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 and it is about two metres wide.
Bamboo, rice and Buddhism sum up this region of Asia in an interesting way. No rice, no food. No bamboo no culture like an old Chinese saying goes. Then add Buddhism to it and you connect the rituals of life to the narrative. The Su Tong Pae bamboo bridge in Mae Hong Son does give you a feeling of the U-Bein teak bridge in Mandalay. It if is intentional or not I better leave it unsaid. The bridge is not built entirely of bamboo. The bamboo platform rests on teak piles.
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 small detour from the 1095 road.
There is a small parking for cars with a mini-mart that sells ice cream and drinks. Make sure 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.
We walked the whole way up and there was a memorial that day of the abbot of the monastery that passes 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 San 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 and 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!!
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 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.