COME SEE The Buddha Bamboo Bridge, Pai. Thailand.
BUDDHA BAMBOO BRIDGE: THE GUIDE
REGION: Mae Hong Son Province
ACCESSIBILITY: Open 24 hrs, arrive by private scooter
BEST TIME TO VISIT: During the cool season (end Nov -Feb). Early in the morning or sunset?
LOCATION: 3 hours from Chiang Mai | 25 mins from Pai Open in Google Maps
WALKING DISTANCE: 0.8km
TIME REQUIRED: 30 minutes return (allow 1-2 hours for a leisurely stroll and grab a drink)
TOURIST RATING: Popular tourist site.
COST: By donation.
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BUDDHA BAMBOO BRIDGE: THE EXPERIENCE
Before you can appreciate the beauty of the Bamboo Bridge I think its important we take a very brief look into why this structure exists. The bridge spans multiple rice fields whose land was graciously donated by the farmers so that the local villagers could build a structure to make it easier for the monks to reach the local town. Every day the monks visit the town with small wooden bowls to receive donations usually in the form of food. Isn’t it a beautiful thing to hear of a community that all work to support each other?
Located just 10 km from Pai, don’t be fooled by the Google Maps estimated of time. Getting to the the Buddha Bamboo Bridge takes a little longer than you would expect due to the quality of the road you’ll be riding to get there. The 1095 highway… is fine, its the road after that you’ll need full concentration for because of its continually changing conditions; especially if your an inexperienced rider. From a sturdy concrete slab with large cracks in some parts you’ll also encounter a mixture of broken road, large stones and loose gravel with steep bending inclines. Throw in a 5 meter wide mud/clay puddle and sections of the road that dip to allow river water to flow over top and you’ll have a pretty accurate description of what the trip to the Bamboo Bridge during rainy season looks like. This reality might scare some and it might entice others, but if you trust your riding skills you’ll actually enjoy the adventure. And you’ll be rewarded with the beautiful greenery once you reach the Bamboo Bridge and surrounding rice fields.
Upon arrival you’ll see no designated parking so just pull your scooter up beside the road and walk towards the small open air cafe. There’s a path that takes you past some more small stalls and towards the entry to the bridge. There is a donation box at the start where we urge you to give at least 100 Baht ($4AUD) per person to help pay for the materials needed for the bridge maintenance and the farmers that put in the work. When we visited there was about 8-12 retirement aged men removing old broken pieces bamboo and replacing them with fresh strong pieces using just one hand tool.
It was early afternoon, sunny and hot when we arrived so I was glad to see a small cafe set out among the fields. We ordered our ‘energisers’ AKA Late and Mango Shake and enjoyed them in the shade before taking to the bridge. I read on trip advisor that if you visit Pai during hot season your experience will differ greatly because the farmers burn the remnants of their fields after harvesting leaving a grim brown landscape behind. But we visited at a perfect time of year as the rice paddies were full, green and l-l-luuushhh (Are you sick of that word yet?).
Whilst the first half of the bridge is the most well maintained and beautiful I had hopes that we might see a monk after seeing some great shots some lucky bastard on Tripadvisor took. Granted they said the monks make their trip to the temple early in the mornings around 6am and it was now just after midday, we continued the walk til the end anyway.
At the second last rest point, sitting on the of the back of the seat was a monks robe. Did he take it off and walk right past us unnoticed? Or did he get caught mid way through a nudie run in the dark of the night and not have time to grab it? I’m not sure, but I felt like I was on a ghost chase with an imaginary Thailande figure. We called it after sitting for a bit and seeing nothing to began the ride back down the mountain and on to our next destination for the day which was Pam Bok Waterfall. Which we would advise to drive right on by, unless you suffer from FOMO then stop in; see the murky muddy waters and leave again 🙂 You’re welcome.
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