Places - May 25, 2019 | 06:00 pm PT

Vietnam’s love affair with centuries-old bridges  

These five bridges have stood the test of time and witnessed the changes to a country that rose up from bombs and bullets.  

Mong Bridge

Mong Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Saigon and a popular hangout for young couples. Photo by Shutterstock/Huy Thoai

Spanning the Ben Nghe Canal between Districts 1 and 4, Mong is the only surviving pedestrian bridge in Ho Chi Minh City built during the French colonial period and is one of the oldest bridges in Saigon.

It was built in 1893-94 by French company Levallois Perret. The 128-meter bridge was originally black and served both pedestrians and vehicles.

In 2005, Mong was removed to make room for construction of the Saigon River Tunnel connecting Districts 1 and 2. Afterwards, the bridge was reassembled following its original design, but the paths leading to the bridge were demolished and replaced with stairs for pedestrians. 

The bridge and the neighborhood have become a venue for local people to start a new day with morning exercises, book reading and fishing. When night falls, couples sit down together along the bridge, groups of young people gather for chatting, dancing, singing while the elderly go for a walk.

Ghenh Bridge

Built in 1909 by the French, the 223-meter Ghenh Bridge across the Dong Nai River has a railroad track in the middle and narrow lanes on both sides enough only for motorbikes.

The bridge has not only served as part of the national railway system linking the south with the north, but also as a symbol of Dong Nai Province.

It connects Buu Hoa Commune with Hiep Hoa Commune in Bien Hoa Town, the capital of Dong Nai, southern Vietnam.

In March 2016 the bridge collapsed after being hit by an 800-ton barge, cutting off the train link. Repairs to the 100-year-old bridge have been fast-tracked and completed 15 days earlier than previously planned.

The new railway bridge at an estimated cost of $13 million was officially opened to traffic in June the same year.

Pagoda Bridge

Tourists visit the 400-year-old Pagoda Bridge, one of the iconic tourist attractions in the ancient town of Hoi An. Photo by Shutterstock/anhanh

With a history of over four centuries, Chua Cau (Pagoda Bridge) is one of the iconic attractions in the ancient town of Hoi An, which welcomes 7,000 visitors a day during the peak season.

It was built in the early 17th century by Japanese traders who once made up a large part of the town’s population, hence the name Japanese Bridge.

A small shrine was built at one end of the bridge in 1653 to worship the God of Weather, who was believed to have the power to prevent natural calamities and bring happiness and wealth to people, and since then many have called it the Pagoda Bridge.

The 18-meter bridge over a small canal that runs into the Thu Bon River has badly deteriorated in recent years despite seven attempts to restore it. Many poles and beams supporting the structure have rotted and cracked, and some have been replaced with iron.

The bridge's distinct architecture is a symbol of Hoi An.

Truong Tien Bridge

Truong Tien Bridge spanning the Huong (Perfume) River is a symbol of the former imperial capital of Hue. Photo by Shutterstock/Huy Thoai

Over 100 years have passed and Truong Tien Bridge in the former imperial capital of Hue still stands proud over the Huong (Perfume) River, a witness to history and the many scars from the wars with the French and American invaders.

Built in 1899 during the reign of King Thanh Thai, the 10th emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, the 400-meter bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the architect who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty in New York.

It has undergone several repairs to damages caused by natural disasters and wartime bombings.

In 2017, authorities in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue stated that they planned to ban vehicle traffic on the Truong Tien Bridge on weekends and make the bridge a pedestrian-only area.

Long Bien Bridge

Long Bien Bridge was completed in 1902 with lanes for traffic running on both sides of a railway track. 

The 2.29-kilometer Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi was built between 1899 and 1902 by the French during their colonial time and was the first steel bridge over the Red River.

It played a crucial role in many important historic events, including the independence wars, as it was the only bridge over the Red River then.

The bridge was initially called the Doumer Bridge after Paul Doumer, the French Governor-General of Indochina in 1897. At the time of construction, it was one of the world's largest bridges.

After the country’s liberation, it was renamed Long Bien Bridge.

Photo by Cao Anh Tuan

Over its 100 years the bridge has been a witness to many changes, and become a symbol of Vietnam's history.

Designed by Gustave Eiffel, Long Bien Bridge boasts a unique shape that cannot be mistaken for any other. It is more than just a bridge; in fact, it is a charming piece of art that helps add to Hanoi's charisma.

Story by Nguyen Quy