Udon Thani (อุดรธานี, also Udorn Thanee) is a city in the Isaan region of Thailand. Often referred to as simply Udon or Udorn (อุดร), the city should not be confused with Ubon — Ubon Ratchathani in southeastern Isaan.
Founded in the 1890s by Prince Prajak Silapakom, Udon Thani is the 7th largest city in Thailand.
Udon had a USAF airbase during the Vietnam War that increased its wealth and importance. Surrounded by one of the major agricultural areas of the country, Udon Thani has become a regional hub for agriculture, commercial distribution, shopping, and a fledgling tourism industry.
Because of the US presence (the airbase until 1976, a U.S. consulate until 1995, and currently, a Voice of America radio station) many Thais were well-paid and learned English, making them more marketable to foreign labour recruiters. Udon has a large number of its citizens who have worked or are working overseas, particularly in Middle East oil fields. This has contributed both to the wealth of the area and its desirability as an expat destination. More than 5,000 expats from Europe, Australia, and North America have settled in the area.
Udon Thani Airport (UTH) has several 50 min daily flights to Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi [BKK]) (Thai Airlines: around 2,500 baht) or (Don Mueang [DMK]) (Air Asia from 500 baht and Nok Air from 1,250 baht if booked well in advance). There are also direct flights to Chiang Mai, Loei and Phuket (Air Asia flies to Phuket with tickets often around 1,000-1,200 baht, which is comparable to a 2-night bus/train trip via Bangkok).
To get to town there is a limousine service (actually a minibus) for 80 baht/person that will drop you and other passengers at the location of your choice. Minibus tickets are available in the booth just to the right as you leave the terminal building. If there are more than 2 of you, it may be cheaper to call a taxi (Tel. +66 42 323239). Taxis are not permitted to wait for passengers at the airport, but some do it anyway, asking 200-400 baht for the 4 km journey. Some hotels have pickup services and may take an extra passenger or two if space permits. Some long distance buses to Khon Kaen were seen in the airport, with numerous people boarding them. No local Udon Thani songthaews have been seen near the airport.
If you are travelling on to Nong Khai, there is a bureau straight ahead of you when you get to the arrivals hall which sells minivan tickets to Nong Khai. They have a minibus which meets most flights and for 200 baht they will load you into a minivan. It takes one hour to reach Nong Khai and if you ask the driver he will take you to your hotel, or drop you off at the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge. You can then proceed into Laos.
There are two bus stations in the city:
- City Centre Bus Station (BKS Station). The city's main bus station is near Central Plaza.
- Bus Station 2 (Northern Bus Station) (On the outskirts of town on the road in from Loei towards Nong Khai). Buses to and from northern Thailand such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai. A tuk-tuk into town costs about 100 baht from there (Dec 2014). Songthaew 7 will take you there as well.
Buses from Bangkok (Mo Chit), an 8-hour journey, arrive at the BKS station in the city centre.
Buses from several companies depart at least once per hour after 08:00 to Nong Khai (50 baht (Oct 2013), 1 hour, non-air conditioned 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 to the bus station or take a tuk-tuk.
There are six express buses a day direct to the Morning Market in Vientiane (80 baht, 2 hours, air-con 1st class departures at 08:00, 10:30, 11:30, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00). Some companies will not sell this trip if you cannot show a visa. These cross-border buses will sometimes 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. This is a famous scam place, up to 100 baht for a 2 min ride, plus 25 baht for the bridge crossing, plus tuk-tuk or taxi to Vientiane.
To/from Chiang Mai, a VIP seat on a bus (e.g., Chackrapong Tour) costs 666 baht. (Dec 2014). The overnight journey takes 10.5 hr. This has to be one of Thailand's worst bus trips as roads mid-way are small, rural, and winding. Those on the top of double decker buses may get queasy from all the toing-and-froing. Also, as the mid-point is one of Thailand's more remote areas, your bus may not make the customary 20-min break mid-way, or any break at all. Chackrapong buses drop you at the remote Bus Station 2, a reason to avoid it if you can.
Phetprasert has two buses a day from Chiang Mai to Udon (and onto Nakhon Phanom). They leave Chiang Mai at 17:30 and 19:30, arriving in Udon at 05:15 and 05:30 respectively. Fare (Mar 2015) is 606 baht. Phetprasert drops passengers at Central Plaza Shopping Mall, a very good location in the centre (Mar 2015).
