Hsipaw is a small town with relaxed pace of life situated 200 kilometres North East from Mandalay. Situated at the root of mighty Shan Hills and is a perfect base for trekking and exploring the ethnic minority villages that are dotting the surrounding highlands. Not far out from Hsipaw you can find several natural hot springs that are nice spots to take a bath local style. A few kilometres South of Hsipaw you can find a picturesque waterfall which is a great half day destination for a cooling swim.
There are also plenty of Pagodas and old traditional houses to admire and one of the must see place is the old Shan prince palace (more like a mansion) at the northern end of town. The last Shan prince disappeared during military coup in 1962 and today his nephew and his wife are taking care of the mansion and gladly give insights of the History of Shan state.
Built on a river bank of Dokthawaddy River and surrounded by mighty Shan hills Hsipaw is a great place to enjoy nature and breathe the pure air of the highlands. The valley around is mainly paddy fields where locals grow their seasonal crops and you can still see oxcarts going on the roads delivering different goods from the nearby farms. The hills are covered with lush forests dotted with tea plantations.
Hsipaw and the surrounding areas are mainly inhabited by Shan, Palaung, Pao-O ethnic minorities. The colourful main market is a place worth visiting with all village people gathering to trade their local goods. The main resource of income for the rural villages is tea cultivation and people are still living in simple conditions with strong traditions. Locals are friendly and welcome tourists with curiosity, but for better insight of their lives we recommend hiring a Palaung or Shan guide.
Although the town itself is a very charming place Hsipaw is still mainly a starting point for treks to the surrounding areas. There are different length treks available and during treks the lodging takes place at local houses or monasteries with shared facilities. You have also a possibility to rent a bike, take a boat trip on the river, explore Shan chietains Saobwa’s residence and history or explore the hot springs and waterfalls of the area.
How to get there?
Situated next to Mandalay-Lashio road Hsipaw is easily reachable with buss from Mandalay (aprrox. 8hrs) or Pyin Oo Lwin (aprrox 6hrs). We recommend doing the rain journey from Mandalay (11hrs) or Pyin Oo Lwin (7hrs) but in a shorter stretch. The railway is a true work of art traveling through steep hills and over the 300 meter deep Gokteik Gorge. We recommend taking a bus to Pyin Oo Lwin and jumping on the train from there to witness the breath-taking train journey but cutting it bit shorter. It is also possible to rent motorbikes from Mandalay and make the journey independently. The road condition is good all the way to Hsipaw with varied landscapes.
When to go and climate?
The best time to go for treks is from November to end of March. Situated in the hilly areas of Shan state, Hsipaw and around stay cooler even when the plains of Myanmar are blazing hot. There are three distinctive seasons, winter (November-February) which is the most popular tourist season. During this season the night time temperatures in the higher altitudes (above 1000m) might be as low as 10 degree Celsius but days are still comfortably warm and around 20-25 degree. During Hot season (March-mid-May) the temperatures rise towards the rainy season but evenings are still pleasantly cool and daytime temperatures stay around 30 degree Celsius. During rainy season (May-October) some showers can be expected every day with occasional heavy rainfall especially in late June through July. After the rainy season the surrounding nature is at its best booming with new life with lush and green scenery.
Situated only 40 kilometres from Hsipaw, Kyaukme can be referred as its little sister with similar scenery around it. For its small size the town is surprisingly full of life mainly because of its status as a main marketplace for surrounding areas. There is a big population of Chinese immigrants and the Chinese quarters consists almost half of the town. Most of the immigrants are working for the area’s big bamboo paper industry. As a town Kyaukme might not be as interesting as its big sister, but Kyaukme offers great trekking opportunities off the beaten trails. Kyaukme gets much fewer travellers than Hsipaw so it has a certain charm and original feel to it.
For trekking you need to take a 30 minutes ground transport out of the town to reach the trekking starting point. The journey is made local style with Tuktuk or motorbike taxi and is a small adventure of its own. There are some very good trekking guides in Kyaukme with good English and great knowledge of the area and its people.
Kyaukme can be reached by same means as Hsipaw, you just have to hop off from the train or bus about 1-2 hours earlier. It is also possible to arrange longer treks from Kyaukme to Hsipaw or vice versa.
You can find below links to our treks starting from Kyaukme. The town is located approx 30min drive away from the treks starting points or trail heads. We start with transfer first and then trek up mountains along village roads and paths.
During the overnight treks our guide will take care of all cooking and food preparations with villagers. The sleeping facilities are shared and simple “village style’. You will get a bamboo mat, pillow and duvet. For more comfort and warmth consider bringing light sleeping bag that packs small.
Food is tasty and Myanmar & Shan cuisine. We try to source as many ingredients locally as possible.
Boiled drinking water will be provided during the trek. Bringing along some water purification tablets is recommended.
It is possible to trek from Hsipaw to Kyauke and the other around. The treks are normally 3 Days / 2 Nights in duration.
At the time of writing Aug 2015 treks to Namsan and Hsipaw were not possible due to Palaung Army insurgency. But round trips from Hsipaw and Kyaukme are possible.
See Discovery DMC Trekking tours from Kyaukme;
View all: All Adventure tours in Myanmar