One of the most uncomfortable and interesting bus rides I have ever had was on the way to Hsipaw from Inle Lake. There was not an option for a luxury bus as Hsipaw is not a massive tourist destination so I grabbed some snacks before my journey just in time for the tuk tuk to pick me up around 3PM. The local bus was wretched. I am not talking about the quality of seats, I am talking about the locals vomiting everywhere.
The local Burmese people do not travel for long distances often making them prone to motion sickness on the local buses. To make matters worse they continue to chew the beatle nut tobacco causing the vomit to be red and STANKY. SO GROSS! It smelled awful. Obviously, I didn't sleep much with the vertical positioning of the chair and the unbelieveable stench that permeated the air. So please do yourself a favor and pay the few extra dollars for the luxury buses or a private taxi.
The bus dropped us off at 4:30AM and I got a very cold tuk tuk to Mr. Charles Guesthouse. My $7 room to myself was available so I was able to go sleep for an hour. I met the girls from the bus ride before and we enjoyed breakfast before our day trek. We trekked to the waterfall and then throughout the Shan villages.
Hsipaw was much more lush and green than any other part of Myanmar. The mountains were filled with trees and the plantations were green and flourishing. We saw the water buffalo plows and the woman making fans and cigars by hand in their homes. We stopped for a Shan noodle dish for lunch at a small hut in a random village. Throughout the trek families would let us use their toilets and one even invited us in to watch TV with her and her child. We met little kids going to the waterfall and they gave us high fives. The family washing their laundry in the river waved and smiled. Everyone was so happy just to be alive.
We got back from the trek around 4:30pm. We showered and then headed to a coffee shop across the street from Mr. Charles. We all had an espresso and then got a $4 ride on a tuk tuk to the temple of top of the hill to watch the sunset. The view was magnificent from the top. The everlasting mountains with the river weaving in and out of all of the villages. We were asked to take loads of photos with many different families and kids. It was hilarious!
The next morning I went down for breakfast to catch up with the girls before they headed out for the train. We had breakfast AKA noodles, egg fried rice, eggs, pancakes galore and heaps of coffee. I did a bit of reading and was surprised when the girls came back, saying the train had been delayed. I led a vinyasa yoga flow on the patio and headed to Mr Shakes to get a delicious avocado salad to refuel my body. The girls left again for the train, only to see them later driving by in a taxi yelling the train was canceled.... CAUTION: If you want to take the train from Hsipaw to Pwin Oo Lwin or Mandalay, be sure to go a day early it is normal for the train to get canceled or delayed so be prepared your plans may change at the last minute.
I met another group of three friends instantly at Mr. Shakes, a couple from the UK & a German. All three were extremely nice and easy to get along with. We sat for a while and talked about our travels before setting off for the waterfall. I got them lost a bit treking through the crops and plantation fields, but we ended up finding it!
We ended up going back to their guesthouse and chatting on the balcony while watching the sun go down before heading off to Mr. Food for dinner. I had cauliflower and an egg with rice. The kitchen was quite impressive in this place. It was massive with a wood fireplace that made up the stove. Typical burmese meals are served here and of course BEER!
I stopped for cigar leaf cigarettes and bought some saltines on a whim. We had a saltine eating contest with another Burmese local. You had to eat a whole package of saltines in under a minute. My best time was a minute and 4 seconds... Winner winner chicken dinner! You have no idea how dry your mouth is after two crackers, it's wild.
Beware of the bugs in the bathroom! A bee landed on me while on the toilet and I screamed and ran out with my pants around my ankles, but was not stung. YAS!
Where to stay:
- Mr Charles Guesthouse - $7 for your own room, shared bathroom.
- Mr Charles Hotel - $14 per night
- Tai House Resort - $29 per night
- Hotel Lily The Home - $23 per night
Where to eat:
- Mr Shakes - Seriously you have to go here! If you like oreos get the oreo, banana, peanut butter shake. It's absolute heaven especially when you are in hot southeast Asia and haven't had decent sweets in a while.
- Mr Charles Guesthouse - They have an amazing restaurant and delicious food!
- Coffee Shop across the street from Mr Charles Guesthouse. Great coffee.
- Mr. Food - Typical shan dishes. Cheap and delicious!
What to do:
- 1-3 day treks around the Hsipaw and the surrounding villages: I had just finished a 3 day trek so I chose to just do a day trek which was good enough for me. The treks are similar to the Kalaw to Inle treks, just more mountains to climb and fewer kilometers long.
- Try rolling your own cigar.
- Hang out with the locals & help them with English.
- Go to the look out on top of the mountain for sunset or sunrise.
- Go see the waterfall!