Udon Thani

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Udon Thani (อุดรธานี, also Udorn Thanee) is the provincial capital of Udon Thani Province in the north-eastern Isaan region of Thailand. Often referred to as simply Udon (อุดร), the city should not be confused with Ubon (Ubon Ratchathani) to the southeast.

[edit] Understand

Udon was a U.S. air base during the Vietnam War and grew rapidly at that time. After several decades of snoozing, Udon's tourism industry has been given by the dual boost of the archaeological site at Ban Chiang and the new bridge to Laos from nearby Nong Khai.

[edit] Get in

[edit] By plane

Udon Thani International Airport (UTH), newly refurbished in 2006, has lots of flights to Bangkok (50 min) and a few to Chiang Mai and Loei. (Tiger Airways' flights to Singapore have been suspended.) To Bangkok, THAI's rack rates are closer to 2300 baht, but Air Asia will fly you for 700 baht and Nok for 1250 if you book well in advance.

There are four daily buses direct to the Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai from the airport, roughly synchronized with flight arrivals. Buy tickets (150 baht) at the taxi desk. Note that these buses will drop you off into a pit of tuk-tuks, which will try to convince you that you need their services at 20 baht a shot; unless you have baggage, you can ignore them and just walk out to the road, from where you can see the Thai checkpoint less than 500 metres away.

[edit] By bus

Buses from Bangkok, an 8-hour ride, arrive at the BKS station to the north of the city.

Buses depart at least once per hour after 11AM to Nong Khai (20 baht, 1 hour, non-airconditioned 3rd class) on the Lao border. Buses from Nong Khai may drop you off north of the city. Follow the locals and hop on the waiting #6 songthaew for the ride to the bus station, or be left at the tender mercies of the tuk-tuk mafia.

There are six express buses a day direct to the Morning Market in Vientiane (80 baht, 2 hours, air-con 1st class departures at 8AM, 10:30AM, 11:30AM, 2PM, 4PM, 6PM). These cross-border buses will carry passengers who have not obtained their Lao visas in advance, but may not wait long enough at the border for a visa on arrival to be applied for and issued. This isn't a problem when the queues are short, but at busy times passengers who don't already have their visas may be left behind and have to continue by local bus or tuk-tuk.

[edit] By train

Daily trains connect to Bangkok and Nong Khai, though these are slower than buses. Sleeper trains are charming, but third class is too rigorous due to very hard plastic seats.

[edit] Get around

Navigation around Udon Thani is made easier by three large roundabouts in the central roads - a clocktower, a fountain (although no water present) and a statue. It's also possible to orientate yourself with Robinsons or Nong-Prajack park. Street names are next to useless.

City map: http://www.udonmap.com/images/new_map.gif (linked from http://www.udonmap.com/Udon_Thani )

[edit] By samlor

Udon Thani has one of Thailand's largest samlor (three-wheeled bicycle taxi) fleets, although as elsewhere they are slowly succumbing to the pressure of internal combustion.

[edit] By tuk-tuk

Tuk-tuks, the noxious vanquishers of the samlor, prowl the streets on the lookout for tourists to rip off. Try to keep the negotiated price in the 30-40 baht range, unless the trip is quite long.

[edit] By songthaew

Udon Thani has a bus-like network of numbered songthaews; cost is 8 or 10 baht per trip (10 baht outside ringroad).

[edit] By bicycle

Bicycles are available for rent at the northeast corner of Nong Prajack park for 20 baht/hour.

[edit][add listing] See

Udon has a variety of sights although most visitors make a beeline for Laos or the bronze age excavations east of Udorn at Ban Chiang. Within Udon you have the Udon Sunshine Orchid Farm which is famous for a variety of orchids, orchid derived perfumes, and plants that "dance to music".

15 km north of Udon along Route 2 is the village of Ban Nakha, famous for selling home woven silk and cotton garments. It is somewhat commercialized but a walk back from the highway into the village can net some great bargains on silks and cottons.

60 km north-west of Udon near the Amphoe of Ban Phue is Phu Phrabat National Park, a marvelous ridgeline with numerous sandstone edifices several thousand years old. Bronze age cave paintings are also within the park.

40 km south-west of Udon is the Pu Foi Lom Eco-Park located high on a ridgeline. Numerous trails and rainy season water falls are within the park. South of Udon is a large wetlands area/lake called Khumpawapi. In the October time frame traditional dragon boat races are held on the lake. Within Khumpahawapi is a city park with a large troupe of monkeys that have been living there for over a hundred years.

Within the city a large recreational area call Nong Prajack Park is the primary site for locals to exercise and chill out. Consisting of a large lake/reservoir with several small islands, it features pleasant grass areas and activities such as nightly aerobics (to Thai pop music) and feeding bread crumbs to the fish. For the more active, it's also popular for jogging around the outside of the lake.

Nong Bua is another park with a lake just to the east of the railway line. It is noted for its Chinese pagodas over the lake and the dragon pole.

[edit][add listing] Do

  • Several large markets to visit.
  • There is a large Night Market that opens from about 6PM to 9:30PM next to the train station.
  • Ask tuk-tuk drivers about evening activities.

[edit][add listing] Buy

  • Chareonsri Center is Udon Thani's biggest and fanciest shopping mall, featuring five floors of shopping, including a large Robinson's department store and a TOPS Supermarket.

Further out east from the centre is a Makro store, cheap for bulk purchases) and a Big C shopping complex (both groceries and assorted goods) with much cheaper pricing than Robinson's.

