Hsipaw is a small mountain town around eight hours to the northeast of Mandalay. Whilst many visit to enjoy a number of short trekking routes into the surrounding Shan Hills, an increasing number of tourists are drawn to its pleasantly cool climate and enticing laid-back charm.
Once the royal capital of a small Shan state, Hsipaw today is a relatively quiet and laid-back town, although its blossoming tourist industry had led to an increased buzz over recent years. Hsipaw’s dusty tree-lined streets are a pleasure to explore, scattered with small teahouses, cottage industries and local restaurants serving tasty Chinese and Shan cuisine.
One of the town’s main landmarks is the Shan Palace, the residence of the last Sawbwa (prince) of Hsipaw and a great place to learn about the intriguing history of both the Hsipaw region and wider nation. The town’s early morning market is particularly lively, drawing a number of tribes from the surrounding hills to buy and sell produce. Geared towards locals, there is an absence of typical tourist souvenirs, with stalls offering everything from traditional clothing to spare electronic parts.
There are a number of trekking routes from Hsipaw into the surrounding hills, while a cruise down the Doktwaddy River past fruit plantations, monasteries and some beautiful scenery offers a more relaxing excursion.
Hsipaw can be reached by an eight-hour drive from Mandalay, or by a combination of road and rail from Pyin Oo Lwin, involving a particularly stunning rail journey across the Gokteik Viaduct, one of the largest railway trestles in the world.