Chiang Kok and the Lao Myanmar Bridge

Jurgen

Moderator
Subscribed
Oct 23, 2009
680
127
43
www.chopard.org
A trip from Muang Sing (Luang Namtha province, Northwest Laos) to the new Lao Myanmar Friendship Bridge, in Chiang Kok (Long district).

This write-up was meant to be the last of a series about Muang Sing and the former Chiang Khaeng [1] principality. However, as the new “Lao Myanmar Friendship Bridge” is now topical, I anticipated the information about this itinerary.

Route 17B, the eighty kilometers link to Long district, Chiang Kok [1] and to the Mekong bridge, starts as an intersection, in Nam Keo Luang village, just at Muang Sing's city entrance. It is an inviting paved road, but informed drivers know that this is deceiving, as the smooth ride is short lived.

5NK_3192.jpg

The road to Xieng Kok (Chiang Kok) at Muang Sing’s entrance intersection

5NK_2630.jpg

The Nam Keo Luang village temple of Tai Nuea ethnicity

Passing several Tai Lue and Tai Nuea villages, and after only six kilometers, in Ban Namdai, the asphalt abruptly stops, making place to a rocky piece of trail.

_N550783.jpg

Ban Namdai Tai Lue temple

NK7_1717.jpg

Ban Namdai traditrional Tai Lue house

NK7_1739.jpg

Ban Namdai Tai Lue family

In 2013, I explored the beginning of the dirt sector, but gave up rapidly, as my gear was not protected against the dust.

NK7_1677.jpg

On the dirt ... not for long (in 2013)

Monsoon waters have washed the soft part of the original road covering away, and the hard stones have now the upper hand. Depending on the atmospheric conditions, the red earth, remaining between the rocks, takes consistencies ranging from slippery mud, during downpours, to clouds of dust in the dry season.

5NK_3159.jpg

The rocky trail’s beginning on Route 7B

The shaky adventure is there to last for quite a while, and you need a strong motivation, or an excellent mount, to drive the return journey in a single day.

5NK_3030.jpg

Rocky trail on Route 7B

5NK_3190.jpg

Muddy road 7B in the rainy season

For most of its itinerary, Route 7B follows the fertile valley of the Nam Ma river, a Mekong tributary.

Nowadays, a canal, with under earth tunnels, is built to diverse some Nam Ma water back toward Muang Sing and China. It is not as impressive as the Romans aqueducts but, nevertheless, serves similar purpose.

5NK_2806.jpg

Nam Ma river and her valley

At a variable distance of its bank, the road follows the Nam Ma River and her valley

5NK_3039.jpg

Nam Ma river and her valley

Replacing former purple and carmine fields, banana plantation now undulate toward the horizon, reaching to the mountain feet without solution of continuity. This intensive monoculture, however, is not without ecological impact on the environment and on the social development. Irrigation, pesticides and market constraints take most of the business out of the locals hands, favoring large Chinese companies and their cultivation means [2].

5NK_2816.jpg

Banana fields reaching to the horizon

5NK_3170.jpg

The banana plantations reach to the feet of the mountains

Banana bunches are sometimes wrapped in plastic for winter protection and to increase the bunch weight.

5NK_3126.jpg

Plastic protections - blue illuminations

Transporting this huge banana crop toward Chinese markets requires thousands of lorries, which are busy carving out mud furrows, or, in the dry season, to spread a steady cloud of dust.

5NK_3148.jpg

All types of lorries carve their marks in the mud

5NK_3140.jpg

Green hills with tone-on-tone banana orchards

5NK_3174.jpg

Ubiquitous banana plantations

“Watermelons, bars and trucks: dangerous intersection in Northwest Lao PDR” [2]. As a published research highlighted, in 2004 already, the new (dirt) road did not only increase commercial activities, it fundamentally impacted the riparian’s life and their exposure to all kind of traffics and diseases.

5NK_3143.jpg

Kids along the road

Other crops are cultivated along Route 17B; large scale ventures are usually in Chinese hands, on leased land and under the control of Yunnan manpower; this is, for instance, the case for the problematic watermelons culture, who requires a particular expertise [2].

Hevea rubber trees are now frequently seen, some have reached the eight years harvesting maturity, but others are still in their early youth.

From time to time, workers or students are strolling along the road.

5NK_3133.jpg

Workers along the road

5NK_3129.jpg

Kids back from school

5NK_3119.jpg

Akha woman

The trail also crosses hamlets of different ethnicities, the main population belonging, however, to the Akha ethnic group.

5NK_3115.jpg

Kids back from school

Nam Bak hamlet, at "kilometer 26", provides a short respite with one kilometer of tarmac.

