If you’re planning to go and have some adventures in Myanmar, one of the things you must do is go backpacking in Hsipaw.
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Most importantly, you have to go there by train from either Mandalay or Pyin Oo Lwin as you will have the chance to cross the Goteik Viaduct!
Catching the train Mandalay-Hsipaw
To go backpacking in Hsipaw by train will cause you to spend at least one night in Mandalay as the 11 hour-long train leaves at 4:00am, it costs US $3-4 depending on the class you get.
I recommend to take the upper class (just a padded seat) as it’s super cheap and you will not regret it after several hours, as if you want to save $1 you will be sitting on a wooden bench…
You can buy the tickets a day in advance or even on the morning of departure.
Ask for a seat on the left side of the train as those have the best views.
The Goteik Viaduct was built in 1900 and with its highest point at 102m to the ground it’s considered an engineering masterpiece!
The train will pass really slowly over it so you will have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and take lots of pictures.
The rest of the journey will have gorgeous views and several stops, I actually slept a lot on the train after the silly o’clock waking up time to catch it.
You can also go to Hsipaw by bus, less exciting though.
Arriving to Hsipaw
As usual, when you arrive to the train station you will have lots of taxis around and some hostels even organise a pick-up (at an extra cost).
We didn’t have anything booked but we had been recommended to go to Mr Charles Guesthouse (really good breakfast served there!).
After so many hours on the train I was craving to walk so we decided not to get a taxi. The walk was just about 20 minutes.
Upon arrival to the guesthouse, we got a few pointers from the staff and a map showing all the local places to visit.
We went straight for some food at Mr Shake (yes, another “Mr”, you will notice lots of “Mr” businesses there!) which was actually pretty good, I really liked the fried dumplings and the guacamole! (not coming to Myanmar for Mexican food, but they do have lots of avocados)
The town itself has not many things to show but it’s walkable enough to see some of the daily life over there.
Hiking around Hsipaw
The main attraction when you’re backpacking in Hsipaw is to hike!
For the coolest treks you need to do it with a guide due to active conflict in the area between the Shan and Palaung Armies, on the following link I wrote more in detail about Hiking Overnight in Hsipaw.
If you’re only in Hsipaw for one night you can still do a nice short hike on your own.
The map handed at the hostel showed the way to the Nam Tuk Waterfall which is less than an hour away.
This is where we headed early on the next morning right after breakfast.
This is a pretty walk which as soon as you leave the town will get very peaceful going through cultivated lands.
Only at one point you need to go through a bit of landfill area which is not what you want to do or see when hiking.
Make sure to take the first left turn as soon as you cross the cemetery and see the landfill.
From here the path will get nice again, going through some farmlands. The terrain is mostly flat with some easy climbs, it can be muddy at times so although this could be a flip-flop walk, it’d be better to go with proper shoes.
From the landfill area you will be able to see the waterfall already which is a really pretty sight in the distance.
The closer you get the more you will start steadily climbing although nothing too steep.
Make sure to pack a towel and bathing clothes as once you reach the waterfall you’ll not think it twice to get in! the water is cold but it’s totally worth it! get closer to the waterfall for a nice back massage!
This is a very pretty place, I’ve been to tons of waterfalls and I really liked this one even that it was not the most impressive in size.
Tip: start hiking early. 9:00am at the latest and you will have the waterfall for yourself. On our way back we saw quite a few people walking towards the waterfall that a few minutes before we had for ourselves.
After taking a refreshing bath. You can choose to either go back to town or re-trace a bit your steps and go towards the hot spring and Little Bagan.
This is a good option just to keep your day busy, but do not expect to be impressed.
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
The hot spring is tiny and easily missable unless there are some locals bathing there.
Little Bagan is, as it name says, little. Still, you will see in the maps provided in the hostel that around that area there are a couple of other places to see.
Another good spot for eating was River View Food Lounge (right next to the famous, but now closed, Black House Coffee Shop and close to the market).
From the outside this place looks a bit posh, and it is a bit more expensive than the normal local food but it was still reasonable and the views from the river deserve to pay just a little bit more.
They have a good selection of Myanmar wines (only by the bottle) and the red one we chose was surprisingly good.
From Hsipaw I took a (terribly twisty) bus to Kalaw for some more incredible hiking to Inle Lake!
Feel free to drop any questions if you’re planning to go backpacking in Hsipaw!
Check out the rest of my Myanmar Adventures for more ideas on your solo trip to Myanmar!