Naypyidaw: Abode of Kings in a Derelict Kingdom

Written by Austin Andrews  //  June 15, 2007  //  Burma, Photo Essays  //  75 Comments

To understand Naypyidaw (interchangeably spelled Naypyitaw or Nay Pyi Taw, and translated from Burmese into “Abode of viagra reviews critique Kings”), it helps to know a little of the situation in Burma, the country to which it now serves as capital city. The poorest nation in southeast Asia, and home to the world’s longest-running civil war (infighting has been ripping state lines to shreds since independence from Britain was granted in 1948), the universally-abhorred military government is buy viagra iframe src fighting a difficult war with the very people it should be protecting. A progressive democratic party was elected in 1990 but prevented from taking power, its Nobel Prize-winning leader put under a house arrest that lasts to this day. The GDP has become stagnant. Cities are in shambles while in the countryside thousands die every year from starvation. And in a generic viagra caverta cialis cheap greenfield site miles from anywhere sits a surreal suburban fantasyland where tap water is drinkable and electricity runs freely.

On November 6, 2005 the Tatmadaw military government surprised the world when it announced it had moved the capital to an empty tract of farmland 230km north of colonial capital Rangoon. No one knows exactly why: the generic viagra india trial pack consensus among news agencies and political pundits attributed it to geography, shifting the command centre north to avoid any potential seaborne invasion by US-led forces, while the military government maintained it was because Rangoon was simply “too crowded”. Even Burma’s main ally, China, criticised the move, wondering why a nation too poor to buying generic cialis even feed its own people would spend so much money moving its capital city.

The city took shape as 2006 ran its course, boulevards and buildings popping up across the plain, and by our visit in June 2007 Naypyidaw was beginning to look like the squeaky-clean showcase city its creators had in mind, albeit without perhaps answering first the all-important “why”. We went in without knowing what we’d find or where we’d find it: there was nary a mention of the city in the travellers’ bible Lonely Planet and we were told by the manager at the hotel that we were the first uninvited non-delegate foreigners to stay overnight (in effect, cialis link online axe cc the first two tourists).

The official line remains that Naypyidaw is off-limits to foreigners, although if that’s true it seems no one told the local officials. Apart from suspected tailings (a possible paranoid hallucination) and one unpleasant chitchat with a cop who had designs on our none-too-subtle Nikons, our overnight stay was remarkably hassle-free.

To our knowledge this is the 5mg cialis generic first thorough online photo journal of life in the new capital; a companion set can be found on Will’s blog.

Constructing a Capital

constructionwalkby.jpg
Much of the infrastructure in Burma — a nation perennially on the UN’s list of the worst human rights abusers — was constructed with forced labour. While it’s difficult to tell for certain whether much or any of Naypyidaw was built by slaves and drones — locals have their suspicions but can’t substantiate them — we observed that most worker gangs had a uniformed officer supervising them very closely.

suburbiaconstruction.jpg

trenchbuilders.jpg

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Framed by a watchtower on one side and an unfurled flag on the viagra in a creme other, this dozer on a dune could very well be the poster image for a propaganda campaign.

dozer.jpg

pigconcrete.jpg

constructionlayer.jpg
Walking through the entrance to even the most finished-looking mall reveals another layer of construction.

teleconstruction.jpg
Although the “official” population figure of one million looks to be some ways off yet, the number of new housing developments in Naypyidaw is staggering. Note the absence of cranes.

Architecture and Civic Planning

flagwaving.jpg
A flapping Myanmar flag points out the valley to bric-a-brac housing blocks.

palatialjuxtaposition.jpg
A shantytown, generic cialis pharmaceutical manufacturer home to displaced construction workers and poorer families, “clogs” the view of a palatial government building.

thatchedjuxta.jpg

layeredfences.jpg

apartmentwindows.jpg

firehall.jpg
Perhaps the tallest building in Naypyidaw, and viewable from almost anywhere in the city centre, is a hilltop firehall.

suburbia.jpg
The design and build quality of the housing looks about on par with American suburbia, which is to say it’s a little shoddy but they’ve done a convincing mimicry.

malls_x2.jpg
A bustling traditional Burmese hawker market on one side and a near-empty shopping mall on the other.

roundaboutdusk.jpg
The Naypyidaw “city centre”, an inauspicious-looking traffic circle with five spoked boulevards leading to far-flung apartment blocks.

roundaboutsunlight.jpg

militaryinstallation.jpg
The first to move to the new capital back in 2005, the military still has a strong presence in Naypyidaw.

