Usually ignored by most backpacker itineraries, Hsipaw and it’s ever-growing popularity was a nice little town that many use as a base for jungle treks and village home stays. I checked out the ruins in “Little Bagan,” listened to a tragic love story in the historic Shan Palace, and befriended a couple Oregonian hippies who promised me if I go to Portland their cooking will make me finally like pineapple on my pizza.

 

Hsipaw

 

Getting There and Away

I took the 2pm bus from Mandalay, 6 hours, $5. Overnight busses also run to and from Inle Lake. It is cheaper to book tickets from agencies in town which often have free shuttles to the bus terminal, rather than booking through hotels or hostels and paying for a taxi.

I recommend taking a bus from Mandalay or shared taxi to Pyin Oo Lwin, $5 and 2 hours, then taking the 8-hour train to Hsipaw in order to enjoy the famous Goteik Viaduct, $2. This is because it is a smooth connection to Inle Lake from Hsipaw via overnight bus. Doing the steps in reverse the way I did was far less convenient.

 

Little Bagan, Hsipaw

Accommodation

Mr. Charles Guest House had great atmosphere and an in-house trekking agency. Dorms with fan were $7, with AC $9. Buffet breakfast was fresh and included omelettes, cooked vegetables, rice, warm crepes, toast, coffee, tea, and juice.

You may need some nights in Mandalay to access Shan state desinations. ABC Backpackers @ Golden City Light Hotel was cheapest when booked with Agoda, $9 for AC dorm. Good wifi, incredible breakfast.

 

Hsipaw trek.

See and Do

Trekking

Most popular are the one, two, and three day guided treks. I did a two-day one-night trek through indigenous Shan and Palaung villages that ended at a appreciatively cold waterfall, maybe 25 kilometers, $18. Four meals and the home stay were included.

Eat Noods

When I hear Shan state I start day dreaming of heaping bowls of noodles and my eyeballs start resembling the shapes of hearts. Sticky wheat noodles in spicy oil, rice noodles floating in broth with ribs, noodle salad, tofu nway. The last dish is my favorite—noodles covered in creamy, gooey chickpea paste dressed with (I think) peanut powder, sesame oil, spices, soy sauce, and fresh herbs. It could almost be cheese. It’s a Burmese breakfast go-to, usually served warm.

In Hsipaw, Gold Tea & Food had an English flip book with pictures for a menu great for familiarizing with dishes, but I recommend going to the ladies cooking from street stands for the best flavors. Also try pickled tea leaf salad.
 

Tofu nway.

Days 19-22

Recovering from no man’s land, using wifi, and traveling between destinations in Mandalay. For a blogging break, Ash and I rented a motorcycle and visited U Bein Bridge at sunset. There were numerous other attractions I had no energy to pursue. We parted ways and thanked each other for helping us stay alive and healthy.

 

Mandalay- U Bein Bridge

 

Day 23

Useless when it comes to motorbikes, Robbie and Ben took turns driving me for our excursion to Lashio, a town by the Chinese border. We had a nice lunch before returning.

I couldn’t tell you how many times the bikes refused to start, or how many times we lurched forward from severely inadequate shock absorption. Ben ran out of gas and we waited in the rain while Robbie went to go find a bottle.

 

Off to Lashio.

 

Little Bagan was a peaceful collection of stupas outside of Hsipaw. Look out for the picturesque pagoda with at least two tree species sprouting out of it, marked on Maps.me.

 

 

Nearby was the Shan Palace, a large house where the rulers of Hsipaw once lived. Visiting hours are from 3-5pm daily.

Visitors from all over the world go and listen to Fern tell the family story. Her husband was the nephew of the last prince of Hsipaw, who disappeared one day and was believed to be killed by the government.

Shan Palace

 

When I walked in, she asked me a question. I thought I misheard, and she repeated it. Definitely Burmese. The other tourists giggled as she corrected herself for thinking I was one of the native “teachers” (of what, I still do not know) as we were all wearing green pants.

She tells the story many times, switching between English and Burmese, so that everyone may have a chance to know what’s up. She showed us her collection of books, a growing window to the outside world given to her and her family from travelers.

 

Shan village homestay- Buddha tree.

 

Day 24

Yanle was 21 and would be our trekking guide. He showed us how to take one type of leaf and blow bubbles with it. He looked like such a hippie with his top knot and white tunic. He told me when he goes to study at the monasteries, they meditate from four in the morning to eleven at night, one hour on, half an hour off. I love Myanmar. I love Yanle.

Aside from Yanle, there were five others—all men of course. Which made seven humans dripping through the Shan countryside.

I learned some new card games, how to use six spoons to make four triangles, and that I am shit at passing the Burmese woven kicking ball thing.
 

 

Day 25

Yanle bought everyone popsicles mid-step when an ice cream man on a motorbike crossed paths with us. The hike ended at a deliciously, seductively cold waterfall.

A nap back at the hostel when it was 108 out? Not successful. Some BBQ and whisky with the boys? Much better.

 

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