The Bamboo Bridges of Luang Prabang: A Walk Across Tradition

The bamboo bridges are one of Luang Prabang’s most iconic sights and appear on many famous photos of the town.

They are built by a local family every year to make the journey from the old quarter of Luang Prabang to the main markets much easier.

Whilst they look a bit insecure they are actually remarkably sturdy. Bamboo is an incredibly strong material (2-3 times stronger than most timbers) and we saw it in use across Asia as scaffolding.

They are an incredible construction, with only ropes holding them together. No nails, concrete or steel here!

In this post I share everything I’ve learned about Luang Prabang’s famous bridges.

The Story of Luang Prabang’s Bamboo Bridges

a bamboo bridge over a river in luang prabang laos
Our photo from the banks of the river over the Luang Prabang Bridge

On the banks of (and over) the Nam Khan river in Luang, a remarkable tradition unfolds each year, a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of the local people – the construction of the seasonal bamboo bridges.

The bamboo bridges of Luang Prabang are not just feats of temporary engineering; they are woven into the very fabric of local culture and history. These bridges, constructed entirely from bamboo (a resource abundant in the region) rise with the dry season when the waters of the Nam Khan recede.

This annual ritual has its roots in the practical needs of the local communities. For generations, these bridges have been a lifeline, connecting the town’s residents to isolated villages and fertile farmlands across the river. Each bridge, meticulously handcrafted, stands as a symbol of the community’s harmony with nature and their adaptability to the changing seasons.

Despite their sturdy construction, these bridges are temporary. As the rainy season approaches, bringing with it the swelling of the river, the bridges are dismantled, only to be rebuilt the following year. This cycle of construction and deconstruction mirrors the rhythm of life along the river, a rhythm that has persisted for centuries.

These bamboo bridges are more than just structures; they are a celebration of the Laotian way of life.

They stand as a reminder of a simpler time, where the pace of life was dictated by the natural world. To walk across these bridges is to step into a living history, to experience a connection not only to the land but to the generations of Laotians who have crossed these waters before.

As Luang Prabang continues to evolve, with modernity touching its ancient streets, the bamboo bridges remain a steadfast symbol of the town’s enduring spirit and its deep connection to tradition and nature. They are not just crossings but destinations in their own right, inviting visitors from around the world to experience the timeless charm of Luang Prabang.

Where Are Luang Prabang’s Bamboo Bridges?

There is not just one bamboo bridge in Luang Prabang, there are two.

One is is at the mouth of Nam Khan river which is a tributary of the Mekong and is perfect for those incredible Laos sunsets.

The other bamboo bridge is about 600m upstream, at the bottom of Mount Phosi – which dominates this part of Luang Prabang – across from Sakkaline Road which is where the main Alms Giving ceremony takes place at sun-rise.

Please note, as mentioned above, the bridges are only in place for six months of the year. When it is rainy season (May to October) the bridges are removed and stored in a local forest because the water levels get too high and the current too strong.

🔥 HOT TIP: Be sure to visit the bridges at night as they are beautifully lit up.

How Much Does It Cost to Cross the Bridge?

There is a small charge for tourists to cross each of the bamboo bridges.

The one near the mouth of the river is 10,000 kip per person (around $1.15) for a return ticket.

The second bridge costs 7,000 kip per person (around $0.80). Make sure you keep the ticket so you don’t have to pay again when you come back.

This money goes towards maintenance of the bridge and paying a small salary to the local Lao family who rebuild it at the beginning of the dry season.

Whilst they are a photographic novelty for travellers, they are a lifeline for the local community so it only feels right to me that tourists should pay to help keep them going.

Dyen Sabai Restaurant and Bar

Dyen Sabai restaurant and bar is on the opposite bank of the Nam Khan river by the second bamboo bridge.

It is a great place to stop off with amazing views back down to the river. It can get very busy so if you’re heading over at a popular time of day it’s best to book in advance.

Alongside the normal restaurant tables are areas where you can lie out on cushions under canvas canopies. It’s amazing how quickly an afternoon can disappear with a Beer Lao in hand.

My recommendation is the Lao tasting platter or Laos BBQ and some local rice whisky, though go easy!

The Old French Bridge

entrance to the old french bridge in luang prabang

Aside from the bamboo bridges in Luang Prabang, there is also another river crossing that we thought was pretty cool.

The Old French Bridge (or just Old Bridge as it is known locally) dates back to the 1920s when Laos was a French colony and they were trying to make it easier to navigate.

his period marks Laos’ time as a French colony, during which the French colonial government invested in infrastructure to improve trade links. The Old French Bridge was part of these efforts, specifically designed to facilitate easier navigation and trade between Laos and Vietnam.

A video we recorded before crossing the bridge.

The bridge is very narrow with only scooters using it whilst we were there.

Pedestrians have to use narrow plank walkways which hang out over the muddy river on either side.

Not only were they a bit bouncy but there were a lot of planks completely missing! Whilst the views over the river are stunning it pays to keep your eyes looking forward as you may end up with an unexpected drop into the water.

I don’t know about you but I feel like Luang Prabang’s bamboo bridges are actually safer than this one!

the old french bridge in luang prabang

More Laos Guides

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Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.

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Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie

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