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Home > Myanmar Highlights > Off-the-beaten-track > Hsipaw and Burma Road > Info

Hsipaw and Burma Road

Info Ext POL & HSP

The region northeast of former British hill station Pyin Oo Lwin has its own attractions especially for those who would like to explore on the laidback trails: whether taking a train ride over the world’s second highest Gokteik Viaduct to the appealing old Shan principality Hispaw hunting down Paul Theroux’s Great Railway Bazaars; the northern Shan state capital Lashio, where the historic Burma Road ends; or taking an overland drive on the Burma Road to the Myanmar’s frontier town of Muse passing through many minority villages, ex-Shan principality town of Theinni, and beautiful vista of Loi Sansip. One may leave Myanmar for China at Muse border checkpoint or make a circular trip back to Mandalay via old British outpost town of Namkhan to an ancient trading port town of Bhamo from where the spectacular downriver journey on Ayeyarwaddy River begins.

Train Ride to Gokteik Viaduct and beyond

The world second highest Gokteik viaduct is located some 55km northeast of Pyin Oo Lwin, on the way to Lashio. The Pennsylvania Steel Co had it built in 1903 on behalf of the British, where the construction took only 9 months. The viaduct is spanned over the deep Gokteik Gorge giving way to access the entire region of northeastern Shan State. It’s a thrilling experience when the train slowdown to drive on this oldest and longest modern railway bridge in Myanmar. On the other hand, the railroad from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw or Lashio is quite fascinating to see the life of the people, backroad villages, farms, and stunning mountain sceneries although the seats on the train car aren’t so comfortable. However, it is worth trying on this part of railway road in Myanmar where once Paul Theroux described in his book, “The Great Railway Bazaar”. It is best to begin the train ride in Pyin Oo Lwin at 8:15am and get off at Hispaw, around 2:30pm.


Once the administrative center of an independent Shan kingdom ruled by the Sao Bwe (Shan Chieftain), Hispaw still has its bucolic charms, where many travelers find a good reason to stay longer than they have intended. In February / March, the town celebrates a big pagoda festival for the region’s most sacred 700-year-old Bawgyo Pagoda. Many pilgrims from all over Shan State, including tribes living on the steep slopes, come to worship the four holey images that are allow to take out from the inner sanctum once a year for a week-long festival. During the Sao Bwe times, gambling was allowed to collect tax for the Hispaw Shan kingdom. It is highly recommended to read “Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess” an account of Austrian-American Inge Sargent, who was the popular Mahadevi of Hsipaw from 1950s until 1962. The European-style Shan Palace (Haw in Shan language), which was built in 1924, is still standing at the northern end of the town, where the visitors are welcomed after 4:00pm. From Hsipaw, there are several trekking trips to surrounding hills, waterfall, typical Shan villages, mandarin orange orchards and boating on Dokhtawady River can be made. For those who tend to be a bit more adventurous can be visited a remote town of Namhsan, another Shan principality perched on a 1600m-high narrow ridge, surrounded by valleys and mountains that rise to 2000m. The 80km unpaved dirt road seems exhausting but what rewarding is to see Shwe (Golden) Palaungs, a tribe renowned for best tealeaves producing, and the stunning beauty, which got its nickname as the Switzerland of Myanmar.






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