The Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge – Building Friendship Across Borders
The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge is one of the major bridges that extends borders between Thailand, and the Vientiane. The Thai Lao Friendship bridge has played an instrumental role in bridging gaps in economic, tourism, trade, cultural exchange, investment, logistics, and transportation for the two above mentioned countries. This friendship bridge helps in bridging gaps and improving the friendship between Thailand, Laos, and Australia.
Thailand’s northern neighbor, Laos is a mountainous and landlocked country that had lost the attention of visitors and tourists for a long time. Post the opening of the Thai-Laos friendship bridge; there is a significant rise in the tourism sector in Laos. The main features of Laos that attract several tourists is the laid-back lifestyle and breath-taking landscapes & natural vistas. Flights between Thailand and Laos can be expensive at times. Hence people use the friendship bridge as one of the economical and easy ways to cross the border from either side.
In 1956, the idea of building the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge connecting Thailand and Laos was put across. The idea was conceptualized post the joint leader’s communique in Laos in 1988. In 1989, the Australian Prime Minister, HE Bob Hawke helped the funding for the construction of the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge with the help of respective representatives from Thailand and Laos. Post the MOU signed in Thailand; the feasibility studies were conducted by top engineering firms in Australia. John Holland Construction Pty Ltd was allotted the responsibility of building this friendship bridge.
In 1991, the foundation stone was laid, and it took two and a half years to complete the task. The Thailand president inaugurated the bridge. In 1994, finally, the Thai Lao Friendship bridge was launched for public use. The year 2009 saw the opening of the Lao Thai railway network that eased the accessibility between Laos and Thailand. On its 15th anniversary, Australia joined Thailand and Laos in the grand celebrations.
Spread lavishly over a length of 1170 meters; there are two one and a half meter wide footpaths on either side of the two three and a half wide meters road. There is a single meter gauge railway network connecting down the center. Six foundations are supporting the bridge from the river bed, each placed 105 meters apart. There are two foundations in addition to the six primary foundations for supporting the bridge from either end. The fifteen columns placed along the edges or sides on either side further enhance the support of the bridge. Eight columns and Seven columns are placed on the Thai side and Laos side respectively.
Economic Contributions & Benefits
There have been significant economic contributions and developments on either side post the construction of this friendship bridge. This has also played a key role in enhancing the economic relations between the two countries. The commodities were easily transported from one port to another using this bridge. This bridge plays a vital role in trade and a symbol of the commitment shown by the Australian government for fostering development in the region. Value of imports and exports before the bridge was open was 3.6 billion baht. The next year post the launch; the amount has jumped by 34%. As per the 2011 figures, the value is stated to be 43 billion baht.
The year 1994 saw 13,518 vehicles entering and 13,455 vehicles leaving the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge. The number jumped to 47,293 vehicles arriving and 48,658 vehicles departing in the following year, 1995. As per the figures captured in 2011, 419,659 vehicles were entering, and 424,841 vehicles were leaving via the friendship bridge.
In 1994, 55,085 people entered Thailand, and 50,100 departed. In 1995, the figures rose to 293,126 arrivals and 292,462 departures. By 2011, there were close 2,713,495 arrivals and 2,657,100 departures.
Crossing the Friendship Bridge
Frequent bus service is provided for all the visitors and tourists to cross the bridge from either side. No one is permitted to cross the bridge by foot. The Thai-Lao Friendship bridge is considered to be a part of the AH12 Asian Highway Network. The fare for the bus service is 20 Baht. Within a matter of few minutes, you can easily cover the distance of 1.17 km between the two immigration checkpoints. The bridge is open daily from 6 am to 10 pm. Traffic on the Thai side drives on the left, whereas the Laos side drives on the right. Traffic lights control the traffic changeover just before the border post on the Laos side. Visitors and tourists can travel on either side of the road using bicycles and tricycles.
Penalty and Departure taxes for overstay
If you are planning for an extended stay, pay the departure tax before crossing the borders. The amount is free for Thailand and 10,000 kip for Laos. A card or ticket is provided on payment of output taxes that entitles visitors and tourists to cross the bridge.
Immigration across the Friendship Bridge
On crossing Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, the visitors and tourists would reach the respective immigration area of the country they have arrived. Depending on your nationality, you can process your visa on arrival. Thailand visa is granted for a 15-day stay post the stamp and 30 days if the applicant arrives via plane.