June 24, 2008

No one goes to Naypidaw

And they're not wanted anyway:

Naypyidaw is Myanmar’s new capital, built in secret by the ruling generals and announced to the public two and a half years ago, when it was a fait accompli.

A nine-hour drive north from the former capital, Yangon, it looks like nothing else in this impoverished country, where one out of three children is malnourished and many roads are nothing more than dirt tracks.

Workers in Naypyidaw (pronounced nay-pee-DAW) are building multilevel, flower-covered traffic circles. In a country of persistent power shortages and blackouts, street lamps brightly illuminate the night, like strings of pearls running up and down scrub-covered hills. On the city’s outskirts there is a modern and tidy zoo complete with an air-conditioned penguin house.

Foreigners rarely travel here, and the police tried to stop a reporter from taking pictures in the city, but the zoo is ready to receive them: admission is $10 for foreigners and the equivalent of $1 for Myanmar citizens.

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