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Bridging the Gap

Tubular, bowstringed, segmental, suspended, roving, clapper, movable, pontoon, or covered….Guess what these words describe? Bridges. They come in many sizes, shapes and styles. They connect places and people. There is no denying the fact that bridges serve useful functions but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring or utilitarian to provide an easy passage.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (USA), Bridge of Sighs in Venice(Italy), Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest (Hungary), The Pont Alexandre III in Paris (France), Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney (Australia),The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne (Switzerland), are some of the most amazing bridges in the world which are tourist attractions in their respective countries. They have become city icons either because of materials they are made of or simply by becoming indelible feats of engineering. Brick, stone, bamboo, steel, glass or even ice – there are famous bridges made of either of these or made of mixed materials. Myanmar too has a fair share of bridges in many of her divisions. Some have interesting histories while others offer panoramic views.

U Bein Bridge

The unique and photogenic 1.2 kilometres long U Bein Bridge built from tea planks and is said to be the longest of its type in the world. It has become a landmark of sorts. Stretching across the Taungthaman Lake, near the ancient Burmese capital of Amarapura the bridge is also the oldest teakwood bridge. Situated about 10 kilometres south of Mandalay,the bridge is supported by more than 1,000 pillars and thousands of teak logs. Over time some of the pillars have been replaced by concrete piles to strengthen the structure so that it continues to serve as a main passage indispensable to the daily life of the local people, as well as being an exciting tourist destination. According to Myanmar history Amarapura was founded in May 1783 as the capital of the Konbaung Dynasty. It remained so until 1857, when King Mindon began building a new capital city of Mandalay. With the royal treasury depleted by the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, Mindon decided to reuse as much materials from Amarapura in construction of Mandalay. The palace buildings were dismantled and moved by elephant to the new location, and the city walls were pulled down for use as building materials for roads and railways. Unwanted wood from the palace and temples went into building of the bridge.

As tourists explore Mandalay, watching the sun set over the water is a must. It’s an awesome sight on the iconic bridge and also Burma’s most photographed sights.

Irrawaddy Bridge

Another awesome bridge in Mandalay division is the Irrawaddy Bridge or Yadanar Pone Bridge. It is also called New Ava Bridge. It crosses the Irrawaddy River, to the southwest of Mandalay and Amarapura. Navigable for much of its length Irrawaddy River remains a crucial commercial and transport artery. Built by the British in 1934, until the 1990s it was the only bridge which spanned the Irrawaddy River.

The Irrawaddy bisects Burma, rising among Himalayan glaciers and flowing freely for 1,348 miles across a wide alluvial plain into the Indian Ocean. The Ava River had aged, and its carrying capacity became limited to under 15-ton capacity trucks since 1992. Heavily laden vehicles crossed the river with the help of ferries, resulting in less efficient transportation of goods. But the New Ava Bridge is16 span cantilever bridge between Ava and Sagaing, Its approach on the Mandalay side is 1,140 feet (350 m) long and that on the Sagaing side is 7780 feet (240 m). It was completed in 2008 by a Chinese company.

Goteik viaduct

The Goteik viaduct is a railway bridge in Nawnghkio, western Shan State, about 100 km from Mandalay. The bridge is between the two mountains and also between two towns of Pyin Oo Lwin, the summer capital of the former British colonial administrators of Burma, and Lashio, the principal town of northern Shan State. The rail line was built as a way for the British Empire to expand their influence in the region. The beauty of this jaw dropping highest railway bridge is the train journey which often proves a thrilling, breathtaking and a nerve racking experience. The British constructed it in 1901(some say it was  constructed in 1899). The train traverses 117 miles through the beautiful Shan Hills almost all the way to the border with China. The journey is made through viaduct which is a 2260 feet long, 320 feet high viaduct across the Gokteik gorge near Hsipaw. It was the longest such viaduct in the world when built. Though larger concrete viaducts were constructed before and after Goteik but no other girder type steel trestle have ever exceeded it in size except the Lethbridge Viaduct in Alberta, Canada. Lethbridge Viaduct is about the same in height but more than twice the length. The Joso bridge in the U.S. state of Washington, the Poughkeepsie Bridge in New York and the original

Kinzua viaduct in Pennsylvania are the only other traditional steel trestles that are equal in size to Gokteik. Designed by Alexander Rendel & Sons and constructed by the Pennsylvania Steel Company, Gokteik was considered an engineering marvel at that time. It was fabricated and shipped to Burma as the country was called then.

Pakokku Bridge

One of the most popular festivals the Thiho Shin Pagoda Festival takes place in Pakokku in Magway region at the end of May or the beginning of June and features a large country fair and traditional plays.The Pakokku Bridge has made it much easier and faster to reach the quiet and country town. Pakokku Bridge is a rail and road bridge across the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar’s Pakokku town which is a friendly town famed for its tobacco and thanakha (a type of cosmetic powder). The main bridge is 3.4 km long with the motorway measuring 4 kilometres and the railroad measuring 6.17 kilometres. The bridge is part of the India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway and is the longest of the bridges over the Irrawady and Myanmar.