After the heat and dust of Mandalay, the little village of Hsipaw in Myanmar‘s Shan State is a welcome relief. Spend your days breathing the cool mountain air, walking little footpaths through the rice fields, enjoying beautiful sunsets from surrounding hills or browsing at the central market.
Note: Due to a huge increase in visitors to Myanmar, prices have been skyrocketing. Locations and modes of transport I’ve listed as offering the lowest prices will still offer the lowest prices, but those prices will likely be considerably higher than they were when I visited in 2011 (last edited on Apr 5, 2013).
Getting to Hsipaw
You have a few options for getting to Hsipaw. A private car is the most expensive (probably around $100 roundtrip). A shared taxi will cost you about 10,000 Kyat from Mandalay and take 3 hours. The train from Mandalay costs $4 ($9 first class) and takes 15 hours, but it is billed as a “must-do” railway journey. I didn’t do it as I had already spent way more than enough time on a Burmese train (see my Indawgyi Lake Trip). I took a bus, which costs 4000 Kyat. It wasn’t great, but it got me there. Pick-ups are a final option and at 500 Kyat the cheapest. Be prepared for an incredibly uncomfortable 6 hours, unless you’re lucky enough to get a seat up front. I’d go with the bus.
Hsipaw is a small town and you can walk everywhere. Trishaws and taxis are available for the extremely lazy. You can also rent bicycles for about 500 Kyat per day. Motorbikes are also available.
When I visited Hsipaw in 2011, you had three options for accommodation, of which Mr. Charles Guest House was the most popular. That seems to have changed. As of October 2015, there are a number of new guesthouses (with more under construction), including Tai House Resort, Lily The Home and Yee Shin Guesthouse.
I’m listing these three because I have heard good things about them—Tai House Resort is actually the highest rated place in town—but they did not exist when I was there, so I have not checked them out myself. Both Tai House and Lily are a bit more expensive (rooms from $35 or so), but it seems you get what you pay for. Yee Shin is a budget place and might make a nice alternative to the Mr. Charles.
Luckily, the town is small enough that you can easily visit all the options before deciding on one. I’ll list them all here and let you make up your own mind:
Tai House Resort: 38 / Sabai Street , Taung Myo Qt; the highest rated hotel in town; rates from $40
Lily The Home: No.108, Aung Tha Phay Road; rates from $35
Yee Shin Guesthouse: Mine Pon Street, just to the north of Mr. Food; rates from $18
Eating & Drinking
Plenty of street food stalls and cheap restaurants line the main street. Be adventurous and try a few places other than the ones listed in Lonely Planet. Beer available from 500 Kyat.
Things to Do
Hsipaw has a lot of trekking opportunities to surrounding Shan villages. Ask at your guest house.
- Hiking and Biking: walking through the outskirts of town and the surrounding fields was my favorite activity in Hsipaw; you will run into cows, local children, monasteries, stupas and everything else that is part of daily life in rural Myanmar; read about the day I spent walking around the outskirts of Hsipaw
- Sunset Watching: Five Buddha Hill and Nine Buddha Hill are both great places to catch the sunset and easy to reach on foot or by bicycle
- Central Market: mainly a market for locals, with various tribes gathering to trade; 3:30am to 6am
- Trekking: ask at your guest house about trekking opportunities to Shan villages in the area; unlike many areas in Myanmar, you are not required to hire a guide
- Kyaukme: similar to Hsipaw, but slightly less popular; probably the best place for trekking
- Namshan: called the ‘Switzerland of Myanmar’ this town up in the mountains is as hard to get to as it is beautiful. It was closed to foreigners when I was in Hsipaw.