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The North of Myanmar

HSIPAW

Global Mark : 14.51    Top Five : No4

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
3 4 1 3 5 2 5 3 5 13.78

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
20 85% (17) 75% (15) 85% (17) 5 to 20 15.25


Description :
A small & very hospitable Shan village.

Comments : The village is nothing special (in particular coming from Pyin U Lwin) but the surroundings are nice and the people genuinely friendly & generous. 

What to do ? Meet all the Mister of the area : Mr. Charles, Mr. Book, Mr. Donald, Mr. Knowledge, Mr. Food, Mr. Fern, Mr. to-be-named-soon / Follow Mr. Charles or Mr. Jojos on their morning walk : Shan village, hot spring, water caves, waterfall,... The program change daily ! / Rent a bike and explore on your own / Walk the villages alongside the river or the railway track / Visit factories : cigar, buckets, bags, popcorn... / Do a boat trip / Talk politics & learn about the situation of the local people in Myanmar / Smile back at the people / Wave back at the kids / Test your Mandarin skills as the area houses lots of Chinese people / Have a look at the Shan Palace (before noon) / Admire the daily films' drawings at the local "cinemas" / Play volleyball, football or tennis / Then receive a good massage from an old lady / Watch sunset from a hilly monastery / Degust Chinese food & banana pancake / For more exotic food, try bees or other insects / Wake up with nothing to do and go to bed with only half the things done

What you may not like ? The lack of guesthouse and the no breakfast policy / The business turned political (or the reverse) rivalry between Mr. Book & Mr. Charles, somehow fueled by some backpackers' comments (soon a newsgroup on the subject ?) / Finding the door of the Shan Palace (actually a big house) closed if Mr. Donald is not in town / Finding little or no water at the waterfall during the dry season / Learning about the people's situation in Myanmar / The pancakes from 3 to 9pm only / Not being able to stay longer as other places are also worth a visit & your visa is getting short / "The feeling of leaving a huge family behind" as wrote a backpacker in the tips' book

How long ? The attractions are actually worth one or two days only but the friendliness of the people & the laid back atmosphere make that some travelers spend all their visa here. Most extend their stay by a few days...


Where to stay ? Only three places in town, all with common shower outside the buildings, rather basic cheaper rooms and no breakfast.

  • Mr. Charles - Myat Yatana Rest House (tel : 105), 141 Auba Street, a bit off the northern part of Numtu Road / Sgl K350, Dbl K700 or K800, Dbl w. HW shower $6 / Relaxed sitting area with free tea / Go there to follow the crowd as this is the only popular place in town, to follow Mr. Charles in its morning walks, to follow the tips from the guests' book / What you may not like : having no real other choice...
  • At the time of writing, Mr. Charles was planning to set up 3 or 4 Dbl rooms in a bungalow by the river, next to a Shan village. The cost should be around K250 per person. 
  • Nam Khae Mao GH (tel : 88), 134 Bogyoke Rd (Lashio to Mandalay Rd), next to the clock tower / Sgl $2, Dbl w HW shower $6 / Grotty cheaper rooms with rather dirty common shower but acceptable Dbl. Very noisy (clocktower & passing trucks in the middle of night)
  • Mr. Kid Golden Doll GH (tel : 66), 124 Bogyoke Rd, 300m west from the above / Sgl or Dbl K350 or K700, Sgl or Dbl w. HW shower K1200 or 1500 / Go there for the best looking rooms and the cheaper Sgl with shower in town / What you may not like : the mess in the garden, the rather dirty common shower, the very tiny cheap Sgl, the proximity of the road


Where to eat ? Chinese & Shan restaurants cater for the good taste of travelers and local people alike. 

