My friend and I had visited Hsipaw, a small hill station town up on Northern Shan Plateau in Myanmar in March 2018. Hsipaw is well-known for trekking and also the train ride from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw across the Gokteik viaduct is the interesting one.
You can go to Hsipaw from Yangon by plane, rail, express bus or car.
There are several domestic airlines running between Yangon and Lashio. From Lashio, hire a private car or a taxi to Hsipaw. You might be able to find someone to share the car or taxi.
For rail, take trian from Yangon to Mandalay first and then, take Mandalay – Lashio train. The Mandalay- Lashio train departs Mandalay at 4am and passed Pyin Oo Lwin at 8am and then, Nawngkio, Gokteik, Kyaukme, Hsipaw and Lashio.
If you are travelling with express bus, there are several Yangon-Lashio express buses leaving from Aungmingalar Highway Bus Terminal in Yangon.
Another option is combined express bus, train and car. That’s what we did. We took Mandalarminn Yangon – Pyin Oo Lwin express bus which departed at 9:30 pm from Aungmingalar Highway Bus Terminal and arrived Pyin Oo Lwin at 7:99am next morning. Then, we caught Mandalay-Lashio Train at Pyin Oo Lwin. Instead of riding train all the way long to Hsipaw, we got off the train at Nawngpeng Railway station, one stop right after the train crossed the Gokteik viaduct. We requested the hotel to arrange a car to pick up us from the railway station to Hsipaw. You can also hop onto a bus from Nawngpeng to Hsipaw.
Visitors take the train to see the countryside along the rail track, to meet the locals and mainly to see the famous Gokteik viaduct. The Gokteik viaduct is the highest bridge in Myanmar with 102 metres high from the ground. The railway trestle was the largest in the world when it was completed in 1990. Try to get the upper class seats (only cost 1600 kyats, which is roughly 1.2 USD) which are comfy and buy A seat to get the good photos on the bridge. The train stops for about 10 minutes before crossing the bridge and so, you can hop off and take photos. The train crosses the bridge at a very slow rate, giving passengers enough time to take photos on the bridge. Mandalay to Hsipaw is 11 hour trip. So, people usually catch train from Pyin Oo Lwin or Nawngkio and get off at Nawngpeng station to save time.
2. Little Bagan
Little Bagan is the collection of around 60 ancient stupas. Although it is not comparable to real Bagan, the stupas covered with grass and vines, scattered among the houses and monasteries are quite photogenic. It is better to take half day or one day to wander around stupas, houses and monasteries.
3. Mahar Nandar Kanthar Teak Monastery and Bamboo Buddha image
The monastery is located among the stupas of Little Bagan. It was built in 1848 and so now 170 years old. It has 147 teak pillars and each pillar measured three feet around. The whole building was build with teak pins without using nails. It houses 150 year-old Bamboo Buddha image, named “Paya Inn Hsan”. You can only see as golden image now because the image is gilded with gold leaves.
Shan Haw (Shan Palace) is where the last Hsipaw Sawbwa Sao Kya Seng and his Austrian wife, Sao Thusandi resided (Swabwa = Shan Prince). Sao Kya Seng disappeared during the military coup in 1962 and Sao Thusandi with two daughters left Myanmar to USA in 1964. The Shan Haw is now looked after by his nephew and his nephew’s wife and it is opened to visitors from 3pm to 5pm. His nephew and his nephew’s wife explain to visitors about the sad story of their uncle and aunty. Sao Thusandi wrote a book called ‘Twilight over Burma: My life as a Shan Princess’ to document their story. The copies of the book and also the translated version are sold at Shan Haw as fund for the maintenance of the Haw.
Thein Taung lies 2km east of Hsipaw and is also known as Nine Buddha Hill or Sunset Hill. A great place to go in the evening to enjoy the sunset view of Hsipaw. The sweeping view across the beautiful Hsipaw Town and Dokhtawaddy River winding around the town under the pinkish-purple colored sky and the orange colored sun sinking behind the roll of mountains far away is just mesmerising. The hill can be crowded with people from near and far who come to watch the beautiful sunset.