5NK_3113.jpg

Kids back from school

5NK_3109.jpg

A short piece of tarmac

Ban Den Kan is located at "kilometer 30" from Muang Sing intersection.

5NK_3083.jpg

Red earth again

“Kilometer 41” marks the middle of the itinerary toward the bridge; the worse part of the rocky surface ends about here. The road becomes smoother, albeit not always easier in the rainy season.

5NK_3093.jpg

Softer road cover - still muddy

5NK_3100.jpg

A (relatively) softer road

5NK_3071.jpg

Smoother road covering, flat mud

The itinerary follows mostly the Nam Ma River and its valley; just before Long city, it jumps over another waterway, the Long River.

5NK_3066.jpg

Along the Nam Ma

On and on, the red earth trail goes up and down hills, passing through scattered hamlets and along the ubiquitous banana orchards.

5NK_3057.jpg

Passing villages

5NK_3051.jpg

A small crowd

A frail bridge over the Nam Ma River

5NK_3035.jpg

Nam Ma River

5NK_3027.jpg

Nam Ma river

At “kilometer 45”, the surface is paved; it is the outskirt of Long city, which is reached at “kilometer 48”.

5NK_3007.jpg

Fields before the arrival to Long city

Nowadays, this town is also the district’s capital, with some infrastructures to spend a night and a bustling, albeit small market. It should be visited in the early morning, as traders, from nearby villages, are quick to return home.

5NK_2809.jpg

Market in Long city

F1XT2190.jpg

Market in Long city

F1XT2178.jpg

Market in Long city

F1XT2174.jpg

Market saleswoman in Long town

F1XT2175.jpg


An Akha lady in Long market

Back on the main road, the asphalt makes place again to red earth, at “kilometer 52” already. It is smoother, albeit sometimes more muddy or dusty, depending on the meteorological conditions.

Ban Ta Home is at “kilometer 57”

Compared to other crops, rice fields are rather scattered, and dry rice is still produced in the mountains.

5NK_3000.jpg

Rice fields along Route 17B

5NK_3004.jpg

Along Route 17B

5NK_3005.jpg

Rice fields along Route 17B

5NK_2975.jpg

Rice fields along Route 17B

5NK_2971.jpg

A hamlet along the road after Long city

The rice crops are for local consumption while banana orchards bring cash from rental fees and provide employment possibilities, particularly in the harvest season, for residents, working for the large Chinese companies.

5NK_2986.jpg

Side road to the banana plantation

At “kilometer 60”, the covering becomes gravel, the nicest possible surface, along this road, after the asphalted stretches. Some segments, however, are still muddy and potholed.

5NK_2811.jpg

The "nice" gravel road covering

5NK_2979.jpg

Relatively nice gravel surface

5NK_2992.jpg

Smooth road surface

The itinerary is still following the Na Ma river along its curse toward the Mekong

5NK_2960.jpg

The Nam Ma river

After another series of clay sectors, the pavement begins again at “kilometer 67”; this time, it will last through Chiang Kok and to the final destination, at “kilometer 82”, the new span over the Mekong River.

Chiang Kok is a non descript dwelling, with a small bungalow style accommodation and a couple of simple “foe” (noodle soup) eateries.

5NK_2948.jpg

Chiang Kok town

5NK_2950.jpg

Chiang Kok town

A new neighborhood called ‘Chiang Kok Mai’ features the Mekong pier.

5NK_2938.jpg

Chiang Kok Mai - the boat landing place

The modest and muddy landing place, hardly deserves a “harbor” appellation. A slippery dirt and gravel access leads down to the rocky Mekong rim, where Akha women trail merchandise, between boats and lorries, like busy ants.

5NK_2932.jpg

Muddy trail to the Mekong pier

5NK_2942.jpg

Boat unloading operation

5NK_2945.jpg

Unloading, mostly by Akha women

As the Akha women worker unloaded the boat's freight, a girl waited for the operation to be completed. She was due to board the barge, who can accept a couple of tourist passengers. The downstream trip to Chiang Saen takes four to five hours.

5NK_2927.jpg

Downstream Mekong view in Chiang Saen’s direction

Twelve kilometers north from “Chiang Kok Mai”, the new bridge spans the river, completing or competing with the waterway transport. As the Mekong meanders along this stretch, it can not be spotted from this place.

5NK_2909.jpg

Upstream Mekong - toward the bridge

After Chiang Kok, Route 17B is already totally asphalted. As for the remaining rocky part, linking to Muang Sing, pavement work is scheduled during the two next dry seasons. The whole itinerary, with the rehabilitation work on Route 17A, should be completed in the year 2020. These are “oral” information, to be taken with a grain of salt. Two “dry seasons” seem short to cover Route 17A with tarmac, and 2020 seems a long horizon, just to update the existing link to Luang Namtha and to Route 3.

