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Ubon Ratchathani

Eat and meet

Ubon Ratchathani

Although Thais of other regions claim Isaan food is dull compared to their own, Ubon certainly puts such a statement to the test. With a slew of exceptional eateries from a diverse range of ethnicities, there aren't wrong choices to be made.

A specialty in Ubon is larb pet (duck larb), although it's only found at limited places. We recommend Sakhorn Restaurant (64-70 Phadaeng Road) for a taste of this speciality and other Isaan food with an English-speaking owner happy to make recommendations. Longstanding Choikee Restaurant (307-317 Khuan Thani T: (045) 254 027) also makes a tasty version of along with all things Thai and even a cheap Western breakfast and sandwiches.

In a country where vegetarian food can be hard to come by, don't miss out on famous Boon Niyon Uthayan (Si Narong Rd T: (045) 240 950). This one of a kind vegetarian buffet is run by the Santi Asoke religious group, a sect that split from regular Thai Buddhism. The atmosphere is friendly and inviting with a huge wooden deck and open-air seating. Charged according to you portion size, you still don't need be afraid to pile high given prices run 10 to 30 baht. If you're lucky, you'll be blessed by one of the monks living on the grounds while you enjoy your pumpkin and tofu stir-fry, most of which is grown organically just outside of town. Don't forget to grab some of their freshly baked goods to snack on later.

Other reliable Thai establishments include Rungroj (122 Nakhonban St), which has a comprehensive English menu of all things Thai and a few Western staples like steak and salad. If you want to go where the locals go for some delicious Isaan specialties like kai yang (barbecue chicken) and som tam (papaya salad), check out Porntip (Sappasit Rd), which has been relocated and renamed from Gai Yang Wat Chaeng. In Porntip's old location, a nameless restaurant serves sukiyaki (like Korean barbecue) and arguably the best kai phat metmamuang (chicken and cashew nuts) set back on small peaceful pond on Suriyat Road just behind Wat Chaeng. Or head down the riverfront just past Sri Isan Hotel to eat authentic Isaan food washed down by chilled beers at one of the river restaurants. Save room for tasty dessert or inexpensive cocktails at Moon Lover Coffee (2/4 Luang Rd T: (081) 548 8296) also on the river front.

Ubon is home to many immigrants from other Asian countries, including Vietnam, which means some delicious cuisine from that Southeast Asian corner on offer. Indochine (168-170 Sappasit Rd T: (045) 245 584) is a long-running restaurant that stands in a traditional house shipped from Vietnam. Enjoy the air-con while indulging in a refreshing banana blossom salad and authentic Vietnamese pancakes.

Spago Pizza (420 Chaengsanit Rd; T: (045) 281 100) is owned and operated by an Italian chef. Though much pricer than Thai food, it really is a "taste of Italy in Ubon" as they claim. Spago is a treat either as nice dinner out with multiple courses and wine to accompany, or a lazy night in of delivery at a 30 baht charge.

The expat hang-out Wrong Way offers delectable pies, hamburgers, salads and other home comforts usually to be enjoyed over friendly English conversation, beers and a game of pool. Peppers (297 Uppalisan Rd T: (087) 100 3260) is a bakery &cafe run by expat John Hancock. Their quality pastries, baked goods, Western breakfast, pizzas and drinks truly are a delight. Save room for a milkshake or smoothie made with real ice cream or yoghurt.

Come evening, Ubon has two night markets, a northern and central one. The northern night market is on Chayangkum Road, serving perfected versions of many Isaan specialties. The central night market, on Ratchabut Road between Khuan Thani and Si Narong Roads is slightly bigger and better. Some of our favourites from this market include Vietnamese baguettes and pancakes, fresh 15 baht fruit shakes, Japanese-style chicken or sushi, Malay chicken satay smothered in peanut sauce and a pad thai to remember.

Home to two universities, Ubon has a youthful presence with multiple after dark options of clubs and pubs to suit all tastes; or check out one of the three movie theatres or bowling alley in town.

Unlike many other nightlife spots in this university town, U-Bar (Pitchitrang Rd T: (045) 265 141) typically attracts a late-20s crowd. U-bar is significantly smaller than its sister branches in Khon Kaen and Korat, making the typical noisy Thai club feel even more crowded than usual. The evening usually begins with a live band and moves on to a DJ. It's a guaranteed happening spot come Friday and Saturday. If it's anyone in your party's birthday, take advantage of the buy one get one free Red Label deal, as it's not advertised anywhere in English.

If you want to keep the party going after U-bar goes to sleep, head over to Mix Club (Chayangkun Rd). There's a blend of familiar popular Western beats, dancers to entertain on stage, and plenty of room for dancing. Swing Club (140/1-2 Chayangkun Rd T:(045) 265 145) is another option, renovated in July 2012 aiming to attract a more youthful crowd.

If you're interested in watching a football game, Tid Soy (Suriyat Rd) located directly behind Wat Chaeng offers a suitable football-oriented atmosphere. Also offering delicious food, prepare to play the standard guessing and pointing game with no English-speaking workers or English menu.

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