Udon Thani – About Udon Thani in Thailand

Udon Thani is the name of a city and also a province in the mountainous Isaan district of Northern Thailand. Some people claim about Udon Thani that its history dates back to the Bronze Age. There has certainly been human habitation in the region for many years, and travelers to Udon Thani can visit archaeological excavations and fascinating historical exhibits. Udon is a city with a very different feeling from places like Pattaya or Bangkok. It is much more relaxed and low key. Because there are not a lot of tourists here, you get a chance to see how real Thai live their everyday lives. The city’s name is occasionally shortened to Udon or pronounced Udorn. However, don’t confuse it with the town of Ubon Ratchathani, in southeastern Isaan.

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Historical Background

The history of the Udon region dates back many centuries. In terms of modern history, the present day city of Udon was founded at the end of the 19th century by Prince Prajak Silapakom. Today it is the fourth largest city in all Thailand and has over 200,000 residents. At the time of the Viet Nam war, Udon was home to a U.S. Air Force air base. The war actually contributed to the city’s economic growth and improved its status in relation to the rest of the country. Quite a number of retired American Viet Nam war veterans make their homes in Udon today. Due to this American presence, a lot of native Thai residents have picked up some English. The major industries in the area are farming, tourism and industrial distribution.

Getting there

The fastest way to get here from Bangkok is by plane. There are a number of flights daily into Udon Thani International Airport, which take approximately one hour. Alternatively, you can take a plane from Phuket or Chiang Mai. If you are lucky, you may be picked up at the airport by an employee of the hotel that you are booked into. Otherwise, take a bus or taxi into the city. Just be careful before boarding your bus that it goes to the right stop. There are 2 bus stations in Udon, quite far apart. Buses coming from Bangkok usually go to the bus station in the city center. Coming by train, you can opt for a night train to save money and precious daylight hours. However if you travel by day, you can see much more.

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Activities

For something a little different from the usual tourist activity, try visiting the markets of Udon Thani. This is a cultural experience that won’t cost you a cent. Wander around the tables and check out the heaps of exotic local fruits and vegetables, such bizarre displays as a pig’s head next to stacks of clothing. Don’t forget about Udon Thani’s night market near the train station, which starts around 5 PM.

A different sort of cultural experience can be had at the Udon Thani Provincial Museum. Relics from the area’s archaeological digs are on display here. While there is no formal charge for admission, donations to help maintain the museum are expected. To see one of the digs with your own eyes head for Ban Chiang, just outside of town. Visit the city’s orchid farm and see amazing flowers with even more incredible scents. An excellent idea for a day trip that both children and grown-ups will enjoy is going to Phu Phra Baht, to explore its caves with their well preserved prehistoric paintings. A pleasant way to spend a few hours is a visit to Thanngam Phoilom Park, with its waterfall; this is most impressive during the rainy season when the waterfall is at its fullest. Of course at that time of year you’ll need raingear for hiking outdoors.

Accommodation

Udon Thani is a sizable city, with ample hotels and restaurants, as well as many street vendors selling the delicious – and usually healthy – Thai version of fast food. The best hotels tend to fill up quickly during peak season, so it is wise to book your room ahead of time. You can either reserve through a travel agent in Thailand or make your booking prior to leaving home. Either way, reading about Udon Thani and its culture before you arrive in the city will make your visit even more exciting.

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