Life in Naypyidaw

vantagewatch.jpg
Floor staff and kitchen boys look over the city from out the back doors of the restaurant strip. Naypyidaw enjoys a constant supply of electricity while the larger population hubs Rangoon and buy viagra in cagayan de oro Mandalay sit in the dark for as many as twelve of every twenty-four hours.

malllookoutnight.jpg
The mall after dark.

tricolourroofs.jpg

shoppinglot.jpg

ricestore.jpg
A shop stall in the main shopping mall. This one sells bags of rice; another was empty save for one shelf with a boxed keyboard, a copy of Windows ME and sundry other computer parts. I felt bad for the shopkeeper and bought a blank DVD.

womancopshop.jpg

teashop.jpg

roadsoldier.jpg
Reminders of Big Brother are never far away.

curbladies.jpg

trishawpowerpoles2.jpg
Mostly-empty trishaws ply the deserted boulevards of Naypyidaw.

naritabus.jpg
From dinky toys to bathroom fixtures, most consumer goods in Burma are hand-me-downs from nations developing at a faster clip than they are. Even the slick new capital wasn’t spared: one paint job ago this city bus served the Narita (Tokyo) Airport.

bridgegirls.jpg

fieldkids.jpg

handinhandfootpath.jpg
A mother and daughter walk hand-in-hand through a fairytale land.

Related posts:

  1. Committing the Basket Case Nation
  2. This Week in Photos (1 of 3)
  3. In the Mouth of Madness: Burma after Cyclone Nargis
  4. This Week in Photos (3 of 3)
  5. Some Favourite Stragglers, Part 2

About the Author

Austin Andrews

Austin Andrews is a Vancouver-based photojournalist and occasional filmmaker with a penchant for finding the fantastic in the everyday. Contact him at austin [at] sequential-one [dot] com

View all posts by Austin Andrews

75 Comments on "Naypyidaw: Abode of Kings in a Derelict Kingdom"

  1. Maximus December 20, 2007 at 4:25 pm ·

    I would like to see a continuation of the topic

  2. d January 17, 2008 at 6:32 pm ·

    Thanks for posting some quite detailed photos of Naypyidaw. Even I wasn’t able to get such shots while I visited there (cos I was too scared that my camera will be seized!) I am a Burmese living in Burma, and I just wanted to add to the fact that the uniformed men you mentioned (wearing a dark blue suit ) might be the construction engineer responsible for that project (probably from Ministry of Construction).

  3. joseph March 6, 2008 at 9:48 pm ·

    nice work man 10x

  4. femjo April 5, 2008 at 11:17 pm ·

    Will be visiting Rangoon next week, and hoping for a chance to see the new capital.

  5. Aung Zay Ya May 9, 2008 at 6:22 am ·

    Sayargyi Nay Aung,
    The pictures are very interesting, Kyat Pyay has another meaning. Kyat; difficult to stay, difficult to stand, survive, alive, difficult to show their face in public, and anyway impossible to stay continuously with people and then run away from people mean Pyay.
    Other meaning of Kyat is too tide . I understanded why they move to Kyat Pyay is
    1. They wanted to make Rangoon Killimg field to Yangon people. They actually wanted all Embassies move to Kyat Pyay and Rangoon would be hidden place from world watchers. It began 2007 revolution.
    2. Never can be happen like Vietnum or Phillipine revolution, at there people took over the government palaces. Although people are mad they can’t do like to Marcos in Phillipine, as madess of people after Cyclone.
    3. No coup deta can occur. No coup can approach to Kyat Pyay except their guards.
    From Kyat Pyay, they neglect any worry about people, but struggle to maintein their power. Look cyclone Nagis, they are struggling for refrendum , they use media for refrundum not for Weather warning to people. They took over all good power generators from ESB Rangoon to Kyat Pyay. No power made people have no information of Cyclone warning from TV, even they do warning from TV. After Tsunami all neighborhood countries prepared weather warning systems but they neglected but struggled for the refrundum.
    Although people have been facing more deadly situation like diseases, fevers, hunger and so on, they prohibited or delay the rescue team from the world. They ………Elex.

