This 'empty' city is more than four times the size of London

Louis Dor
Wednesday 21 June 2017 13:00
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Picture:(Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)

Google tells me that Greater London is 1,569 km².

Naypyidaw is the capital of Burma and is 7,054 km².

This means, as the mathematically gifted among you will have deduced, that the capital city of Burma is roughly four and a half times the size of the capital of the UK.

According to official figures the population is 924,608. The population of greater London in 2016 was estimated to be 8.63 million.

This means, as the now-gratingly mathematically gifted among you will have deduced, that the capital city of Burma has a population over 9 times smaller than London's. In a city four and a half times the size.

There are a lot fewer people spread out across a much larger area.

And it shows.

Picture: Taylor Weidman/Getty Images(Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)

Naypyidaw (Seat of the King) was unveiled as the new capital of Burma in November 2005 by the Military regime in place at the time.

It is rumoured to have cost $4bn to construct and was designed with expansion in mind. 20-lane highways and wide sprawling streets are emblematic of a city that was built for the future.

Unlike much of the rest of the country there is reliable electricity throughout the city and restaurants and cafes have fast, free wifi.

Picture: Taylor Weidman/Getty Images(Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)

The Guardian visited the city in March 2015 and described it as follows:

The scale of this surreal city is difficult to describe: it extends an estimated 4,800 square kilometres, six times the size of New York City.

Everything looks super-sized. The streets – clearly designed for cars and motorcades, not pedestrians nor leisurely strolls – have up to 20 lanes and stretch as far as the eye can see (the rumour is these grandiose boulevards were built to enable aircraft to land on them in the event of anti-government protests or other “disturbances”).

There is a safari park, a zoo complete with air-conditioned penguin habitat, and at least four golf courses.

Picture: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images(Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Strangely, Naypyidaw is not the only capital built from scratch out of political ideals.

You only have to look as far as Astana in Kazakhstan, Oyala in Equatorial Guinea or the Gbadolite development by Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo).

But they haven't quite captured international wonder in the same way as the eerie emptiness of Naypyidaw.

As the Guardian wrote:

In recent years, the city’s bizarre urban plan and strange emptiness has become something of an international curiousity. The BBC’s Top Gear team marvelled at the city’s desolate boulevards when they visited last year as part of a special episode filmed in the country, kicking a football around, staging a drag-race down the vast, empty roads, and joking about the difficulties of navigating the capital’s non-existent morning rush hour.

But to focus on Naypyidaw’s wide, empty streets is to risk missing the ubiquitous street cleaners which are their only pedestrians, walking in pairs in their neon-green vests, sweeping the already pristine streets for hours each day. Or the small army of labourers, piling bricks with their bare hands as the city’s construction continues.

The project continues, it seems.

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