Hsipaw, Myanmar – Pushing As Far North As Possible.

Traveling to Hsipaw, Myanmar marked the start of my grand exploration of central Myanmar. While I was in Yangon, I had a short discussion with a friend of a friend who was a travel agent, and although doing a travel-agent setup, luxury-themed, cut and dry trip is certainly not my style, I did get some good ideas to persue on my own. I ended up getting a flight on a Yangon Airways ATR-72 from Yangon up to the Central-Eastern town of Laisho, and then moving on to Hsipaw.

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Yangon Airways was quite nice, and I loved their somewhat homespun branding attempt.
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When I arrived at the airport at Laisho, I didn’t hadn’t really prepared to be let off on a basic backcountry landing stip. There was virtually no airport terminal, and the only other western passengers were a group of doctors going to investigate a Malaria outbreak nearby. After being interviewed by a few armed airport guards for a minute, I was let out of the airport area. I negotiated a bit, and finally found somebody to drive me from Laisho into Hsipaw.
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Hsipaw is a basic, quaint little town, and Eastern Myanmar’s center of backcountry trekking and exploration. Although there are a handful of guesthouses in Hsipaw, the best, most popular, and coolest place to stay in Mr. Charles Guesthouse. I stayed there my first few nights, and had a great time meeting other travelers, and locals. Of note, at Mr. Charles they do have hot water for showers, available at night. They make hot water by lighting a wood fire inside a heat exchanger, and running water through the exchanger. Very basic, but reliable and HOT!
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I only actually stayed in Hsipaw proper for one day, as planned. What I really wanted to do was to get outta town and explore the rivers and mountains. On the evening of my first day there, I met a cool group of girls who were also looking forward to taking a good day hike and boat ride, and the four of us found a local guide to take us out for the day.

First stop on our way out of town was the local noodle factory.
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And then out to the farmland. Among others. two interesting crops are grown here. Jatropha plants are everywhere around the villages. Originally these were planted in order to make biofuel, but no longer. Now they’re largely regarded as a weed. Additionally, vast fields of genetically modified watermelons are grown, supposedly for export to China. However, the watermelons don’t grow well, and according to my guide for the day, the export business is not doing well. In any case, it was certainly interesting exploring the small villages and fields.

From Time Magazine: Biofuel Gone Bad: Burma’s Atrophying Jatropha

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In a few of the villages with small schools, there were UN Aid Request Stations setup.
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After a bit of a hike, the 5 of us hopped on a longtail boat and motored up the river for a bit to a nice swimming spot.
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And relaxed with some small monks at a monastery.
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A single day trek outside of Hsipaw was great, but I wanted more. On the evening of my second day, I met up with another group of travelers, and the 5 of us planned an even more extensive trek into Myanmar’s backcountry….
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