5NK_2907.jpg

After Chiang Kok, the completed road to the bridge

Apart from some completion work, the road to the bridge is ready to receive heavy traffic

5NK_2917.jpg

A bridge under construction

For a glance and an overview of the new bridge, you have to enter Ban Huaykoum, a Lahu village, located before the span, on a hill.

5NK_2896.jpg

Ban Huaykoum

F1XT2195.jpg

Children playing in Hauaykoum

5NK_2877.jpg

View to the new bridge from Huaykoum

5NK_2884.jpg

The bridge viewed from Ban Huaykoum

Around the hill from Huaykoum the road finally reaches the Lao “check point” entrance, a building fairly similar to the one controlling the other Mekong friendship bridges.

5NK_2822.jpg

Lao side checkpoint building

5NK_2823.jpg

Lao side entrance to the check point

5NK_2824.jpg

The future Lao exist gate (departure)

The bridge was inaugurated - but not yet opened - on May 9th 2015. With a start in February 2013, the project had a speedy realization; it was totally constructed by Laos and Myanmar countries, who shared the 26 million US dollar investment. Its length is 691 meters with a 758 meters access link from Lao immigration and another 610 meters to exit on the other side. In addition to two lanes, it has two sidewalks, which, however, can not be used be pedestrian or bicycles [5].

I was told that the opening is scheduled sometimes in December 2015; for the time being, there are still administrative and physical hurdles to be ironed out on the Myanmar side.

5NK_2842.jpg

Lao Myanmar Friendship Bridge - perspective

5NK_2864.jpg

Lao Myanmar Friendship Bridge - perspective

5NK_2837.jpg

Lao Myanmar Friendship Bridge - perspective

The island, downstream from the bridge, in a noman's land. Contrarily to the border delimitation in the middle Mekong, the Franco British agreement of 1896, the treaty splitting the Chiang Khaeng principality in two parts between the colonial powers, puts the frontier along the river's thalweg (the line connecting the lowest water points) [3].

5NK_2829.jpg

A downstream island

5NK_2861.jpg

Downstream island

A view upstream, toward the north, shows a low water Mekong, already in October, and after a weak rainy season.

5NK_2850.jpg

Low water Mekong

The settlement, on the bridge's western side (Myanmar) is Chiang Lap [1], a Tai Lue village; the new span actually links folks from the former Chiang Khaeng principality, people separated by the British Scott and the French Pavie in their struggle to control the big river. Nowadays, Chiang lap is in in Tachilek province, part of the Shan States.

5NK_2843.jpg

Myanmar checkpoint building

While gazing toward the Myanmar mountain range, I reflected over the new bridge’s “raison d'être” and purpose. Was its construction a gesture from the former colonial powers to reunite what they had split? In the present days, this makes no political sense. Could the “Thai Tourist Authority” have sponsored it to open up the trapped “Golden Triangle” apex? Offering a “two days three countries” double Mekong bridges loop would be a tempting excursion, if individual travelers and vehicles were granted an easy passage through the Shan States. The bridge might also be a Chinese initiative, a middle way between Routes 3A and 3B; or could it be, as some commentators were quick to point out, just a “white elephant” [5]?

Part of the answer is written on the bridge’s inauguration panel:

“Lao – Myanmar Friendship Bridge is a Token of Friendship and Cooperation Between the Lao People’s Democratic Republic And The Republic of the Union of Myanmar – 9th May 2015”

5NK_2867.jpg

The bridge's inauguration plaque

Official publications in newspapers and online, provide additional insight information. The link between Laos Route 17 and Myanmar Route 4 is meant to develop commercial and touristic traffic between the two countries, their neighbors and, globally, in the “Greater Mekong Subregion”. The bridge’s construction was actually proposed by Vietnam, at a regional cooperation conference (ACMECS), held in Yangon in October 2003 [5]; it would be part of a corridor between Haiphong Seaport, in Vietnam, and Myanmar's Kyauk Phyu Seaport, through Laos [5-2].

Before these broad objectives can be realized, concerns are already raised about the acerbation of methamphetamine trafficking, encouraged by the new trail, in a region notorious for its clandestine laboratories [6].

The positive endnote is that the bridge exists, and, even it is only a first step, it drives in the right direction, toward more cooperation and a broader opening of the region.

