The epic new capital

Nay Pyi Taw didn’t exist before 2005 when the generals who ran Myanmar decided it was time for a new capital city. Their eyes alighted on a vast patch of scrubby land around 200 miles north of the former colonial capital of Yangon.

Building began and the result – which includes manicured gardens with kitsch fairground attractions, a giant golden pagoda, a new national museum and the Royal Myanmar Golf Club – is nothing short of surreal. This is an extraordinarily quiet, unique place with none of the frenetic activity usually associated with a capital.

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Must-see sights in Nay Pyi Taw

The first thing you need to know is that Nay Pyi Taw (which means ‘Abode of Kings’) is huge: its footprint is around 2,720 sq miles, which makes it four times the size of London. However, less than 925,000 people live here and most of them do so within the specific residential zone (there are other areas dedicated to the government ministries, the military and hotels).

All are linked by gigantic, arrow-straight highways (usually devoid of traffic) which, in a country where road infrastructure is generally poorly maintained, are a remarkable sight.

Top of the list of attractions are two parks, the first of which is the Water Fountain Garden. It is best to visit at sunset when the fountains spring to life and shooting plumes of water are illuminated by colored lights which co-ordinate with music. There is also a kids playground, ponds and a tower you can climb for good views of the city.

The second park, around 20 miles northeast of central Nay Pyi Taw, is the National Landmarks Garden. Covering some 400 acres this Myanmar-shaped park is toured by golf buggy and includes miniature versions of the country‚Äôs key sights such as Inle Lake, the Golden Rock at Mt Kyaiktiyo and Yangon’s Shwedagon pagoda.

Also modeled on the Shwedagon pagoda is the 325ft Uppatasanti pagoda, a major landmark on the otherwise flat plane of Nay Pyi Taw. Although not nearly as well constructed as its Yangon counterpart, the temple is still a shiny gold and looks particularly impressive when its bulk is lit up at night. You can see more temples – albeit small-scale models depicting architectural styles from the Bagan period – in the vast National Museum alongside ancient fossils and Stone Age tools, 11th-century jewelry and contemporary mural paintings.

For lovers of bling, the centrally located Gem Museum is the place to find beautiful examples of carved jade, rubies and other precious jewels that are found in Myanmar. You can buy jewelry and gem encrusted decorative arts from the stalls on the ground floor of the building (there are more shops and restaurants at the modern Junction Centre mall). Before you leave the city, do not miss trying the traditional Shan and Thai food at Tai Kitchen, or Cafe Flight, a quirky cafe-bar that has been created in a decommissioned Myanmar Airways plane.

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