August 19, 2016

Three Bridges in Myanmar of world fame Part II


(Continued from Part I)
To the east of the Lake, on a vast land amidst the local villages is Yadanapon University, founded about 3 decades ago. A portion of the lake was drained off and land filled to construct a motor road across the lake. The lake and natural surrounding were very badly spoiled. In High monsoon the lake’s flood water spilled over to Yadanapon University making classrooms un-usable. In summer because the water is reduced, water transport in the lake faces difficulties. Recently, there is media report that fishes and other watery creatures die due to pollution.
Today with the boom of Myanmar tourism, U Pein Wooden Bridge has become a business centre, shops, esteries, cafeterias, beer bars, fermented toddy juice huts, local snacks, souvenir shops, sellers of local products cotton, silk clothings even Tshirts and jeans of foreign brand plus of course jewelleries of precious and semi-precious stones at bargain prices.
It is hoped that Tourism and public awareness combined will sustain U Pein Wooden Bridge.
In Hsipaw District of Northern Shan in Myanmar, there is a Village named ‘’Ngokhteik’’ in Myanmar and ‘’Nokwat’’ in Shan pronunciations. The place where the Village is situated is the place where rivers and streams go under-ground and disappear. So the place came to be called by Shans ‘’Ho-kwat’’ {Ngok-hteik}. In course of time ‘’Ngok’’ corrupted to ‘’Gok’’ and the name became ‘’Gokhteik’’.
Of the disappeared rivers and streams, a subterranean river called ‘’Nam Pasei’’ {Chaung-son River}, emerges above ground at another place, Gok-hteik earns world  wide reputation not  only because of the subterranean River, but also because of the world’s second highest Bridge named ‘’Gokhteik Bridge.’’
In the heydays of British colonialism in Asia there were pressure groups behind the British Government to pursue ‘’forward policy’’ in the expansion of the British Empire to the furthest limit. These pressure groups were mercantile communities, maritime and trans-border traders and military strategists. They exerted their influence upon the policy makers of the British Government by means of their financial tentacles and security reason. When the British Home Government in London which was in favour of “thus far and no further policy’’ and the British Colonial Government head quarted in  India which held the “Forward Policy’’. clashed, it was always the British Colonial Government which overruled on the ground of being “on the spot Government which know the real situation very well’’.
Transport and communication were the two in-dispersible necessities in the pursuit of “forward policy’’ of British imperialism. In the Sub-continent of India the push to the furthest limit to the north brought British Colonial Power into confrontation with the Czarist Russia and  Manchu China. The so-called Himalayan States such as Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan were firstly turned into buffer, but later by alternate use of diplomacy and show of force {Localised War} the British converted these states into a sort  of protectorates. Networks of communications were set up for the promotion of trade in peace time and in the event of war, strategic and tactical operations were kept in readiness.
Myanmar became a part of the British Indian Empire after 1885 A.D. Its geographical proximity to China {only over 40 miles between Myanmar border town Bhamo in Kachin State and Yunanfu, Chinese border town in Yunan Provinces of China} had allured western merchants to the Sino-Myanmar trans-border trade since the days of the Dutch presence in the East Indies and mainland South-east Asia. At the peak of Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom, over produced textiles of Yorkshire and Lancashire badly needed export market. China with population boom provided that need. Besides, by the turn of the 20th century the British exploitation of the resources of Myanmar had aleady been in full swing. The Ruby mines of Mogok and the Bawdwin {Silver mines} of Namtu were being worked by Mogok-Ruby Mines Co and Namtu Silver Mines Co of the British entrepreneurs.
In addition to the economic interest of the british mercantile community, the British Raj in the heyday of British imperialism were constantly obsessed with the security and defence of the far-flung British Empire. The French had their Empire in Indo-China in which Cambodia, Laos, Siam and Anan-Tokin [now Viet Nam] are Myanmar’s eastern neighbors. Though by means of diplomacy, the British concluded an Entant-cordiale with their colonial rival French by dividing the peninsular South-east Asia into two spheres, keeping Siam as a buffer between them the two were always security conscious. Hence mobility of British Land and Sea forces to the needed places in the event of threat of war or outbreak of war demanded good communication and transport.
Shan State is the largest in Myanmar. East North and South parts are divided naturally by high mountains, deep ravines, rapid rivers, under-ground streams and mighty falls. Their local products-minerals, precious and semi-precious stones, forest products and tea plus customs duties of border trade provided enormous revenue for the British Government.
The backdrop described above promoted the construction of the railway between Mandalay and Lashio in which Gok-hteik Bridge was the most important link. The Bridge was built in 1903 at the railway mile stone No. 463/09-a distance of 7 miles past Naung Cho rail-way station on the Mandalay-Lashio rail-way line. Unlike other bridge which cross stream and rivers. Gokhteik Bridge crosses two great ravines, each over 300 feet deep.
See page 9>>
>>from page 8
The great Bridge was designed by Sir A.M.Rendel and Co. of London, England and Pennsylvania and Maryland Bridge and construction Co of U.S.A constructed the Bridge. Construction materials were shipped from New York, U.S.A. Thick jungles were cleared and with many difficulties the Bridge was constructed crossing very steep and high ravines. But it took only nine months to complete construction.
A total of 4311 tons of iron and steel and one and a half million iron wedges were used. Ten 120 foot oblong iron frames, seven 60 ton oblong iron frames, sixteen 40 ton posts oblong iron frames and sixteen steel posts from the main structure. The Bridge is 2260 feet long and the height from the lowest ground level to the rail line on the bridge is 1100 feet high. It is learnt that under the post No. 12 of the bridge an under-ground stream flows. From that stream to the bridge is 870 feet high.
The total cost of the construction of the Bridge was Indian Rupees [1698200] or English pounds [113200]. This Bridge not only provides an important link in transport and communication between Myanmar Proper and Northern Shan State, but also a major transport rail way line to  Namtu Silver Mines.
When the Second World War reached Myanmar, the Japanese army invaded Myanmar and the British retreated to India. The British bombed the bridge when they used ‘’scorch earth’’ tactics during their retreat. Again, when the Japanese invaders had to retreat in the last phase of the Second World War they exploded the Bridge.
When the Second World War was over, and Myanmar regained her independence, the Department of Myanmar Railways repaired and renovated the Bridge. The repair and renovation work began in 1948 and completed in 1950. In August of 1950 the Bridge was back into operation. The cost of repair was Myanmar kyats 32 hundered thousands.
Gokhteik Bridge crossing deep ravines with sub-terranean stream and rivers flowing right under is foundation is the marvel of the world. It was the favorite object of visual and performing artists. Gok-hteik bridge appeared in travelogues, photographs and paintings of the world. The Bridge was sung, and shown in songs and in films.
The writer of this article still re-captures Myanmar stant films in which film heroes Tin Pe, Tin Ngwe, Tin Swe, Chit Swe and Shwe Ba showing their stant while riding the train crossing Gokhteik Bridge.
Among songs sung in praise of Gok-hteik Bridge one particular hit was named ‘‘Kamboza’’ composed by Nan-daw Shey Saya Tin and sung by a nationally famed singer-dancer Liberty Mya Yin. The following are some excerpts and chorus:-

