Myanmar Travel Log

Myanmar Travel Log Part 4 - Jungle Trekking in Hsipaw

Author Guido Helbling - Avosound Author: Guido Helbling, Avosound - Last updated November 09, 2017

I wanted to make some sound recordings of the jungle, so I grabbed my guide Sebastian and off we went. As I did not want my recordings ruined by chattering tourists, I booked a private tour with the guide. It only cost $10 more (booked through Lily's) and came with the guarantee that we would not encounter any other tourists on our tour. Well, we'll see...

Trekking in the Burmese jungle - dry wasteland
Bild: cleared jungle turned into dry wasteland

We spend the first half of the journey in a tuk tuk (auto rickshaw), before we hike across the endless wasteland. Sebastian informs me that only a few years ago this whole area had been overgrown with trees. As we stumble across dusty stretches of sunburnt wasteland, I realise just how big a problem deforestation is in Burma. The jungle canopy occasionally provides some shelter from the scorching heat, but the many steep bits we have to climb are only slightly less exhausting.

As we decide to take a break, Sebastian wants to show us a snake that escaped into the bushes seconds before we almost stepped on it. We refuse his offer, having no intention of chasing the sneaky reptile through the jungle. Burma sports a fascinating wildlife and impressive fauna. But I wonder if the Burmese appreciate all the poisonous snakes that share their habitat?

Sound recording: dense jungle with birds, crickets and insects. In the background: the blue-throated barbet. Please click here to hear more recordings of jungles, people and places.

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Awaken your inner Tarzan!

Jungle Trekking - Hsipaw Travel Log

Jungle trekking is a great experience and an excellent alternative to travelling on muggy busses. A hike through the jungle has a refreshing effect on body and soul -- and even if it might seem a bit arduous in the moment, you will have plenty of stories to tell later on.

If you are afraid of poisonous snakes and assorted creepy-crawlies, you should not let your fear deter you from exploring the jungle. We can assure you that we are afraid of those things as well (and they do actually exist out there), but we rarely caught sight of them. Also, no one is asking you to stick your hand into a hole in the ground...

In case you do see a creepy-crawly [ post a picture of you and the lil' critter here ] enjoy the moment and scream your lungs out!

Sound recording: Burmese jungle atmosphere with a loud bird called the Asian koel. Despite the bird's impressive size (up to 50cm in length), you will rarely see an actual koel in the wild.

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Jungle Trekking - Equipment Tips

The jungle trails are at times quite steep or even precipitous, and sometimes they will lead straight up a slope. Flip-flops are definitely not the right footwear for this environment! A good pair of sneakers is recommended.

Despite the heat, the guides recommend that you wear normal trousers. These will protect you against thorny bushes and snakes. During the dry season, you won't need rain gear at all as it never rains. And during the rainy season you don't really want to trek through the jungle anyway.

In general, we recommend that you pack light and bring enough water.

Sweating and recording in the jungle

We keep walking through the jungle, up and down, through the heat. I manage to make a few great sound recordings far away from civilisation noise. It's exciting to record noisy Burmese jungle crickets without any interference.

We finally reach our village in the afternoon and join Sebastian for an excursion of the place. I also manage to make a few more recordings of the jungle and the village.

Sound recording: the sound of the crickets emphasises the unbearably hot atmosphere in the jungle of Myanmar.

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They might be hillbillies but they weren't born yesterday

Back in the village we freshened up and made our beds in the village shop, where we spent the night. Our guide Sebastian told us a story of two clients who refused to wash off the dirt and dust after a scorchingly hot day in the jungle. Apparently, this story made the rounds in the village, becoming some sort of running gag among the villagers whenever strangers would arrive.

Remember: even in the middle of nowhere news travel fast!

Listening to sound recordings with Burmese locals - Jungle trekking in Hsipaw
Picture: Having fun with the Sounddevices 788T - Our host family listens to the recordings

I decide to sneak out into the cool night to make a recording. Somehow I manage to wake up half the village because all the dogs begin to bark like mad when I pass their dwellings in the dark. In total darkness I record the sound of a giant cricket (I'm glad I can't actually see how big it really is). What else might be hiding out there in the jungle?

The jungle is not quite as dense as we climb a hill the next day. There's a pleasant breeze as well. Sebastian tells us that this peaceful atmosphere is misleading -- just a few hills away from us there's an armed conflict in progress.

In the course of the afternoon we travel back to Hsipaw and cool off in our hotel room. Lily was right: we did not see a single tourist on our trip. We can definitely recommend this way of traveling!

Sound recording: typical cricket sound heard in the underbrush, on the edge of forests and in the jungle.

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Booking jungle treks

Hiking in the jungle is fun: our guide is about to show us a snake.
Hiking in the jungle is fun: our guide is about to show us a snake. Thanks, but no thanks.

In Hsipaw you can book jungle treks at the Mr Charles and Lily's hotels. You have a choice of day trips or 2- and 3-day tours. The tours are for groups only. If you would rather follow the road less travelled, you can ask for alternative tours at Lily's.

And if you don't want tourists chatting all over your sound recordings, you can book an individual tour (and you won't feel embarrassed amongst the villagers if some members of your group don't want to wash -- see above).

In the jungle: water buffalos like to watch

Myanmar Jungle Trek - Water Buffalo

Picture: having a gander rather than a mud bath -- snuggling up to a water buffalo in Hsipaw