The 12h train journey from Mandalay to Hsipaw (starting at 4am!) is beautiful but exhausting. Back in India, I was happy to try once the general class. Here we choose to be close to the locals as well, taking the ordinary class: the comfort is very basic: wood banks in a very old coach whose suspensions were as bumpy as a boat in a storm! Nevertheless, the views from the train are stunning! And it drives over the Gokteik Viaduct, the longest and oldest railway bridge in Myanmar, and when built by the British in 1903, it was the 2nd highest in the World!
Hsipaw is the town of the Misters: Mr. Charles and Mr. Kid Guest houses, Mr. Food restaurant, etc. We first stay at Mr. Kid but use the services of Mr. Charles’ team to book a 3-days trek. We are finally a group of 6: a couple of a Texan Girl and Irish guy living in Australia and another couple from France: Camille and Karen from the Alps. We spend much of the time speaking in French in our 4-people group, often behind the guide and the not so talkative US/Irish couple.
Camille is running a restaurant at his place, Aurélien’s Dad as well, so we dream about French cuisine while having always the same boring meal during these 3 days: rice and tasteless vegetables let in the water.
Our guide is very young (20 years old) and defines a quite high rhythm. We stay the first night at his family’s place in the mountain. A very nice experience!
In the 2nd day, another guy from the village guides us as well. We start in some remote and narrow paths to catch a cave where a monk used to live! We enjoy the marvelous landscape all the day. The village where we sleep was a kind of improvisation of our guide: we first come very late, after dusk, and it seems the locals there never saw tourists before: the family is starring at us while preparing our bed, like in a zoo! We haven’t any mattress so we just sleep the 6 of us over some blankets. The Irish neighbor is a little too loud and the blanket too thin, I prefer to sleep over the corn bags!
On the way back to Hsipaw, we stop in hot springs used pretty much only by locals. Each gender has his bath.
The bus ride back to Mandalay is a 6 hour journey instead of the 12h taken by the train! Once in a valley, the curves are quite narrow and the trucks very large: they manage to block completely the traffic for half an hour! Quite interesting to see this improvised organization!