NAYPYITAW, 21 February 2012

Naypyitaw is so unique that drivers may think they are seeing a mirage of heaven. The roads here are really wide. Some are so wide that they boast six lanes on each side of the road. And because this city is still being developed, traffic is so light that Jakarta drivers may be overwhelmed by all that space.

Nay Pyi Taw is truly remarkable. This plateau stretches as far as your eyes can see. As you approached the developed areas, you are greeted by huge government offices, and a truly spectacular Presidential Palace.

And before you go away thinking that the city is nothing but boring and quiet office buildings, you come across gems like the Uppatasanti Pagoda. Like the Presidential Palace, you are awed by its majestic grandeur. Gleaming in the afternoon sun, the Pagoda awes you, and yet it calms you. While you are looking around inside its cavernous hall, a sense of calm settles over you as you follow the life story of Shakyamuni Buddha, or Gautama Buddha.

At the centre lies jade Buddhas – each 3.2 feet in height. Across the Pagoda lives Myanmar’s second “lucky charm” in Nay Pyi Taw. And these are five white elephants which are already the talk of the country. The ASEAN Secretariat team had the good fortune of coming up close and personal with the lovable and rare jumbos.

The youngest and oldest elephants here are the mother and son team. Mummy jumbo is 40 years old, while her young son is only two months old. Many are convinced that Myanmar’s national fortunes are turning for the better because of these white jumbos. For the reason that naturally white elephants are rare, and it is difficult to find a good sample. Having five in one location is just awesome. And yet, Myanmar boasts of another three white jumbos in another part of Yangon.

Many are certain that with Myanmar’s political reforms, and correspondingly improving national fortunes, the Uppatasanti Pagoda, and its lovable neighbours are certain to attract more visitors here.