  6. noqah adkins June 23, 2008 at 9:44 am ·

    This reminds me of the situation in Cuba back in the late 40′s early 50′s when the Cuban government was in bed with the Mafia. Other than the fat military dictators of Burma, who else is gaining financially…..following the money will lead to those who support and encourage such merdous thugs.

  7. jim bartlett October 19, 2008 at 11:01 pm ·

    I just came back from Burma october 2008 Almost 90 per cent of the money I spent went to local people in rangoon and Bagan. Taxis, Horsecart drivers, hotel workers, shop owners. 1 in 3 of the hotels I stayed in was govt owned. If you talk to a normal person on the street or in the tourist business they say visting will help. Punishing the people will not hurt the rich elite who already dont need money. Unless the power in Hotels is self generated I never had one instance of electric failure in 7 days. This could be only in the hotels though. It seems to me Burma is where Thailand was 20 years ago.

  8. A name November 23, 2008 at 11:02 pm ·

    Pretty cool. I despise this government but its funny that you say “Big brother is never far away”.

    Oh what I would give for policemen to walk the streets again instead of artificial cameras recording my every move. Ahh well…Don’t worry, we’ll have our own police state here in Europe and America quite soon.

  9. johdub July 27, 2009 at 1:30 pm ·

    Wow – I can’t believe you took all these photos. Very gutsy… were you aware at the time that you were taking a huge risk? I’m an Australian who also visited Naypyidaw in June 2007 (under the pretext of visiting friends in Pyinmana) but wasn’t game enough to take photos because I’d heard about locals being arrested and thrown in gaol for doing so.
    Just out of curiosity, whereabouts did you sleep that night? Were you given a bed in one of the Naypyidaw hotels?

  10. moe sat August 15, 2009 at 3:08 am ·

    ျမန္မာျပည္မွာ ျပည္သူလူထုေတြ ဒုနဲ.ေဒးဆင္းရဲငတ္ျပတ္ေနႀကပီ န.အ.ဖ စစ္ဗိုလ္ခ်ဳပ္ေတြကလဲ အရမ္းကိုခ်မ္းသာႀကြယ္၀ေနႀကပါပီ တဘ၀စာအတြက္ေတာ.စားထားႀကေပါ.ဗိုလ္ခ်ဳပ္ႀကီးေတြရယ္ မင္းတို.ေတြကို တမလြန္မွာ ေစာင္.ႀကိဳေနႀကတဲ. မင္းတို.ေတြသတ္ျဖတ္ထားတဲ.အပစ္မဲ.ျပည္သူေတြက ေစာင္.ႀကိဳေနက်ပါလိမ္.မယ္။ေကာင္းေသာဘ၀ကူးခ်င္းမ်ိဳးမင္းတို.ဘယ္ေတာ.မွ ကူးႏိုင္မွာမဟုတ္ပါဘူး ငါရင္နာလိုက္တာ ငါ.တို.ေတြမင္းတို.လက္ထက္မွာ ျမန္မာျပည္မွာလူလာျဖစ္တာ ရင္နာလို.မဆံုးဘူး အခုဆိုရင္ အရင္က ငါ.တို.လူမ်ိဳးေတြဟာ ဗမာေဟ.ဆိုပီးရင္ေကာ.ေနႏိုင္ခဲ.က်တဲ. ေရႊႏိုင္ငံက ေရႊျမန္မာေတြေလ မင္းတို.ပေထြး ေန၀င္း လက္ထက္ကေန အမ်ိဳးယုတ္သန္းေရႊလက္ထက္အထိ ငါ.တို.ျမန္မာျပည္ႀကီး ဟာမြဲေတပီး ဖာႏိုင္ငံႀကီးျဖစ္ႀကရေတာ.မွာပါလား။ငါ.ညတိုင္းလိုလို မင္းတို.ေတြအေႀကာင္းကိုေတြးမိတယ္ ဘာေႀကာင္.မ်ားကိုယ္.လူမ်ိဳးကို ႏွိပ္စက္ပီးေတာ. ရလာတဲ.စည္းစိမ္ခ်မ္းသာမႈကို လိုခ်င္တာလဲဆိုတာေလ။ထိုင္းကိုသြားအလုပ္လုပ္က်ရတဲ.ျမန္မာ မေလးေတြလဲ ထိုင္းကေကာင္ေတြကမဒိန္းက်င္တယ္ ထိုင္းမွာေရာက္ေနတဲ.ျမန္မာျပည္ေပါက္ မြတ္စလင္ေတြကလဲ ျမန္မာမေလးေတြကိုမဒိန္းက်င္တယ္ ေရာင္းစားတယ္ ေအးဒီလို.ဘဲမေလးရွားမွာလဲ အႏိုင္က်င္.ေဆာ္ကားဖ်က္စီးခံေနက်ရတဲ. ငါ.တို.ရဲ.မ်ိဳးစက္ျမန္မာမေလးေတြအတြက္လဲငါ၀မ္းနည္းတယ္ ကမၻာမွာ ျမန္မာေဟ.လို.မင္းတို.အုပ္ခ်ဳပ္ေနတဲ.ေခတ္ႀကီးမွာ ေယာင္လို.ေတာင္.ငါတို.မေအာ္ရဲ.ေတာ.ပါဘူးကြာ ငါတို.လူမ်ိဳးေတြ မင္းတို.ရဲ.အမဲစက္ေႀကာင္. ကမၻာမွာမ်က္ႏွာငယ္ေနက်ရပါပီ။ဒါကိုေတာ. ငါရင္ထဲကအေတြးေတြကိုေရးေနတာမဟုတ္ပါဘူး တကယ္ျဖစ္ပ်က္ေနတာေတြကိုမင္းတို.ေတြသိသင္ပီထင္လို. လက္ေတြ.ခံစားေနက်ရတဲ. ငါ.တို.ျမန္မာလူမ်ိဳးေတြကိုယ္စား ငါေရးလိုက္ရတာပါ…..။မိုးစက္ ဒိန္းမက္မွာေနတယ္

