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 cost was about £19 million, funded by the Australian government as development aid for Laos. The bridge was designed & 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.
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.
The Mekong is a trans-boundary river in Southeast Asia. It is the world's 12th-longest river and the 7th-longest in Asia. Its estimated length is 4,350 km (2,703 mi),and it drains an area of 795,000 km2 (307,000 sq mi), discharging 457 km3(110 cu mi) of water annually.
From the Tibetan Plateau this river runs through China's Yunnan province, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In 1995, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam established the Mekong River Commission to assist in the management and coordinated use of the Mekong's resources. In 1996 China and Burma (Myanmar) became "dialogue partners" of the MRC and the six countries now work together within a cooperative framework.
The extreme seasonal variations in flow and the presence of rapids and waterfalls in this river have made navigation difficult. The river is a major trading route linking China’s southwestern province of Yunnan to Laos, Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand to the south, an important trade route between western China and Southeast Asia.