The First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge

Australia - Scott #1371 (1994) maximum card

Australia - Scott #1371 (1994) maximum card

Australia – Scott #1371 (1994) maximum card

I have collected stamps much longer than I’ve collected postcards. Nowadays, I love to combine the two hobbies and yet I have relatively few maximum cards.  Also known as a maxi-card or maxicard, this is a postcard with a postage stamp placed on the picture side of the card where the stamp and card match or are in maximum concordance. The cancellation or postmark is usually related to the image on the front of the card and the stamp.

Not every country issues maximum cards (the United States does not) and some who do (Germany, for example) have only a limited number of releases every year whereas others issue maximum cards for every stamp, such as Australia. The collecting of maximum cards is known as maximaphily.

Australia - Scott #1371 (1994)

Australia – Scott #1371 (1994)

This particular card doesn’t match the design of the stamp but both commemorate the opening of the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (สะพานมิตรภาพ ไทย-ลาว แห่งที่ 1, — Sapan Mittrapap Tai Lao Hen T-Nun in Thai and ຂົວມິດຕະພາບ ລາວ-ໄທ ແຫ່ງທຳອິດ — Kua Mittapap Lao Tai Hen Tam-It in Lao). The stamp affixed to the picture side of the card was released by Australia on the opening date of the bridge — April 8, 1994, and is listed in the Scott Postage Stamp Catalogue as Australia #1371.

Why did Australia issue a stamp picturing a bridge that crosses the Mekong River, connecting Nong Khai Province and the city of Nong Khai in Thailand with Vientiane Prefecture in Laos? The Australian government funded the approximately £19 million cost of the bridge as development aid for Laos. Also, it was designed and built by Australian companies as a demonstration of their ability to complete major infrastructural projects in Southeast Asia. The concept design of a balanced cantilever bridge was proposed by Bruce Ramsay of VSL with the final design carried out by Maunsell consulting engineers.

With a length of (0.73 miles (1,170 meters, the bridge has two 11-foot, 6-inch (3.5 m)-wide road lanes, two 4-foot, 11-inch (1.5 m)-wide footpaths and a single 3-foot, 3 3/8-inch (1,000 mm) gauge railway line in the middle, straddling the narrow central reservation. Opened on April 8, 1994, it was the first bridge across the lower Mekong, and the second on the full course of the Mekong. The official name of the bridge was changed by the addition of “First” after the Second Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge further south at Savannakhet opened in January 2007.

Traffic on the bridge drives on the left, as in Thailand, while traffic in Laos drives on the right. The changeover at the Lao end, just before the border post, is controlled by traffic lights. A shuttle bus service operates across the bridge, between the Lao and Thai border posts. Bicycles and tricycles etc. can travel on either the road or the footpath, which is also used by pedestrians. The bridge is part of the AH12 Asian Highway Network.

A meter-gauge rail track from Nong Khai station runs along the center of the bridge. Road traffic is stopped when a train is crossing. The formal inauguration of the railway line to Thanaleng Railway Station in Laos, about 2,2 miless (3.5 km) from the bridge, occurred on March 5, 2009. Approval of funding for the rail line from Thanaleng Railway Station to Vientiane, about 9 km away, was announced by the French Development Agency in February 2006 but the plan to extend the service was abandoned in November 2010.

Over the years, Thailand and Laos have released several stamps portraying the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, including a joint issue to mark its 20th anniversary in 2014.

Lao first day cover - 20th Anniversay of First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge Thailand first day cover - 20th Anniversary of Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge TH-1040, 2014)

Thailand first day cover - 20th Anniversary of Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge TH-1040, 2014

Laos and Thailand first day covers for the 20th Anniversary of Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge 2014

I have ridden over the bridge once (in a mini-van) on a trip to Laos in 2009. I hope to return sometime very soon!

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