Hsipaw (Thibaw)

A charming and laid-back town located high in the hills of Shan State, Hsipaw’s quiet, dusty streets, traditional buildings, and trekking opportunities make it worth the effort of getting there – particularly considering the journey from Mandalay involves one of the world’s great train journeys. Hsipaw is sometimes spelt Thibaw - the pronunciations are 'See-paw' or 'Thee-baw'.
 

Around Hsipaw

Hsipaw also has a refreshingly mild climate and numerous shrines nearby, including the atmospheric collection of pagodas to its north, dubbed Little Bagan; a huge Chinese cemetery; and a hilltop pagoda with great views over the river valley (see photo above and Flickr album at the bottom of this page). Located just to the north of town is the historically significant Shan Palace, residence of the last Sawbwa (prince) of Hsipaw; the building is usually closed in the rainy season and visiting hours are restricted, so check with your hotel before heading there. 

You can inexpensively hire a bicycle from local guesthouses to see these sights, as well as the waterfalls, fresh water pools and rock formations of the surrounding hills. And it is interesting to witness the rural lives of local farmers in their paddy fields and banana plantations.

Hiking to Namhsan and Kyaukme

For a longer trek, you can head to the village of Namhsan, the tea capital of Myanmar. This area, which also profited from silver mining in the early 20th century, is home to the Ka-tur (or Samlong) tribe of the Palaung people.

Getting to Namhsan by taxi or pick-up (arrange through your local guest house), you will typically leave Hsipaw at around 10am and arrive in Namhsan at 3pm. You then begin your journey back to Hsipaw by foot, hiking a couple of hours on the first day, followed by two full days hiking. On the final day you will arrive back in Hsipaw at around noon. Access to Namhsan is currently restricted; you may find that it is possible to travel with a guide, but solo access is unlikely to be permitted.

It is also possible to take longer guided hikes to Kyaukme; to find out more get in touch with on of our travel advisors via this form. Accommodation can be found in homestays at the villages you pass through and you can take a two day trek with guide (including food and accommodation).

Although not technical, these treks a hard work and may include changing weather – walking boots are certainly required! Furthermore, if you do travel without a guide, be aware that there are no signs and the locals in the countryside are unlikely to speak much English (although you can get a rudimentary map from guesthouses in Hsipaw).

Dokhtawady River boat trip

If you fancy a more chilled-out activity, then a half-day boat trip on the Dokhtawady River from Hsipaw is an enticing option. This scenic journey features monasteries, pineapple plantations, fields, forests and a 45-minute walk where you will have the chance to speak to local Shan farmers. Start time is 8:30am, returning to Hsipaw at 1:30pm.

Restaurants

There are several dining options in Hsipaw, most located on Namtu Road that runs through the centre of Hsipaw. Two popular places are: 

  • Law Chun (otherwise known as ‘Mr Food’) is a foreigner favourite, with a good atmosphere, simple Chinese and Myanmar food, and cheap beer. Located at the south end of Namtu Road.
  • Mrs Popcorn's Garden is a lovely, quiet spot that serves Shan and Israeli food and is famous for the friendliness of its owner, a retired schoolteacher. Located towards Little Bagan, to the north of town.   

For a wider selection of photos from Hsipaw, go to our Flickr photo set.

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Hsipaw
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