Udon Thani isn’t on many vacationers’ radars but it does have a large expat community, which means it’s a good place to visit for people who don’t speak much Thai. We’ve been there a handful of times (it’s a short flight from Bangkok), so we’ve put together a roundup that includes things to do in Udon Thani we’ve personally done plus other activities that we plan to do on future visits.
Red Lotus Sea in Kumphawapi
Just about an hour’s drive from the Udon Thani International Airport is the Red Lotus Sea or Talay Bua Daeng (ทะเลบัวแดง). It’s one of the most beautiful natural attractions in Isaan (or arguably in all of Thailand, for that matter).
From the lake’s edge, it may not look like much. But hop into a pontoon boat (500 THB for a 1.5-hour trip) and watch as the murky, weedy water transforms into something magical. As you approach the lake’s center, you’ll find yourself in a seemingly unending sea of hot pink flowers. The flowers are quite large, too, and some are as big as an open hand.
These blooms are seasonal and are best observed between the beginning of December and the end of February each year. Be sure to go early, too. The flowers open in the cooler part of the day between 6am and 12pm noon. They close in the afternoon when the sun is the hottest.
There’s a Thai restaurant right there too, serving several variations of som tam salads, creamy curries, and spicy stir-fries featuring lotus stems.
The Talay Bua Daeng is a great place for a day trip and certainly one of the more stunning things to do in Udon Thani. Check out more details in our dedicated post on the Red Lotus Sea.
Hours: 6am to 4pm
Prices: 300 THB for a 45-minute ride, 500 THB for a 90-minute ride
Rock Spa and Salt Fields in Ban Dung
Where does salt come from? When you’re not by the sea or ocean, one method is to find an underground source of salt water as Thais successfully did in Ban Dung.
At first glance, these rock salt fields look like barren rice fields with a dusting of snow. But in fact, they are fields of high-quality flower salt or dok glua (ดอกเกลือ) that glint and sparkle in the sun.
Salt water is pumped from a source that’s less than 100 meters into shallow pools where it is allowed to dry and crystallize. Later, it’s harvested in big, woven baskets.
The rock salt field we visited is also home to the Kunnapat Spa. This spa shop offers oil and foot massages (500 THB and 200 THB, respectively), full body mud spa (1,000 THB), mud face masks (200 THB), and foot soaks (100 THB). They sell several homemade scrubs and masks that are made from their mineral-rich salt, too.
Contact: Kunnapat Spa
Phone: (081) 975-6494
Prices: 100 THB to 1,000 THB
Phu Phrabat Historical Park in Ban Phue
What looks to be the making of giants, this historical park is famous for its bizarre rock formations that are precariously balanced on top of each other. In fact, the large boulders held up by smaller and narrower rocks due to erosion over millions of years.
These rocks also feature ancient cave paintings of animals, people, and geometric patterns. You can find Buddhas carved into the softer sandstone, too.
The park has a nature trail roughly 2 kilometers long that can take several hours to complete. Be sure to wear comfy shoes and come energized! The path takes visitors past more than twenty attractions throughout the park. Each has a plaque with information written in both Thai and English. There is the option to rent a golf cart buggy to ride around, too.
We later learned that there are more rock formations and animal sculptures to view at Phu Phrabat Bua Bok Forest Park. It’s 4 kilometers southeast of the historical park, so it’s easy to combine both attractions in one day.
Fee: 100 THB per foreigner
Hours: 8am to 5pm
Khiri Wongkot Village in Na Yung
The Khiri Wongkot Village (หมู่บ้านคีรีวงกต) is Thai community ecotourism at its finest and certainly one of the more unique things to do in Udon Thani. This village welcomes visitors to experience some local activities and stay at their home. A word of warning: you might want to bring along a Thai friend to help with translation.
The main activity is a tractor ride through the countryside, through fields, across rivers, and onward to a particular waterfall (น้ำตกห้วยช้างพลาย) that’s actually a stone’s throw into Nong Khai province. The tractors have powerful motors that took us anywhere – up steep hills and across streams. Afterward, we ate lunch in our host’s beautiful teak house.
An overnight homestay visit includes three meals, one of which is an Isaan picnic served with bamboo cutlery and banana leaves. There was also word of a traditional khantoke dinner and a wrist binding ceremony, but we did not have the chance to do those activities ourselves.
Contact: Khun Narin (083) 147-9004
Cost: 4,200 THB for up to 6 people (activities, three meals, and accommodation)
Nong Prajak Park in Mueang Udon Thani
We got a laugh over the massive floating duck on the nearby lake at the Nong Prajak Park. This park also has walking and biking paths, food stalls and areas for picnicking, and massage shops.
