The best food we found in town was some hot pot noodle made from scratch and was a dish we never found in the other parts of Burma. To find it – from Lily Hotel, walk towards the main road and take your second right, it’s about 2 shopfronts down with the kitchen set up out the front.
Lonely Planet is out of date with this now – there’s just the one place allowed to hire scooters to foreigners – La Wun Aung coffee shop. they’re a bit useless but luckily it’s open 24 hours. It will cost you 12,000k for 24 hours.
If you do hire a bike or a scooter we suggest riding to the hot springs. It will take you through some tiny villages on the outskirts of town that has a stream running along side them and jumping in with the locals will cool you down perfectly.
The guidebook tells you to pay a visit to the Shan Palace in Hsipaw and tells you open times but they are incorrect. There’s a good chance the gates will be locked on your visit so if you can plan multiple attempts if you want to visit to speak to the current owners.
The best advice and the only people in the town who think that having maps etc are important is still Mr Charles Guesthouse. Go there just for the info as it’s the Lonely Planet hot tip and every man and his dog stays there. We much preferred Lily The Home Guest House on the other side of town. If you hire a scooter and want to travel to Lashio – this is where you need to get a map from.
We were told numerous times by the team from Mr Charles Guesthouse that roads were blocked and that police would send you back the way you came due to local fighting in the area. We travelled north from Hsipaw to Lashio, went through multiple checkpoints, asked guards to ensure we were going the right way and had no issues. We suggest just pushing on. Though saying that, this was where we found the largest military presence in the whole country.
If you go, go for the experience. If you head there looking for sights then it’s best you give it a miss. The hot springs that Lonely Planet mention are really just dirty baths set in individual rooms. Do not go – you’ve been warned. And if you want to get up Elephant Mountain, it’s now ringed by different brigades of the military so you won’t be able to find an access road – the guys with guns will always point you forward but we never got access. If you don’t have a scooter and want to do an overnight trip we recommend not taking a bus or taxi to Lashio as there’s not much there to keep you interested. But if you do go here this place did the best food of the entire trip – so seek it out!