Mingalaba! Hsipaw is a favourite destination among backpackers looking to do some hiking in Myanmar and this was one of my favourite places in the country!
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While you can do a little bit on your own, because of active conflict between the Shan and Palaung armies you must hike with a guide if planning to do some longer routes.
This warning shouldn’t be taken lightly, I’m all in for independent adventures, but when it’s about something so serious is just better not to be silly. Keep reading for more details into why I say this.
For multi-day hiking in Hsipaw, you have two options:1-night and 2-night hikes.
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
The prices start at 30000 MMK depending on the number of people. This includes accommodation, meals and snacks.
I wanted to do the 2-night hike, but on that day there were no more backpackers around and I had to settle for the 1-night trip with only 2 other people, pretty great! no crowds in Hsipaw for sure!
I stayed at Mr Charles Guesthouse in Hsipaw, which was at an OK price for the area but it had a terrific breakfast! I also booked the hiking tour there.
Things to carry on your daypack for the hike:
You don’t need to carry your rucksack for the tour, instead you leave it at the hostel and carry with you just a few essentials.
I carried on my daypack a change of clothes, a jumper, towel, water, some cookies, sunglasses and mosquito repellent.
The nights in this area are cold so make sure to be prepared.
Hiking in Hsipaw – Day 1
Starting at 8:30am on a cold morning, but not as much as hiking in Kalaw. The three of us and our guide Shwe walked out of town towards the Nam Tuk Waterfall, which I already visited on the previous day.Booking.com
This waterfall is really beautiful and it’s a must to get a nice cold shower when going there. It’s also a painfully good back massage!
Once we were on our way again we quickly started going through small Shan Villages, stoping at every 1-2 hours for tea at local houses.
Shwe was a nice guide, perhaps more a nice guy than a guide. He was very open in telling us about the conflicts in the region, his personal opinions and taught us some local words as each tribe (Shan, Palaung, etc) have their own dialect and they not always understand Burmese.
He also have had quite a life in terms of doing many jobs and living in different countries, so there was definitely lots to talk about whilst still being able to enjoy the scenery in solitude at times.
The night before the tour I also met two other guides, also with really interesting stories. This is really hard-working people that are also super humble.
After about 4 and a half hours we stopped at another Shan village for some noodles and tea. We still had about 90 minutes to call it the day.
The hike was straightforward, taking small secondary paths and not transited ones. Going through tea plantations. We never saw anyone else apart from the local villagers. Mostly up and down but never a big climb. At times it was hot though. But don’t worry as you can top-up your water reserves at the pit-stops.
There was only one crossroad where Shwe asked if we wanted the easy road or the more challenging one.
Obviously we choose the latter. This involved a steady climb through beautiful (although dry for the season) fields and some forest patches.
After arriving to the Palaung village where we were going to spent the night at a guesthouse next to a Buddhist monastery, Shwe asked if we still wanted another 1h walk towards a viewpoint. Of course we wanted that!
It was at this point when we finally saw in front of us the conflict in the region, luckily not live conflict! but we found a Shan Army Camp that was stationed at the viewpoint.
At first we hesitated as Shwe mentioned not to take any photos or do anything silly.
We approached respectfully and the militia were ok with our presence (surely many more hiking tours have passed around here) although not overly friendly.
After a while though we ended drinking a bit of rice wine with them.
Shwe mentioned that at dusk they will go around the hill to put landmines as the Palaung army was supposed to be just in the adjacent hill (!!!)
Back into our guesthouse we had lots of food waiting for us.
The place had a great view for sunset and the kids playing around were just a fantastic combination of what you’d expect in the remote countryside.
Day 1 was about 7h in total including the stops and some 22Km, as the group was really small we had a good pace.
Hiking in Hsipaw – Day 2
Our second and final day was going to be shorter than the previous one.
We started by having a quick walk towards the school of the village where Shwe’s wife was working, she was very attentive explaining us a bit on how the education system works.
It was quite a hectic small school, the kids were all reading out loud and recite their answers to the teacher in pairs almost as a song, it was quite strange to be honest, not sure how they could manage to focus, at least it seemed they were enjoying their school day!
In the village we also stopped at a tea leaf grinder “factory” (anything but a factory) and Shwe explained the process to grind the tea leaves, I found this quite interesting even that we only stayed there a couple of minutes.
The walk started mainly downhill, with similar changing landscapes as the day before.
There were less villages this time around hence less stops. At one point we had a steady climb which Shwe said it could take an hour…we did it in about 25 minutes.
Perhaps if the group was larger it would have been slower but we were having a good pace.
After about 4 and a half hours walk we arrived to Namhu Nwet Waterfall, this is a pretty little place but it has been “developed” for tourism, if you arrive from town you will even find a fake man-made waterfall next to a restaurant, the real one is a little bit higher on the mountain.
Here we had another nicely painful back massage thanks to mother nature.
On that day there was a group of young Buddhist visiting the place as well and they were very happy to talk to us and even take some photos (they were taking lots of selfies themselves)
After some nice Shan noddles for lunch we took a short taxi ride back to Hsipaw.
Verdict after hiking in Hsipaw
Although I wanted to do the 2-night hike, this tour was actually really enjoyable, mainly because it was a small group of 3 people only, which is not always the case as they can take +10.
So, my advise will be just to ask around when you’re in Hsipaw to see how many people they have got signed (wait until late afternoon on the previous day for this)
The hike itself was really pretty, not technical and quite straight forward, with changing landscapes and not feeling “too organised” which was great.
It was not expensive considering that it included several snack and tea stops and the food we had for lunch and dinner was tasty and abundant.
If you’re thinking in going backpacking in Hsipaw you should definitely go hiking there!
Feel free to drop any comments or questions if you want to know more! make sure to check the rest of my solo backpacking adventures in Myanmar for more ideas on your trip!