26 May Thailand’s Udon region
A Closer Look at Udon Thani
One of the four major cities in Thailand’s Isan region, Udon Thani, the capital of the province is located about 560km from Bangkok. A big and bold city that is said to have the largest expat community in Thailand and is home to one of the world’s earliest bronze-age civilizations at nearby Ban Chiang.
Udon Thani is an important regional hub that connects northeastern Thailand with the rest of the country as well as bordering Laos. Once a sleepy town, Udon Thani leapt into action when the Thai and US governments built a joint-force military base there during the Vietnam War, drawing a large influx of soldiers and Vietnamese immigrants to the city, creating a multi-cultural base that is still operational today.
Attractions and Activities
– Nong Han Kumphawapi Lake in Udon Thani is located about 45km outside the city and is famous for its abundance of beautiful lotus flowers that bloom during the cool season, leading it to be known as the Red Lotus Sea. Many can be enjoyed from the shoreline, but it is recommended that you take a boat trip out with a guide to get a closer look at the phenomena that turns the lake into a romantic fairytale attraction. The best time to visit is early in the morning with the lotus flowers in full bloom from 6am to noon, between the months on October and February.
– Ban Chiang archaeological site’s excavations revealed hundreds of human burial sites alongside a collection of ceramics and other artifacts dating as far back as 5600 years ago. The museum sheds light on this ancient community and its re-emergence at one of the region’s most significant archaeological sites. It all came about when in 1974-75, American archaeologist Chester Gorman joined Thailand’s Pisit Charoenwangsa to lead an excavation that uncovered 123 human skeletons, 11.4 million ceramic shards, over 200 fully intact pots and more than 4000 other artifacts, including evidence of agriculture and bronze work. Subsequent digs uncovered additional burials sites and Ban Chiang was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. It is a must visit when in the area.
– Huay Luang, a large lake west of the city is an ideal place to go rafting, fishing or even cruising. For overnight camping, waterfall hiking or a picnic, head out to Phu Foi Lom Eco Park, which is home to a large range of wildlife and forest. A bit farther out, at the area bordering Nong Bua Lamphu and Loei, is Erawan Cave, found inside an imposing limestone outcrop. To get to the cave, you have to climb up about 100 steps; the views of the surrounding countryside from the summit make it worthwhile.
– The Udon Sunshine Orchid Farm northwest of town, earned recognition for developing an aromatic breed of orchid and producing the first orchid-based perfume. It has since developed a hybrid succulent that is known to ‘dance’ to music. If you sing or talk to the plant in a high-pitched voice, a few smaller leaves will shift back and forth. The plants are most active from November to February and in the early mornings and evenings. Here you can buy Udon Dancing Tea, which is very popular for its medicinal attributes, as well as Miss Udon Sunshine orchids and perfumes.
– Phu Phra Bat Historical Park and Butta Bat Bua Bok are important attractions in the Province. Phu Foi Lom, and Na Yung Som Forest Parks are very rewarding locations too, with some impressive landscapes to enjoy. Much of the park’s lower section consists of basalt that tapers into sandstone and patches of soil where bamboo and local hardwoods grow. Take a guided walking tour to learn more about the unique rock formations, rock art and ancient Buddha artifacts. The escarpment rises steeply to a cliff, Pha Sadej, where you can take in views of the western
– Wat Phothisomphon was established in the late 1800s and has a large pagoda topped by a four-sided golden chedi. It was completed in 2009 and is home to several life-like statues of famous Thai meditation monks. In addition to the prayer hall and monks’ residences, the grounds include a small Bodhi tree and an interesting purple shrine guarded by red-eyed serpent.
– During 1928 and 1929, Ho Chi Minh used the jungle around Nong Hang village as one of his bases to train soldiers and gather Isan’s large Vietnamese community for his struggle against the French occupation of Vietnam. At the Ho Chi Minh Educational & Tourism Historical Site there is a replica of his thatched-roof, mud-wall house, plus a big museum, which may be of interest if you enjoy Vietnamese history.
– Sala Kaew Ku in Nong Khai are probably the most visited sightseeing attraction in the Udon Thani region, being both historical and spiritual. Nong Khai, as a town also has its charms and the covered market is another popular item on anyone’s itinerary.
– If you would like to witness 6 million bats leaving their cave for the evening, then Phu Pha Ya Cave near Leoi in the west of the region is a good place to visit. Their exodus may only be visible for about 30 minutes, but it is something you are unlikely to see anywhere else.
– Nong Prajak Park is named after Udon Thani’s founder Nong Prajak and covers a large area with a lake that is home to giant rubber ducks. This is where the locals come to exercise and escape the big city. The park has a few entrances and a network of footpaths that wind past benches, pavilions and playgrounds, as well as two suspension bridges. Popular with joggers and cyclists in the mornings and early evening; on the east side, just across Tasa Road, you’ll find at least a dozen Thai massages and a bike shop where bicycles are available for rent.
Restaurants and food
Udon Thani has plenty of restaurants and the choice ranges from traditional Thai food to a wide range of international cuisine. Many are in open-air, garden restaurants under the trees and serve local Isan and typical Thai dishes, including northeastern-style hot pots. A specialty in Udon Thani is the Vietnamese pork sausage or ‘naem neaung’, which is a must try whilst there.
An important gateway to Laos as well as Thailand’s northeast, Udon Thani is easily reached by air, rail and car. Thai Airways as well as budget airlines operate daily flights from Bangkok to Udon Thani Airport. The city is also serviced by rail and bus. Once in Udon City, the most popular mode of transport is the tuk-tuk and song teaow – a passenger carrying converted pickup truck.