EXPERIENCE THE SHAN S TAT E
One of the most popular attractions in Myanmar owing to the teetering Intha fisherman and the fascinating ways in which the locals live, farm and trade atop the water; a must-see.
One such place is Hsipaw (pronounced see-pah), a laidback hiker’s heaven in the hills of the Shan State. Travellers are attracted to the town’s bucolic setting and rich history as the former Shan royal city.
Hsipaw sits on the famed Burma Road, a supply route linking the Shan State and China’s Yunnan Province built by the British during the Second Sino-japanese War. If trade was the drawcard then, today it’s the trekking. Guided treks meander through rice fields and tea plantations, past temples, monasteries and sacred pagodas. Multiday treks to remote ethnic villages allow travelers to stay overnight at Buddhist temples and hill tribe farmsteads.
It’s life in the slow lane in Hsipaw – agrarian Burma at its best. A bustling morning market opens so early that sunrise signals closing time. Novice monks walk through the town in a procession collecting alms in the morning. A waterfall beckons on the outskirts of town, as do areas of interest such as Little Bagan, Thein Daung Pagoda (aka Sunset Hill) and Hsipaw Palace, the former abode of the royal family. Between hikes and an exploration of the town’s historical significance, travellers can float down the Dokhtawaddy River, sip tea or local wine in a side-street café or enjoy a soak in the area’s hot springs.
Others bypass the treks altogether, travelling to Hsipaw for the journey itself. Documented in Paul Theroux’s acclaimed The Great Railway Bazaar, the ride from Mandalay to Hsipaw is said to be one of the great train rides of the world. The train slows to a crawl as it approaches the hair-raising Gokteik Viaduct, once the largest train trestles in the world. Train travel is arguably the best way to experience the Shan State – a sight to behold onto itself, with the Shan Highland’s jagged mountains, plunging gorges and expansive plains in full glory. AGP or is a prime spot from where to watch the sunset, and it accessible by bicycle from town.
Hsipaw sits on the famed Burma Road, a supply route linking the Shan State and China’s Yunnan Province FIVE BUDDHA HILL HILL INLE LAKE KALAW NINE BUDDHA