Hsipaw is a beautiful region, which is very popular with travellers for walking and trekking, whether this is for a day, overnight, or 3-plus days.
The 6-hour bus from Mandalay to Hsipaw takes you through some beautifully lush (it is currently the wet season) vistas and a couple hours of switchbacks.
If you’re prone to travel sickness, I’d suggest some tablets beforehand.
Be warned, the locals do not travel well. And so, the vocal noice and scent of vomit permeates every nook and cranny of the bus during the trip. There is no escape. Bring some strong lozenges or peppermints to mask the smells. And of course, a jacket and ear plugs for obvious reasons!
An observation I’ve made so far on bus trips in Burma is that although locals are sick during the bus trip, when the bus stops for lunch, everyone partakes in a huge lunch. Once the journey continues, the vomiting starts all over again and it is like a revolving dream or some may say nightmare.
At the time of writing, there is fighting between the Shan Rebels and government troops, which resulted in some trekkers having to turn back and return to the guest house after a day’s trek, instead of the 3-day trek. Unfortunately, we can only go on short independent day treks during our stay.
Although the guide books advise that this town is not frequented much by travellers, don’t believe it – many travellers visit this northern Shan state town and it’s easy to organise trekking activities once in the town.
As it is the wet season and raining an awful lot all of the time, gave Sunset Hill a miss, although the scenery from the top is supposed to provide sweeping views along the town and river.
The surrounding area is just gorgeous and the best way to see and explore this is on foot. Of course and as expected, there is loads of mud along the path during the wet season – makes for an adventurous experience.
The two teak monasteries, which includes the Bamboo Buddha Monastery are about a 45-minute walk north of town and next to Little Bagan.
Ask your hostel/hotel for a map before you set out as it’s a muddy track.
To get there, from the Central Market head north on Namtu Road for a while. Cross the railway line and follow the road until you reach the monasteries. Turn left at the big Tamarind tree and keep walking. I had to look up what a Tamarind Tree looks like as I’ve never seen this type of tree before.
On the walk back from the monastery, stop in at Mrs. Popcorn for a lovely fresh juice and local snacks. Enjoy the lovely and warm Burmese hospitality that typically, you experience in the smaller villages.
This is on the same easy, half-hour walk from town as to Myauk Myo. Once you get to Little Bagan, there’s a collection of ancient brick Stupas, which is a good photo opportunity (as long as it’s not raining).
If you’ve travelled to the Angkor Wat ruins (Cambodia) and Bagan (Burma) and seen some of the smaller temples, Little Bagan will remind you of these sites, a little; overgrown vegetation and rubble but on a much smaller scale in comparison.
Take a stroll along the Myawaddy River, which is wonderful for a photo shoot or just to relax and chill.
As it is raining a lot, there isn’t much stopping and sitting happening – I can only imagine it would be much more pleasant in the dry.
Typically, the longer treks go further into the surrounding hill areas than the shorter treks.
As currently, there is fighting between the Shan rebels and the Government’s army, we didn’t do the 2 or 3-day treks and only did the short treks.
Still, these treks provided wonderful scenery, which is pretty special. This also means that you can sleep in the comfort of your own hostel or hotel, which is very lush, especially in the pouring rain of the current wet season.
If you take a short walk (8km round trip) south of the town, you’ll run into small Shan villages along iridescent rice paddies, and against the surrounding mountains. These vistas make for an excellent photo opportunity.
Most of all, the local villagers are so friendly and it doesn’t take much to win a smile from a local. Definitely make the effort to venture outside of Hsipaw Town itself.
Lily Guest House (108 Aung Thepye St)
Although staff are very friendly and accommodating, and the breakfast is good, I still feel that the accommodation itself is over-priced (more of a hostel feel).
A clean room, private bathroom, hot water, coffee making facilities in the room. Tea/coffee/water are also provided in the communal area with sporadic wi-fi also available in this area.
A new 4-storey building for 30+ rooms and also extensions for another 2 rooms at the premise, is under way at the time of writing. So, if the new rooms are offered at the current price (very doubtful), then this will be much better value. This is also travelling during low season, which we booked through Agoda.
Staff at the Lily Guest House can arrange all bus, train, and boat travel tickets; and also treks. The guest house charges a 5% charge anytime you pay for something with a credit card, which is a tad pricey.
As we really can’t go any further than Hsipaw due to the fighting, decided on Bagan as the next stop to see the famous temples. With no direct buses from Hsipaw, we have to return through Mandalay by bus.
The 6-hour morning bus back to Mandalay, arrives in the city at around 20:00 hrs. Lets hope so…
The Lily Guest House also pre-booked our tickets for the expensive (USD$43 per person +5% card charge) government-owned, but average quality and service RV Shwe Keinnery, which is the 10-hour ferry journey from Mandalay to Bagan.