Hsipaw is a beautiful small town in northern Myanmar, previously known for its trekking to remote villages. It was once reserved for the intrepid traveller but now has become accessible for those wanting time out from the tourist trail. It provides a warm welcoming village type atmosphere with everything available within one square km.
A short 206kms from Mandalay, it takes 12 hours by train or 7+ hours by bus. Why so long? Zigzag roads lace the mountains, narrow potholed roads require slow navigation (understandably once you see the bitumen being laid by hand … I mean stone by stone) & there is a constant barrage of trucks carrying watermelons to China … yes watermelons … They must ship 1 per person per day given the volume that’s headed that way!
Nestled on the banks of the Duthawadi River, Hsipaw has a reputation for trekking, cycling, markets & fresh fruit / vegetables. Here’s our top 11 favourite hits for 2015
1. Meeting & staying with Lily at her hostel / boutique hotel – Hotel Lily The Home. Her laugh & humour is infectious. She makes you feel like part of her extended family. There are different types of accommodation – hostel type rooms, budget rooms & budget boutique rooms in the new wing. You will find a room to suit your budget & the experience & cleanliness is far superior than anywhere else.
2. Unique day trips – whether its trekking or a tuk tuk tour, Lily will advise something that suits your style & budget. We chose a day trip to the Lisu village. Check out our post.
3. Morning Markets – set the alarm for 4am & head off to the morning markets by candlelight. Never before have we experienced this. The local market starts from 2am till about 6 or 7am. You’ll see all the small vendors load up their scooters, bikes & tuk tuks with fresh produce for the day’s trade.
4. Curry Sets – some of the cheapest & most tasty food can be bought from where the locals eat. Our favourite was the curry set. $7 got you a curry, 6 side dishes, rice & a large beer. It doesn’t get much better than that.
5. Sunsets on bamboo pontoons – imagine scurrying across rickety raft walkways to reach a bunch of floating pontoons in the middle of the river. Order a coffee, tea or beer & watch the sunset behind the mountains.
6. Wander down the railway tracks – There are fabulous photo opportunities alongside the railway tracks, just be careful of the trains. All sorts of small industry … rice paper, vermicelli as well village life can be observed.
7. Lunch or dinner at the Club Terrace – if you are after a more up market meal, the food at the Club Terrace is excellent. Go for the local curries … chicken, fish or vegetable, they’re all fantastic. Reasonable wine is also available which is a bit special given you’re in a remote area.
8. Chill out riverside – The Black House Coffee Shop is a quaint little coffee shack with lay back chairs outside. It’s a simple peaceful place where you can write or read a book.
9. Watching the local water buffalos wallow in muddy ponds in between work shifts in the fields.
10.Cycling the surrounds – Bikes are cheap & easily available. There are plenty of monasteries, temples & sunset points to explore all around the surrounding area. Just be careful of all the trucks barrelling along, some of the roads can be narrow, hilly & windy.
11.Strawberry jam & homemade bread – the chef at Lily’s always made his own bread & given it was strawberry season, homemade jam was a hit at breakfast.