Udon Thani (meaning “northern city”) belongs to the Isan region of Thailand being one of its 4 major cities. The city’s economy flourished during the Vietnam war. It became progressive like Pattaya because their location is near the Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base. Western military influence left establishments like restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs that still exist today. It is the area in Thailand that has the most Vietnamese settlers, the refugees from the war.
Though Udon Thani boasts of having the largest westernized shopping malls and movie theaters in the region, there are still places in the city that have retained the Thai cultural heritage. These tourist attractions draw in thousands of visitors every year. There are plenty of places to stay in Udon Thani, including hotels and Airbnb vacation rentals. Aside from enjoying its warm savannah climate, you may want to see the following tourist sites listed below and try a few things that can only be found in Udon Thani.
1. Phu Phrabat Historical Park
Phu Phrabat Historical Park is one of the most popular attractions in Udon Thani. It is known for its unique rock formations and religious shrines scattered around the area. It is located west of the Phu Phan Mountains between Nong Khai and Udon Thani. The entire park is within Phu Phrabat Bua Bok Forest Park. These stunning and eccentric massive boulders, spires and balanced rocks form the base of some Buddhist and Hindu shrines from the 7th to 10th-century Dvarati period. Wat Phra Phutthabaht Bua Bok, the most significant shrine, is a Lao-style chedi protecting a sandstone Buddha footprint.
The prehistoric paintings on the rocks date back 6,000 years ago. Some rock paintings are overlooked during walking tours so keep a sharp eye for them. According to local lore, the rock formations are where a legendary king banished his daughter to hide her from a suitor. The rocks were the result of under-sea erosion that happened 15 million years ago.
Phu Phrabat Historical Park
Address: Mueang Phan, Ban Phue District, Udon Thani 41160, Thailand
Price: Foreigners from 3.00 USD/Locals 1.20 USD/Children free admission
Opening Hours: 8:am - 4:30pm. Closed on public holidays
Contact: +66 42 219 837
Website: Phu Phrabat Historical Park
2. Phu Foi Lom Eco Park
Phu Foi Lom Eco Park is located in Udon’s southwest at one of the highest peaks of the city. It is promoted as an ecotourism destination. Its name is taken from “Foi Lom” a Lichen variety.
A short trail that leads you to the other section of the Phu Foi Lom. You must climb a steep stairway to reach the mountainous area of the park. There are life-size dinosaur replicas and waterfalls in a forest like setting. It is ideal to visit in December and January when all flowers are blooming during the annual Daffodil festival.
Phu Foi Lom National Park
Address: Thap Kung, Nong Saeng District, Udon Thani 41340, Thailand
Contact: +66 878132430
Website: Phu Foi Lom National Park
3. Nong Prajack Park
Nong Prajack Park, one of the 3 reservoirs of the city, is a recreational central park named after Udon Thani’s founder, Prince Prajak Sinlapakhom. The park is situated west of the city’s center. Hospitals and the Day and Night complex are nearby. You can walk or take the Songthaew bus or tuktuk to the park.
Thais go walking, cycling or jogging in the park during the early morning and late afternoon. There are playground equipment and other activities for kids. It has an impressive landscape with two suspension bridges and beautiful footpaths. Fish feeding is a popular activity here. The park has several street vendors ,food stalls and popular restaurants. The annual Loy Krathong festival is held here.
A park highlight is the giant inflatable family of ducks floating on the lake. It was trending on social media because of the million selfies tourists take with it. These ducks symbolize Udon Thani.
Nong Prajak Park
Address: Tambon Nong Bua, Amphoe Mueang, Chang Wat Udon Thani 41000
4. Udon Thani Provincial Museum
Udon Thani Provincial Museum, also called Phiphitthaphan Muan Udon Thani, is an ancient colonial-style edifice located near the Nong Prajak Park. It was built and founded in 1920 by former governor Chaiporn Ratanaka. Initially, it was the first-all girl school in Udon Thani. The school moved to a larger facility so the building was occupied by social and government agencies. In 2004, the city converted it to a museum and currently managed by the city municipal office.
The museum features exhibits of the history of the city’s settlement and development. It also shows the history of Prince Prajak Silpakhom, the city’s founder and the most respected monk, Luangta Maha Bua. It displays artifacts of the city’s natural history and local culture.