Daily trains go to Nong Khai (45 mins for just a bargain 11 baht) and over the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River to Laos. Trains are also frequent to Nakhon Ratchasima and Bangkok. The overnight express sleeper to Bangkok is scheduled to take 9.25 hours but usually takes longer. Nevertheless, it is still quite comfortable and pleasant, especially when taken in a sleeping berth or compartment. A daytime express train to Bangkok traverses a causeway over the large and scenic artificial lake created by the Pa Sak Jolasid Dam (in Lopburi Province). Connections to the major centres of southern Isaan (Buriram, Surin, Si Saket and Ubon Ratchathani) can be made in Nakhon Ratchasima for those who like to travel by rail.
In all, there are daily daytime trains, and three daily nighttime trains from Bangkok to Udon Thani and vice versa (most of which normally originate or terminate at Nong Khai), and several local trains to other destinations, including Nakhon Ratchasima.
- Train Station. The Udon Thani train station is conveniently located near to the main tourist area and Central Plaza shopping complex.
Navigation around Udon Thani is made easier by three large roundabouts on the central road, Hwy 2: the clock circle, the fountain circle and Prince Prajak Circle. It's also possible to orient yourself with Central Plaza or Nong Prajak Park. There is a bypass road that goes around the city.
The main bus station, near Central Plaza has a taxi stand.
By bicycle taxi
Udon Thani has many samlors (three-wheeled bicycle taxis), although as elsewhere, they are slowly succumbing to the pressures of the internal combustion engine.
Tuk-tuks, three-wheeled motorcycles, are readily available in most commercial areas. Negotiate a price for your journey before you get in. Note that in Udon Thani the locally made vehicles (called Skylabs) differ from those in most of Thailand outside Isaan in that their fronts are adapted motorcycles. If you travel to Laos, you will also see such vehicles (called "jumbos") there. Tuk-tuks prowl the streets on the lookout for tourists. Apart from long journeys the price should be around 30-50 baht. If you get into the bus station early in the morning and need a guest house they may pretend they can't speak English, drive you around in a small circle "looking" for guesthouses before dropping you around the corner from the station; however, some may not speak English and are just trying to be helpful. They will then ask for 100 baht for a 30 baht journey. There is plenty of accommodation within walking distance of the station.
Udon Thani has a bus-like network of numbered pick up trucks with 2 benches in the back songthaews; cost is 8 or 10 baht per trip (10 baht outside the ring road).
- Bicycle Rental. Bicycles are available for rent at the northeast corner of Nong Prajack Park. 20 baht/hour.
Bicycles can also be rented by the day from Asia Backpackers and SPM House.
By motorbike or car
Motorbikes and cars are for rent at numerous locations.
- Ban Chiang (About 35 km E of Udon). An archaeological dig that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both buses and inter-village songthaews will drop you off at the Ban Chiang turn-off.
- Ban Nakha (15 km N of Udon on Rte 2). A village famous for selling hand woven silk and cotton garments. It is somewhat commercialized but a walk back from the road into the village can net some bargains on silk and cotton.
- Nong Bua. A 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.
- Nong Prajack Park. A large recreational area within the city and 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 or cycling around the outside of the lake 4 km periemter.
- Phu Foi Lom Eco-Park (40 km SW of Udon). Numerous trails and rainy season waterfalls. South of Udon is a large wetlands area/lake called Khumpahawapi. In Oct, traditional dragon boat races are held on the lake. Within Khumpahawapi is a city park with a large troop of monkeys that have been living there for over a hundred years.
- Phu Phrabat National Park (60 km NW of Udon near the Ban Phue). A marvelous ridge line with numerous sandstone edifices several thousand years old. Bronze age cave paintings are also within the park.
- Udon Sunshine Orchid Farm. Famous for a variety of orchids, orchid-derived perfumes and plants that "dance to music".
- Major Cinema. Watch a film at Major Cinema in Central Plaza. Some movies in Thai and some in English so choose the appropriate showing.
- Daytrip to Nong Khai. Catch a 45 minute train at either 08:34 or 11:42 to Nong Khai for 11 baht. Either catch train back at 13:03 or catch a mini bus back for 50 baht. Every 30 min from bus station.
On the east-side ring road is the Bo Bei Clothing Market. Within the city itself are numerous 7-Elevens as well as many mini-marts with Western snacks and goods.
- Big C, Soi Sampantamit (East of town centre). Shopping complex (both groceries and assorted goods) with cheaper prices than Robinson's at Central Plaza.
