We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Eva, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Eva is from Sweden, and submitted the following report about Naypyidaw. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: Burmese (official language), English
Costs at Destination: Cheap (local transportation, dining, tours, events and attractions)
Reasons to Visit Naypyidaw
Naypyidaw? So you have never heard of Naypyidaw? You are not alone. I hadn’t either until someone mentioned it to me while I was visiting Yangon (former Rangoon). Naypyidaw a.k.a. Nay Pyi Taw (this is not a typo – T is the official spelling), or NPT for short, is Myanmar’s new capital. Who knew? The town was constructed in secret by the Myanmar junta in the early 2000s and officially announced as the country’s new capital in November 2005. Out of the blue, all government offices and ministries were relocated and the government workers were given two months to do the same. Embassies were to follow. Ten years on, all embassies are still in Rangoon (former capital) except for one: the Bangladeshi Embassy.
NPT was built for one purpose and one purpose only: to serve as the nation’s capital and location of the presidential palace, parliament building, government institutions, embassies, military base and whatever else is needed to run a country. The town planners seem to have thought of everything and no money was spared on anything. It is super over-sized and very pompous. There are never-ending 6-8 lane wide streets and meticulously clean, properly paved sidewalks decorated with lovely plants, trees, flowers, and manicured grass on either side. There is even an exact replica (well, a meter shorter) of Myanmar’s pride, the mighty Shwedagon Pagoda of Rangoon for spiritual contemplation and lovely parks for recreation. The security is, of course, top notch. Very visible security posts are spread out all over the town every 100 meters or so. It is a safe haven for presidents, dignitaries, embassy personnel, government officials, and consequently even solo travelers. Bag snatchers, muggers, scammers, hustlers, and even street hawkers are absent. The streets are all yours – literally, as you will be the only one walking them.
The city is very orderly and well organized. Everything is clustered according to its purpose. Government institutions are grouped on one street, embassies on another, all ministries lined up on a third and all hotels on yet another. As with anything else in Naypyidaw, every single one of these structures, including hotels, are over-sized and built on vast stretches of land. You don’t check into a windowless hotel cramped in between two other buildings as elsewhere in South East Asia but a miniature town with bungalow or villa type accommodation that reminds me more of a beautifully manicured residential area in an upscale neighborhood rather than hotel. To move around or go for breakfast you need to call for a buggy but if you’re planing to have a drink with your next door neighbor you’d need to take a taxi as the hotel street is at least 20 kilometers long.
Not only hotels are empty. The whole city seems to be empty. No people. No traffic. These perfectly kept and inviting sidewalks, ideal for night strolls, are totally deserted. The town is not walkable. There is no destination within walking distance. Wheels of some sort, preferably motorized, are essential. Biking is possible but it can take two hours or more, depending on your location on the hotel street, to get to your destination. And then, of course, a 2-hour walk or ride back – in 45 C heat. After a little while walking or riding can become a bit monotonous as there is absolutely nothing to see along the way other than trees and grass. No residential houses, no shops, no restaurants, no street vendors, no hawkers, no other pedestrians, not even stray dogs. Just an empty road and, as inviting as it is, an empty side walk. And you.
Officially there are almost 1 million people living in the city. They are, however, practically invisible. I saw a few in the mall and a few more at the market and then also some at the Uppatasanti Pagoda during evening prayers. Other than that the town appears to be empty. Empty of people and empty of cars. No wonder it has been nicknamed The Ghost City of Myanmar.
And this is exactly what makes Naypyidaw the most exciting and coolest ghost city in the word. A super modern, super safe, well organized city and it is all yours – you’ll have it all to yourself! The few visitors that come to town are business people from Yangon. As far as I know, I was the only traveler and definitely the only Westerner. I am pretty sure this will change in the near future. But for now Naypyidaw is the only destination in the world where you can ride 12-13 lane streets (streets, not highways) for hours, alone, without meeting another soul. And this alone should earn Naypyidaw a place on any bucket list. A taste of freedom.
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)