In Northeast Thailand, we came across an otherworldly attraction that combined the beauty of a tropical flower garden and the serenity of a lake. This spectacular site is home to millions of lotus flowers and appropriately named the Red Lotus Sea or Talay Bua Daeng. We’d like to share this beautiful natural attraction in honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday.
As we approached the water’s edge where small pontoon boats are docked, it was not immediately obvious that this was home to a million pink lotus flowers. The magic happened only after we hopped into a pontoon boat and took a ride towards the lake’s center.
The trek began among lake grasses, lily pads, and murky water, but gradually changed. Bright pink bulbs began appearing, hovering a hand’s length above the water’s surface. The murky water became clear and offered a view of the tangled dark green stalks and tiny fish below.
After ten minutes of humming along in our pontoon boat, our surroundings were transformed, as promised, into the Red Lotus Sea. Millions of lotus flowers stretch across the 600 square acre lake in every direction.
In some areas, lake grasses sprouted through the lotus flowers, sending streaks of bright green through the hot pink horizon. There were well-traveled boat routes among the flowers, giving the illusion of paved roads that snaked and shimmered their way across the water.
There are a few small islands on the lake, home to Buddha statues, shrines, and pagodas. The islands and their structures look as though they are floating among the lotus flowers. Other picturesque moments include birds flying by and local fishermen gliding by on their longboats.
A soft fresh breeze played across the lake and our pontoon’s canopy offered us shade from the late morning sun. The lake is quiet, apart from the low humming of other boats’ motors here and there. We had a peaceful stay on the water, but we can imagine that it would have been made complete if we had brought along food and drink for a picnic while enjoying the scenery.
When is the best time to visit the Red Lotus Sea?
The Red Lotus Sea showcases its beauty during Thailand’s cool season, but the peak blooms occur from beginning of December to the end of February. The best time of day to see the lotus blossoms is between 6:00am until 11:00am or 12:00pm.
This natural attraction is the perfect place to visit during the Valentine’s Day weekend. The Red Lotus Sea Festival is also held in mid January every year at the nearby Wat Bandiem (วัดบ้านเดียม), which is alternatively referred to as Wat Mahathat Thep Chinda.
Pontoon boats offer rides onto the lake for 45 minutes or 90 minutes. These trips cost 300 and 500 baht, respectively. The pontoon boats have wide seats covered in straw mats and a canopy for shade and can accommodate up to ten passengers. Life vests are also provided. Although boat rides are available all day, the blooms begin to close against the afternoon heat.
We visited this attraction during a day trip to Udon Thani, but if were going to spend more time there we would have booked a stay at The Pannarai Hotel. It’s in the heart of the city and goes for less than $50 per night.
We’ve also had friends rave about their stay at the Gecko Villa. This is perfect for larger groups so if we had several friends going on a trip we’d splurge and go to that hotel in Udon Thani instead. The added bonus is that it’s not far from the lake!
Where is the Red Lotus Sea?
View Sea of Red Lotuses in a larger map
This attraction is located in Kumphawapi district of the Udon Thani province. Signs for the Red Lotus Sea written in Thai (ทะเลบัวแดง) can be seen as you drive on Route 2 (Mittraphap Road) between Udon Thani and Khon Kaen. Turn at road marker 28 km and follow the signs across the railroad tracks, making several turns before arriving at the lake.
The drive is roughly 50 km or one hour from the Udon Thani Airport and taxis cost around 1,000 baht from the airport. Better yet, rent a car from the airport and drive there yourself.
The access point to the Red Lotus Sea is on the northeast side of the lake and is shown in the map above. In addition to the docked boats, there is a restaurant on-site near the water’s edge and a large dirt parking lot.
The restaurant features about a dozen different dishes including a lotus stem coconut curry and a spicy lotus stem som tam. There are also clean Thai-styled restrooms but we recommend bringing your own tissue and soap or hand sanitizer.
If you find yourself in Udon Thani in the cooler months or plan on taking a trip there with a special someone, make sure to visit the Red Lotus Sea. The only thing better than seeing pictures of it is getting the chance to see it in person!
For more information about the Red Lotus Sea or to arrange a trip for large groups send an email to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) or give them a call at (042) 325-4067 or (042) 334-446.