5NK_2852.jpg

One foot in Laos, one foot in Myanmar, my heart in Asia

---------------------------------

Notes:

[1] Different transliteration methods, in texts, on maps or road boards, confuse readers; this is, however, unavoidable, as different Romanization choices, are used in various languages, countries and at different times. I follow Volker Grabowsky’s choice (in “Chronicles of Chiang Khang”. Silkworm Books):
“In this translation the term chiang, meaning “fortified capital town”, is used. This is spelled according to Siamese pronunciation, wich is adopted in most literature. In the Tai languages of the North, such as Tai Yuan, Tai Khün and Tai Lü, the word is pronounced ciang, whereas the Lao pronounce is siang, sometimes romanised xiang.
I also use Chiang Lap for the Myanmar side Lue village, often written Kenglap or Xieng Lap.

[2]Watermelons, bars and trucks: dangerous intersection in Northwest Lao PDR
An ethnographic study of social change and health vulnerability along the road through Muang Sing and Muang Long.
Chris Lyttleton, Paul Cohen, Houmphanph Rattanavong, Bouakham Thongkhamhane
Copyright 2004 by the Institute for Cultural Research of Laos and Macquarie University
Supported by Rockfeller Foundation and Macquare University
Pdf document

[3] Internet links for Muang Long and Chiang Kok:
Muang Long travel guide. Travelfish.org
Xieng Kok travel guide. Travelfish.org
http://www.luangnamtha-tourism-laos...cultural_motorbike_xk/motorbike_xiengkok.html
Long Region Map: Ban Bo — Wan Hkung | Laos Google Satellite Maps
Things to do in Muang Sing, Laos

[4] For another « Mekong borderline » story, see my trip report :
« A popular Mekong cruise: Houai Xai to Luang Prabang »
A popular Mekong cruise: Houai Xai to Luang Prabang

The French text of the 1896 “Franco-British 1896 Declaration” (called Courcell-Salisbury) is published, for instance, in the enclosures of:
"Le Laos et le Protectorat Français"
Par le Capitaine Gosselin
Perrin Et Cie, Paris 1900

[5] Internet links for the “Laos Myanmar Friendship bridge”:

Myanmar, Laos open first friendship bridge - Xinhua | English.news.cn
New Laos – Myanmar Friendship Bridge | Laos Asia Reveal Tour
Lao PDR and Myanmar open bridge : TTR Weekly
Laos, Myanmar open first friendship bridge - Thai PBS English News
The Lao PDR Trade Portal - Display Site
Laos-Myanmar Friendship Bridge Opens Vietnam

[5-2] http://investlaos.gov.la/index.php/news-and-events/item/9-the-friendship-bridge-between-laos-and Myanmar

[6] Drug concerns:

http://m.bangkokpost.com/news/599016?refer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.th%2F
 