On the ring road east-side are several large home improvement stores; Home Mart, Global House, and Tool Pro. Also on the east-side ring road is the new Bo Bei Clothing Market.

On the ring road north-side is a Tesco Lotus superstore.

Within the city itself are numerous 7-11's as well as many mini-marts with western snacks and goods.

[edit][add listing] Eat

Udon Thani has a range of buffet restaurants, featuring Korean-style cook it yourself BBQ in a raised dish over a charcoal burner in the centre of your table. Around the outside of the dish, water is placed allowing vegetables to be boiled. An all you can eat buffet ranges from 39 baht to 89 baht.

  • Chareonsri Center has all the favorite Western and Thai restaurant chains on the 1st floor, and a large food court on the 3rd.
  • Bella Italia (1st floor) tel+fax: 042-343134 (mobile: 01-799-7736) bellaitalia_restaurant@yahoo.it [1] claims to be the first truly authentic Italian restaurant in Udon Thani, featuring ingredients imported from Italy. English menu, indoor and outdoor seating. Private party bookings and tourist reservations welcome.

[edit][add listing] Drink

Udon Thani has a wide variety of Karaoke bars, go-go bars, nightclubs and English and American styled pubs. The area around the Charoen Shopping Complex (locally called Komplek) houses the majority of these.

  • Dong Dea Moon. With the sea of motorbikes out the front, this a favourite with locals and has regular appearances by some big-name Thai folk acts.
  • Steve's Bar. Run by an English ex-pat and his Thai wife, serving Western and Thai food as well as a selection of International beers and spirits. Just around the corner,
  • Tong's Bar. Gay-friendly bar, draws Thais and foreigners, with cheesy Thai pop blaring from the speakers.
  • Harmony Bar [2]. Run by a Thai/Dutch female singer. A bar with live music entertainment.

Beyond this, bars tend to open and close by the month, if not by the week. The club scene is fairly uni-dimensional with a generic crowd going to the 2 or 3 clubs in town. The best are housed in the basements of the Charoen Grand and Napalai hotels.

[edit][add listing] Sleep

Inexpensive accommodation can be found around town, including hotels for as little as 160 baht/night, and apartment rentals from 1800 baht/month. Private pool villas can be rented for catered stays of two nights or more.

  • Gecko Villa, [3]. Out of town; spacious country house with pool offering fully catered & serviced stays. Sleeps 2-6. Free transfers.  edit
  • Green Gecko, [4]. Large traditional Thai house; luxury villa rental with private swimming pool. Fully catered and serviced. Sleeps 2-4. Free transfers  edit
  • Chareonsri Grand, (Next to the main shopping centre). The main hotel used by foreigners. From 1,300 baht..  edit
  • Charoen Hotel, 549 Phosri Road. 250 standard rooms, 3 superior rooms, and 2 suites, on a 10 acre area surrounded by garden and beautifully landscaped with swimming pools. It is only a few hundred metres to the south-west of the central bus station. From 950 baht..  edit
  • Paradise Hotel. Staff are friendly but only speak a little English. Fan rooms with double bed cost 200 baht but smell a bit funny. Free water (2 bottles per day) and maps of the city.  edit
  • TaNiTa (Lagoon) Resort, 113 Baan Nong Huaw Mue, Nadee, Muang (2 km from airport), +66 -81-8846334, [5]. 9 standard rooms in big area surrounded by nice lagoon and beautiful garden.  edit
  • Top Mansion, (200m from Robinson Charoensri shopping mall), +66 -42-345015 (). Convenient for bus and train stations, and Paolo Memorial Hospital. Rooms 350 baht.  edit
  • Udon Airport Hotel, 14 Moo 1, Udon-Nongbua Lampoo Road (500m from airport), 66-42-346223-4, 66-42-346513-4 (, fax: 66-42-346514), [6]. On a 7 acre area surrounded by garden and beautiful landscape. 115 standard rooms, 3 superior rooms, and 2 suites. Standard rooms are air-con with mini bar, radio, colour TV with domestic and foreign programs, and 24-hour hi-speed Internet access. From 800 baht including breakfast..  edit
  • Udon Residence, 9/2 Chert Sombat Road, Maakaeng, Muang, Udon Thani (700 meters from shopping mall, off Prajak road and behind 3rd circle (clock circle round-about)), +66 -89-5778933, [7]. Clean and comfortable rooms with air-con, mini-bar fridge, cable TV, free wireless internet, free tea & coffee. Also available self contained apartment for daily rent with kitchen and living room. Prices start from 450bt.  edit
  • Silver Reef Bed & Breakfast, 338/8 Prajack Rd. Muang (5 min walk to Robinson Shopping), 66 42 344-081, [8]. Brand New Building in the heart of Udon city, 2 steps to Central Bus Station. Convenient for all your business and leisure needs, Every Room Has: 29” TV and & Local Cable/ Air-con/ Wi-Fi available. Silver Reef is operated by Canadian management.  edit

[edit] Contact

SILVER REEF HOTEL (66)42 344-081 OR (66)81 873 6988

[edit] Get out

  • Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is about one and a half hours away across the Mekong. Express Air conditioned buses leave the Udorn Central bus station six times daily for Vientiane. Bus Fare one way as of 04/2008 is 80 baht. A visa on arrival for Laos at the Friendship Bridge costs $35 for 30 days (two passport photos are required or there is an additional $1 charge).
  • The Ban Chiang archaeological dig is a UNESCO World Heritage site about 35 kilometers east of Udon. Both buses and inter-village songthaews will drop you off at the Ban Chiang turn-off.

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