of the motel we went through unoccupied buses and some local people who ignored pavements and walked along empty six-lane streets. Naypyidaw, split into such scattered and clearly outlined parts of the city, already belongs to the deliberate towns, which must look good on the papers, but are simply terrible to them.
In contrast to Stalin's proposed towns or Brasilia-Brazil's 1960 plan, which attracted the attention of Unesco (but not the tourists) - the Naypyidaw Centre has no large administration complex. The" center" is characterized by a well irrigated traffic circle with five naked streets in all direction (among them two roadblocks to the" Ministries circle" and to the houses of the general in the north).
Instead, they were building an S. U.V. city for those without bicycles. "Bierstation Hügel", where a collector of open-air grills overlooks the residential block pool on one side and the spacious overnight markets and coach terminal on the other. Then I walked across the overnight square, past stalls placed in a car park to buy T-shirts, military coats, radio and cooked pork components on a stick - the local Myanmar fair.
" As I had been hoping to see the three royal sculptures, or to go to a local department, or at least to take a picture of one, I said it was not possible. "I had no clue what he was saying: we were a few leagues away from any administration buildings except the mail and the firehouse.
I was sitting for a cup of tee and saw a picture on the walls of a Naypyidaw edifice. Robert Reid travelled to Burma in December and January to search for private guided ministries for Lonely Planet's Myanmar (Burma) leaders. It does not contain any local name he has taken and has modified some detail to safeguard their identities.
It is not recommended to stay in Naypyidaw, but the local people would be pleased to see you for an hours or two. When you have a question about your trip to Burma, please use his website to get in touch with him.