- Central Plaza (Formerly Chareonsri), fax: f. Udon Thani's largest indoor shopping mall, featuring 5 floors of shopping, including a Robinson's department store, Tops supermarket, Sizzler steakhouse, KFC, Pizza Company, Swensen's Ice Cream, Boots Pharmacy, IT products, mobile phones, cineplex.
- Landmark Plaza / TukCom. Shopping complex with SFC Cinema.
- Makro (E of town centre). Cheap bulk purchases.
- Night Market (W of the train station, 5 min walk from the central bus station.). 17:00-22:30. Eat there or takeaway food.
- Tesco Lotus (On the ring road N-side). superstore with much lower prices than Robinson's at Central Plaza.
- UD Town (Adjacent to the train station). Mall with a food court, Tesco Lotus store, 3 different Oishi restaurants, McDonald's, Swensen's Ice Cream, Pizza Company, WaWee Coffee and numerous retail businesses.
Street vendors abound throughout the city. Satay, noodle soup (beef, pork, chicken and duck are common), pad Thai, som tam, grilled chicken, meat on a stick, various sweets and rice dishes are available at nearly all times. Udon Thani has a large range of buffet restaurants including Korean-style cook it yourself BBQ in a raised dish over a charcoal burner in the centre of your table.
- Fuzzy Ken's (Opposite Central Plaza Mall on Prajak Rd; 3 min walk from central bus station; 7 min from railway station). 6 days, early till late; closed Su. A wonderful hybrid: a restaurant serving Western food, a used bookshop and a shop selling hard-to-find Western foodstuffs (Bovril, Marmite, Heinz beans, Vegemite, meat pies). A Brit, Ken is a terrific source of local info. Serves beer and wine. Great website. Free Wi-Fi. Huge breakfast, 165 baht (Mar 2015).
- The Good Corner Restaurant and Bar, Nutti Park, Prachak Rd (Just around the corner from the "bar street"; across from UD Residence), ☎ . Daily, 09:00-23:00; kitchen closes 22:30. Owned by a Danish lady, serves breakfast, pizza and Thai food. Great quality and decent prices.
Udon Thani has a variety of karaoke bars, beer bars and Western bars. "Farang bars" tend to be concentrated in the area between Central Plaza and the railway station.
- Day and Night Bar Complex (Next to the Pannerai Hotel). Noon till midnight. About seventeen beer bars are found in this open air, but covered, bar complex.
- Nutti Park. L-shaped alley way containing a dozen or more small bars popular with tourists and expats.
There are many hotels in town. Prices vary, and as with most things, you get what you pay for. Rates range from 200 to 2,000 baht or more per night. Apartment rentals from 1,800 baht/month. Private pool villas can be rented for catered stays of two nights or more.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||less than 500 baht|
|Splurge||over 1,500 baht|
- Asia Backpackers. Rooms from 250 baht. Also rents bicycles for 100 baht per day.
- Karin Hotel (Watthananuwong Rd mid-town between Nong Prajak and Robinson/train station.). Somewhat aging, but cheap and convenient location. 460-800 baht.
- Phimonrat Mansion, Phimonrat Mansion 38/9 Moo 5 Robmuang Rd (Junction of Mittraphap, Nong Bua Rd. 100m E of Nong Bua Rd), ☎ . Rooms with air con, TV and fridge, Wi-Fi in and outside. Thai food & drinks are available (30-200 baht) and laundry on-site. Staff speak little English, but good Japanese. Thai owner has visited Europe extensively. 350 baht.
- Ruysuk Mansion Hotel, 249/1 Adunyadet Rd. Popular inexpensive hotel for long and short stay with English speaking management. Discount for long stays. Wi-Fi. Air-conditioned rooms. 300+ baht.
- SPM House. Decent cheap rooms in good location. They also have a street side make shift bar outside. They also rent motorbikes for 200 baht per day and bicycles for 60 baht per day. 450 baht.
- Top Mansion, 35/3 Sampantamit Rd (200 m from Central Plaza shopping mall), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Convenient for bus and train stations, night market, UD Town Shopping Centre, and Paolo Memorial Hospital. On the street with foreigner-oriented bars and pubs. 450-590 baht.
- Charoen Hotel, 549 Phosri Rd (A few hundred metres SW of the central bus station). 250 standard rooms, 3 superior rooms and 2 suites, on a 10 acre area surrounded by garden and beautifully landscaped with swimming pools. 950+ baht.
