Udon Thani

Udon Thani

Ancient pottery and abundant markets

As a province, Udon Thani has a lot going for it. Phu Phra Bat Historical Park and the Ban Chiang archaeological site, in particular, are two of the Isaan region’s most interesting attractions. On the other hand, the not-so-charming provincial capital hosts a hefty community of expats, mostly Western men, and a small section can feel like a scaled-down version of Pattaya. Steer clear of the seediness and you’ll find a booming commercial hub with a plethora of markets.

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Some travellers will no-doubt prefer nearby Khon Kaen for its modern feel, or Nong Khai with its relaxing riverfront, but neither of these are as lively or as comfortable as Udon city. The expat presence means that good-value accommodation, Western food and conveniences like motorbike rental and English-speaking tuk tuk drivers are always at the ready.

Put your feet up. : David Luekens.
Put your feet up. Photo: David Luekens

Excavations at nearby Ban Chiang proved that people have lived in the area for thousands of years, but the city itself is not so old. After the French wrestled control of Laos from Siam in 1893, the Thai prince/general Prajak moved his military stronghold south from Nong Khai to a small settlement, establishing a town that grew to become Udon Thani, or the “Northern City.” Now home to around 200,000 people, it’s grown into one of Thailand’s largest.

Rooted in Lao/Isaan culture, Udon is also home to many Chinese-Thais and the kingdom’s largest group of Vietnamese. Many of the downtown shops selling gold, incense and coffins look like they could have been plucked straight out of Bangkok’s Chinatown. During the American War, US servicemen stationed at what was then one of the largest air bases in Southeast Asia added to the city’s eclectic atmosphere while boosting the local economy ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 900 words.)

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