Hsipaw, Myanmar

We took the train from Pyin Oo Lin to Hsipaw (the H is silent), partly so we could go over the famous bridge built in 1899 by an American company. It was the largest railroad trestle in the world at the time. We went across it VERY slowly.

But the main reason I went to Hsipaw was to do a 3 day trek. I did a fantastic jungle trek with Mr Bike’s trekking company. There were 12 people the 1st day, where we hiked 15km up to the top of a mountain and stayed in tree houses. On day 2, 5 of us went on to stay in bungalows by the river, hiking another 17km, and the other 7 folks hiked back. I felt good during the trek, but my legs were quite sore afterwards for 3 days. Its been a long time since I did 2 long back to back hikes like that.

It was very cold on night 2, but there were more than enough blankets to stay warm. The final day was a tubing on a beautiful river. Unfortunately the Chinese are building a new dam on the river, so who knows how nice it will be in the future. I was told 90% of the electricity would go to China, and 10% to Myanmar.

I met a lot of really interesting folks on the trek. There were folks from England, New Zealand, Israel, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Denmark in the group. Most were in their 20s, a couple folks in their 30s, and a Danish guy who is a bit older than I, and had also travelled around SE Asia in the late 80s just after I was here.

For some unexplained reason, almost every business in Hsipaw that caters to tourists seems to be named Mr this or Mrs that. My trekking company was “Mr Bike”, and my guide was “Mr Forest” (he worked for the Myanmar forest service for 30 years). Other businesses in town included: Mrs Popcorn, Mr Shake, Mr Wok restaurant, Mr Charles Hotel, Mr Book Bookshop, etc.

Christine and I also walked over to Hsipaw Palace, featured in the book I just finished reading: “Twilight in Burma”. We met the nephew of the prince featured in the book. He was surprisingly positive about the future considering what his family went thru. The book was banned until 2015, but now it seems it’s quite popular in this part of Myanmar. An Austrian company made a movie from the book in 2015, but the movie is banned “because they are worried it might lead to a return to fighting between the Shan state people and the Burmese army”.

Photos of the train ride to Hsipaw and the town of Hsipaw are here, and the trek photos are here.

Myanmar or Burma?

Several people are confused by the terms “Burma” vs “Myanmar”. I asked about this, and got this explanation: Myanmar is composed of many ethnic groups and many languages. The largest ethnic group are called “Burmese”, and the official language is “Burmese”. Myanmar is the name of the country that includes everyone. Internally the name Myanmar came about in 1962, but the rest of the world did not really start using it until the 1990s.

Food in Myanmar

Now that we’ve been here a couple weeks, I wanted to write up a summary of food in Myanmar. There is fantastic Indian food, pretty good Chinese food, and a variety of Myanmar food. Common is a Burmese Curry restaurant: You pick 1 of 4 types of curry: Chicken, Pork, Beef, or Fish for around $2.50. Then you get 6-9 side dishes “for free”. These include: soup, tea leaf salad, rice, pickles, chili sauce, 1-3 cooked vegetable side dishes, raw veggies, and fresh fruit for dessert. Green tea is free at all restaurants in Myanmar, and the standard price for a large bottle of beer is $1.50. See the photo below of a typical meal.

Train Bridge

Tree house that I stayed in on the trek

Burmese Curry meal

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