  11. kogyi November 7, 2009 at 5:49 am ·

    winners and losers… thats life…

  12. Bianca F. August 19, 2010 at 12:01 pm ·

    This is a very interesting write up… People all over the world should take a glimpse on what is going on around countries such as Burma. For “Naypyidaw”, I th think the city is starting to cope with urbanization, which I think is a good and a bad thing at the same time, from the pictures, it seems like the place is surrounded with concrete, where are the greens?? seems like every corner has been dumped with buildings, not so eco-friendly i guess. But best wishes to Naypyidaw, it seems like it’s starting to clean up well, I just hope that Burma is all happy and well with the transformation going on… God Bless Burma…

  13. RUTTOH POLLYZZARRIOH August 20, 2011 at 12:18 am ·

    Give credit where it is due! man you are really a hater of people! at least they are better off than Puerto Rico or the slums of New Orleans, a thousand times better than the Bronx! those buildings are a zillion times better than what I have seen in the first nations abodes in Canada!

    Just because the oppressive murdering Americans have said they hate Burma, you have to thrash even the little effort that Burmese have shown? You are sick man! You need your head examined!
    Is Mexico, or many of Central American Countries better off than Burma? Come on Man, be reasonable and Fair!

  14. RUTTOH POLLYZZARRIOH August 20, 2011 at 12:37 am ·

    ” The design and build quality of the housing looks about on par with American suburbia, which
    is to say it’s a little shoddy but they’ve done a convincing mimicry. ”

    Give credit where it is due! man you are really a hater of people! at least they are better off than Puerto Rico or the slums of New Orleans, a thousand times better than the Bronx! those buildings are a zillion times better than what I have seen in the first nations abodes in Canada!

    Just because the oppressive Murdering Americans have said, they hate Burma, you have to thrash even the little effort that Burmese have shown? You are sick man! You need your head examined!

    Is Mexico, or many of Central American Countries better off than Burma? Come on Man, be reasonable and Fair!

    ” The design and build quality of the housing looks about on par with American suburbia, which
    is to say it’s a little shoddy but they’ve done a convincing mimicry. ”

    UNBELIEVABLE!

    RUTTOH POLLYZZARRIOH
    Friday, August 19, 2011

  15. Kyi May September 15, 2011 at 3:59 pm ·

    Dear Austin,

    I would like to use some of your photos for reference as I paint human rights pictures for display only, not for sale.

    I would also like to use some of your text as quotes behind the images -

    I paint in acrylics and oils.

    Kyi May

    based in USA

  16. régime hyperprotéiné December 8, 2011 at 11:49 am ·

    even now an intriguing write-up in your web page, I’ll manage to use this facts in my work. sorry for the quality of my english language, i am french

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