Ananda Oak Kyaung




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Set on the banks of the Dokhtawady River in the hills of northern Shan State, Hsipaw is a bustling little market town. It is the obvious place to break the long journey between Pyin U Lwin and Lashio, and it is the base for some excellent trekking. But Hsipaw is an attractive place in its own right, and increasing numbers of visitors are stopping here to absorb the local atmosphere in the lively markets and peaceful surrounding countryside. The town is the setting for Twilight Over Burma, the best-selling autobiography of Austrian-born Inge Sargent, who in 1953 married Sao Kya Seng, the hereditary Shan prince or saopha (literally “sky lord”). Sao Kya Seng disappeared during the military coup in 1962, but his nephew, Mr. Donald still lives in the old Shan Palace (East Haw). He and his wife, Mrs. Fern, show visitors around, talking about the history of the family and the building.

The hills around Hsipaw, home to numerous ethnic minorities, offer first-class trekking. Single and multiday trekking circuits are offered by local guesthouses and hotels, and are much less frequented than routes around Kalaw and Inle Lake. An ideal way to prepare for hiking in the high country is to climb Five Buddha Hill, an ascent rewarded with a spectacular view over the town and valley. The Thein Daung Pagoda on the hill is popular for evening walks. In the old quarter of Myauk Myo, on Hsipaw’s northern fringes, it is worth visiting the Madahya Kyaung monastery and the Maha Nanda Kantha opposite, whose bamboo Buddha is covered in gold leaf.


Hsipaw’s most important Buddhist shrine is the Bawgyo Pagoda. Thousands of Palaung minority people come for its annual festival, when the temple’s four Buddhas are processed around the complex in deco rated palanquins. A lively fair and market are held at the  same time, where local handi- crafts can be purchased.

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