New Years in Naypyidaw
We spent a relaxing New Years in Myanmar's capital, Naypyidaw, with our friends Justin, Stephanie, Luca, and Diella. We stayed at the Hilton, swam, played tennis, played games, and drank some good wine and Whiskey!
Naypyidaw is a five hour drive north of Yangon. This was my first visit to the capital city I've heard so much about. Paul travels there a couple times a month for meetings with Ministry officials so he is somewhat used to the "ghost town" feel of the city, but it was a new experience for me. Naypyidaw is a strange and unique place. It was built 10-15 years ago by the former government, with huge roads (some 20 lanes), large buildings vastly spread throughout different zones (military, ministry, residential, and hotel), and very few people. The hotel zone alone has over 60 hotels, many with ample land. The Hilton we stayed at was spread out across 100 acres and claims to have the largest pool in the city. And we pretty much had it to ourselves. I think we saw six other people staying at the hotel.
The kids loved having the pool to themselves! We did pull ourselves away from our personal luxury hotel and went to explore the Uppatasanti Pagoda (Peace Pagoda), which is supposedly styled after Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and houses a Buddha tooth relic from China. We found some people there, but not many!
Nearly everywhere we go in Myanmar our little fair haired kids are a popular attraction! The Burmese love to touch their hair, take pictures of them, take pictures with them, and call them baby (which they do not like!). Piper is not super amenable to this attention, but Luca is such a sweetie and will pose for many a picture!
Around the base of the pagoda are statues of the Burmese zodiac for the weekday a person was born. We figured out all of our Burmese zodiac animals and gave them each a little bath for good fortune. Piper is an elephant (Wednesday), Luca, Diella, and Justin are all rats (Thursday), Stephanie is a Naga/Dragon (Saturday), and I, of course, am a Guinea Pig (Friday).
You have to dress appropriately to visit a pagoda, knees and shoulders covered, no shorts for men, and shoes. Stephanie and I insisted that Paul and Justin wear longyi's - the traditional dress for Myanmar men. Justin just loved it (ha ha) and would not be happy with how his longyi was tied. But we did manage to get a couple nice family photos at the pagoda before we left and the men tore their longyi's off!
After visiting the pagoda we drove down to the Ministry Zone in front of the Parliament Building. The road there is 20 lanes - wide enough to land an airplane on, and it's empty. No vehicles other than us! We stopped in between checkpoints in the middle of the road and took some pictures. When else do you get to play in the middle of a 20 lane highway?
And that was our entry into 2018! I'm sure I'll be back to explore more of this strange city in the future!