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Built in the 19th Century, the U Bein Bridge is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world

David Goran

Situated in the ancient city of Amarapura, Mandalay Region, the U Bein Bridge is an impressive structure that stretches almost 1,200 meters across the Taungthaman Lake. Built from teak planks in the mid-1800’s , it is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world.

A historic structure that stretches 1,200 meters across the Taungthaman Lake. Photo Credit

A historic structure that stretches 1,200 meters across the Taungthaman Lake. Photo Credit

 

The oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. Photo Credit

The oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. Photo Credit

Amarapura is one of Myanmar’s former capitals. It was built by King Bodawpaya in 1783 and served as the centre of power until 1857 when the capital moved to Mandalay.

Construction began when the capital of Ava Kingdom moved to Amarapura, and the bridge is named after the mayor who had it built. Photo Credit

Construction began when the capital of Ava Kingdom moved to Amarapura, and the bridge is named after the mayor who had it built. Photo Credit

 

The bridge was actually built using teak wood reclaimed from the former Royal Palace. Photo Credit

The bridge was actually built using teak wood reclaimed from the former Royal Palace. Photo Credit

Construction on the wooden bridge was started in 1849 and finished in 1851. It was built by mayor U Bein around 1860 by salvaging Teak planks and columns from the former Inwa Palace at Amarapura, which was destroyed while moving the capital to Mandalay.

Myanmar construction engineers used traditional methods of scaling and measuring to build the bridge. Photo Credit

Myanmar construction engineers used traditional methods of scaling and measuring to build the bridge. Photo Credit

 

It is supported by more than 1,000 pillars and thousands of wooden planks. Photo Credit

It is supported by more than 1,000 pillars and thousands of wooden planks. Photo Credit

In history, the bridge was made entirely of wood. Now even though the bridge remains largely intact, there are fears that an increasing number of the pillars are becoming dangerously decayed, and so some have been replaced with concrete. Millions have been spent to maintain the bridge since the 1940s, with more than K22 million being spent since 2005.

Over time some of the pillars have been replaced by concrete piles to strengthen the structure. Photo Credit

Over time some of the pillars have been replaced by concrete piles to strengthen the structure. Photo Credit

 

There are nine passageways in the bridge, where the floors can be lifted to let boats and barges pass. Photo Credit

There are nine passageways in the bridge, where the floors can be lifted to let boats and barges pass. Photo Credit

 

Traditional boats. Photo Credit

Traditional boats. Photo Credit

In accordance with ancient methods of scaling and measuring, the bridge was built at a slight curve and is supported by over a thousand wooden pillars that were hammered into the bottom of the shallow lake. It features 1,086 pillars that stretch out of the water, some of which have been replaced with concrete.

The bridge has become one of the region's most popular tourist attractions. Photo Credit

The bridge has become one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions. Photo Credit

 

The 160-year-old bridge is undergoing repairs. Photo Credit

The 160-year-old bridge is undergoing repairs. Photo Credit

The bridge’s attraction is not simply in its structure, but that it remains a central part of the community, as hundreds of locals cross the lake daily to go to and return from work.