Hsipaw, also known as Thibaw but pronounced sipaw, is a peaceful town that is situated 200 km north of Mandalay, in a beautiful valley that’ll make you want to spend a whole lot of time there, hiking in nature. The town is also a quiet and nice place to stay.
It is surrounded by farmlands and beautiful rice fields so you’ll be able to get a glimpse of Myanmar’s rural life. Keep in mind that Hsipaw is in Shan State which borders Thailand to the south, and that its inhabitants are not Burmese and therefore not part of the ethnic majority of Myanmar. They are actually very close to Thai people, ethnically speaking.
How to Get to Hsipaw
If you happen to be in Mandalay, I highly recommend you start your journey to Hsipaw from there. Many travelers tend to go to Hsipaw from Inle Lake, which is doable if you look at the country’s map. The thing is, from Inle Lake to Mandalay, you should expect bad road conditions and a long journey ahead; that’s why I don’t recommend this route.
You should also know that the road from Mandalay to Hsipaw is not much better either but at least it’s shorter. The bus trip will be a laborious one as it has to go up and down steep hills so it’ll take 5 hours to drive 200 kilometers but don’t worry, it’ll all be worth it, the landscape will make you forget about time, so much so that you’d never want to leave!
The bus ticket costs 4000 kyats, which is about $3. Ask at your hotel or at a travel agency in Mandalay if you’d like to buy a bus ticket to Hsipaw.
Mr. Charles Hsipaw Hotel
Hispaw doesn’t have a lot of hostels, but the nicest and most popular one of them is Mr. Charles Guesthouse. The staff there is very friendly, prices are affordable and rooms are in good enough condition. By the way, just in case you care about privacy, this guesthouse has very thin walls and therefore very little noise insulation, so if you happen to be a young, irresistibly passionate couple, keep in mind to share your torrid private life as little as possible! 😉
If you’re more into luxurious accommodations, go for the amazing Tai House Resort. The bungalows are absolutely gorgeous and you will enjoy a wonderful scenic view of Thein Hill.
With no further ado, let’s talk about my 5 favorite places to visit in Hsipaw!
1. Hsipaw – Hot Springs
Hot springs? More like a pond that is 3 meters in diameter. Not impressive if you ask me. Why am I listing it here? Let me explain.
You know that saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey”? Well, that’s about it in this case. The way to the hot springs is very fun, especially on a bike. At some point, you’ll get to a river. You’ll have to leave your bike on the bank and cross it. No tiny, cute bridges to keep your feet dry this time so you might get a little bit wet on the way. Just saying.
2. Hispaw Waterfalls
When you’re done with the outdoor Jacuzzi, head towards the waterfalls. For that, you’ll have to go back and head towards the cemeteries. Leave your bike and continue walking for about 45 minutes. Hiking is really enjoyable in this area. You’ll meet farmers here and there, ploughing their land or tending livestock. The whole setting has a rustic feel I enjoyed very much. It kind of stirs up the need in you for making nature your only home.
You will hear the waterfalls, probably before you see them. The landscape is breathtaking and the water will be more than tempting so jump in and have a swim!
3. Hsipaw – Sunset Hill
Every single city in Myanmar has a particular spot where watching the sunset is a unique experience, including Hsipaw. Sunset Hill is in the south of the city and again, a bike will be your best means of transportation to get there. You can also get off your bike and continue climbing the hill on foot to enjoy the sunset view.
4. Hsipaw Market
On your way to Sunset Hill, you’ll come across this colorful and lively market. Language will certainly limit your otherwise vibrant conversation skills but hey, there’s always a bright side to things, and I’m sure you’ll be able to buy delicious fruits and vegetables speaking the lingua franca of the world… using your hands!
Look for ripe avocados, these ready-to-eat fruits are simply delicious. Buy a tasty avocado, add some tomato and onion bits, squeeze some lemon juice on top and you’re good to go!
5. Shan Palace
If you’re interested in Hsipaw’s history and that of the people of Shan, the Shan Palalce is the place to be. A nice lady, member of the family of the former Thibaw Min, will tell you the twists and turns of the royal family’s history, its members having been imprisoned by military forces for having criticized their rule.
What else to do in Hsipaw?
Little Bagan is in northern Hsipaw, not very far from Shan Palace. Honestly, I had planned to go there but I stumbled across a soccer field on the way. Some local people were playing and they invited me to join them. I don’t need much to join a soccer game so I had to cancel my plans for Little Bagan.
I did hear a lot of positive reviews about it from travelers though. It’s called Little Bagan because it has many pagodas, just like the ancient city of Bagan.
I’m not much into trekking really but I’m sure many of you are. The good news is there are great trek tours to try out in Hsipaw during which you’ll be able to stay at local homes. That said, I met many people who trekked around Hsipaw on their own so why don’t you try it too? 🙂
My adventures in Hsipaw are some of my best Myanmar memories. There’s more than just pagodas and waterfalls in that city; it has some sort of positive energy that makes it an ideal off-road getaway. I was planning to stay in Hsipaw for two days but I ended up spending four night there. Make sure to let me know how it went for you! 😉
Please share this blog post around! If you have tried trek tours in Hsipaw, make sure to let me know how it went in the comment section below!
See you around,