Just outside this park is Chao Phu-Ya Chinese Temple. Of the many temples we’ve visited throughout Thailand, this Chinese-Buddhist temple is one that stands out in our minds. It’s all due to the details – the amply filled koi pond, the peaceful Chinese-style courtyard, the elaborate, colorful shrines, and the misty, mossy gardens.
We enjoyed tea outside at the temple’s Chinese-style tea shop. Nearby, there’s a Thai-Chinese Cultural Centre that’s worth a stroll through, too.
Ban Chiang National Museum and Wat Pho Sri Nai in Ban Chiang
Deemed a UNESCO WORLD Heritage Site in 1992, Ban Chiang is one of Southeast Asia most significant archaeological sites. Here are burial remains of more than 300 skeletons, beautiful intact ceramics, and other important artifacts related to art and technology.
The Ban Chiang National Museum has beautiful displays of these historical remains and artifacts. There are three distinct time periods, which are distinguished by the swirls and color usage on the ceramics as well as the burial styles. They date back as early as 3,600 BC.
Just a short walk away is Wat Pho Sri Nai, an open-aired museum that has preserved a stretch of the archaeological excavation pits. There you’ll see skeletons and pottery as they once were buried thousands of years ago.
During our trip, we also painted our own tiny vases at a nearby pottery workshop. It’s at a homestay about 30 meters down the road from the museum. It takes a lot of skill to get those swirls symmetrical!
Hours: 9am to 6pm Wednesday to Sunday
Phone: (042) 208-340 for museum / (081) 485-1864 for pottery shop at homestay
Fee: 150 THB per foreigner
Other fun things to do in Udon Thani Thailand
- UD Town (indoor shopping mall) and Centre Point (outdoor vendors selling goods and food along Prajak Sillapakom Road) in Mueang Udon Thani
- Wat Pa Phu Kon (วัดป่าภูก้อน) in Ban Kong with its unique turquoise-blue roofs and massive reclining Buddha made of white marble with a backdrop of mountains; few foreigners visit there
- Playport Udon Thani Water Park in Mueang Udon Thani is great for families with young children
- Picnic and go fishing at the Huai Luang Reservoir (ห้วยหลวง) in Kut Chap
- Have a picnic lunch floating on the Nam Pan Lake (ล่องแพอ่างน้ำพาน) in Sang Khom
- Go camping at Phu Foi Lom Eco Park and visit the nearby Than Ngam Waterfall
Where to stay in Udon Thani
As far as hotels in Udon Thani, there is a wide selection of basic, almost gritty hotels and a smattering of higher-end options. Many are distinctly Thai-style with ‘wet’ bathrooms and tropical gardens. The upside is that they are much more affordable than hotels in many other major cities in Thailand.
During our visit to Udon Thani we stayed at Much-che Manta Boutique Hotel in Udon Thani City. This Japanese inspired hotel was clean, modern, and starts at 20 USD a night. It’s centrally located, making it easy to explore the rest of the province.
If we were to go for a something a little more upscale, we’d go with Centara Hotel & Convention Centre Udon Thani Hotel. Rooms start at 60 USD per night. Past guests have been happy that the hotel has a pool, fitness center, and a restaurant.
How to get to Udon Thani, Thailand
Great news! Udon Thani province is home to the only international airport in Isaan. Udon Thani International Airport (UTH) services flights to and from Bangkok (both DMK and BKK), Chiang Mai (CNX), Hat Yai (HDY), Phuket (HKT), and Utapao (UTP).
Udon Thani also has two bus stations. The Udon Thani Bus Terminal 1 (the old bus station, bor kor sor gao in Thai) is in the city center. The Udon Thani Bus Terminal 2 (the new bus station, bor kor sor mai in Thai) is on the far west side of town. Be careful when booking bus tickets online and be sure to choose the correct terminal! The buses service many of the major towns in Udon Thani and neighboring provinces as well as Bangkok and beyond.
The Northeast Train Line runs from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Train Station to Udon Thani’s train station, too. It takes between 9 and 10 hours, depending on which train number you choose (#75, #77, or #25).
If you’re spending two or more weeks in Thailand, add Udon Thani to your list. For something even more off-the-beaten path, check out the neighboring province of Loei, a place few foreigners visit. Afterward, unwind on the beaches on Koh Lanta and hit up Bangkok’s highlights before you head home. If you’d like help planning your trip, just ask!