There’s a huge amount of beauty in Myanmar, but very little of it is to be found in Nay Pyi Taw, the newly-built capital city. The military regime decided early this century that the country needed a new, modern capital, and so set about building one from scratch in the middle of nowhere, at roughly the halfway point between the former capitals of Yangon and Mandalay (I have a mental image of a general sticking a pin in a map and saying, with a shrug, “yep, that’ll do.”). Government ministries and military headquarters were duly moved from Yangon to the new city about ten years ago, while pretty much everyone else stayed put, resulting in a sprawling, desolate, uniquely charmless and oddly fascinating capital, made up of traffic-free multi-lane highways and largely deserted open spaces. It feels like a city designed by a committee of people who have never lived in, or even been to, a city. In fact, it barely feels like a city at all. It’s more like someone tied a motorway in knots and randomly scattered some buildings about.
I spent a couple of days in Nay Pyi Taw at the beginning of November, scooting around on a rented motorbike in blazing sunshine, looking for something interesting to photograph. I wouldn’t say it was the highlight of my trip to Myanmar, but I can honestly say that it’s quite unlike anywhere else I’ve ever visited and, while I never want to go there again, I’m glad I had my Nay Pyi Taw experience.