The Connecting GMS
Located in the heart of the Mekong Sub-region, Thailand provides an ideal base for exploring the surrounding area. Traveling within the Mekong countries, domestic flights link all major cities. From Suvarnabhumi Airport of Bangkok, over 40 flights depart everyday for the Mekong capitals and other important cities. These include Vientiane and Luang Prabang in Laos, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Yangon in Myanmar, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang in Vietnam, and Beijing, Cheng-Du, Guangzhou, Guilin, Jinghong, Kunming, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Xi'an, and Xiamen in China.
North and Northeastern provinces of Thailand such as Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, and Chiang Rai are linked to Mekong countries through a multi-billion dollar network of roads, highways and bridges that is making the entire region as easy to travel through. Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani are both emerging as major gateways. They are home to rich hill-tribe cultures, ancient Khmer architecture and lush forests. In Chiang Rai the Northern Province of Thailand, Mekong intersects with one of its tributaries form the famous Golden Triangle that make border with Laos and Myanmar.
Road transport is another option in many places. On land, southern Laos ca n be reached from Ubon Ratchathani while Vientiane is accessible from Nong Khai via the first Friendship Bridge. The first Friendship Bridge was opened in 1994 linking Thailand and Laos. The Second Mekong International Bridge opened in December 2006 links Northeastern Thai province of Mukdahan and western Location province of Savannakhet. This is an important component of overall infrastructure development plan to facilitate transport, trade, investment, and tourism in the Mekong Sub-region. The bridges form an integral part in the East-West Economic Corridor developed to generate economic benefits for the countries in the Great Mekong Sub-region. The East-West Corridor is also an important link between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Crossing the bridge from Mukdahan to Savannakhet, travelers can continue their journey along Route No.9 to major cities in central Vietnam such as Quang Tri, Hue and Danang. From Danang to Savannakhet across the Second Mekong International Bridge, travelers will have direct access to the Thai provinces of Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Phetchabun, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai and Tak, eventually reaching Myawaddy in Myanmar before entering Yangon. From Yangon, the way is open for India.
The bridge plays an important role in giving land-locked Laos access to ports in Thailand and Vietnam. It is part of the East-West Corridor route which originates from central Vietnam's Da Nang port, and runs north along Vietnam's National Highway No.1 to Dong Ha. It is one of the most popular routes in Vietnam that links Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The route then connects Vietnam and Laos via National Highway No.9, and further connects Laos and Thailand.
The latest development of GMS transport link is the first rail service between Thailand and Lao PDR (Nong Khai - Tha Na Laeng) begins its daily operation in March 2009.