The Best Things to do in Hsipaw, Myanmar
This post is about all the things to do in Hsipaw, or Thibaw, is a town in the Shan State of Myanmar. It is situated in the northeastern part of the country, approximately 200 kilometers northeast of Mandalay. Hsipaw is known for its scenic beauty and trekking opportunities in the nearby hills and villages.
I visited Hsipaw because I wanted to take the scenic train from Mandalay to Hsipaw. I did not really know what to expect from Hsipaw. There are not many things to do in Hsipaw, yet it was one of my favorite towns in Myanmar with a lot of small gems to discover.
Why visit Hsipaw
Hsipaw is a charming and relaxed town that is surrounded by green rolling hills and valleys, and its scenic beauty is one of its biggest attractions. Whether it is cycling through the countryside or hiking in the mountains to visit remote villages where you can stay with local families and experience their way of life
It’s a fascinating region home to some of the hill tribes in Myanmar. The most famous group are the Shan people. They are the largest ethnic minority in Myanmar, with a population estimated to be around six million people.
The Shan people have a rich cultural heritage, with their own language, traditional dress, music, dance, and cuisine. Historically, the Shan State was an independent kingdom that had a close relationship with neighboring Thailand. Other hill tribes that live in and around Hsipaw are the Kachin, Lisu and Palaung.
There are enough things to do in Hsipaw to spend at least one day exploring the town itself. Add another 2 days for trekking in the Shan mountains.
The best things to do in Hsipaw
The best place in Hsipaw to see the different ethnic minorities from the region is at the market. Early in the morning, the people from the surrounding villages come to sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The market starts at 5 AM in the morning. By 7 AM some vendors already return back to their villages. It is worth the early wake up call to see the market in action. Some of the women still wear the unique dress belonging to their hill tribe.
Myauk Myo (Little Bagan)
One of the best things to do in Hsipaw is a visit to Myauk Myo or Little Bagan. A cluster of ancient pagodas and stupas north of the town. The wear and tear makes them look very old, but I could find little information about its actual history.
It certainly is nothing like the real Bagan. Nevertheless it is a very nice place to visit and easy to reach by bicycle
Maha Nanda Khanta Monastery (Bamboo buddha)
The Maha Nanda Kantha monastery is one of the few ancient and beautiful teak monasteries in Hsipaw. Inside you can find a 150 year old buddha statue. It is very close to Little Bagan and the monks allow visitors to go inside.
Baw Gyo Paya Pagoda
The Baw Gyo Paya pagoda is a 12th century temple that is very important for the Shan people. Hidden inside are four sacred statues of the buddha. People believe that these statues make every wish come true.
Legend goes that the pagoda is built on the site where a famous Shan princess died. She was married off to the Burmese King who loved her very much. So much, that the other wives became jealous and wanted to kill her.
The Burmese king wanted to protect the Shan princess and send her back to her father in the Shan state. On the way she died of a mysterious illness.
Visit a Shan noodle factory
When cycling around Hsipaw I was invited into a Shan noodle factory. The Shan noodles are a very popular dish in Hsipaw and it is fascinating to see how they are made.
There are no tourist tours here. I received a friendly gesture to come inside and have a look, but the workers had to continue their hard labor.
One of the best things to do in Hsipaw is renting a bicycle to see the countryside. One direction to cycle to is Little Bagan, but another scenic route is along the Myitnge river. This river is also known as the Dokhtawaddy river.
There are lots of wonderful views when cycling here and you will meet plenty of friendly people. Another great way to explore the Myitnge river is by booking a boat tour on the river.
Hsipaw has wonderful sunsets and the best place to see the sunset is the five buddha hills. It takes about 45 minutes to climb to the top. The views are wonderful, but you won’t be the only one there during sunset.
Trekking the Shan state
Trekking in the Shan State is one of the most popular things to do in Hsipaw. It is a great way to experience the natural beauty and culture of the region. The Shan State is home to a range of stunning landscapes, including lush forests, rolling hills, and charming villages.
When trekking in the Shan State near Hsipaw, you can expect to hike through scenic trails that wind through stunning valleys, past glistening streams, and up hillsides that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit traditional Shan villages, where you can learn about local customs and sample delicious regional cuisine.
Many of the treks in the area are led by knowledgeable guides who can provide valuable insights into the local culture and natural environment. I do recommend a multi day hike with overnight stays in local homes or guesthouses. This gives you a chance to experience the warmth and hospitality of the local people.
Trying Shan food
The food in Hsipaw is influenced by the cuisine of both Myanmar and China. The Shan state has a few unique dishes that you can try in Hsipaw
Shan noodles are a popular dish and you can find them in many restaurants in Hsipaw. They are made with thin rice noodles, served with chicken, pork or beef, and topped with a savory tomato sauce. You can also try Shan style curries or Shan tofu. This is a type of tofu made from yellow split peas, turmeric, and water. It has a unique texture and is often served fried or in soup.
Hsipaw travel tips
Where to stay in Hsipaw
I stayed at Mr.Charles Guesthouse. A lovely place that offers travelers a ton of information about all the things to do in Hsipaw.
Where to eat in Hsipaw
The food in Hsipaw is as multicultural as the town. Shan food, food from Myanmar as well as Chinese food. One of my fabourite restaurants was Yuan Yuan Fruit shake that has more than just shakes. A very nice place to eat as well.
How to get to Hsipaw
Hsipaw is accessible by bus from several cities in Myanmar, including Mandalay, Yangon, and Bagan. The bus journey from Mandalay takes around 6-7 hours, while the journey from Yangon can take up to 15 hours.
Although it takes longer, the train is a more adventurous and beautiful way to reach Hsipaw. The train from Mandalay to Hsipaw crosses the famous Gokteik viaduct. One of the longest railway bridges in Asia. Besides the viaduct it is a very scenic train journey.
How to get around
Hsipaw is a small town, and many of its attractions are within walking distance. Walking around Hsipaw is a great way to explore the town, its markets, and its surrounding countryside.
You can also rent a bicycle from many guesthouses and shops. Cycling around Hsipaw is a great way to explore the town and its surroundings at your own pace. Motorbikes are a good option for exploring the surrounding countryside, especially if you want to venture further afield.
When to visit Hsipaw
The best time to visit Hsipaw, Myanmar is from November to February, during the cool and dry season. During this time, the weather is pleasant, with mild temperatures and low humidity, making it ideal for exploring the town and surrounding countryside.
From March to May, temperatures can be quite hot, with high humidity, making it less comfortable for outdoor activities. From June to October, the Shan state experiences the rainy season, which can bring heavy rainfall and occasional flooding, making travel and outdoor activities more difficult.
Safety in Hsipaw
The Shan state has a long history of political unrest as the ethnic minorities fight for more freedom and democracy. There are ethnic armed groups that actively fight against the government of Myanmar. Hsipaw remains a safe place for foreigners and it is unlikely you will notice any tensions.
When you want to go trekking in the mountains you should always go with a trekking guide that knows about the current situation. Do not venture off the paths and trails as there might be mines. The areas near Hsipaw are also relatively quiet.
Update: As of 2023 the security situation in Myanmar has detoriated. On 1 February 2021, Myanmar’s military took power in a coup, abruptly halting the country’s fragile transition towards democracy. Most governments advise against travel to Myanmar.
Disclaimer: This post about the best things to do in Hsipaw Myanmar contains affiliate links. If you buy any service through any of my links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. These earnings help me to keep Backpack Adventures alive! Thanks for your support!