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.

Asian Geographic - - Front Page -

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

MON­ICA PITRELLI is a free­lance writer and ed­i­tor based in Sin­ga­pore who has worked in life­style mag­a­zine pub­lish­ing, with a fo­cus on food and travel.

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