There are certain areas in Myanmar that travellers still can’t visit due to the restriction of the government. Some areas are restricted for a reason (conflicts, mining etc) others are simply restricted because of an incident which happend several years back. Hsipaw is practically an island surrounded by the “no-go zone.” The alluring mountains and the hill tribes in this section of the Shan State are perfectly safe to visit, although a guide is mandatory. Most hikers decide venturing up to Namshan (which ironically became restricted to tourists in spring 2014). The area is divided into smaller zones with each protected by independent armies, resisting inclusion and protecting their rich resources of rubies, silver, gold, and coal. My guide grew up in the area of Namshan, and regardless of the restriction, he took me and some fellow hikers into this hidden gem.

The Hsipaw Morning Market. Apart from Myanmars cities there are literally no supermarkets (and no fridges). Thus, the vendors are coming from the villages nearby. Everything has to be as fresh as possible – locals of Hsipaw, traders and especially food shop owners flock by to do their daily grocery or to sell it on. They start setting up their stalls from 3 am onwards and start selling around 3:30 am. Some of them are wrapped in blankets and sleep until a customer wake them up. There was a good range of flowers, all kind of pickles, fresh meats and fish (dried or fresh), sweet bread is baked on the spot, indefinable sugary bakery products. The market is rarely visited by tourists. In all honesty, who wants to set the alarm clock on 3 am to visit a market?? The market begins and ends early, starting at 3:30am and pretty much wrapping up by 6am. On the other hand these circumstances offer many upsides for brave visitors… Everyone smiled at me while I was walking through the place or even gave me food for free.

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