Attachments

  • 5NK_3192.jpg
    5NK_3192.jpg
    50.4 KB · Views: 69
  • 5NK_2630.jpg
    5NK_2630.jpg
    70.4 KB · Views: 83
  • _N550783.jpg
    _N550783.jpg
    70.7 KB · Views: 103
  • NK7_1717.jpg
    NK7_1717.jpg
    92.2 KB · Views: 47
  • NK7_1739.jpg
    NK7_1739.jpg
    81.6 KB · Views: 113
  • 5NK_2816.jpg
    5NK_2816.jpg
    81.4 KB · Views: 47
  • 5NK_3170.jpg
    5NK_3170.jpg
    89.8 KB · Views: 90
  • 5NK_3126.jpg
    5NK_3126.jpg
    74.3 KB · Views: 87
  • 5NK_3148.jpg
    5NK_3148.jpg
    75 KB · Views: 109
  • 5NK_3039.jpg
    5NK_3039.jpg
    86.8 KB · Views: 72
  • 5NK_2806.jpg
    5NK_2806.jpg
    90.4 KB · Views: 63
  • 5NK_3190.jpg
    5NK_3190.jpg
    54.6 KB · Views: 127
  • 5NK_3030.jpg
    5NK_3030.jpg
    111.5 KB · Views: 97
  • 5NK_3159.jpg
    5NK_3159.jpg
    80.2 KB · Views: 90
  • NK7_1677.jpg
    NK7_1677.jpg
    90.6 KB · Views: 89
  • 5NK_3113.jpg
    5NK_3113.jpg
    75.7 KB · Views: 116
  • 5NK_3109.jpg
    5NK_3109.jpg
    67.5 KB · Views: 91
  • 5NK_3083.jpg
    5NK_3083.jpg
    74.8 KB · Views: 92
  • 5NK_3093.jpg
    5NK_3093.jpg
    78.1 KB · Views: 95
  • 5NK_3115.jpg
    5NK_3115.jpg
    73.4 KB · Views: 49
  • 5NK_3140.jpg
    5NK_3140.jpg
    77.4 KB · Views: 76
  • 5NK_3174.jpg
    5NK_3174.jpg
    72.2 KB · Views: 96
  • 5NK_3143.jpg
    5NK_3143.jpg
    111.3 KB · Views: 116
  • 5NK_3133.jpg
    5NK_3133.jpg
    76.5 KB · Views: 110
  • 5NK_3129.jpg
    5NK_3129.jpg
    84.5 KB · Views: 92
  • 5NK_3119.jpg
    5NK_3119.jpg
    105.2 KB · Views: 77
  • 5NK_3007.jpg
    5NK_3007.jpg
    53.6 KB · Views: 77
  • 5NK_2809.jpg
    5NK_2809.jpg
    70.6 KB · Views: 116
  • F1XT2190.jpg
    F1XT2190.jpg
    91.1 KB · Views: 89
  • F1XT2178.jpg
    F1XT2178.jpg
    79.6 KB · Views: 69
  • F1XT2174.jpg
    F1XT2174.jpg
    61.3 KB · Views: 122
  • 5NK_3027.jpg
    5NK_3027.jpg
    96.3 KB · Views: 83
  • 5NK_3035.jpg
    5NK_3035.jpg
    87 KB · Views: 130
  • 5NK_3100.jpg
    5NK_3100.jpg
    87.7 KB · Views: 52
  • 5NK_3071.jpg
    5NK_3071.jpg
    73.4 KB · Views: 107
  • 5NK_3066.jpg
    5NK_3066.jpg
    85.5 KB · Views: 125
  • 5NK_3057.jpg
    5NK_3057.jpg
    80.2 KB · Views: 122
  • 5NK_3051.jpg
    5NK_3051.jpg
    84.1 KB · Views: 46
  • 5NK_2811.jpg
    5NK_2811.jpg
    83.8 KB · Views: 77
  • 5NK_2986.jpg
    5NK_2986.jpg
    74.7 KB · Views: 78
  • 5NK_2979.jpg
    5NK_2979.jpg
    85.8 KB · Views: 43
  • 5NK_2992.jpg
    5NK_2992.jpg
    62.9 KB · Views: 101
  • 5NK_2960.jpg
    5NK_2960.jpg
    70.6 KB · Views: 122
  • 5NK_2971.jpg
    5NK_2971.jpg
    94.2 KB · Views: 54
  • F1XT2175.jpg
    F1XT2175.jpg
    55.1 KB · Views: 72
  • 5NK_3000.jpg
    5NK_3000.jpg
    94.5 KB · Views: 91
  • 5NK_3004.jpg
    5NK_3004.jpg
    87.3 KB · Views: 41
  • 5NK_3005.jpg
    5NK_3005.jpg
    64.8 KB · Views: 83
  • 5NK_2975.jpg
    5NK_2975.jpg
    91.3 KB · Views: 43
  • 5NK_2927.jpg
    5NK_2927.jpg
    68 KB · Views: 118
  • 5NK_2945.jpg
    5NK_2945.jpg
    92.6 KB · Views: 114
  • 5NK_2909.jpg
    5NK_2909.jpg
    77.5 KB · Views: 73
  • 5NK_2907.jpg
    5NK_2907.jpg
    80.7 KB · Views: 77
  • 5NK_2917.jpg
    5NK_2917.jpg
    97.5 KB · Views: 85
  • 5NK_2942.jpg
    5NK_2942.jpg
    86.6 KB · Views: 83
  • 5NK_2948.jpg
    5NK_2948.jpg
    65.7 KB · Views: 101
  • 5NK_2950.jpg
    5NK_2950.jpg
    48.1 KB · Views: 72
  • 5NK_2938.jpg
    5NK_2938.jpg
    65.7 KB · Views: 77
  • 5NK_2932.jpg
    5NK_2932.jpg
    97.3 KB · Views: 42
  • 5NK_2842.jpg
    5NK_2842.jpg
    59.8 KB · Views: 94
  • 5NK_2824.jpg
    5NK_2824.jpg
    51.5 KB · Views: 55
  • 5NK_2864.jpg
    5NK_2864.jpg
    57.1 KB · Views: 83
  • 5NK_2837.jpg
    5NK_2837.jpg
    66.3 KB · Views: 62
  • 5NK_2829.jpg
    5NK_2829.jpg
    35.9 KB · Views: 48
  • 5NK_2861.jpg
    5NK_2861.jpg
    38.3 KB · Views: 82
  • 5NK_2823.jpg
    5NK_2823.jpg
    63.4 KB · Views: 51
  • 5NK_2896.jpg
    5NK_2896.jpg
    73.8 KB · Views: 93
  • F1XT2195.jpg
    F1XT2195.jpg
    79.6 KB · Views: 49
  • 5NK_2877.jpg
    5NK_2877.jpg
    93.2 KB · Views: 136
  • 5NK_2884.jpg
    5NK_2884.jpg
    59.1 KB · Views: 68
  • 5NK_2822.jpg
    5NK_2822.jpg
    62.8 KB · Views: 82
  • 5NK_2852.jpg
    5NK_2852.jpg
    57.4 KB · Views: 88
  • 5NK_2850.jpg
    5NK_2850.jpg
    49.2 KB · Views: 90
  • 5NK_2843.jpg
    5NK_2843.jpg
    56 KB · Views: 46
  • 5NK_2867.jpg
    5NK_2867.jpg
    57.2 KB · Views: 123
Last edited:

