Udon Thani, Thailand: Tourist Attractions
Udon Thani Area Tourist Attractions
Who says there are no fun things to do in Udon Thani? Since 2012, I have discovered many scenic and cultural attractions in the Udon Thani area of northeastern Thailand. Two of the lesser-known tourist sites are located in the Udon Thani Province within an hour's drive from Udon Thani City—the Sea of Red Lotuses and the Ho Chi Minh historical sites and museum.
In this article, after an introduction to northeastern Thailand and Udon Thani, I will present the location of two interesting but hard to find tourist attractions and how to reach them by vehicle. I will also detail my experiences visiting these tourist sites.
Udon Thani and Northeast Thailand
Udon Thani is one of the provinces in the northern part of northeast Thailand or Esaan as popularly known, Esaan comprises almost half of Thailand's land area. It extends from Nakhorn Ratchasima in the south to Nong Khai on the Mekong River separating Laos from Thailand. Esaan is also bordered on the northeast by the Mekong which divides Thailand from Laos to the northeast and east and from Cambodia to the southeast.
Udon Thani Province is bordered by the provinces of Nong Khai to the north, Khon Kaen to the south, Sakhon Nakhon to the east, Kalasin to the southeast, and Loei and Nong Bua Lamphu to the west.
The province of Udon Thani is divided into 20 districts or prefectures. Mueang Udon Thani or the city of Udon is the largest. Districts outside of Udon City with tourist attractions include Kumphawapi to the southeast, Kut Chap to the west, and Nong Han to the east.
Udon Thani Province had a population of almost 1.6 million in 2014 with a little more than 400,000 living in Udon Thani City in 2013. It is served by an international airport. Population facts are taken from Wikipedia.
Udon Thani City in Relation to Districts in Udon Thani Province
The Sea of Red Lotuses
One of the better kept secret tourist attractions in the Udon Thani area is the Sea of Red Lotuses or Ta Lay Bua Daeng as it is known in Thai. Hidden in the Kumphawapi Reserve in Kumphawapi District, it is not easy to reach unless you are a local or a tour guide.
The Sea of Red Lotuses is situated 45-50 kilometers from the Udon Thani City Ring Road at Lake Nong Han on the banks of Ban Dian.
You can best reach it by car or minivan from Udon Thani City by taking Highway 2 south in the direction of Khon Kaen. At approximately 22-25 kilometers south of the City Ring Road, you will see a sign directing you to the Sea of Red Lotuses. After you see the sign, exit to the left on to Highway 2633, a two-lane road. This road will take you about 25 kilometers to the Sea of Red Lotuses.
Our boat pilot and guide on the lake indicated that the Sea of Red Lotuses covers 22,000 Thai rai or the equivalent of 10,524 acres. Its average depth as measured by a stick from the boat guide is between one and two meters.
When I visited the Sea of Red Lotuses with family and friends on February 8, 2018, it was my second visit to this attraction. My first visit was in January of 2015 with my wife.
The second visit was much better than the first. My wife agreed and pointed out it was because she paid 500 Thai baht (about $16) for a one and a half hour trip for all of us on the lake. On our first trip, my wife and I only paid 300 baht for a 45-minute ride which did not visit all of the red lotuses on the lake.
During our most recent boat ride with friends, we visited all of the areas fo the lake where the red lotuses were in bloom. We were on the lake from 9:30 until 11:00 am right before the sun started to really shine brightly.
The best time to plan a trip to the Sea of Red Lotuses is during the cool dry season which runs from November through February. I would also advise going to the lake before 11:00 am when the red lotuses are in full bloom.
There is no admission to this public reserve. The only charge is for renting a boat and pilot. After enjoying a boat ride, there is an area onshore which has small Thai restaurants and souvenir shops.
If you depart Udon Thani City between 8:00 and 8:30, you should be back in the city for lunch at noon if you don't eat at the Sea of Red Lotuses. Many of the bigger hotels in Udon Thani City offer half day tours to the Sea of Red Lotuses.
Route Map from Udon Thani City to the Sea of Red Lotuses
Ho Chi Minh Historical Sites
The Ho Chi Minh historical sites are one of the least known tourist attractions in the Udon Thani area. I first became aware of these historical sites when I saw a big sign on the side of the road going west towards Kut Chap District.
More specifically, the Ho Chi Minh historical sites are located about 12 kilometers west of Udon Thani City on a two-lane highway off of the Ring Road going in the direction of Kut Chap. At a distance of 10 kilometers from the Ring Raod, you will see a big sign in English and Vietnamese on the left side of the road next to a temple directing you to make a left turn on to a small lane. After making the turn, you will pass a school on the left and temple on the right before seeing another sign telling you to turn right. After you make a right turn, you will see the entrance to the Ho Chi Minh historical sites.
These historical sites consist of a two-level Ho Chi Minh museum and reconstructed buildings where Ho Chi Minh once lived.
Throughout his entire life, Ho Chi Minh who is the father of modern-day Vietnam led the fight for resistance against first the French and then the Americans. This culminated in the unification of Vietnam and independence.
Living from 1890 until 1969, Ho Chi Minh was trained as a teacher and traveled the world for 30 years before rising to power. During his travel, Ho Chi Minh learned 28 languages, many of which he taught.
In 1927, Ho Chi Minh first arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, and from there traveled to Pichet in the north and then to Udon Thani in Esaan where there was a sizable Vietnamese community.
The Ho Chi Minh Museum opened in 2001 and has many books, photos, letters, and maps related to Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam. Unfortunately, the displays are only in Thai and Vietnamese. An English speaking Thai-Vietnamese guide, however, is on duty and will answer most of your questions about Ho Chi Minh. From the guide, I learned that 100,000 Thai-Vietnamese live in Thailand and 60,000 in the Udon Thani area.
After visiting the museum, my wife and I toured the reconstructed buildings where Ho Chi Minh once lived in 1928 and 1929. In the main building, I saw the room where Ho Chi Minh taught English, Thai, and Vietnamese to adults and children. I also viewed the room where he slept and an outer building which served as a kitchen. Next to these buildings were replicas of where Ho Chi Minh raised pigs and chickens and also stored his rice grain.
According to Lonely Planet publication, Ho Chi Minh used this formerly bamboo jungle area around Nong Hang village as one of his bases to rally Esaan's big Vietnamese communities for resistance against French occupation.
The museum guide, however, noted that Ho Chi Minh hid in this area to avoid French intelligence operatives who were chasing him.
The Ho Chi Minh Museum and reconstructed buildings are open daily 8-4. Admission is free and unless you can read Thai or Vietnamese, you should be able to tour the museum in 30 minutes. It should take no more than 30 minutes one way to travel to the Ho Chi Minh historical sites from the center of Udon Thani City.
Ho Chi Minh Rebuilt Buildings Outside of Udon Thani City
© 2018 Paul Richard Kuehn