Udon Thani

The Isaan city of Udon Thani, located some 550kms from Bangkok and set near the MekongRiver, is Thailand’s gateway to southern China, northern Vietnam and Laos. It’s a major industrial and commercial centre for the northeastern region, and is close by Thailand’s most ancient archeological site, the famous Bronze Age Ban Chiang.

The city’s population is a mix of descendents of refugees from the Vietnam War and indigenous Thais, and visits by tourists are mainly to gain access to the neighbouring countries. As a result, Udon Thani has only a fledgling tourism industry, branding its location as a great place for touring the less commercialised northeastern areas and for cross-border trips into Laos.

Featured are the UNESCO-listed site at Ban Chiang, the city’s lovely parks and large lake, local night markets, PhruPhrabatNational Park with its Bronze Age rock art and the Phu Foi Lom Eco-Park containing waterfalls, wetlands and a lake used for dragon boat races. The local weather is hot, with temperatures rarely dipping below 30°C and monsoon rains between April and early October.

Accommodation here is plentiful, from rental villas through upscale Western-style hotels in the city centre and close by the bus station, to inexpensive guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and resorts. Outside town you’ll find small resorts and pretty rental villa complexes set in peaceful countryside, and the airport hotel offers acres of landscaped gardens, standard and superior rooms, and two suites. Affordable mid-range accommodation is scattered around the city.

The city is an hour away from Bangkok and Chiang Mai by air, but the airport hosts no international flights. Direct rail routes run to Bangkok and Laos for Vientiane, and both trips can also be done cheaply by luxury bus. Local transportation includes taxis from a rank outside Central Plaza Mall, samlors (bicycle taxis), tuk-tuks (motorized rickshaws) and songthaews (shared taxis). Hiring a car is the best way to tour remote, outlying areas at your convenience.