brian_bkk

Ol'Timer
Mar 30, 2010
2,137
278
83
Great report Jurgen..

Just rode around there 2 days ago.

Sad indeed to see the Chinese invasion that is taking place.

They are all the way up in to the Green Triangle with Rubber and Banana plantations.

Cheers

Brian
 
J

Javawa

Guest
Nice article on the influx of Chinese people and banana plantations in northern provinces: Chinese Migration Riles Northern Province

"We wear masks, but we all have headaches and itchy eyes. My son stopped eating as he feels like vomiting all the time," said Sith, a worker from Xayabouri province, seated in his hut in a workers' camp in the middle of a banana plantation in the Ton Pheung district of Bokeo province. A stroll inside the plantation provided an insight into the problem: Pesticides are liberally sprayed by workers without any protection gear. The toxic stench became unbearable after a few minutes.
 

scotty007

Ol'Timer
Subscribed
Feb 23, 2004
200
71
28
Very interesting and informative report Jurgen, with beautiful photography, hope to catch up with you one day.
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Subscribed
Jan 16, 2003
12,803
3,320
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
Super pics & info yet again Jurgen .  Brilliant research.

Funny how it goes eh, but going on your photos the Muang Sing - Xieng Kok road hardly seems to have improved since I first went down there in May 2004. I would have thought there would have been significant improvement but it does not look like it.

Some pics of the road in 2004.

GTR-IMG_2316.jpg


GTR-IMG_2318.jpg
The road in good condition Muang Sing - Xieng Kok 2004

GTR-IMG_2346.jpg
Beautiful green countryside Muang Sing - Xieng Kok 2004

GTR-IMG_2349.jpg
The stony road Muang Sing - Xieng Kok 2004

What may have changed is you probably don't see so many topless Akha women as in 2004

GTR-IMG_2387.jpg


Beautiful Muang Sing 2004 - before he Chinese onslaught

GTR-IMG_2392.jpg
Muang Sing 2004

Thanks again Jurgen. I look forward eagerly to your Muang Sing & Tai Lue story

When that bridge & border crossing becomes full international aren't we going to be lucky doing 4-5 day loops from Chiang Mai - Myanmar - Laos - Chiang Mai. Yeehar ...bring it on. The Chiang Mai - Tachilek - Muang Sing loop. What a beauty.
 

Attachments

  • GTR-IMG_2316.jpg
    GTR-IMG_2316.jpg
    75.2 KB · Views: 96
  • GTR-IMG_2318.jpg
    GTR-IMG_2318.jpg
    83.5 KB · Views: 101
  • GTR-IMG_2346.jpg
    GTR-IMG_2346.jpg
    102 KB · Views: 49
  • GTR-IMG_2349.jpg
    GTR-IMG_2349.jpg
    71.2 KB · Views: 47
  • GTR-IMG_2387.jpg
    GTR-IMG_2387.jpg
    94.9 KB · Views: 40
  • GTR-IMG_2392.jpg
    GTR-IMG_2392.jpg
    61.1 KB · Views: 87

Jurgen

Moderator
Subscribed
Oct 23, 2009
680
127
43
www.chopard.org
Thank you David for adding spectacular and historic pictures to this report. As for the pavement quality, since your 2004 trip, it has probably deteriorated, with the increased lorries traffic and few places where I could spot improvements. We should, however, see a progress, in the two next years, if the road can really be asphalted in this time span.

The Akha population is still the main ethnicity in the region, working hard, particularly the women, in banana orchards on land rented to Chinese companies. It is safe that they not only wear a bra, but they should also put gas masks on, against pesticide swallowing. Their forbidden habit to indulge in some poppy products was probably safer than the current environment.