- Irish Clock, 19 / 5 - 6 Sampantamitr Rd. Bar, restaurant, hotel, and central to Udon's expats. Bar open 08:30-23:00. Kitchen open 08:30-22:00. Big Christmas dinner every year. Adults, 595 baht; children, 295 baht. Free Wi-Fi. Room, 833 baht.
- Nuntiya Terrace, 549 Prachasanti Rd (City centre), ☎ . Central, clean, TV, air-con, Wi-Fi, parking lot. Daily rate and monthly rates are available.
- Silver Reef Bed & Breakfast, 338/8 Prajack Rd (5 min walk to Central Plaza), ☎ . Central, close to the bus station and Central Plaza. New, rooms have 29-inch TVs, air-con, Wi-Fi. Cheerful theme with cartoon characters. Canadian management. 500+ baht.
- TaNiTa (Lagoon) Resort, 113 Baan Nong Huaw Mue (2 km from airport), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Nine standard rooms in large area surrounded by nice lagoon and beautiful garden. 680+ baht.
- Udon Airport Hotel, 14 Moo 1, Udon-Nongbua Lampoo Rd (500 m from airport), ☎ , , fax: +66 42 346514, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. On a 3 hectare 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, and Internet access. 800+ baht including breakfast.
- Udon Star Palace (Udon Star), 75/3 Watthana Nuwong (At the bottom end of the bar street), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Run by an elderly Frenchman whose presence is fleeting, the ground floor of the hotel is packed with vintage radios, musical instruments, passenger liner memorabilia and other fabulous knick-knacks. Historical photos of Udon abound. Rooms are huge, clean and eccentric. Free pool or snooker table, free foosball table, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast. ~1,000 baht.
- Bodhi Villa (เรือนเจ้าโพธิ์), 91/9 Nonglek Soi 7, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers 5 spacious accommodations in traditional Thai wooden house style. Simply furnished rooms offer air-con, a seating area, and cable TV. En suite baths come with free toiletries and shower facilities. Free Wi-Fi. The hotel is next to a shopping complex. 1,800-2,000 baht includes breakfast for two.
- Centara Hotel & Convention Centre (Formerly the Charoensri Grand Royal Hotel) (Next to the main shopping centre). The main hotel patronised by foreigners. 2,500+ baht.
- Gecko Villa (Free transfers from Udon Thani). Check-in: flexible, check-out: flexible. Set in the countryside out of Udon Thani, has a swimming pool and offers fully serviced stays with freshly prepared Thai food at no additional cost. Sleeps 2-6. 6,800 baht.
- Green Gecko (Free transfers from Udon Thani). Check-in: flexible, check-out: flexible. A traditionally-styled Thai house, has a swimming pool, and offers fully catered and serviced holidays. Sleeps 2-4. 7,900 baht.
- The Pannarai Hotel (เดอะพรรณรายโฮเต็ล), 19/8 Sampantamit Rd (Next door to Irish Clock Bar, near Central Plaza), ☎ , e-mail: , , email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Beautiful city view with swimming pool, restaurant, rudimentary gym. 2 meeting rooms and private car park. 5 minutes walk to bus and train stations. In the middle of Udon Thani, next to Day & Night, Central Plaza, UD Town Shopping Centre, and Bangkok Hospital. Strong, free Wi-Fi. Free terrific buffet breakfast for guests, 06:00-10:00. Non-guests pay 180 baht (Mar 2015), a great deal if you're hungry. 1,650+ baht including breakfast (Dec 2014).
- Rice Paddy Villa (25 min from Udon Thani. Complimentary transfers). Check-in: flexible, check-out: flexible. Looking directly over the surrounding rice fields, has a swimming pool and sleeps 2-4 guests. Finished in Thai-style with modern conveniences. 10,000 baht, fully catered.
- Nong Khai is a very pleasant riverside town near the border with Laos. The Friendship Bridge is located here and this is the main overland border crossing into Laos on the way to Vientiane. Many travellers pass through Nong Khai on their way in and out of Laos without realising that this a worthy travel destination in its own right.
- Khon Kaen another similar city on the train line heading south.
- Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is about one and a half hours away across the Mekong. Express air conditioned buses leave the Udon Central bus station six times daily for Vientiane. Bus fare one way is 80 baht. A visa on arrival for Laos at the Friendship Bridge costs about USD35 for 30 days (two passport photos are required or there is an additional USD1 charge).
|Routes through Udon Thani|
|Nong Khai ←||N S||→ Khon Kaen → Nakhon Ratchasima|
|Nong Khai ←||N S||→ Khon Kaen → Saraburi|