စမ်း စမ်း ကြည်ကြည်လင်    “Crystal clear Brook
တောကြိုက၊ တောကြားက၊    Cascading from Jungle nooks
စီးကျပါတဲ့ရေသွင်သွင်       Constantly flowing down and down
သနားစရာ၊တနေဝင်၊    Day in, day out creating nostalgia.
ရှမ်းမကလေး၊ လမ်းပြပေး     Petite Shan girl is a guide
စိတ်တွေးယဉ်ယဉ်      So he thinks of me with delight
သြော်သြော်သြော်၊ သြော်သြော်     He is Nan Shay Ko Gyi Tin.
မြှော် မြှော် မြှော် မြှော်
ပုဝါကလေးသိုင်းလို့         Dressing me with a scarf around.
ပလိုင်းကိုတဲ့လွယ်တင်ရှင်     And a Paline basket on shoulders down
နန်းရှေ့ကိုကြီးတင်က၊         Me, his sister Liberty Mya Yin.
နှမကလေး လေဘာတီကိုဆင်


သိန်းနီနဲ့လားရှိုးက     In Theinni and Lashio towns
ရွာဖြိုးအုံ့ဆင်၊     Clouds are gathering to rain down.
ခါမိုးဟုတ်မထင်     It couldn’t be seasonal rain.
ရွာဖြိုးအုံ့ဆင်     Gokhteik of Kamboza on tops glides
ကမ္ဘောဇ၊ ဂုတ်မြတ်မ River Duthawaddy is always alive.

Gokhteik bridge today [2016] is 113 years old [1903-2016] deserving its rightful entry not only in the Guinness Book of world wonders but also in UNESCO engravings of World Cultural heritage.
To be continued…..


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