Udon Thani Provincial Museum
Address: Mak Khaeng, Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani 41000, Thailand
Price: Adults from .30 USD/Children from .15 USD
Opening Hours: Saturday & Sunday 8am - 4pm. Monday to Friday 8am - 4:30pm
Contact: +66 42245976
Website: Udon Thani Provincial Museum
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Tambon Mak Khaeng, Chang Wat Udon Thani, Thailand
5. Rabeang Pochana
Udon Thani offers various restaurants featuring international and local Thai cuisine. Several restaurants are found under a canopy of trees in an open-air or garden type setting. These restaurants offer real Thai food. Thai cuisine, among the best cuisines in the world, has it regional differences. There is the local Isan dishes and the northeastern-style hot pots called jim joom which are the more popular Thai food being served. If you want the authentic taste of Thai cuisine, the locals highly recommend a restaurant named Rabeang Pochana that serves the best of these dishes. It is located near the Prajak Lake.
Isan cuisine are central Thai dishes served with chili peppers and glutinous rice (or khao niao). Northeastern Thai cuisine serves sticky rice as a side dish in most meals. Also try the Jim Joom (or sometimes called chim chum) a Northeastern dish that literally means “dip and drop”. This clear beef bone marrow broth is boiled with herbs in an earthen pot over a small clay stove. Its delicious aroma is the combination of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil (bai kraphao) and galangal and chili. There is no definite recipe for it. You can experiment and add different kinds of meats or vegetables that suits your taste.
Address: 53 Saphakit Janya road near Prajak Lake
Facebook: Rabeang Pochana
6. Udon Thani at night
Udon Thani has one of the busiest nightlifes in Thailand. You will see vibrant colors from the lights of various establishments from sundown. Go to Teekatananon and Sampantamit Road if you are looking for pubs and restaurants to dine and drink. Aussie Pub and Steakhouse, located in Teekatananon Rd serves Australian food and beer. The Irish Clock at Sampantamit Road serves draft Kilkenny and Guinness beer. On Prajak Road is Mr. Tong’s which serves a vast selection of Thai and western dishes with local beers while hosting DJ parties. Central Plaza is where pubs and bars cater to foreigners and expats. Near the train station are Lum Udon and Center Point Night Market where you can taste Isan specialty cuisines like fried insects and street food. On weekends, Center Point has live concerts. Adulyadet Road is the location for karaoke bars.
Aussie Pub and Steakhouse
Address: 41000, Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani, Thailand
The Irish Clock
Address: Samphan thamit Rd, Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani 41000, Thailand
7. Shopping at Udon Thani
Udon has its own unique snacks and handicrafts just like other provinces in Thailand. The city is popular for its hand-woven silk, pottery, Vietnamese sausage called “name neaug” and its kid textile, which is a brocade with a raised, diamond shaped pattern. The village Na Kha is where you should purchase the silk and garments made of kid. Here you can see how the craftswomen create the interesting kid patterns. To escape the summer heat, go to Central Plaza (formerly the Charoensri Shopping complex). The old mall was renovated and expanded with a bigger and more impressive shopping space. Enjoy the air-conditioning while shopping for clothes, local souvenirs and electronic gadgets.
Central Plaza Udon Thani
Address: 277/1-3 Prajak Sillapakom, Chang Wat Udon Thani 41000, Thailand
Website: Central Plaza Udon Thani
8. Huay Luang
Huay Luang, also known as Namtok Tham Bak Teo, is a waterfall inside Phu Chong Na Yoi National Park. The waterfall is large and its water falls from a pond down a cliff, flowing down a trail that connects to nearby Cambodia.
The waterfall is divided into three sections with the bottom level the most interesting to visitors. Along the waterway is a trail that visitors can climb all the way to the top. It is not for old people and very young children to climb because it is slippery. The pools formed by the water is ideal for swimming, fishing, rafting and cruising.
Huay Luang Waterfall
Address: Ban Tum, Na Chaluai, Ubon Ratcha Thani 34280, Thailand
Price: 3.30 USD for foreigners, children are free
Contact: +66 454115156
9. Erawan Cave
The Erawan Cave also called Tham Chang and Elephant Cave is located in Nong Bua Lamphu province, Amphoe Na Wang. To get there, pass highway 210 coming from Loei going to Udon Thani. The cave is seen several kilometers away because it sits on a limestone outcrop. You will climb 610 steps into the main cave, cross additional sharp slopes and several steps to reach the image of Phra Buddha.
