Most people think that Rangoon is the capital of Myanmar. However, Rangoon is the largest city in the country, not its capital. The official capital of Myanmar is Naypyidaw. Because most tourists go on holiday to Rangoon, relatively little is known about Naypyidaw as a tourist attraction. In this article we will delve into the secrets of this city.
Naypyidaw: the unknown capital
There is a good reason why most people think that Rangoon is the capital of Myanmar: it was, until 2006. In 2006, the government decided to move to Naypyidaw. It is still unclear what the reason for this was. Some say that the better location of Naypyidaw is the reason for the move. Naypyidaw is closer to regions where the government of Myanmar wants to exercise more control, such as Kayin. The government's official reason, however, is that Rangoon became too crowded, which meant that there was not enough room for the expansion of government buildings.
The history of Naypyidaw is very brief. The government started building the city in 2002 and in 2012 it was completely finished. As a result, Naypyidaw has relatively few tourist attractions. For example, because it is so new, it has few historical areas or buildings.
Empty buildings and abandoned roads
Travellers arriving in Naypyidaw may get the impression that the city is deserted. According to official figures, Naypyidaw has more than 900 000 inhabitants, but it is almost certain that this number is exaggerated. Naypyidaw is characterised by empty and deserted roads. The city has been built at such a rapid pace that it seems as if it does not belong in Myanmar at all. It is full of tall modern buildings, large hotels and extensive shopping malls that are virtually unused. Compared to the rest of poverty-stricken Myanmar, Naypyidaw seems to have fallen from the sky. The cost of building the city is said to have been over 4 billion pounds.
Highlights and sightseeing
All this may suggest that Naypyidaw has little to offer tourists. Yet this is not the case. Naypyidaw is a great choice to experience something different for those tourists that want to get away from the busy streets of Rangoon. Travellers who would like to feel like an explorer are in the right place in Naypyidaw. Naypyidaw has several highlights, including:
The Uppatasanti Pagoda
This gigantic pagoda, over 90 metres high, was built in 2006, by order of General Than Shwe. It is a copy of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon. The name “Uppatasanti” translates roughly to "protection against calamities", but the pagoda is better known to the population as the "Peace Pagoda". Within the pagoda itself there are several Buddhist shrines where one can meditate in silence. Outside you will find Buddha statues that you can sprinkle with water. Each statue is linked to a specific day of the week, and the goal is to sprinkle the statue of the day you were born. However, the explanations and inscriptions for the statues are in Burmese.
Mining is a large part of Myanmar's economy. The country is known for the many rare and beautiful stones it exports, especially jade. The Gem Museum exhibits these stones. The entrance fee is quite high, but the museum is very large. The staff are usually very helpful and willing to give extensive explanations about the history of the different types of stones. Take note: it is not permitted to take pictures of the stones.
20 Lane Highway
Tourists who have been to Myanmar have probably already heard of it; the sprawling deserted Lane Highway. If there is one landmark that sums up Naypyidaw, it is this one. It is a huge highway, with up to 10 lanes on each side in some places. Despite that, hardly any cars drive here. It is almost completely deserted, which means that travellers can quietly cycle or even walk here.
These beautiful water fountains can be found in the centre of Naypyidaw. In the evening, the lights in the fountains turn on, creating a wonderful light show. The Waterfountain Garden also has small playgrounds for children. This location is perfect to meet the locals, as families often go here for picnics. Music is played from the speakers between the trees all day long, and as it gets dark and the lights come on many people start dancing. For tourists, it is a nice experience to have witnessed.
Travelling to Naypyidaw: remember the visa
Naypyidaw is harder to reach than a city like Rangoon. Although it is the capital of Myanmar, it has no airport. The best way to get there is to buy a bus ticket online to travel to Naypyidaw by bus from one of Myanmar's major cities. It is also possible to buy a bus ticket from the receptionist of the hotel where you are staying. Take note, however, that there is virtually no public transport in Naypyidaw. This means that the last few kilometres have to be covered by taxi. It is wise to look up the route in advance on apps such as Google Maps. It may occur that even the taxi driver does not know where the hotel in Naypyidaw is located.
Myanmar has a visa requirement for foreign tourists. This means that travellers must have a visa for Myanmar before boarding a plane. The visa is a digital document that can be applied for online. There is no need to visit the consulate. Once the online application form has been completed and the visa has been approved, it is sent by e-mail. All that remains is to print out the visa and take it with you on your journey.