Udon Thani

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 UbonUbon Ratchathani in southeastern Isaan.

Understand

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.

Get in

By plane

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 the city 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 two 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.

By bus

There are four bus stations in the city:

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. There is a notorious scam of foreigners charged up to 100 baht for a 2 min ride, plus 25 baht for the bridge crossing, plus tuk-tuk or taxi to Vientiane.

Buses depart around once per hour to Sakon Nakhon (100 baht, 3 hours, air conditioned, 160 km from Udon Thani, on the way to Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan).

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 by taking Phetprasert.

Phetprasert has three buses a day from Chiang Mai to Udon (and onto Nakhon Phanom). They leave Chiang Mai at 14:30, 17:30, and 19:30, arriving in Udon at 02:15, 05:15 and 05:30 respectively. Fare (Apr 2015) is 636 baht. Phetprasert drops passengers at Central Plaza Shopping Mall, a very good location in the centre (Mar 2015). Buses to Chiang Mai depart the shopping mall at 17:45, 18:45, and 20:45. Buy Phetprasert tickets in the city centre bus station, a 5 minute walk from the shopping mall.

To Pattaya: The 407 bus company has daily 08:00, 18:30, and 20:55 buses to Pattaya. The morning bus takes about 12 hours as the bus makes many stops. Night buses take about 10 hr. Fare is 636 baht VIP (Nov 2015). The 407 Company has its office/bus stop near, but not in the city centre bus station. It's on the corner of the main street out the front of the bus station near the 7-Eleven.

To/from Khon Kaen: Air conditioned buses and minivans depart from Udon's Bus Station 1 downtown. There are at least two departures per hour. Bus fare is 80 baht (Nov 2015). Duration of the trip is roughly 90 min for the 125 km route. Buses arrive at the Khon Kaen "Non-air conditioned bus terminal" downtown, much more convenient that Terminal 3 six kilometres from city centre.

By train

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.

Get around

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.

By taxi

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.

By tuk-tuk

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.

By songthaew

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).

By bicycle

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.

See

Excavations at Ban Chiang

Do

Buy

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.

Eat

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.

Drink

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. Bars close sharply at midnight as the police are strict. Police set up roadblocks at the hour to look for drunk drivers. If you are driving a motorbike and over the limit it will cost you a night in a very uncomfortable Thai jail, most of the next day, and 3,000 baht.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget less than 500 baht
Mid-range 500-1,500 baht
Splurge over 1,500 baht

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.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Cope

Co-working space

Dental

Go next

Routes through Udon Thani

Nong Khai  N  S  Khon Kaen Nakhon Ratchasima
Nong Khai  N  S  Khon Kaen Saraburi


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 20, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.