Hsipaw is a small city in the northern part of Myanmar, very well known for trekking but be carefull as there are still many areas arround where you need additional governmental permission. First of all the road from Mandalay to Hsipaw is very narrow, it’s a curly mountain road where two cars cannot passed the same time. Driving on the edge of the either the road and the mountain views are breathtaking. It’s also possible to get there by train, which some people say is one of the most amazing ways exploring the countryside.
The spot for all trekking information, guides, bicycle and motorbike rental as well as sleeping is Mr Charles Guesthouse. Although you might be a little surprised by the dorms, the atmosphere is so nice that you shortly forget about floor beds located in your close space 🙂 Ask in the guesthouse about forbidden areas for traveling, as it changes very often! The breakfast is included in the price and it’s one of the best I had in Asia! Don’t forget to book the room in advace, cause every backpacker wants to stay there. Lily guesthouse is also a nice place as I heard.
Try exploring the area by bicycle, visiting small villages and tribes, especialy Shan Village (you can find it on the attached map). The surrounding is very quiet and safe. They are often run out of the map so I attach the picture of one I got. If you make a little more effort you can reach the Namtok waterfall, riding along Muslim and then Chineese cementery. It was very beautiful and you can also swim there, but the water is really freezing. 🙂
When I was walking to the waterfall I stoped to aks the way in a small shop. Typical for Burmese people they are so friendly and helpful, they pointed into a local guy on a motorbike, who gave me a lift and then walked me directly to the waterfall. I couldn’t believe he was the owner of the banana plantations spreading out over the suppounded area. His small Buddha temple is located there under the rocks (just need to climb a little higher from the waterfall). It’s a place he’s praying for a good season and harvest.
There is a place called small Bagan gathering few nice stupas. Near that place you just need to visit Popcorn Garden. This amazing place to rest and eat is run by two women mother and the dauther. Ask about dish of the day and you have to try shakes! 🙂 Enjoy the time in the beautiful garden. I was curious about the story of the place, some Austrian woman tought the local lady how to create the place filled with an atmosphere and how to run the business. You can also find a lot of great cafes and restaurnats in the city of Hsipaw along the river. It’s worth to visit each of them.