The Long Bien bridge is an iconic bridge that is located in Hanoi, Vietnam. The bridge is now one of many bridges the crosses the Red River from the Long Bien area into Hanoi, Vietnam.
The Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi, Vietnam is an iconic bridge that was designed by the great architect Gustave Eiffel. The bridge has a long history and is an important part of the history of French rule in Vietnam. It was a target of bombings by the American forces during the Vietnam War. Today you can ride a motorcycle, bicycle or walk across the Long Bien bridge.
When you visit Hanoi, Vietnam the bridge that you are certain to see is the Long Bien bridge that connects the downtown part of Hanoi with the district on the other side of the river known as Long Bien. The Long Bien bridge has an very interesting design and history.
The Architect – Gustave Eiffel
Gustave Eiffel was a French engineer and architect. He was was born in France in 1832 and was a graduate of the prestigious school of Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures
His most famous work is the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The Eiffel Tower was built for the Universal Exposition that took place in Paris in 1889.
Eiffel also made contributions to the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York City. But more than that his work influenced many buildings. structure, monuments, bridges, and viaduct around the world.
Gustave Eiffel is known to the be architect and designer of this iconic Long Bridge. He designed and created quite a few bridges in Vietnam and throughout Asia.
Besides designing the Long Bien bridge, Gustave Eiffel also designed other bridges in Vietnam. Some examples are the Ghenh- Bridget and Rach Cat Bridge in Bein Hoa City, Dong Nai Province and the Truong Tien Bridge in Hue, Vietnam.
The History of the Long Bien Bridge
The bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel for the architects Dayde and Pille of Paris. There is still a sign on the old part of the bridge that lists their name.
The bridge was constructed from 1899 to 1902 and completed in 1903. It was built to connect the downtown Hoan Kiem area of Hanoi with Long Bien that is over the Red River.
During the time of the French rule of Vietnam it was called the Paul- Doumer Bridge. This is because it was named after Paul Doumer, the then Governor -General of French Indochina.
About Paul Doumer – Governor General of Indochine
Paul Doumer was born of modest means as Joseph Athanase Doumer. His background was in mathematics.
He ruled French Indochina from 1897 to 1902. During this time the French colonies were losing millions of francs each year. He was determined to turn this around, so he levied a very heavy tax on opium, wine and the salt trade.
The Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians who would or could not pay these heavy taxes would lose their house and land. This forced many of them to become day laborers.
He established French Indochina as a market for French products and French Businessmen. Not caring very much what kind of hardship this would cause to the Vietnamese, Cambodian or Laotian populations.
His goal was to outfit Indochina, especially the capital Hanoi, with modern infrastructure as France would have had. Under his rule, several large scale projects took place including the building of the Long Bien bridge. This is why the Long Bien Bridge was first called the Paul Doumer Bridge.
Doumer returned to France in 1901 and held various top government positions. His last position was in 1931 when he was elected as President of the French Republic. He was assassinated in 1932 while attending the opening of a Book Fair in Paris
About the Long Bien Bridge
The Long Bien bridge is 2.5 kilometers or 1.5 miles in length. At the time it was built it was the longest bridge in Asia. More than 3,000 Vietnamese helped take part in the construction of the bridge.
There are two roadways on the bridge that would allow cars to cross by single file. In the center are train tracks that allow the trains from Haiphong and other areas to come into the central train station in Hanoi.
For the French colonial government the bridge was of strategic importance. It allowed them access to the seaport of Haiphong and to secure control of North Vietnam.
In 1954 when the French left Vietnam, the name of Paul Doumer was taken off the bridge and the bridge was renamed the Long Bien Bridge. For a many years it was the only bridge that connected Hanoi to the main port of Haiphong, Vietnam.
The Long Bien Bridge and the Vietnam War
The Long Bien bridge was heavily bombarded during the Vietnam war. That is why even today you can only see some section of the old French bridge built by Gustave Eiffel, as a lot of sections where bombed by the Americans forces.
During the war, this bridge was of extreme strategic importance as it was the only bridge that connected the capital of Hanoi to the main seaport of Haiphong. This would have of course been essential to allow goods and people to come into the capital city of Hanoi, Vietnam.
The first attack of the bridge came in 1967. The center span of the bridge was attacked by 20 United States Air Force F-106 fighter bombers. The center section of the bridge fell down.
This bridge was so well built that CIA reports of the bombing said that the bridge did not appear to sustain as much damage as they hoped it would even with this intense bombing.
Throughout the war this bridge was always a target of the American bombings. Their hope was to cut off the supply lines of Hanoi from the port city of Haiphong. We have heard older Hanoians tell us the Americans stopped bombing the bridge when the Vietnamese placed some U.S. Servicemen on the crew to repair the damage of the bridge by the American bombs.
Whether that was ever the case or not, the Long Bien was a huge iconic image for the Vietnamese during the war with America. There is a lot of wartime poetry and songs about the Long Bien bridge. Despite the heavy beating it got during the war, it was only really unusable in 1972 when it fell victim to the first co-ordinated attack using what was then the new laser-guided smart bombs.
We know that many American servicemen who were sent to bomb the capital of Hanoi were captured and placed in the famous Vietnamese Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi. The American servicemen were released from the Hoa Lo Prison in 1972, and they boarded white and green camouflaged army buses and were driven over the Long Bien Bridge to the Gia Lam Airport to return back home to the United States.
The Long Bien Bridge Today
Today the Long Bien Bridge that Gustave Eiffel designed, is one of many bridges that links the Hoan Kiem district of Hanoi with Long Bien. Cars are not allowed to travel on the bridge but only motorcycles and bicycles.
Many people will also walk the bridge to take photographs of the Red River and the surrounding areas. There are trains that are traveling down the center of the bridge several times a day to the train station in Hanoi.
Some parts of the Gustave Eiffel’s original structure and design remain intact. Other parts clearly show where the bridge sustained intense bombing so large gaps of the bridge were filled in and repaired.
There is some talk that the French and Vietnaemse Governments are talking about a joint project to restore the Long Bien Bridge to its former appearance. I am sure that Gustave Eiffel would have been pleased to see the bridge return to its former glory.
When you visit Hanoi, Vietnam as must-see attraction is the Long Bien Bridge. The bridge is not only steeped in history but it was also designed by the world-class architect and designer Gustave Eiffel.
Is It Safe To Go Out In the Early Mornings In Hanoi, Vietnam?
It is usually safe to go out in the early mornings in Hanoi, Vietnam. The streets of the city are always bustling and alive with a lot of activity and excitement. People in the city tend to start their days very early. One of the best things to see is the early morning exercisers. To see the early morning exercise you must also get up very early. There are a lot of places in Hanoi where you can see a lot of the early morning exercisers.
To find out more about the early mornings in Hanoi and tot see a video about the early morning exercise, you can read our blog Early Morning Exercise in Hanoi, Vietnam, What You Need to Know by clicking here.
What Should I Do If I Need Emergency Medical Care In Vietnam?
If you get an illness or injury while traveling in North Vietnam there are Government (Public) Hospitals but you may find that the conditions of the hospital are not up to the western standards of medical care. You should instead consider getting to Hanoi to have a doctor at one of the Expat Medical clinics or hospitals check you out. If the Hanoi clinics or hospitals are not able to help you with your medical needs then you may need to go to another Southeast Asian country or go home to get the adequate medical care you require.
You can find out about getting adequate medical in Hanoi and North Vietnam by reading our blog Guide to Emergency Medical Care in North Vietnam by clicking here.
Anita L Hummel from A Bus On A Dusty Road