Hsipaw was once the capital of Shan State. During your tour in Burma, it’s a pleasant place for visitors to get away from the tumult of big cities, and discover Hsipaw’s rich history as well as beautiful landscapes.
Although, foreign visitors do not seem to be interested in Hsipaw at first, they always end up expanding the length of their stay once there.
The landscape of the city and its status of the former royal capital of Shan State have intrigued visitors. Off the beaten track and mass tourism, it nevertheless has tourist infrastructures that will meet your all expectations during your visit to Hsipaw.
1. How to reach Hsipaw and stay there
During your tour in Burma, Hsipaw is one of the hard-to-reach destinations as it’s off the beaten track. However, you can favorably organize your visit to Hsipaw thanks to the following means of transport.
By train: Every day, a train starts the ascent from Mandalay, going through the rolling hills at the edge of gorges. The railroad between Pyin U Lwin and Hsipaw is a masterpiece of British engineers to originally become the trade road to the north of Shan State.
The journey from Mandalay takes about 11 hours, and costs between 0.75 and 1.5USD. From Pyin U Lwin, it takes 7 hours and the price for a first-class ticket is 2USD.
By bus: Leaving early in the morning from Mandalay, the bus ride will cost you 3USD. Try to buy your ticket a day before, and get there early enough to get a front seat. They also start from Lashio, Pyin U Lwin or the Lake Inle.
By shared taxi: Depending on availability, shared taxis leave with at least 3 passengers. It will take 4 hours from Mandalay for a cost of 4.5USD.
Private car: You can also rent a private car. It will cost you 100USD.
To travel around Hsipaw, the easiest way is to walk or rent a bicycle (0.44USD per day). If you do not want to tire yourself, you can find a local trishaw or a taxi.
In terms of accommodation, you have very little choices during your trip to Hsipaw. However, two quality accommodations can be recommended for you. The cheapest is Nam Khae Mao, which has best services (although it can sometimes be noisy and a little hot). Mr Kid is friendly, and his hotel is closest to the station.
The food in Hsipaw is varied and cheap. However, most restaurants serve traditional Burmese dishes.
2. What to visit, what to do during your visit to Hsipaw
During your tour in Burma, a stop at Hsipaw is really ideal for hiking lovers. Due to its location in the heart of a valley, Hsipaw is the starting point for a day hike. There are few places you will not be able to access and, unlike the Inle Lake region, you will not need to hire a guide.
Make your way to the waterfalls, the hot springs, the river and the surrounding villages. It is relatively easy to find food in these villages.
You also rent t a motorbike (8USD per day) to go to Lake Nawng Kaw Gyi. In the middle of this pretty lake is a small wooden temple, which you can access via a boat. Nearby are a pagoda and a monastery on a small hill. Experienced cyclists can make a journey to the lake, but notice that it’s quite long road.
The waterfall of Nam Hu Nwe forms a bucolic universe easily accessible by motorcycle or bicycle. It’s a pleasant place to recharge your batteries in the heart of nature thanks to calm atmosphere.
Hot springs are accessible by mountain bike, motorbike or on foot. They are used as a bathroom, so be prepared to share a little soap with others. Men and women are arranged in separated areas.
During you trip to Hsipaw, you can also visit religious buildings such as the Mahamyatmuni and Bawgyo temples (which are famous for Buddhist and Hindu statues).
Take full advantage of your visit to Hsipaw by going to the central market, where you can members of many ethnic tribes like Kachin or Shan. In the market are a wide range of products, from radios to food, to clothing.
Finally, go to the hills of Five Buddha and Nine Buddha to watch the sunset.
Focus on: Hsipaw’s Sawbwas
The Sawbawas were the ruling Princes of this province. They lived in the Shan Palace at the far north of the city. The last of them, Sao Kya Seng, disappeared during the 1962 coup. Today, his nephew and his wife take care of the palace.
The nephew’s wife of the last Sawbwa readily tells the story of her husband’s family, and is very welcoming to foreign visitors. You can go to the palace between 15.00 and 18.00 each day.
In spite of not being a very well-known city, Hsipaw is nevertheless a hidden treasure in Shan State. During your tour in Burma, it’s a pleasant place for visitors wishing to get away from the tumult of big cities.