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Myanmar's vanity capital starts to grow up

The sprawling Myomar Zay market area in central Naypyitaw is a bustling site for commerce and transportation (Photo by Nicholas Farrelly)

In case you have not been keeping score, Naypyitaw is officially almost 10 years old. Under construction since 2004, and capital of Myanmar since March 2006, this new hub in the country's central basin is one of the world's youngest capital cities. Already, though, it is taking on roles that detractors have failed to notice.

     Too often, people visiting Myanmar get caught up in the stereotypes used to describe the city: a Potemkin dictatorial paradise with no hint of culture or life. Its scale and novelty tend to stump first-time visitors, unable to conceive that there is serious method in the apparent madness.
     Even today many appraisals of Naypyitaw miss the fact that, against all odds, it is becoming an unexpectedly vibrant and varied place -- a new urban model for Myanmar. The model draws its inspiration from a cluttered history in which royalist, anti-colonialist and socialist elements jockey alongside today's crony-capitalist and federalist additions.
     The architecture and infrastructure usually receive the most attention, but what is truly exciting about the new city is its people. The Naypyitawites of 2015 are a diverse group, but what they demonstrate is just how far Myanmar has already come.

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