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Mittaphap Bridge

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Thai Saphan Mittaphap Thai-Lao, the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.

Mittaphap Bridge, or by its full name Saphan Mittaphap Thai-Lao, translated as the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, is a 1240 meter bridge spanning the Mekong River, with 1170 meters over water. It consists of two lanes of vehicular traffic, each 3.5m wide, two 1.5m footpath for pedestrians, and an unfinished railway line down the middle.

Mittaphap Bridge connects Tha Duea Road in Tha Nalaeng, Laos, with the town of Nong Khai in Nong Khai Province, Thailand. The bridge was construction by the Thai and Lao governments, with funding coming from the Australian government. It cost about US$30 million, and was completed in 1994. I visited the Mittaphap Bridge on my way back from visiting the Xiengkhuan Buddha Park.

Despite its name, the completion of the Mittaphap bridge initially soured relations between Thailand and Laos. As vehicles in Thailand drive on the left side while those in Laos drive on the right, a changeover is needed, and this is done on the Lao end of the bridge.

A railway line is under construction from the bridge into Laos. The Thai government has committed to fund the link to Tha Nalaeng in Laos, 3.5km from the bridge, while the French is backing the next phase, from Tha Nalaeng to Vientiane, 30km away.

As I write this, I learn that a second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River is being planned, to connect Mukdahan Province in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos. It is to cost 3.2 billion baht. The cost will be borne equally by Thailand and Laos, through a loan from the Japan Bank for Internatinal Cooperation. In addition, yet another bridge linking Thailand and Laos has been constructed. It was opened on 28 October 2004. This 110m bridge will link Loei Province in Thailand with Sainyabuli Province in Laos, across the Heung River, a tributary of the Mekong.

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