It seems strange to say that a country’s capital has little to offer visitors, but then NAY PYI TAW is not an ordinary capital. Its construction was started from scratch in a largely rural area in 2002, with the purpose kept secret until an announcement in 2005 that government offices would be moving to the new site from Yangon. The story goes that civil servants were given just a weekend’s notice of their relocation, officially undertaken because Yangon was getting too congested. Local gossip suggests that the move actually came at the suggestion of former Prime Minister Than Shwe’s astrologer that a foreign attack was imminent, with Yangon’s position on the delta making it vulnerable.
The main reason to visit Nay Pyi Taw is simply to get a sense of the city’s oddness. Its eight-lane highways are almost empty, except when an official travels through and roadblocks are set up to keep out other traffic, and link a series of grandiose government buildings and vanity projects. The most visible sight is Uppatasanti Paya, a huge pagoda paid for by General Than Shwe to atone for his sins and completed in 2009. Though impressive in scale, close up it’s already getting a bit tatty; the terrace offers views of the city’s overweening scale. The only other attractions are the Water Fountain Garden in the centre and a zoo/safari park to the northeast of the city.