I have to admit; I have a special love for bridges. The fascination of a span that makes us overcome a physical obstacle, or like Nokia used to put it, “connecting people”. Asia is full of intriguing bridges, both modern and old. In this case, it is a bridge made of one of the oldest construction materials in Asia, bamboo.
The bamboo bridge in Mae Hong Sone is recently built, though. The name means successful prayer in the Shan language. Su Tong Pae spans 500 meters of delicate rice fields up to a Shan / Tai Yai monastery, about two metres wide.
Bamboo, rice, and Buddhism sum up this region of Asia in an exciting way. No rice, no food. No bamboo, no culture, like an old Chinese saying goes. Then add Buddhism to it and connect the rituals of life to the narrative.
The Su Tong Pae bamboo bridge in Mae Hong Son does give you a sense of the U-Bein teak bridge in Mandalay. It if is intentional or not, I’d better leave it unsaid. The bridge is not assembled entirely of bamboo. The bamboo platform rests on teak piles.
Location of the Su Tong Pae Bamboo bridge
This Bamboo bridge is located around 10 kilometres from Mae Hong Son. Not too far from The Fish Cave Forest Park. If you are on the way to Ban Rak Thai village, you can stop on the way. Otherwise, it is a slight detour from the 1095 road.
There is a small car parking with a mini-mart that sells ice cream and drinks. Ensure you get enough water and sun protection if you intend to walk to the monastery and back. At this parking, you also find decent toilets.
It is well worth walking up to Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma temple and monastery. It was built to serve the monks in the village of Ban Gun Mai Sai and this temple.
Wat Tam Poo Sa monestary
We walked the whole way up, and there was a memorial that day of the monastery’s abbot that passed away maybe a year ago. We were invited to have lunch with the monks and villagers, but we were already late for Ban Rak Thai village, so, unfortunately, we couldn’t join. The views overlooking the valley is just stunning. The small coffee shop was not open, but there is a beautiful elaborately decorated angel-like Buddha(very similar to the Shan Buddhas you can see on Inlay lake in Myanmar) in the temple and some modern installations around the area.
In the morning, there are sometimes alms given to the monks on the bridge. It is also popular among photographers to show up this particular time to catch the contrast of orange and brown dressed monks with the framing of the bridge, mountains and the rice paddies. The month of October and early November is highly recommended to visit here. Do be careful when you walk the bridge, though!!
Avoid walking if the bridge is crowded!
A few years ago, during the celebration of Wan Ok Pansa, the end of the Buddhist Lent, the bridge collapsed due to the pressure of too many people on the bridge at the same time. There were 29 monks on the bridge at the time.
My daughter stepped a bit too close to the edge of the bridge, and the bamboo platform gave in. She managed to hold on to the edge, though, so that we could pull her up. So navigate carefully.
After the walk, we sat down by the small shop where the bridge starts for a drink, some dumplings and ice cream. The walk from the car parking is less than 5 minutes away.