Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

The Nay Pyi Taw Experience

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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.

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Uppatasanti Paya, the only Buddhist pagoda to appear austere and unwelcoming

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Myoma, south-east Asia’s most boring market

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Twenty lanes, two vehicles

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Entrance to the Ministry of Something

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Just a few years ago, this was farmland, and much of Nay Pyi Taw’s vast open space still feels rural, as farmers do their best to ignore the city that is being built around them

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See the sights of Nay Pyi Taw – don’t miss the State Guest House or the Government Office

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It’ll be nice when it’s finished

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