Explore Hsipaw – A Picturesque town of Myanmar on a next trip to Myanmar
Located 200 kilometers northeast of Mandalay, on the railway towards Lashio, Hsipaw Township is an administrative unit under Kyaukme District in Shan State, eastern Myanmar. Its principal town, also named Hsipaw, is a picturesque town on the bank of Myitnge River renowned for bustling markets and interesting local lives.
Scattered around the town of Hsipaw are tea plantations, sugar cane farms, corn fields, green mountains, small plashing rivers, restaurants serving Shan dishes as well as Chinese dishes, teahouses offering delish banana pancakes, and on-hill pagodas providing panoramic views of the entire town.
In addition, there are two markets in Hsipaw: the main one is open all day at eastern Namtu Road which sells the popular Burmese hats and sandals made of old tires; meanwhile, the second market is held early in the morning under fabric awnings, selling local agricultural products, foodstuffs, and essential goods from Burma and China.
According to Myanmar’s history, among the Saopha states of Shan State, Hsipaw is probably the most notable, wealthiest and powerful, along with Keng Tung and Yawnghwe (Nyaung Shwe today). Vestiges of these golden days can be found at the residence of the last Shan Prince; however, you cannot go inside the palace – can only look at it from outside.
Also, do not miss the chance of getting to Hsipaw’s largest religious building, also one of its busiest and crowded religious sites – Mahamyatmuni Paya (below).
You can trek further into the villages surrounding Hsipaw town by walking or by cycling with bicycles rented at a price of 500 kyats each per day. Apart from contemplating verdant fields rich in crops as well as local fruits, observing remote Shan monasteries, this indeed guarantees that you explore the town in the best way, through actually mixing with its indigenous people – those whose smiles can melt your heart, making you feel like you are truly one of a kind.
As tourists often get into Hsipaw from Mandalay or Pyin Oo Lwin, available transportation options are a taxi, private car, bus or train. Especially, when accessing the town by train, you are guaranteed to contemplate the beauty of Goteik Viaduct, construction of a hundred years old which is Myanmar’s highest railway bridge (below).
Accommodation can be found in homestays at the villages you pass through, usually costing around K2000 just for a bed, or K5000 including breakfast. Alternatively, you can take a two-day trek with the guide (including food and accommodation), costing around K20,000.
Although not technical, these treks hard work and may include changing the weather – walking boots are certainly required! Furthermore, if you do travel without a guide, be aware that there are no signs and the locals in the countryside are unlikely to speak much English (although you can get a rudimentary map from most guesthouses in Hsipaw).
Access to Namhsan is currently restricted; you may find that it is possible to travel with a guide, but solo access is unlikely to be permitted.
Dokhtawady River boat trip
If you fancy a more chilled-out activity, then a half-day boat trip on the Dokhtawady River from Hsipaw is an enticing option. This scenic journey features monasteries, pineapple plantations, fields, forests and a 45-minute walk where you will have the chance to speak to local Shan farmers. Start time is 8:30 am, returning to Hsipaw at 1:30 pm. Price is K40,000, including the guide.
There are several dining options in Hsipaw, but Law Chun (otherwise known as ‘Mr. Food’) on Namtu Road is where the few foreigners who reach here tend to congregate.