Backpacker's Tips : Hans & Greet, Belgium (Nov 02)
DO NOT MISS HSIPAW to visit Misses Rice, Mister Cook, Mister Beer, Mister Bean (!),... Not very much tourists go there, but it is worth the trip, and Hsipaw is the most funny village we ever visited ! You can walk around, visit the market, talk to the people, and don't miss a (blue ?) movie in one of the little theatres, or enjoy a tea while you see strange hill tribes (from villages where you are not allowed to go) passing by...Nam Khae Mao Guesthouse, next to Clock tower (10 minutes walking from bus stand), 4 $ (incl. breakfast) for a double if you ask it friendly...
"Mister Manager", a boy who lost his leg due to a landmine, is the most reliable, friendly & honest man you can find in Burma. He can help you with everything. And give him all our greetings ! 
Food : Mr. Food restaurant (to watch the cook), or Miss Rice... / In same street, you also find a liquor-store (open until 23 h in the evening). Friendly people. The wife is from the village of Namsang, ask to see her traditional Palaung -clothes ! 
Easy walk of max. 5 hours: Local boat from jetty next to the market (dep. at 11h), 40 minutes upriver, to the little village of Son Lon. Then walk for 1 hour, back, just follow the railway-track. After the 3rd bridge, turn to the left (little path to San Khaung village), then to Chaung Pein Village, then the road in the direction of the communication tower (near the Shan palace) of Hsipaw.
We didn't have time to go to Namsang, a village one day further than hsipaw. Should also be great (If the government allows you to go there !) : A lot of traditional Palaung women, in the middle of tea- (and opium- ?) mountains !


Backpacker's Tips : Franck Bertagnolio, France (May 02)
Mr.Book/Mr.Charles rivalry still going on... A certain Mr.Bean is organizing boat trips on the river, monastery, Shan village. Nothing special but the bath in the river is a real treat!

Backpacker's Tips : Jean-Marc Delatre, France (Sept 00)
You can rent a bicycle at Mr. Charles: 40 K per hour, and take a boat to go 10 km downriver (going to Pyin U Lwin) to the other bank (landing at a village named Solan, spelling?) 100K p/p bicycle included. Cycle towards P.U.L. and after a few km you will see on the right hand side of the road, something like a mill: stop and ask for Paul. He speaks perfectly English, and will make you visit what is in fact an ice factory. Very interesting visit and so friendly. Go ahead: he asked us to send travelers, so... 
Visit of Shan Palace: if you go in Hsipaw, you should go there, not for the palace itself, but to discuss 4h with the nephew of the last prince. Very interesting: he remind you of the basic facts of the Burmese people life and will force you to ask you some questions you could have forgotten while traveling...Donation awaited for the palace maintenance.  

Backpacker's Tips : Sue Rivet, USA (Sept 00)
You can rent a bicycle at Mr. Charles: 40 K per hour, and take a boat to go 10 km downriver (going to Pyin U Lwin) to the other bank (landing at a village named Solan, spelling?) 100K p/p bicycle included. Cycle towards P.U.L. and after a few km you will see on the right hand side of the road, something like a mill: stop and ask for Paul. He speaks perfectly English, and will make you visit what is in fact an ice factory. Very interesting visit and so friendly. Go ahead: he asked us to send travelers, so... 
Visit of Shan Palace: if you go in Hsipaw, you should go there, not for the palace itself, but to discuss 4h with the nephew of the last prince. Very interesting: he remind you of the basic facts of the Burmese people life and will force you to ask you some questions you could have forgotten while traveling...Donation awaited for the palace maintenance.  

Backpacker's Tips : Ivan Verschoote, Belgium (May 01)
The interesting morning market starts at 06.00 am and is very colorful. Many tribes gather here in there traditional clothing. People are very friendly. At 7.00 am you'll be the only stranger. 


Leaving Hsipaw ? All good things having an end, you may have to carry on with your trip... 

Three companies (Yoma, Yetagon & Dutawati) have buses to Mandalay at 6am (K700, 6 to 7 hours). They all go via Pyin U Lwin (K600, 4 to5 hours). It is also possible to continue north to "Chinese" Lashio (5:30, K200, 2 hours). 

If you came by bus, then the train might offer a better bet as the ride is beautiful and very interesting on ordinary class. The train leaves Lashio at 5:30am and should reach Mandalay at 8pm via Hsipaw (9:15am) and Pyin U Lwin (15:30). It is recommended to take it up to Pyin U Lwin only and then switch for a pick-up to Mandalay (K300, 2 hours) as the final part is real slow and the train often late. 

Continue to Lashio (by Sue Rivet, USA)

The trip to Mandalay via Pyin U Lwin : SSSS  / L / $2 + K300 / 7.5 + 2 hours / Ordinary train + wet pick up

I would rather have taken the faster bus to go back but it was very wet season and, as I was explained, no buses would dare to leave and have their inside soaked. So I took the train again, hoping that it would be on time for my connection to Bagan at 10pm in Mandalay.

