Myanmar / Burma Travel Update
Since I was there, the situation in Myanmar/Burma has changed a lot. In February 2021, a military coup sparked widespread civil unrest and armed conflict.
The U.S. State Department currently advises: "Do not travel to Burma due to civil unrest and armed conflict." You can find their full travel advisory and security alerts here. And you can find the British Foreign Office's travel advice for Myanmar / Burma here.
U Bein Bridge isn’t the sturdiest engineering structure you’ve ever seen, but that it exists—and has existed so long—is quite the marvel itself. It’s three-quarters of a mile long and is reputed to be the longest teak bridge in the world. It’s a footbridge, so there aren’t any cars or scooters to contend with, but since it has become one of the region’s leading attractions it can get jam-packed with tourists, especially at sunset.
The bridge spans Taungthaman Lake near the ancient capital of Amarapura. Once the royal capital, it has now become absorbed into the city of Mandalay. The bridge dates to around 1850 and is named after the mayor who commissioned its construction, U Bein. (U is a Burmese honorific roughly similar to Mister, although it’s not automatic but rather earned, and it connotes someone respected in the community.)
The structure was originally built with reclaimed teak from a nearby palace, although some of the original pillars have since been replaced with concrete. But a surprising number of the wooden pillars remain in place and lend the bridge its rickety look.
When the water level is high during the rainy season the walkway isn’t that far out of the water. But during the winter dry season, when the water level drops markedly, the bridge stands high above the ground and the remaining water of the lake.
The bridge is still heavily trafficked by local pedestrian traffic, but it’s also now a major tourist draw, especially at sunset. Small wooden boats chartered by tourists flow under and around the bridge and line up on the western side just before the sun lowers behind the silhouette of the bridge.
The western bank is jammed with vendors selling souvenirs, tour drivers killing time, and restaurants prepping food in the hope of catching some of the traffic coming off the bridge after the sun sets.
Photos of Myanmar’s U Bein Bridge
What to Know Before You Go
Tickets. You don’t need to buy tickets. You can wander across at will. Recognizing the value of tourism, the government has installed a police presence.
Boat Charters. If you’d like to charter one of the small wooden boats (that come with a driver, of course), you can do it at the foot of the bridge on the western bank. At sunset, competition for boats can be tough, so a safer bet is to pre-book one–your hotel or guide can help arrange that. The boats aren’t big–they can fit 4-5 people and you can board them at the dock on the western bank or arrange for the boat to meet you at one of the landings part-way along the bridge.
Sunset. The highest chances of a clear sky are during the peak tourist months of January-February.
About U Bein Bridge
- U Bein Bridge is located in Amarapura, a former royal capital of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
- The bridge was built around 1850 by the mayor of Amarapura, U Bein, using reclaimed teak wood from the former royal palace in Inwa.
- Spanning 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles), U Bein Bridge is the world’s longest teakwood bridge.
- The bridge crosses Taungthaman Lake and is supported by over 1,000 wooden pillars, some of which are reinforced with concrete to ensure stability and longevity.
- U Bein Bridge is a vital pedestrian crossing for locals and has become a significant tourist attraction, drawing thousands of visitors each year.
- The bridge consists of several sections connected by platforms, with nine passageways that can be used as temporary shelters during heavy rain.
- U Bein Bridge is renowned for its picturesque setting, especially at sunrise and sunset when the wooden structure casts a beautiful reflection on the water.
- The bridge offers a unique insight into the daily life of local residents, as monks, fishermen, and traders can often be seen crossing the bridge.
- In addition to its cultural significance, U Bein Bridge also supports local biodiversity, as the surrounding lake and wetlands provide habitats for various bird species and other wildlife.
- Restoration and maintenance efforts have been undertaken periodically to preserve the bridge’s structural integrity and historical value.
U Bein Bridge FAQs
Where is U Bein Bridge located?
U Bein Bridge is located in Amarapura, Myanmar, approximately 11 km (6.8 miles) south of Mandalay.
How long is U Bein Bridge?
U Bein Bridge is approximately 1.2 km (0.75 miles) long, making it the longest and oldest teakwood bridge in the world.
When was U Bein Bridge built?
U Bein Bridge was built around 1850 during the reign of King Mindon, using reclaimed teakwood from the former royal palace in Inwa.
What is the best time to visit U Bein Bridge?
The best time to visit U Bein Bridge is during the dry season, which runs from November to February. The bridge is particularly stunning at sunrise or sunset, when you can witness the golden light reflecting off the water and the bridge itself.
Is there an entrance fee to visit U Bein Bridge?
No, there is no entrance fee to visit U Bein Bridge. It is a public space and open for everyone to enjoy.
How do I get to U Bein Bridge from Mandalay?
You can reach U Bein Bridge from Mandalay by taxi, motorcycle, or bicycle. It is approximately 11 km (6.8 miles) away, and the journey should take about 30 minutes by car or an hour by bicycle.
Are there any facilities or amenities at U Bein Bridge?
Yes, there are some facilities and amenities near U Bein Bridge, including restaurants, street food vendors, and souvenir shops. There are also public restrooms available for visitors.
Is U Bein Bridge accessible for people with disabilities?
Unfortunately, U Bein Bridge is not fully accessible for people with disabilities due to its narrow walkway and lack of railings. However, the area around the bridge can still be enjoyed and offers beautiful views of the bridge and the surrounding landscape.