Hsipaw Trekking: Day 2

This is the continuation of our trek in Hsipaw, read part 1 here.

The original plan for our trek had been to stay in Man Tan village only for our first night, then to continue on. But sometime that evening, our guide got a phone call from his friend in the next village, where we were to stay the following night. As mentioned in the last post the local Shan military had been setting up small outposts throughout the hills and mountains of this area. The call was to say that the Burmese (national) army had moved into the village with around 150 soldiers and set up camp. This village was located approximately in the center of the Shan military outposts. No one expected anything to happen, but they all agreed it would be better for us tourists not to stumble into the middle of a Burmese army encampment. The phone call changed our plans and we stayed two nights in tiny Man Tan village. The host family was nice, the food was great, and the home was comfortable so we weren’t disappointed in the least.

So, instead of hiking to another village on our second day we set out for a waterfall with our guide and the village chief/owner of the homestay. The latter of these two brought his musket for hunting (though our guide seemed to thoroughly enjoy taking the opportunity to carry it and pose with it). Every so often throughout the day, our host would strike out ahead of us in search of some unsuspecting prey, but we never heard any shots fired and he returned empty handed each time.

Aike & musketOur guide poses with the musket

Musket river crossingOur host crosses the river, with musket

Tea leavesBefore we left, I poked around the yard of the homestay, looking for interesting things to photograph. There were two baskets full of tea leaves freshly picked from the fields surrounding the village. On the way out of the village on our hike, we passed a few men weighing and preparing fermented tea leaves to be carried to town on pack animals. There were large baskets of the funky looking leaves which would soon be turned into delicious tea leaf salads.
Scooping teaWeighing tea

We hiked along the ridge of the mountain, where tea plantations spread downhill below us, Fluffy bugsand then began descending. Through thickets of bamboo, we made our way to the river at the bottom, stopping on occasion to look at the scenery, catch our breath or check out some cool-lookin’ white insects.

Making our way through the shade beneath huge trees, we came to the waterfall. It wasn’t the tallest or biggest waterfall and the pool at its base was mostly insignificant, but it was a waterfall with no one else around. For several miles around we were the only 4 people and we could just enjoy seeing a beautiful lonely waterfall in peace. And take some silly pictures with our guide and homestay host.



Machete and musket

We left the waterfall and crossed the shallow, fast moving river several times before Barefoot crossingwe stopped for lunch. While Michelle and I rested in the shade, our lunch camp was prepared. Actually, before we even reached the the site, our homestay host hiked ahead of us and had Bamboo teacupalready started the fire. So, shortly after we sat down we were handed mugs, made of bamboo, full of fresh brewed green tea, which had been brewed in a length of bamboo which was strategically placed into the fire. Soon lunch was ready and we ate a delicious meal out of bamboo serving trekking lunchdishes, using a large banana leaf as a table cloth on the ground. The Shan state has some amazingly good food and this lunch was no exception.

Bunch of butterfliesWe continued our hike after a short post-lunch nap and found a bunch of butterflies drinking water along the riverside. It was a beautiful flurry of colors. We walked on and headed back uphill, finally reaching a different mountain ridge than the one we had descended that morning and came to the tea plantations surrounding Man Tan village. We walked along a stream that ran around the tea fields and saw a jumbled collection of pipes centered around a large barrel on its side with a segment cut out. Our guide explained that this was one of a few hydroelectric generators that had been rigged to provide electricity to the village. It looked in poor shape, though, and I was amazed that there were any functional lights at all for us to eat dinner by that night.

When we arrived back at the village we found three mules in the yard of our homestay. As we found out later, one of the mules was suffering from extreme constipation, and the man with them was waiting for our host to return to help him remedy the situation. The cure turned out to be an extra large shot of homemade whiskey mixed with a raw egg, delivered using a length of bamboo, and then the smoke of burning chilies.

It sounds terrible, but by morning it was clear that it had worked. The mules were gone, grazing in the tea fields uphill, Morning buffalobut in their places were three piles of mule poop. And a water buffalo. I don’t know where the water buffalo came from or was headed to, but it made for a good picture in the early morning sun.

We left the homestay, giving our profound thanks to the family and hiked back towards the town of Hsipaw. Before we started on our trek we had purchased bus tickets to go to Inle lake on the night of our return to town. So, we hiked for 6 hours, reclaimed our backpacks from the hotel we had stayed in, took showers, and caught a night bus that left at about 5 pm and arrived the next morning at 5 am. It had been a slightly tiring three days, but it was really worth it! If you’re in Myanmar, go to Hsipaw and go trekking; you’re gonna like it!

A few videos from our hike:


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