Travel Review: Three Days of Trekking Through Shan State, Myanmar

Whilst researching for activities to do in Myanmar, I discovered Mr Bike Trekking in Hsipaw – infamous for its treehouse, made entirely from scratch by the owner, and staff, of the company. Of course, I was immediately sold despite the fact that the trek inclusive of the treehouse lasted three days… I’ve never embarked on a three day trek so I was also curious and ready for a challenge-cum-adventure. Thus, my first destination upon arriving in Shan state was:

Mr Bike Trekking, Hsipaw

How To Get There: either via train (12 hours) or bus (five hours) from Mandalay

Currency: Myanmar Kyat (MK) or USD

What To Expect:

Day 1

After a short transfer from Hsipaw city to a rural village, our trek started. We passed a few villages and in each, were greeted with smiles – and laughter from playful children. Our guide, Bachit, graciously answered every question we had and upon realising our shared fascination with local wildlife, began explaining more about the flora and fauna unique to the region. At one point, he even climbed a fig tree so we could taste the fresh figs! I especially enjoyed our walk through the tea plantation (pictured below) as Bachit explained the process behind making the infamous Burmese tea-leaf salad.

Sooner, rather than later, we stopped for lunch under a canopy of bamboo, by a river. After devouring the fresh produce, we began our 800 meter ascend in 42°. This was 100% the most excruciating part of the three day trek but luckily, we did stop for a break in between ascending. Finally reaching the treehouse was surreal because I was expecting just one but there were three altogether, including the main treehouse used for lounging and dining. We were even given the option to choose our accommodation for the night – and obviously I chose the treehouse nearest to breakfast.

Day 2

Breakfast was our last meal at the treehouse – and the flavours combined with the view were the perfect energising boost needed for our descend. As there was a literal storm the night before, we encountered several blockages to our route – but nothing that couldn’t be hacked away by our porters machete! He also happened to collect wild mushrooms from the trunks of trees – which he then prepared for us for dinner, bless his soul. As the treehouse had sparse amenities, we could only refill our bottles once we reached the river and I loved the fact that we were rehydrating directly from the source. Many snacks and stops later, we arrived at our base for the night (pictured below), which just so happened to be by a river – naturally, we plunged into the cold water (aka showered)!

As the sun gradually set, it took with it the warmth but luckily we had a campfire to huddle around. Considering we were literally in the middle of nowhere, there was an insane amount of stars – and fireflies! So we went to sit on the bamboo bridge over the river, in complete darkness, and just observed our surroundings, even spotting not one but two (!!) shooting stars. Once it became too cold, I left to retire for the night in a hammock, which was definitely an unforgettable experience – just imagine squeezing one eyelid open and seeing nothing but stars amidst the jungle canopy. Of course, I’m only human and did find the various jungle noises slightly intimidating at times.

Day 3

After another scrumptious breakfast, we played some card games together then left the base for our last activity: tubing; but in all honesty, it was more like tubing-cum-river-rafting due to several strong undercurrents. I knew the river was long but I didn’t know it was almost four hours long so as I didn’t apply sunscreen, was burnt to a crisp. Moral of the story: don’t be me, apply thanaka (local sunscreen) if you partake in this trek.

Once we reached the base of the Shan village, we walked over to our lunch spot and spotted some cheeky children climbing a mango tree to collect fresh mango; sights I really appreciate. As promised, we were served Shan noodles (yes, I had seconds) and after we devoured our food, Bachit declared that he had a gift for us – as if the entire experience wasn’t already a gift! He then handed each of us a personalised t-shirt with our group photo (before the treehouse) printed on it; I was seriously touched at the thought and effort. If anyone from Mr Bike Trekking is reading this, thank you again for everything – it was truly an unforgettable journey.

Additional Information: For those wondering, I hiked 2/3 days barefoot; but due to numerous scrapes and blisters, I decided not to walk barefoot on the third day. Regardless, I’m happy I managed to connect with the energy of Myanmar.

If you’re planning a trip around Southeast Asia and are also an avid hiker, I’d highly recommend this trek in Hsipaw over any other trek. The reason being that I only paid 52$ for three days of adventure + a personal guide + water, food, and snacks + accommodation + a free t-shirt whereas in Vietnam I paid 80$ (40$ if you’re in a group) for a one-night homestay in a tribal village, in Laos I paid 49$ for a one-day trek through tribal villages (inclusive of a visit to a waterfall), and in Cambodia I paid 50$ for a one-day trek with rescued elephants (inclusive of bathing the elephants); unfortunately I have not trekked (with a tour) in Thailand but I did research the prices and it also starts from 40-50$. Of course, the choice is yours but if you’re into saving costs then Mr Bike Trekking is your go-to!

Price: 70,592 MK or 52 USD

Other Recommendations: Not gonna lie, the trek was sometimes strenuous so please consider your physical health, and stamina – before signing up for any lengthy trek. Moreover, (mentally) prepare yourself for the fact that you will only be provided with basic amenities. At the treehouse, the toilet was a literal hole in the ground with two wooden planks for you to squat on, in the company of flies and bees; and at both bases, sinks and showers were non-existent so pack face wipes, body wipes, and sufficient tissue.

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” John Muir

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