The cave entrance has panoramic views of the countryside. Inside the cave are stalagmites. A spot in the cave allows the sunlight to squeeze thru the wall and turns it into a magical place. Legend says the cave was the residence of Nang Phom Hom, the daughter of an elephant.
During a festival in the nearby temple, the locals create elaborate sculptures called “Khan mak beng” and have a colorful parade by climbing the stairs to the cave. The best Khan mak beng is chosen and the winners receive prizes. There is also a banana eating and beauty contest.
Tham Erawan Cave
Address: Pha In Plaeng, Erawan District, Loei 42220, Thailand
Website: Tham Erawan Cave
10. Ride a Tuk-tuk
Tuk-tuk or “Sam Lor” is Thailand’s signature mode of transportation. This three wheeled motorized vehicle looks like a golf cart is open on all sides with a roof overhead and comfortably sits 3 passengers.
During World War II, the tuk-tuk evolved from the old-fashioned rickshaw. It is typically a ricksaw with a small motorized engine. The name came from the “tuk tuk” sound you make while knocking on the roof of the vehicle signaling the driver to stop at your destination. Others say it came from the sound the engine makes similar to the American “puft puft”.
Fares vary depending on the distance you are traveling so drivers usually quote exagerated rates. Negotiate 5 to 15 baht lower than the given rate before taking the ride. Avoid Tuk-tuks during peak hours or you’ll be stuck in traffic. There are mafia tuk-tuks lurking in tourist locations offering sightseeing tours. Avoid them and say “No thank you.” Tuk-tuks are best to ride for short distances. Though sometimes taxis are cheaper or cost the same for the same distance, you get there faster riding the tuk-tuk. The experience you get from riding one is priceless.
Website: Tips on How to Ride a Tuk-Tuk
11. See a UNESCO Heritage Site known as the Ban Chiang National Museum
When traveling to a place rich in history and tradition like in Udon Thani, it’s definitely a must to see its historic manifestations come to life in structure through the works of those who lived in such ancient times The Ban Chiang National Museum is a majestic world wonder, dubbed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992, this historic feat in Thailand is considered to be the most significant settlement in Southeast Asia. This site boasts early manifestations of wet-rice agriculture, as well as metalwork. The Ban Chiang Museum houses archaeological artifacts dated as far back of its discovery in 1966, these artifacts showed proof of early efforts in understanding radiometric dating. Much is there to discover at Ban Chiang National Museum, best for those who enjoy learning about history and culture during their travels.
Ban Chiang National Museum
Address: Ban Chiang Nong Saeng Udon Thani 41320
Website: Ban Chiang National Museum
Opening hours: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Wednesdays to Sundays
Price: 4.94 USD (foreigner); 0.99 USD (Thai local)
12. Marvel in the beauty of the Red Lotus Lake in Kumphawapi
For those who enjoy the flora and taking stunning pictures for Instagram, then a trip to Red Lotus Sea in Kumphawapi. This scenic sea scattered with gorgeous pink lotus flowers on lily pads is one of Thailand’s most underrated natural attractions. Just an hour drive from Udon Thani Airport, the Red Lotus Lake is best appreciated when on a pontoon boat just for 16.48 USD for a 1.5-hour roundabout trip on the lake. However, it’s important to note that these pink lotus flower blooms are only seasonal and only happens during the colder months. Make sure to add this to your itinerary and visit this part of Udon Thani around December to February to experience a natural wonder on serene and relaxing waters.
Red Lotus Lake
Address: Unnamed Rd, Tambon Chiang Wae, Chiang Haeo, Kumphawapi District, Udon Thani 41110, Thailand
Openning Hours: 6:00 am to 4:00 pm, Sundays to Mondays
Price: 9.89 USD to 16.48 USD
Intriguing Udon Thani
Come and visit Udon Thani! It is an intriguing destination for travelers who want a taste of old-fashioned Thailand with a mix of the familiar modern comforts brought by the western civilization.
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