Share or hire a long-tail boat from Hsipaw to go to the confluence. It takes about 1 hour upsteam to the confluence from Hsipaw and about 45 minutes in the reverse trip. The boat trip itself is enjoyable with loverly sceneries on the way. The confluence is formed by joining of Dokhtawaddy River and its tributary Theinni River. It is a popular picnic spot for people around because the big rocks are formed like small rock pools with smooth edges. Some pools are deep enough to jump and some pools are shallow enough to sit in. Sitting inside the pool with the water streaming was feeling like water massage in jacuzzi. There are two small food shops which serve really nice Shan noodle and strawberry smoothie.
When you do trekking, you will be doing it passing small Shan villages and you will have to stay overnight at one of the Shan village houses if you are doing two or three days trekking. Another way is you can visit Shan villages along Dokhtawaddy river when you go to the confluence. Usually, the villages are small and the houses are typical Shan style wooden houses with long wooden pillars. The neatly stacked wooden pieces can be found under houses and there will be a Nat shrine in the middle or the entrance of the village.
Baw Gyo Pagoda is located just beside Mandalay – Lashio Road 5 km before arriving Hispaw. It is one of the famous pagodas in Myanmar. It is over 2000 years old and built in Shan style. The pagoda houses four sacred Buddha images. The images are locked up in the inner section of the pagoda and only taken out once a year during the pagoda festival. The pagoda festival is held in late February and early March and many people from Shan states and also other part of Myanmar come to pay homage to the images during the festival.
Go and share the hot spring with locals in Kyankhin village. The hot spring water is stored in two concrete tanks for men and women seperately. You may see soapy water as locals use soaps during bath in tanks.
Nam Hu Nwe Waterfall is just off Mandalay – Lashio road about 6km before Hsipaw. The entrance from waterfall starts from a monastery. You can park bikes and cars in the compound and do small donation as parking fees. The fall is not big and the water is collected with a concrete pool at the base before it flows along a small creek. There are few food shops along the trail to the waterfall. The entrance fees for waterfall is 200 kyats. (~ 0.2 USD).
Nam Tok is the bigger waterfall about 4km west of Hsipaw. It look impressive if you go there in October or November soon after monsoon season. It can be accessible by trekking. You can trek from Hsipaw or take bicycles or motorbikes and then, trek to waterfall. There is no entrance fees.
You can choose one day, two day or three day trekking. Most of the hotels and guest house can arrange the trekking for you. Mr Bike Trekking, Firefly’s Northern Shan State Trekking and The North Trek are well-known and their shops can be found easily in the town. Depending on your stamina, you can also choose half trek – half bicycle or motorbikes.
Hsipaw is a small town and actually, you can even get around on foot. The best way to get around is bicycle or motorbikes. You can get a map and rent bicycles or motorbikes from the guest houses, hotels or trekking shops. Also, you can hire ‘Tok- Tok’ cars or private cars.
There are guest houses and 1 star to 3 star hotels in Hsipaw. You can ask the guest houses or hotels to arrange trekking, boat trip, Tok-Tok or private car for you.
Mr Charle’s Riverview Lodge – 10 min drive out of town, located on Dokhtawaddy river bank downstream from town
Hsipaw Resort – on the eastern bank of Dakhtawaddy river
Tai House Resort
Kumudra HIll – Mountain View Hotel
Mr Charle’s Hotel
Lily the House Hotel
The Northern Land Hotel
Golden Guest Hotel
Ever Green Hotel
Red Dragon Hotel
Yee Shin Guest House
Nham Khae Moe Guest House
Where to eat
Shan food are really tasty and very popular in Myanmar. Shan noodle, Warm Tofu noodle, Shan yellow rice cake with tomato sauce and Khor Poat (black sesame seeds with sticky rice) are must try when you are in Shan State. Since Shan State is close to China, you can also get nice Chinese food. The following are popular restaurants in Hsipaw.
Mr Wok – 8 to 10 min drive from town centre, located on the Dokhtawaddy river bank on the same street to Mr Charles’ Riverview Lodge, excellent view with great food.
Mrs Popcorn’s Garden – Located in town, grow organic fruits in the garden, sell fresh quality organic fruits and juice, a good place to go and have fresh fruit juice after trekking.
Mr Shake, Yuan Yuan restaurant – Shakes are great at Mr Shake.
Lakshmi Nepali Restaurant – for Indian food.
Mr Food/Law Chun – for Chinese food.
I hope this article is helpful for planning your trip to Hsipaw. Enjoy your trip!
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