There are still remote places where life in Akha villages goes on like always, for this, one has to take near impassable mountains roads, toward Chiang Khaeng. Unfortunately I have not yet been able to visit that region but its remoteness keeps it pristine.

As Bryan has done a lot of dirt riding in that region recently, we might soon see some interesting additional information and pictures
 

King of Jars

Ol'Timer
Subscribed
Feb 27, 2008
89
25
18
63
Nongprue, Cholburi, Thailand
Fantastic report, Jürgen, thanks a lot for this. One question remains which you might have overheard; does the bridge open coming Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 co-inciding with the 40th anniversary of the Pathet Lao running the country?
Thanks again, reading your reports are just second to being there myself ;-)
 

Jurgen

Moderator
Subscribed
Oct 23, 2009
680
127
43
www.chopard.org
Thank you for your comment Peter, unfortunately, I do not have much more clues that what I wrote in the text.

At the bridge, I was lucky to meet a very kind border police man, who accompanied me to the span, which was not accesible without an escort. I also got a couple of information from him, notably that the bridge should be opened sometimes in December. However, as our discussion was in Lao-Thai, I am not sure that I got all the details about the roadblock in Myanmar right; are they physical (road infrastructure) or administrative?

Anyway, as all the millennium’s auspicious dates were allocated to the other Mekong bridges, a Pathet Lao anniversary would have made sense (on one side of the river at least); on the Myanmar side the November elections are probably a bigger concern.
 
J

Javawa

Guest
Peter/Jurgen,

The delay in opening the bridge is administrative. This is what the Vientiane Times indicated in September this year:

Laos-Myanmar bridge awaits juristic acts

Laos-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in Luang Namtha province in the northern parts of the country has yet to become an official international border as the juristic acts between the two countries have not been completed.
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Subscribed
Jan 16, 2003
12,803
3,320
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
The bridge is still not open internationally because they can't agree on the border!


Border issue delays Myanmar-Lao bridge trade


A newly built Myanmar-Lao friendship bridge remains closed while authorities on both sides struggle to agree on where the border demarcation should lie.

The presidents of Myanmar and Laos opened the bridge, which connects Shan state’s Tachilek district to Long district in the Lao province of Luang Namtha, in May last year to boost commerce between the two nations and allow more direct trade with Thailand, Vietnam and China.

The bridge is symbolic because it will be the first time in recent years that the two countries have been connected by an official border trading point and Myint Oo, chair of the Tachilek Border Trade Chamber of Commerce, told the Myanmar Times that Myanmar officials are eagerly awaiting the start of trade.

But there have been delays in surveying and agreeing on the border line, and despite the bridge’s completion last year it is still not open to commerce, he said.

Shan state chief minister Linn Htut has been presented with the case for allowing trade flows across the bridge to begin as soon as possible, he added.

But the authority to agree on the border line lies with the Myanmar government, and a final agreement is likely to require a memorandum of understanding between the two countries.

While authorities on both sides struggle to agree on where the border demarcation should lie.

The presidents of Myanmar and Laos opened the bridge, which connects Shan state’s Tachilek district to Long district in the Lao province of Luang Namtha, in May last year to boost commerce between the two nations and allow more direct trade with Thailand, Vietnam and China.

The bridge is symbolic because it will be the first time in recent years that the two countries have been connected by an official border trading point and Myint Oo, chair of the Tachilek Border Trade Chamber of Commerce, told the Myanmar Times that Myanmar officials are eagerly awaiting the start of trade.

But there have been delays in surveying and agreeing on the border line, and despite the bridge’s completion last year it is still not open to commerce, he said.

Shan state chief minister Linn Htut has been presented with the case for allowing trade flows across the bridge to begin as soon as possible, he added.

But the authority to agree on the border line lies with the Myanmar government, and a final agreement is likely to require a memorandum of understanding between the two countries.

While the immediate benefit of an open bridge would be greater trade with Laos, the bridge would also help join Myanmar with Vietnam, by creating a road link connecting the Kyaukphyu deepsea port and special economic zone in Myanmar’s Rakhine state with the Haiphong seaport in Vietnam. The zone is due to be developed by a consortium of Chinese companies, though progress has been slow.

Trade with China would also be simplified if the bridge was to open. At present, Chinese imports to Myanmar come through the Mong La border point, in a largely lawless city in a region controlled by the United Wa State Army and an affiliated group.

Imports and exports across this border point are hit with an additional tax, which Chinese importers are willing to pay but Myanmar exporters are not.

Instead, Myanmar exporters wanting to reach China transport their goods to the Khlong Toey port in Bangkok, where they are then shipped out of the Gulf of Thailand and across the South China Sea to their final destination.

