Pai memorial bridge

  • Direction board for Pai memorial bridge
  • Samlor at Pai memorial bridge
  • Tourists posing at Pai memorial bridge
  • Tourists crossing Pai memorial bridge
  • Pai memorial bridge structure
  • Steel producer of Pai memorial bridge
  • Samlor at Pai memorial bridge
  • Samlor at Pai memorial bridge
  • Pai memorial bridge structure
  • Pai memorial bridge
  • coffee shops and hotels on site
  • Concrete highway road alongside Pai memorial bridge

The town of Pai has evolved from a once haunt of backpacking hippes and intrepid travelers to a nice village with upscale accommodation, dining venues and music options, as well as a daily walking street where locals sell their food and crafts. While the surrounding mountains and jungles offer excellent chances to venture on a scenic trekking, mountain biking and trips to local hill tribes, there are a couple of attractions worth visiting, and one of these is the Pai memorial bridge.

Direction board for Pai memorial bridge

Direction board for Pai memorial bridge

The Tha Pai World War II Memorial Bridge, or Saphan Prawatsart Pai in Thai language, this antiquated-looking steel bridge is indeed a compulsory stop for tourists for a selfie or three, and is also an historical venue after all, though it is no longer the original one with a wooden structure that preceded the one you see now.

It was in 1943, during World War II, that Japanese forces started several projects to construct efficient troop, provisions and equipment transport routes between Thailand and Burma as part of their planned attacks on Imphal and Kohima in British Burma. The most infamous of these is the well-known Death Railway, but the route between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son through Pai was also strategically important at the times. The road linking Chiang Mai and Pai was quite rudimentary and the Pai bridge at the village of Ta-Pai had been erected as part of road improvement projects by the Thai government with elephants used to bring the trees from the jungle, and the Japanese looked into its extension and improvement using Prisoners of War.

Steel producer of Pai memorial bridge

Steel producer of Pai memorial bridge

These attempts were abandoned in early 1944 when it was clear that the Allies would had the upper-hand and the scheduled attack on Imphal resulted in a defeat. The Japanese army then burnt down Ta-Pai Bridge as they retreated using the uncompleted road.

Following the end of the War, locals re-erected the bridge naming it World War II Memorial Bridge; the bridge was strengthened and improved and lasted a few subsequent decades until it was destroyed by the severe flooding hitting the Pai district. It was after this that the Pai authorities asked the Chiang Mai local government permission to use the decommissioned Nawarat Bridge, which was transported Pai in 1975 and erected a year later.

Pai memorial bridge structure

Pai memorial bridge structure

The commonly referred to as Pai memorial bridge that tourists visit today only carries pedestrians and runs alongside an adjacent concrete road bridge on Highway 1095 used by vehicles to cross the Pai river. Its steel structure is still strong, yet some of the rickety wooden floorboards are damaged and visitors need to pay attention not to catch their footing, though they get regularly repaired and patched up.

Tourists posing at Pai memorial bridge

Tourists posing at Pai memorial bridge

The bridge is indeed similar in structure to the more famous bridge over the river Kwai in the Kanchanaburi. On the bridge are a few vintage samlors (three-wheeled bikes) that provide posing positions for photo shooting and selfies, and you get a nice views of the rice fields nearby. A popular local dressed as Jack Sparrow works his daily routine posing for photographs for a fee. On both sides of the bridge, there are local markets selling food and tacky tourist stuff, and a couple of coffee shops and hotels. Down on the river banks, a local company offers rafting activity along the Pai river.

Pai Memorial Bridge is located 9km south of Pai at kilometer marker 88 on highway 1095 on the Chiang Mai – Mae Hong Son road.

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About the author

Thomas has a university background in the UK and in Latin America, with studies in Languages and Humanities, Culture, Literature and Economics. He started his Asian experience as a publisher in Krabi in 2005. Thomas has been editing local newspapers and magazines in England, Spain and Thailand for more then fifteen years. He is currently working on several projects in Thailand and abroad. Apart from Thailand, Thomas has lived in Italy, England, Venezuela, Cuba, Spain and Bali. He spends most of his time in Asia. During the years Thomas has developed a great understanding of several Asian cultures and people. He is also working freelance, writing short travel stories and articles for travel magazines. Follow Thomas on www.asianitinerary.com

View all articles by Thomas Gennaro