R3A : Joining Three Countries with One Road
Although “Road 3 Asia (R3A),” beginning in Chiang Khong and connecting Bo Kaew, Luang Nam Ta, Bo Then in Laos, Bo Han, Jing Hong in Xishuangbanna and ending in Kunming in China’s Yunnan Region may currently be unfamiliar to some, this may change in the near future.
The R3A, under construction since 1995 (and recently completed), is part of the Economic Quadrangle where Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China are developing more than 180,000 square kilometers designed for potentially becoming one of the world's prominent economic forums. It is being recognized among Thais and people in nearby countries as an important transportation route connecting Yunnan Region in the South of China to the seaports of various countries in the Indochina Region.
The R3A's purpose is connecting land routes in China to those in Chiang Mai province, Bangkok and Cape Malay in Singapore. And the Chinese government is paying close attention to its progress because it does serve as a major transportation route for goods delivered from Southern China to local seaports and eventually to the rest of the world.
The R3A is also providing travelers with an opportunity for exploring the area's nature and cultural diversity. Areas within what is now called the Economic Quadrangle were once highly ethnically and biologically diverse, especially before the frontiers between the participating countries had been established. And although the R3A project has effected the area's ethnic makeup, its multi-cultural charm is still intact.
Traveling to Kunming in China will soon be easier and faster when construction of the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (Chiang Khong – Huay Sai), and improvements to Laos' roads, are complete.
Also, currently traveling from Thailand to Bo Kaew in Laos via the Khong River, prior to an additional 240 kilometer trip by road from Huay Sai, is accomplished by ferry boat. The R3A will help with this.
The R3A is also running along several Lao National Parks and villages, where authentic local lifestyles can still be found, before reaching the Chinese border.
Luang Nam Ta District, heavily developed by Chinese investors, is located in the middle of the R3A route and has become a favorable spot for travelers stopping for lunch.
The R3A ends at Lao borders in Bo Then, opposite China’s, Mohan. Several Chinese companies here have been awarded a 99-year business concession from the Lao government. Therefore, shops, casinos and hotels - all colorfully constructed like those in China's big cities – can be found.
This area is serving as a major transport center between China and Laos. Therefore, there are many time-saving tunnels burrowing through the mountainside, connecting you with scenic Tai Lue villages.
Jing Hong, distinguished in its arts and culture similar in style to the Tai Lue and Northern Thai people, is often a first stop for travelers entering China. And most modern architecture in Jing Hong is containing gables similar to those of Thai and Lao Buddhist temples.
Again, this area's arts and culture is much influenced by that of neighboring countries. However, rapid culture management by the Chinese government in Jing Hong is making the culture lack its charm. So, to me, exploring local villages along the road before reaching Jing Hong is favorable to the cultural sites amid the Jing Hong tour programs.
After Jing Hong, the R3A goes to Kunming, where the road ends and large numbers of goods from Thailand and Laos are available. For West-bound travelers, Kunming is the starting point to Europe or East to Shanghai where Taiwan and Japan are accessible by ship.
Because drought along the Khong River during certain periods of the year obstructs the transporting of goods, while their demand is increasing, the R3A is becoming even more important.
This significance will increase even more when the R3B road connecting Kunming, Jing Hong, Kengtung, Ta Keelek and Mae Sai has been improved. When the R3B is connecting the R3A, it will become a looping route providing for more convenient trips to several cities, including Chiang Mai.
It still needs determining whether Chiang Mai, one of the world’s top tourist destinations, would benefit from R3A construction near the city. However, cars from China can be seen in Chiang Mai these days. So this may represent changes on the horizon.