The Ta-Pai Bridge is one of the attractions to visit on a day out in a rental car or motorbike from Pai Village. The Ta-Pai Bridge, also sometimes known as the Memorial Bridge, is 9.6 km from Pai Town on the main road which connects Pai Town to Chiang Mai.
A popular activity for visitors to Pai is to travel a circuit from Pai taking in a number of attractions on route including Coffee in Love, Pai Canyon, Tha Pae Hot Springs, and Chedi Phra That Mae Yen. The Ta-Pai Bridge is on the same route. The appearance of the bridge itself is not particularly interesting, although the surrounding scenery is very beautiful. The interesting part of the visit to Ta-Pai Bridge is its historical significance. Entrance to the bridge is free.
History of the Ta-Pai Bridge
The original Ta-Pai Bridge was constructed in 1941 using forced labour from the local Thai villages by the invading Japanese Armed Forces. The Japanese Army was attempting to construct a road route from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai to facilitate an invasion of Burma, which was at the time a British colony.
The Original Bridge
The original bridge was constructed using 30 inch wide logs dragged from the nearby jungle by elephants. When the Japanese Armed Forces were defeated their last act before leaving Pai was to burn down the original bridge – an act of sheer spite against the local Thai people who also used the bridge to travel over the Pai river.
Because of the importance of the bridge as a means of accessing Pai Town and delivering supplies to the area the locals came together in 1946 and rebuilt the bridge that the Japanese has burnt down. This second bridge lasted until 1973 when a particularly bad flood washed it away and most of Pai Town at the same time.
At this point, having already built two bridges, the locals decided that they needed a more permanent structure as a means of crossing the flood prone Pai River. As a consequence they petitioned the authorities in Chiang Mai for one of the steel bridges (the Nawarat Steel Bridge) then located in Chiang Mai city on the Ping River to be dismantled and reconstructed over the Pai River.
This process was completed in 1975, and this is the third bridge on the site and the one which is still in place today. The bridge is for this reason considered a famous symbol of the fortitude and persistence of the people of Pai against man made and natural challenges.