The Vietnamese Monkey Bridge

One of Viet Nam’s most unusual and iconic images… the Monkey Bridge!

What in the world is a Monkey Bridge?

A Monkey Bridge (‘cầu khỉ’) is a traditional, handmade, wood or bamboo walkway built across rivers or gullies in Viet Nam. These bridges sometimes consist of just one piece of wood or bamboo log, either with or without handrails. They can be very difficult and dangerous to cross for those who are not familiar with them, but for those locals who live nearby, they cross these bridges with ease as part of their daily lives.

Monkey bridges are most commonly built across rivers in the Mekong Delta. You can also see the bridges in the coastal areas of the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam, built across streams and rice fields. The “Monkey Bridge”, like the Ao Dai, is a uniquely Vietnamese traditional symbol. This style of bridge was the inspiration for the title of a popular novel called Monkey Bridge, published in 1997 and written by Vietnamese American attorney and writer Lan Cao.

Why is it called a ‘Monkey Bridge’?

This is a question to which there is no definitive answer. Some suggest it is because they are so difficult that you need to be an agile monkey to make it across without falling off. Others suggest the name comes from the posture most people assume when trying to cross one. People bend over and hang on tight like a monkey, to make sure they don’t fall into the river below.

The Monkey Bridge in current times:

The Government is slowly being replacing the monkey bridges throughout Viet Nam with concrete structures. These may well be safer and much easier to cross, but are certainly much less interesting and beautiful. Some locations with monkey bridges hold competitions to cross them. Contestants can attempt the challenge of riding a bicycle across a monkey bridge. This is as difficult as it sounds and most often ends with competitors swimming in the river!

The Monkey Bridge for travellers to Viet Nam:

Visitors to the Mekong Delta area are likely to encounter one or more of these unique structures on their travels. Crossing the river or stream on a monkey bridge is always a challenge and usually an adventure. But it is a wonderful way to capture an iconic Viet Nam photograph to remember the adventure.

The In Country Tours logo:

The ICT logo a Vietnamese woman wearing an ‘Ao Dai’ outfit and a ‘Non La’ hat on a monkey bridge. These elements represent Viet Nam as a whole and also the Mekong Delta region where Khoa was born and raised. ICT chose our logo colours to reflect the natural beauty of the Mekong River and surrounding rural areas.

What’s next?

Make sure to include a visit to the Mekong Delta during your trip to Viet Nam and have a go crossing a monkey bridge! And keep an eye out for more articles in this series about the Ao Dai and Non La hat.
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