Hsipaw – The Town and a Trek – Myanmar 2016

The people of Myanmar - kids in a village near Hsipaw

 

Hsipaw is in Shan state.  When people talk about Myanmar sometimes they forget that it is a collection of states and that it is not correct to label them all under a Burmese banner. It’s hard to make any actuate comparisons, but maybe a way to put it in Western terms is that Shan state is to Myanmar such as Scotland is to the United Kingdom or Bavaria is to Germany.

There has been conflict in the past and I would note that whilst I was on the trek around Hsipaw not far away a couple and their guide were hit by a landmine.  There had been fighting in the area between 2 different rebel groups and that goes to show the situation in the area. So perhaps the Scotland/Bavaria comparison isn’t the best but we’ll go with it for now.

I stayed at Mr Charles guesthouse as it was the easiest option. The bus from Inle Lake arrived there at about 3am which wasn’t great but they actually gave me that night for free so bonus.  I decided i’d wanted to trek with Lily’s guesthouse (Lily The Home) as i’d heard good things about them, and a girl I met on the bus (Rena) was happy to as well. We met a couple more girls who were booked on the same trek as us for the next day and it turned out Rena knew one of them so that was good. After some tasty Shan noodles we set off to see the Palace of the last Sky Prince of Hsipaw.

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Palace of the last Sky Prince of Hsipaw

We got a great talk and guide from the lady who lives there, and learned all about the story of the place.  Note for various reasons I won’t post what she said online so if you want to find out the story you will have to go there yourself.  Afterwards we had a walk around and went to the noodle factory though they were closing up for the day.

When back in Hsipaw town I bumped into a guy named Andy who I hadn’t seen since Laos back in December (it was April now). He was travelling around Myanmar by bike and it was really great to have a catch up with him.

A group of us stopped by one of the ‘Mr Shakes’ in town. This is the one on the main road near Mr Charles.  It did very good shake! The lady working our tables (whilst Mr Shake did his magic with the fruit and veg) showed us some old British colonial money which was really interesting to see.

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Old Colonial Money

Th next day we set off on the trek. It was a 2 day, 1 night trek, with a stay in a village. We were joined by an Australian couple.  Our guide’s name was Samuel. He had an interesting but sad story, he was to get married soon as his father was very ill  He was a Christian, it’s worth remembering not everyone in Myanmar is Buddhist or Muslim (and note my last blog post where people were performing animistic rituals). We saw some pretty cool scenery on our first day.

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Landscape we trekked though on our first day

A lot of the first day involved going up hill, the area around Hsipaw is mountainous and we needed to head up and through the forest/jungle paths.

After a few hours walking we arrived at the village that was hosting us for the night. We had some more tasty shan noodles and other snacks, lucky I wasn’t the only vegetarian in the group so we were well catered for.

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Shan noodles

Before we had set of the group had decided to give the kids at the village (of which there were many!) some gifts which I was cool to chip in for, we gave them some notebooks and pencils and a football. The kids were really great to hang out with, they were a bit shy but excited to see us (and our smartphones, which they love to play with!).

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Kids in the village with notebooks and pencils we gave them

After i’d had a little rest I went out and found some of our group playing with the kids. That was fun to watch and to join in.

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Kids playtime!

In the evening we went for a bit of a walk around the village which gave a good view of it.

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A view over (some of) the village

We took a look at the small village school. Unfortunately there isn’t enough room for all the kids there so only some can go.

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Village School

Whilst we in the village we got asked to give an ‘English’ name to a girl who had just been born. The group went with my suggestion of ‘April’ after the month it was.

That night after dinner we experienced what for me was probably the worst storm i’ve ever been in, and Samuel told us it was the worst the village had endured too! All the buildings were shaking and the wind and rain were pounding them! It was actually pretty scary as it was really that bad!

The next day we trekked back to Hsipaw, with a couple of stops in villages for tea/snacks on the way. We saw some tree’s that had been felled by lightning strikes from the storm the night before, one was very large, shows the power that the storm had!

There are a lot of tea plantations around the area and one we passed through was in this valley and there were literally thousand of this white butterfly (or moth, I don’t know) things flying around, it was really magical, like something from a fairy tale!

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There were thousands of these, it was beautiful!
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We went past these huts on our way back to Hsipaw

Near the end of the trek we passed by a village where seemingly everyone had come out to say hello and watch us pass by! Moments like that our great experiences, small glimpses into people’s lives.

When we arrived back into Hsipaw I decided to stay the night at Lily The Home before moving on. After a brief rest and show we met up for a shake (Mr Shake’s I mentioned earlier was closed so we had to go to a rival…also called Mr Shake).

It had been a really good couple of day, hard work walking all that way but really worth it!

 

 

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