Hsipaw Trekking Myanmar
Trekking is a big part of the Myanmar culture. We decided on the Hsipaw trek instead of the infamous Kalaw to Inle Lake trek as we heard it was less crowded and much more scenic. The lush views from the train ride in to Hsipaw was enough to get us super excited for the next few days.
The guides come to the hotels in the town between 4pm – 6pm every evening to discuss the different trekking tours. We heard our hotel The Red Dragon and Mr Charles have connections to the best trekking guides in town. At 5pm we walked down and joined three other eager tourists. We would have loved to go on a trek with just us two and the guide, but our budget preferred a group of five. Luckily for us we found the most amazing three people to trek with (Tabea from Germany, Chris from Australia and Miles from the UK).
From the moment we met our guide we knew we had found the best. Sawmmy has his own FB page called Namshan Mountain Trek, he is slightly older and ensured us he was the first man to start taking travellers up the mountain. We had read a lot of very positive blog posts about a guide called Mitch Michael (<- great website) which we soon realised was Sawmmy’s son. He was incredibly knowledgable on the area and knew almost every local we walked past. He even taught us a few new card games later that night!
The views though !!
The trek was stunning the entire time. Rolling green hills, fields of flowers, butterflies for days and the friendliest faces in the local farmlands. Just a word of warning: If you’re a photographer you may want to go on a private trek. There is photographic opportunities around every corner which may not be appreciated by a fast moving group.
We were told by the locals that the woman do all the farming in the sun and the cooking in the evening. “What do the men do” we asked? “Oh, they ride motorbikes and drink tea.”
The trek was broken up by a few tea stops at the local villages. Our guide took us on a different route to the norm. It was single track 90% of the way and we only passed one other group in the 5 hours it took to get to the village. The route was harder and steeper but we were grateful for the isolation!
In total the trek was 24km. Day 1 was mainly up hill climbing. The weather in the morning was very overcast which was great trekking conditions. After our first tea stop, we had climbed through the mist and were welcomed by the extreme sun heat. I could see that the heat and up hill climbing was starting to have an impact on Jen. After a few hills we walked through a nice jungle which cooled us down but then straight out and on to another massive hill. I knew from previous hikes that Jen does not enjoy steep hills and the extreme heat made it worse. She gets very easily de-hydrated and once her legs start to wobble I start to worry. Jen always dreams big and and will seldom say no to any challenge. This is what I like about her so much, but it can also be quite stressful for me. I love this about Jen as she knew the hike was going to be a challenge, however this did not put her off from doing it. The second day was all down hill which made the trek much easier.
Mrs Wanderer – “why I married this man”
Okay lets be honest, I died! I have never been a good hiker and it sucks because I love the outdoors and a good view. I am what you call “naturally unfit”. We have done a few hikes together in the past where I literally had to vomit on the way home from dehydration. The thing with hiking is there’s no uber drivers up in the mountains, so you can’t just pull out if it gets too hard. I am all about being athletic but I hate pushing my body when its screaming at me to stop. 9kms into this trek my legs started shaking and my headache from the sun started to thud. Once I packed the camera away, Rudi knew something was up.
I can’t even explain how amazing he was. Having picked up on where I was mentally, knowing that I was probably going to start panicking at the sight of another hill, he completely stepped up. He slowed the group down by pretending to want to fill his water bottle at every stream and take a photo at every viewpoint, because he knew I would be embarrassed if we made the group take another rest break. He constantly told me after each hill how much better I looked compared to the previous one and he distracted me with constant conversation on topics he knew would distract me (literally never seen him so chatty). He also poured his whole bottle of water over my head when we hadn’t seen shade in over an hour. I was too exhausted to thank him or literally even acknowledge him for those last few kms. Later that night as I lay in the dark, I felt a tear roll down my cheek – how did I get this lucky?! He says he loves that I can do anything I put my mind to and that I dream so big – but a lot of that is because I have him!
We were welcomed in to the Benken Village with a big Christmas lunch. No one spoke through the entire meal – the food was that good!
The village was peaceful, beautiful and completely self-sustaining. We were kept busy for hours playing soccer with this bunch. Hello is pronounced cumsa and thank you is rockmy.
We ended the trek on day 2 with a few beers at this beautiful waterfall. Definitely the best way to end what was an absolute top experience for us in Myanmar.
We didn’t know about the WAR !!!
Going to keep the section very brief as we were asked to not discuss this. A few days before in Mandalay a local warned us of the war in Hsipaw. We assumed due to language barriers we misheard him and brushed it off. We then found out at a later stage (probably too late) that there is in fact an active war happening in the Northern Shan State between the Burmese army and the local Shan mountain villages. Hsipaw had actually closed all treks for a week a few days before we arrived. The conflict is happening in the Northern Shan villages where the treks take place. The treks are usually 3 days but we were only offered 2 as the villages higher up are too close to the war. We passed some armed army men during the hike and even heard an explosion. Sawmmy said “oh its probably just a water buffalo that stepped over a landmine”.
Anyway, very sad that there is all this conflict and violence in such a beautiful Buddhist state. Had we known the extend of the conflict, we may not have gone. But in saying that we never once felt unsafe and would still recommend it without a doubt.
Here is our 3 minutes GoPro video of the trek:
Looking for accommodation in Hsipaw, click on the below link for the best deals: