Naypyidaw is totally different from the rest of the cities in Burma. I felt like I was in another country. It is sad to see a group of people living in such comfort in a modern city, while the majority of Burmese people live in poverty.
Despite the city being so clean and modern, there are very few vehicles and motorbikes on the roads because few ordinary people live there. It’s too expensive for most Burmese people. I saw one or two cars and just a few motorbikes on the superhighways. The road leading to the parliament buildings has twenty lanes, but it’s empty. The government claims the city has a population of 900,000, but I don't believe it.
20-lane deserted superhighway leading to the parliamentary buildings. Photo taken by France 24 Observer, Aye Khine
Hotels in Naypyidaw are expensive. The prices start at 35 US dollars and up to 200 dollars per night. Most foreign people who go to Naypyidaw are world leaders, business people and NGO workers. Big political and economic events as well as international meetings are held in the city.
Many people were surprised by the move as there’s no obvious interest in building a capital city there. Naypyidaw is hotter than Rangoon in summer and the weather is a bit crazy, especially in the monsoon season, as sometimes it rains all day while sometimes there’s no rain at all.
Rumours have it that Than Shwe's astrologer advised him to relocate to a safe haven, fearing coastal Rangoon could come under foreign attack.
Solitary motorbikes travel through Naypyidaw. Photo taken by France 24 Observer, Aye Khine
Members of Parliament [MPs] don't like the new capital much because it is far a way from their families and it is difficult to get around the city as there aren’t many taxis and there are few places to go for entertainment. They have to leave their homes to attend 3-month-long parliamentary sessions two or three times a year. Most live permanently in Rangoon and stay in government-run hotels while in Naypyidaw.
MPs weren’t involved in the decision to move the capital in Naypyidaw: it was Than Shwe's idea. But they don’t complain about that openly.
Zabu Thiri Hotel in Naypyidaw. Photo taken by France 24 Observer, Aye Khine.