The Shan state town of Hsipaw
03-06 March 2014 I never considered myself as a morning person, but if it’s necessary or worth it I can get up at unhuman hours Getting up at 3am to catch a 4am train is one of those moments. The 12-hours trainride from Mandalay to Hsipaw was however never boring. Although I had a ‘first class’ ticket, sleeping on the train wasn’t easy as the train rides up into the hills via steep, zig-zagging hills. Amazing views and a breathtaking gorge is what you get for the not so comfortable ride. The train makes however enough stops to stretch the tired legs and buy some yummy snacks from the vendors in and around the stations. And when it crosses the famous, dramatic Gokteik Viaduct, you’ll see all passengers hanging out of the windows trying to make the best picture.
It felt so good to be in Hsipaw after dusty bustling, busy Mandalay! Particularly the area around the town was great. It has a nice village-like atmosphere. There is a place called Little Bagan, with some brick stupas overwelmed with vegetation, Ankor Wat style. Closeby is the Bamboo Buddha Monastery, where we saw monks preparing lunch from the donations they received during the morning procession. The mini Cheroot workshop, with only 1 lady rolling cheroots, is worth visiting too but THE highlight, for me, was the visit to the Shan palace-villa.This is the place where Inge Sargent, author of ‘Twilight over Burma: My life as a Shan Princess’ lived when she was married to the last Prince of Hsipaw. The villa was closed for a few years but is now re-opened for the public. The prince’s niece-in-law is taking care of the villa and tells the story of the villa and its former inhabitants to the few visitors she gets every day. This is a place you must go if you are interested in Burma’s and especially Hsipaw’s history. TIP: If you plan on going, bring some books or magazines to the lady. She loves reading but it’s hard to find decent ones in Myanmar.
Throught my guesthouse I also booked a 2 day 1 night trek to a village, northeast of Hsipaw. This is not a jungle trek in anyways, but a moderate challenge dirt road walk. Don’t understand me wrong, it is uphill ànd 30+°C so still tough! Pffft, after about 5,5 hours, around 2pm, we finally arrived in Pankam village where we met our host family. We enjoyed a well deserved late lunch/early dinner and relaxed for another 2 hours before climbing up the last few meters to the top of the mountain. To bad it was clouded otherwise we would have been able to see Hsipaw afar. Amusing detail, our homestayplace and the lady of the house is pictured in Lonely Planet! She is n° 8 in the ‘Top 10 Experiences-list’
If you want to experience the real Myanmar, you have to come to Hsipaw. I loved it!