Located in the northeastern province of Udon Thani, within the part of Thailand known as Isan, Talay Bua Daeng is a beautiful destination that seems almost out of this world. The name translates into English as Red Lotus Sea … although the lotus flowers are not red and it is not a sea! A large lake, it is covered in stunning pink lotus flowers at certain times of the year. The lake’s official name is Nong Han Kumphawapi Lake, but it is rarely referred to as such.
Here are some reasons for you to think about visiting the spectacular Talay Bua Daeng / Red Lotus Sea:
1. Drift through the pink flowers in all their magical glory
Whilst you can certainly admire the lake and flowers from the sidelines, a highlight is to take a boat ride across the waters and directly through the hundreds of vibrant flowers. When you set off, it may not seem as though there are all that many flowers, but just wait until you traverse more of the lake through the channels that are clear of plants – you’ll see! Finding your boat surrounded by gorgeous pink lotus flowers is really delightful, the sea of pink stretching far into the distance and the details of individual flowers clear to see right at your fingertips.
Small birds flit through the air and tiny fish swim in the murky waters below.
You can arrange a boat trip from the main car park in the sub-district of Chiang Haeo.
2. Choice of boats to suit different party sizes
There are two different types of boat, each with a canopy to protect you from the glaring sun. Rather than joining a tour, you can actually charter your own vessel with a boatman. This is perfect as it means you can enjoy the lake with just your friends, family, or partner, without sharing the experiences with strangers. It also means that you can linger in patches for as long as you (reasonably!) like. Trips take around an hour – make sure that you make full use of the bathroom facilities before you leave!
There are traditional-style wooden boats that can seat a maximum of four people and larger plastic boats that can carry up to around ten passengers. Life vests are provided. It costs around 500 THB (approximately 14 USD) to hire a boat, and the price is the same regardless of how many passengers there are.
3. Stock up and enjoy a DIY picnic aboard your boat
Several vendors sell an array of traditional Thai snacks close to where you board the boats, and if you plan ahead a little, you can enjoy a lovely picnic whilst out on the water. It certainly makes for a different breakfast or lunch!
With delights like grilled and salted corn on the cob, fish balls, an assortment of sweet and colourful chopped fruits like pineapple, mango, and watermelon, and small round pressed potato cakes, you are sure to find something to tickle your taste buds. There is a wide assortment of different meats on sticks, often unidentifiable to the uninitiated. With terrific low prices though, it’s well worth buying a selection and taking a gamble!
4. Hop off the boat and visit small islands
Several small islands dot the water, rising up from the surrounding flowers. Your boat will stop at one if you like, allowing you time to disembark and look around the small temple that enjoys such a marvellous position. A gleaming white Buddha sits serenely gazing out across the lake and Thai people light fragrant incense and kneel on the ground to pray. Whilst donations are appreciated, there is no additional charge to enjoy the temple.
When to visit Talay Bua Daeng / Red Lotus Sea
The buds start to open at the end of the rainy season, with the lake in bloom throughout the ensuing cool season. Although flowers are open between the end of October to sometime around the start of March, the peak time for visiting is in the months of January and February to really get the full awe-inspiring effects. Indeed, many people like to visit with that special someone on Valentine’s Day. At other times of the year, when the flowers aren’t yet open, the lake is essentially just like any other.
The flowers close up during bright sunshine and so it is best to get there earlier on in the day. Any time between sunrise and around 11am is ideal. Boats start operating as soon as it is light; the earlier you arrive, the more chance there is of beating the crowds too!
Plan your trip to the majestic Talay Bua Daeng during the cool season and be prepared to be blown away by beauty!
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