Imagine a highway, one with 20 lanes. And now imagine you are sitting in the middle of this 20-lane highway. Pretty scary, huh? Not if this highway is the one in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar/ Burma. On this highway, you can easily walk around, sit down or take some pictures. And you will realize that also the rest of the capital seems quite abandoned. But let’s check the reasons for this emptiness?
- Size of 7054km²
- Planned city
- Divided into different areas, such as Military-, Hotel-, Recreation-, Shopping-, and Government area
- The name Naypyidaw has been published in 2006
- The name can be translated to “Seat of the king“
In 2005, the Government of Myanmar decided to move the Burmese capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw. The constructions of the new capital have taken place secretly and the city was presented to a chosen audience for the first time in March 2006.
Apparently, in 2010, the number of 1 Million inhabitants was reached, even though it seems impossible when seeing the empty city with your own eyes. Therefore, many official sources mistrust those numbers and believe that in reality those numbers are way smaller.
Why did Naypyidaw become the capital?
The official explanations are on the one hand, that it is located more central and is, therefore, easier reachable from all parts of Myanmar than the former capital Yangon. On the other hand, Yangon simply got “too small” and there was no room left to expand anymore. Obviously, in Naypyidaw, there is enough space now. But is more space really worth it if no one is actually using it…?
Anyway, there are assumptions though that there are further reasons for the moving of the capital.
Possibly, the government expected foreign attacks on the capital. And since Yangon is located near the coast it would be kinda easy to attack there.
Moreover, the government might have hoped for more tranquillity in the surrounding riots after decreasing their military presence.
Best accommodation in Naypyidaw
Naypyidaw is much more often visited by business travellers rather than leisure visitors. Therefore, you will most probably don’t find a hostel or backpacker dorm. But since the prices in Myanmar are easily affordable for Western travellers, you can as well treat yourself with a quite more luxury accommodation.
So, we spent the night at the Myat Thinzar Hotel in Naypyidaw. It was way more luxury than we were used to from other accommodations during our trip. It was clean and super comfortable. Every room offers a private bathroom and we could finally have a hot shower.
Check latest prices and availability here.
How to get around in Naypyidaw
We tried to find a half day tour around the city without any success. But well, what do you expect from a city without actual tourism?
Even finding a taxi seemed to be almost impossible and don’t even let me get started with using Grab in Myanmar. After searching for about half an hour, we finally found a taxi. (Who has been to Southeast Asia before knows how easy it usually is to get a transport. One time, they even came to us inside of a restaurant asking whether we’d need a taxi) Unfortunately, most Hotels are a little outside of the city, too far to walk there.
Since we didn’t want to be so dependent on finding taxis and also wanted to save some money, we decided to rent a motorcycle for the day. But it turned out that the prices for renting a motorcycle in Naypyidaw are way higher than expected.
In the end, we joined a Dutch girl, that we met in the bus to Naypyidaw, doing our own tour in a taxi paying 33.000 Kyat (ca. 20,30€/ $24,20) for a half day tour.
For the driver, as well as the Hotel stuff, it didn’t seem usual to give recommendations on what to see in Naypyidaw. (Because basically, to be honest, there is not much to see)
Naypyidaw Water Fountain Gardens
Opening times: 09 am – 09 pm
Entrance fee: 700 Kyat (ca. 0,43€/ $0,51)
Is there anything better on a hot day than spending it in a water park? How lucky, that there even is a huge water park in Naypyidaw Myanmar. Unfortunately, after walking around a little, we realized that this water park lacks two main things: visitors and water.
Yes, you read correctly: There was no water. In all the fountains and most other attractions of the park, the water was completely switched off. There was even a big water slight, just without water. Although, the pool in front of it was filled with water it actually looked more like rainwater. What a strange experience.
Another fact that made this experience even weirder was that the park was full of staff. Besides people that sold snacks and beverages, there was even someone that looked like a lifeguard.
In the end, we spent our time relaxing on a bench near the pool and getting some rest, since we had already arrived in Naypyidaw around 3 am.
People say the water gets switched on around 4 pm though. But inside of the park, you don’t get any information about that.
The Uppatasanti Pagoda
Entrance Fee: Some people get in free of charge, some have to pay $5
The probably most famous sights of the unknown Burmese capital is the Uppatasanti Pagoda. Its fame is mainly caused because it actually is a copy of the popular Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. It is also called Pagoda of Peace and has been finished in 2009. For everyone that has visited the Shwedagon Pagoda before, a visit is not necessary.
If you want to visit the Uppatasanti Pagoda, it might be best to go during the sunset as you can see the Pagoda shining in different lumination.
For women, it is obligated to wear a Longyi (wrap skirt) inside of the Pagoda grounds. But don’t worry if you don’t have one. You can rent on free of charge at the entrance.
The 20-lane highway of Naypyidaw
Where ever there is a 20-lane highway, you’d probably expected dozens of cars rushing by daily. Totally different in Naypyidaw. If you get lucky, you might see one or two cars driving around. But 20-lanes are absolutely unnecessary. One lane per site would have surely been enough.
Anyway, here as in the rest of the Burmese capital, you can easily see that the plan for this place was completely different. A modern capital, such as Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, was planned: full of people and life.
Instead, there is an empty city that is avoided by locals as well as tourists.
But back to the 20 lane highway in Burma’s capital. In theory, you can just stop in the middle of the highway, walk around and snap some pictures. Practically, you might need to convince your driver first as technically, it is (logically) illegal to stop and walk around on the highway.
Everywhere along the highway, you can find police stalls from where they can secure that no one is walking on the highway. But if you google for the Naypyidaw highway, you can easily see that no one really cares and mostly every tourist gets their highway picture in the end. Because let’s be honest, how often do you get the chance to walk around a 20-lane highway? Probably, this is just possible in Myanmar’s capital.
All in all
Naypyidaw is surely a strange destination. The travel motivation for this city is the extreme opposite of the regular reasons to travel: You get to Naypyidaw to see nothing. Just a modern but empty ghost town.
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3 thoughts on Naypyidaw, Myanmar – A Ghost town capital
It happens sometimes, we go to a place and feel disappointed. Sharing this with everyone is helpful for planning a trip and avoiding it if on a tight schedule.
I’ve been to Naypyidaw too and was actually pretty fascinated by the emptiness! And you missed the one interesting thing you can visit there – the National Landmark Garden which has miniature versions of all the important landmarks in Myanmar 😀
Thanks a lot for your comment! I will check that out! 🙂