The train actually left 5mn before the scheduled departure time of 9:15 so I had the hope for a while that the day would be special. It certainly was but not quite as expected. Indeed, the inevitable happened : the train stopped for 1.5 hours at a station, waiting for the upcoming train to free the track. As a consequence, for more than one hour, the train and its passengers were under severe attacks from an army of kids and young girls armed with buckets and unlimited water supply. It was a fun & fair fight for a while but when they started, at the invitation of a passenger, to pour water directly from inside the car, some of us really had enough and I made it clear. Having my documents or food drenched by dirty water was not my idea of fun. 
Then the train finally restarted, as well as the fun of trying to close the window before the wave could reach us. But we were badly equipped this time with wooden planks full of holes and not even at every window ! So no matter how hard we tried, the water always found its way in... 
Another thing which flow freely was alcohol and our car had a fair number of joyful, noisy or completely gone drunk people. There was consequently a bit of violence but it was rapidly covered by more dances or singings. 
The scenery was as beautiful as on the way in (best on the left side) and it was a pleasure to cross that high bridge again. We arrived in Pyin U Lwin at 16:40. 

A pick up bound for Mandalay was waiting for passengers at the station. I hurried to find a seat without enquiring about the price as I knew they would ask for more. I thought I could argue as usual and readjust the fare back to normal from my "already in" strategic position. I just forgot one thing : my bag was outside on the roof and this put me in a very vulnerable position. The good news came only once being crushed : the foreigners' price of the day was K800. I had paid K300 coming up but this was not a receivable argument as it was now the water festival (local people were now charged K400 and foreigners, as it is well known, are charged twice as much), nor was my plea that I had to take a train at 10pm, nor the very physical evidence that I was as crushed as any other passenger. As I kept arguing, my bag was discharged on the floor which gave me little choice but to step down as well. It was now 17:10 and I had been told previously that the last pick down to Mandalay was leaving from the bus station in town at 17. So, to say the least, I was feeling like splashing a few people real bad... My anger was however expressed toward the wrong person : the guy who I took for the boss, the guy who had requested me to step down was after all only the translator and had no interest in the business. This was made clear to me at the police station where I had requested to go after the departure of the pick-up. The police found of course nothing wrong with this blatant case of rip off : from an official point of view, are foreigners not tolerated only because of their US$ cash ?

After a few more heated arguments, the "translator" offered me to go to the town station on the back of his bike. This was certainly a very nice proposal considering the way I had treated him. Apologies were given. On the way to town, a few water check points : pointing toward my bags together with a loud "NO !", we managed to pass all. That is until the main street where a young guy poured a whole bucket straight onto my documents' bag (a bit on me as well to be fair)... 

We finally reached the clock tower where a pick-up was waiting for passengers. I nervously asked for the price and was very surprised to hear K300 as the answer. I even thought that the guy was a bit stupid not to try to get more from me on such late & festive circumstances. But is this not what honesty is about ? 
We left at 6pm and I quickly realized that it would be another pleasant ride : bombs of water were exposing from each side every couple of minutes and sunset was definitively not the best time to dry. The speed of the vehicle and the altitude of the hill station did not help warming up. For a few passengers, alcohol & joyful songs (from the traditional folklore to the latest disco titles) did provide a relief. I found my windproof jacket better. But other passengers did not seem to have much fun... We reached Mandalay and its warm air at 8:15pm. 

 << Discover a train adventure


See also the trip from Pyin U Lwin

 

Backpacker's Tips : Caroline Nixon, UK (Jan 06)
Indawgyi Lake is lovely but quite remote and takes a while to get to. Your best jumping off point is Myitkyina, from where you can get the 7 am train to Hopin. At Hopin there is a pickup going to Lontone village on the lake, but when I got there it was full, and I had to go by motorbike taxi. Expect quite lengthy immigration checks, they don't see many foreigners. The trip to the lake involves going up a small mountain and down the other side, very pretty ride.
Only one guest house in town, it's an enchanting little building and quite comfortable but very expensive at $15 .Excellent breakfast, though.
There are a few restaurants - the only place where any english is spoken is the Mya Sandar next to the guesthouse which serves very good noodle soup but warm beer.
The guesthouse owner speaks a little english and will arrange a boat. Expensive!!!! $45 alll round the lake, or $35 for half a day. You can see several pagodas, several villages, and some elephants.
You can walk around the village, but you can't walk around the edge of the lake as it is very swampy.
The lake is utterly beautifull, with a huge variety of birds.
From Indawgyi you need to head back to hopin, and from there you can return to Myitkyina ( long slow train) or down to naba,( quicker but still crowded) from where you can get a bus to Katha.