2D1N Hsipaw Trekking and Homestay Experience
Trekking in Hsipaw and staying with a Paluang family during our homestay was definitely the most authentic experience I had in Myanmar. The Burmese countryside was really beautiful, but it was the heartwarming locals that made the experience so special. :D
People who make it to Hsipaw usually come for the treks and homestay. There are a couple of tour agencies, but the most established, recommended, and organised is Mr Charles Guesthouse. I took the 2D1N trekking and homestay for US$20, but other options include day treks, and a longer 3D2N trek with homestay (US$40). Food and accommodation is included, so the only extra thing you’ll have to bring is water!
Pro-tip: 1L of water is enough, because you can easily buy them at the villages throughout the trek.
I was with a small cosy group of 4, and had a very adorable but soft spoken guide called Joweh (not sure of the exact spelling but it sounded like this), who came from the Paluang village we were going to stay in. He kind of knew everyone, which was pretty cool cause we got to mix around quite a lot with the locals as a result.
For those who are worried, the trek was actually fairly easy, and you’ll walk across tons of different farms and small Shan/Paluang villages along the way, taking tea breaks in some of them. At the entrance to the Paluang village we are staying in after about 5hrs of light trekking! Still fresh and ready to explore the village. House we stayed in. The entire extended family stayed within the same compound in different houses. Very communal and homely!
Our beds for the night. It was basic but fairly comfortable with a thin mattress, blankets, and a mosquito net (green thing).
One of the homely meals we had during our stay. According to Joweh, everything that was served were typical dishes, though they clearly prepared more variety for us. Don’t be too alarmed if your host family doesn’t want to dine with you though. It is just their practice to let the guests eat first.
The matriarch of our household. She was a very charming lady who spoke no english, but smiled and smoked a lot.
After a late lunch, Joweh brought us out to explore the village, visiting other families and checking out their way of life.
Chilling outside the house just before dinner and drinks. It was just our host and guide at first, but they friends came over later, making it a very interesting and enjoyable night! There’s something special about drinking and having conversations despite a language barrier. When words fail, we act things out. When acting fails, we just laugh it out.
A final mesmerising look of the night sky before heading to bed.
The next day started with a visit to the monastery, before ending with another 4-5hr trek back to Hsipaw.
Coming from a concrete jungle like Singapore, it was really refreshing to be out in the village where life seems to be more peaceful. Looking at the villagers, I realised how simple life can be, and what little we need to be happy. It’s also nice to know that they have not changed their lifestyle drastically just to accommodate tourists, keeping the experience authentic. If you have the chance, definitely do one of these treks with homestay. :)