Monday, May 1, 2017

We Arrive in Hsipaw

May 1, 2017
Hsipaw, Myanmar

What could possible go wrong?
Upon disembarking our train at Hsipaw in a downpour, we were quickly approached by several young men with laminated photos of hotels, all trying to shuffle us into their vehicles to take us for a free ride to a potential lodging (for a commission, I'm sure).  We eventually relented, and climbed into a large, off-road 3-wheeler type vehicle with passenger truck bed space in the back.  The inn we stopped at was okay, but as the rain had stopped by the time we were finished looking at the accomodations, we decided to walk over to another place, Hotel Lily The Home, that we had already researched. After a quick tour, we determined Lily to be the far better option, and checked in for around $17 for the night.

We dropped our things in our all-white, utilitarian room, freshened up a bit, and went out looking for a cold drink.  After stopping in the middle of town for a beer, we went to one of hotel manager's suggested stops on the riverfront called Black House Coffee Shop. The modern, stylish café was located in a repurposed historic shophouse right on the river and boasted a lovely view out back.  Seated on the patio, we shared some Shan noodles, and had some more beers while watching local fishermen and a pretty magnificent sunset reflected in the Duthawadi river.

Sure, I'll try the Chinese beer, being so close to China and all
Lovely sunset over the Duthawadi River
When we checked into our hotel the day before, the woman at the front desk - presumably Lily - was super friendly, helpful, and spoke English well.  She reminded us of the various super friendly and helpful English speaking ladies we've had at nearly all of our hotels since Koh Lanta, where the manager, Ploy, was so sweet and helpful.  Since then, we may not learn or remember the names of the kindly hotel employees, so we refer to them between ourselves as our "local Ploys." 

Local Ploy at Lily took considerable time outlining all there was to do in and around Hsipaw on a map for us, including hill tribe treks, "little Bagan", restaurants, river view happy hour locations, and the Shan Palace.  I really wanted to go to the Shan Palace after reading a summary in the Lonely Planet.  Apparently the last Shan princess still lives there, inviting guests to visit in the late afternoon.  Unfortunately, we arrived too late, and would be leaving too early to visit and get to speak with her.  From what I've read, the palace is frequently closed for "health reasons".  That morning while Caroline was getting ready at the hotel, I took the opportunity to walk by it anyway, to see what I could see, which was nothing except a padlocked gate.

Shan Palace - closed
Later that day, we did some minor sight-seeing day to some of Local Ploy's sweet spots before our shared taxi came by to take us all the way back to Mandalay - roughly a six-hour journey. 

We kept running into this adorable group of young novice Buddhist nuns
Like the trip to Pyin Oo Lwin, it was a tight squeeze with three of us wedged into the backseat of the small sedan that was our shared taxi.  The trip was made tolerable and even enjoyable, due to our ride mate.  We shared the back seat with a curly-haired 17-year-old Burmese girl named Sadiya, who was headed from Lashio back to school in Mandalay, where she is studying to get her four-year degree in Medical Equipment Technology.  She was so sweet, and enthusiastic to share her culture with us and to hear about ours.  We talked off and on the whole way back, until we dropped her at her university.  She was late by around 40 minutes, so the dorm was gated up.  It took some phone calls and cajoling until someone came to let her in. 

The woman riding shotgun seemed to be her chaperone.  We never did find out if she was an aunt, friend, mother, or something else.  She spent most of the six hours aggressively chatting with our driver, a young Burmese man.  We decided she must have known him as well.

It was touching when, near the end of our trip, Sadiya said, "I will never forget you."  Obviously, she made a very memorable impression on us as well.

Our new friend, Sadiya, from Lashio

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