Since millions of tourists flock to Thailand searching for beaches in the south, golden temples in Bangkok, beautiful mountain views up north. Isan or the northeastern part of the country is unfortunately forgotten. After my recent trip to Udonthani, the second largest of Big Four in Isan, I could not contain the excitement to myself. And here are eight places worth for the expedition to Udonthani.
1# THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF BAN CHIANG
Ban Chiang has been designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1992. Historians traced this city of arts and crafts back to Neolithic to the Iron Age. It is famous for “red-painted pottery” in particular. The site is a museum divided into three sections: National Museum, Wat Phosrinai and the Tai Phuan House.
2# RED LOTUS LAKE
Red Lotus Sea is one of the world’s strangest (yet most picturesque) lakes. Picture yourself rowing a boat in 8,000 acres of this shallow lake early in the morning and witness the water lilies blooming one by one. Bird watchers can also experience a variety of birds from local ones to rare breeds. There’s a small island that you can stop to visit the temple and learn about the primeval myth of this breathtaking place.
3# THAI-CHINESE CULTURAL CENTER OF UDONTHANI AND CHAO PUYA UDON SHRINE
The temple is located in the beautiful Thung Sri Muang Park in the city centre. The Cultural Center has various buildings from museum and teahouse, to conference room and learning centre. There is a free interactive museum for everyone to receive knowledge about the history of Udon’s prosperous commerce through Chinese’s migration, and the outdoor landscape was built to entertain and educate citizens at the same time.
4# MUANG UDONTHANI MUSEUM
This is one of the most beautiful ancient 20th century mansions in the province which was turned into the museum. It studies history and tradition of Udonthani and there is also a section entirely dedicated to Luang Prajak, the founder of Udonthani town. The estate has a cosy feeling and a fragment of haunting spirit, in a good way. The open walkways overlook Nong Prajak park and lake, another tourist attraction in the city.
5# PC COWBOY TOWN
The property covers 4,000 rai of farm, fun and tons of activities. This ecotourism estate offers an open ranch zoo for children to explore, learn about farm animals and stay closer to the nature. The entrance is 100 baht but you can experience adventurous activities like ATV rides, zip-line ride, BB gun range, Minitrod or Go-kart race, and more relaxing pursuits like pedal boats, riding around in a carriage, and even a cowboy show.
6# WAT PHOTHISOMPHON
Besides the unique architecture of the royal temple, Wat Phothisomphon, the temple has the biggest golden Chedi (pagoda) in the province. There are many important ancient Buddha images from Thai history in this temple, along with a museum of revered and influential monks, since it was a former education centre of monks in Thailand and Laos.
7# PREECHA NIGHT MARKET UDONCITY
Preecha Market is located right in the city centre and presents many selections of food stalls. This is a place for you to escape the heat, have a cocktail and find delicious treats of Isan. Local organic vegetables, fresh food from the river and exotic ingredients from the soil are nicely placed for you to choose. Preecha Night Market is also a perfect hip spot that offers many zones with attractive restaurants and mouthwatering stalls.
8# ISAN FOOD
During my recent journey to Udonthani, I have discovered “Samuay & Sons”, a modern Isan eatery. Those two sons of Miss Samuay created out-of-this-world dishes from ordinary Isan homegrown produce and bizarre local ingredients such as red ant egg, pickled fish (and its juice), freshwater seaweed and so on. These elements are common to local natives for centuries afterwards, turning into striking, well-thought-out dishes.