If trade can pass over the friendship bridge this opens up a new overland route to China for Myanmar exporters.

“If they want to re-export Thai-made products or export Myanmar minerals, they can load them on trucks trucks on their way to China after passing over the [friendship] bridge,” said Myint Oo.


Source: Myanmar Times. 7th July 2016.
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Subscribed
Jan 16, 2003
12,803
3,320
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
22 August 2018
An update on the border that may finally see the opening of this international border crossing.

VIENTIANE, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Laos and Myanmar have approved the 12th map of the border between the two countries, which they will use as an annex to the agreement on a permanent borderline dated June 11, 1994.

According to local daily Vientiane Times on Monday, the approval took place at the 13th meeting of Lao-Myanmar Border Authorities at Central Level held in northern Laos' Luang Prabang province on Wednesday and Thursday.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sengphet Houngboungnouang led Lao delegates while the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar U Myint Thu led the Myanmar delegation at the meeting.

"The extension of the cooperation ties will not only bring economic benefit to people living along the border but will also promote the peace and prosperity of the two nations as well as of the region," said a statement from the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The two sides also highly valued the past year's implementation of the minutes of the 12th meeting of the Lao-Myanmar Border Authorities at Central Level.

They discussed issues relating to cooperation between border officials from the two countries, particularly the use of border papers, border passes, border trade, management and inspection of border markers, drug trafficking control, and maritime trade in the Mekong River.

Source: Xinhua 20 August 2018​

An earlier image from the bridge inauguration
Myanmar-Laos-Friendship-Bridge.jpg
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Subscribed
Jan 16, 2003
12,803
3,320
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
An "odd report" from the Myanmar Times 8 November 2018

Myanmar-Laos border gate receives international status

The border gate between Myanmar and Laos has been upgraded and given international status, according to the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population.

The ministry has upgraded the Wan Pong check point in Tachilek, Shan State, making it an international border entry point for Myanmar and Laos. It has also opened the Myanmar-Laos Friendship Bridge since September under a border cooperation agreement with the Laotians.

The Myanmar-Laos Friendship Bridge links Kyainglap (Kenglap) in Tachileik district and Xieng Kok in Luang Namtha, Laos.

The border agreement will allow citizens of the two countries and third country national travelers to cross the border between Myanmar and Laos through Wan Pong with the necessary visas or passports.

The Myanmar-Laos Friendship Bridge was actually completed during the previous government’s term, however negotiations between both sides on third country national entry and border issues has taken more than three years, U Naung Naung Han, general secretary of Union of Myanmar Travel Association told The Myanmar Times.

The Wan Pong check point is the seventh international border gate where third country national travelers with passports and visas can pass through after Myawaddy, Kawthaung, Htee Khee, Tachileik, Tamu and Rikhawdar in Myanmar.

Before the upgrade, citizens from the two countries crossed the Myanmar-Laos border with limited access.

There are also no direct flights between Myanmar and Laos, so third country travelers have hd to pass Thailand either by air or land to enter Myanmar. “Now we can arrange trips for travelers from the two countries without passing through a third country and tourists can also depart through Myanmar at the new international gate,” U Naung Naung Han said.

Notably, Russian travelers have shown interest in this new Myanmar-Laos market and a lot of enquiries for tour groups to pass through the Wan Pong gate have been made recently, he said.

“We are planning two-week travel itineraries for tourists passing through the two countries,” he said.

The new route will provide new opportunities for caravan tour operators in Myanmar because they can now directly drive to Cambodia and Vietnam from Myanmar through Laos via the Wan Pong checkpoint, U Kyaw Min Oo, managing director of Equal Link Tours told The Myanmar Times.

“We had to go through the Thai border before. But now we are able to go where we want without passing through Thailand. That will be very effective for tourism,” he said. Each entry into Thailand is US$250.

The tour company is already planning to land tours to six countries including Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam in 2019 as well as new itineraries for Laos-Myanmar caravan tours.

U Aung Pyi Phyo, managing director of Marvellous Memory Travel and Tours said “there are now more opportunities for tourism to be developed at the border areas with the opening of new border gates and more job opportunities are also created. We can easily travel to neighboring countries over land which will also improve trade relations.”

Myanmar-Laos border gate receives international status

Comment. No one in Laos says the situation has really changed. There are no Foreign Affairs staff at the bridge on the Laos side to issue a visa, only Customs and Immigration staff. So perhaps you could exit Laos from there, but how do you get a visa on arrival & a permit for your bike to enter Myanmar? You would still need to go via a tour company in advance - to enter Laos or to enter Myanmar. Exiting could be ok, but entering the other side is still a problem without prior approval.