After the rather eventful journey to get there, I checked into my tiny single room at the lovely Mr Charles and went straight to bed. I’d been told about a nearby waterfall that was worth a visit so the next morning at breakfast I investigated how to get there. As luck would have it, I bumped into the two Americans who were also planning on going so we decided to team up. Off we went, along the dusty street, past the noodle factory and into the rice fields. Finding our way eventually got harder and harder and the sun was only getting hotter. We hopped from hut to hut in the paddies, desperate for some shade and trying to find the path Maps Me was indicating. Though it took us a while, and several litres of sweat, we finally decided to retrace our steps.
Feeling rejuvenated after a Coca Cola, a plate of noodles and some cold water, we started again, this time taking the correct turn at the pagoda. And it was beautiful! Up and over the hills, through rice paddies and corn fields, past tiny hamlets, up we climbed to Nam Tuk waterfall. As we approached, steep steps appeared and it is with great relief that we reached the top and jumped in for a quick swim! The view over Hsipaw and the valley was nothing short of impressive either.
Having originally planned to do a “proper” trek during my time in Hsipaw, I decided that that was enough – 5hrs in the scorching sun and I was feeling pretty exhausted and dehydrated. Instead, I spent the next morning visiting the Central Market and taking a leisurely stroll around town. I met Ola for a lovely lunch at the fab Mrs Popcorn’s Cafe and in the afternoon we headed to the Shan Palace, where we met Fern, the niece-in-law of the last Shan prince. The palace itself is essentially a grand British-style house but it was absolutely fascinating to hear the story of Fern, her family and her country.
In the evening, we headed to Club Terrace for a tasty Thai curry and watched children as young as 5 set off fireworks all along the river. In Myanmar, the full moon in October is celebrated by lighting candles and lampions and setting off fireworks to welcome Buddha into your home, as far as I understand. And what a beautiful sight it was!
On my final day, I made my way on foot to Little Bagan for a wander around the ruined-looking temples and stumbled into the Bamboo Monastery. Merely mooching about and poking my head into various rooms, I was soon summoned by an older gentlemen who explained that I must come and eat traditional food with them. I was ushered into one of the rooms, sat down with the ladies preparing the food and a steaming bowl of Shan noodle soup was promptly placed in front of me, despite it being 10am. As I started eating, they continued to drop various condiments into it and made the faux pas of trying to add one with my fingers instead of my spoon, resulting in a gentle tap on the wrist. One girl, with a little English, confirmed that this was to do with the Festival of Lights and the local family looked on as I slurped my noodles.
Later on, after a delicious slice of banana cake and a pot of fresh mint tea at Blackhouse Coffee Shop, I decided to go and check out the city’s main pagoda, Mahar Myat Mu Ni. Though the pagoda itself was just another pagoda, albeit a large one, the atmosphere was fantastic. People visiting, praying, chanting, reading, and everyone getting ready for a big festival on the 19th. I didn’t see a single thing other Westerner and even tried some (veggie) street food! I can safely say that I had a wonderful time in Hsipaw and would certainly recommend it.