After many premature reports, the new bridge across the Mekong River linking Laos and Thailand is now very close to being opened to traffic. Located about six kilometres southeast of the twin-towns of Huay Xai and Chiang Khong, the fourth Friendship Bridge across the Mekong measures 630 metres long and 14.7 metres wide, providing two lanes each way. The access point on the Thai side is at the small village of Ban Don Mahawan. The site was visited by the authors on 12 July 2013.

Construction of the bridge is expected to be completed in September. Work on the Immigration and Customs facilities on each side, as well as four-lane sealed roads from each end to Huay Xai and Chiang Khong respectively, should be finished in November. The road to Huay Xai will then link with the R3 highway, which runs from Boten on the China-Laos border through north-western Laos, and which was opened in March 2008. These projects are the core of the North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC), which will link China’s Yunnan Province with Bangkok and thence Singapore.

The new bridge is scheduled to be officially opened on 11 December (rendered auspiciously as 11.12.13).