Discovering Udon Thani for the first time

Udon Thani, 4th largest city in Thailand

In all the time I've spent in Thailand, I've never had the chance to visit Udon Thani. 

So here we are, leaving Phitsanulok and heading for this mysterious town that I'd heard good things about up until then... and it's also a good opportunity to see Thierry, aka Titi, whom I haven't seen for a long time.
I didn't take many photos in Udon... so I won't be showing you much, so I'll tell you right away... 

Udon is a Thai-style town, with fairly old houses, nothing special to take photos of really. My friend Titi took us on the Ring Road, which is about 25 km long.

Surprisingly, the airport is almost inside the city. If you take the new Central Plaza, which can be considered as the city centre, the airport as the crow flies is 2.5km away... that's surprising. It's true that Udon's air traffic is not like that of Bangkok or Phuket (around 10 departures and 10 arrivals a day).
Flight times to Udon Thani

On the face of it, I didn't fall in love with the town at first sight, but when I went for a walk or a drive, I discovered a place that was much more peaceful than Phuket, much quieter. I can't wait to discover more about Udon, as it's not impossible that the next stage of my life will take place up there. We all know that love at first sight can be very brief... but I'll be back to immerse myself a little more... in fact I'd even say that I'd prefer it if it wasn't love at first sight...

Why choose Udon? As someone who isn't a big fan of Isan (the eastern side of the country) (I'm not referring to the people, just the landscapes), I much prefer the whole western part of Thailand, from Kanchanaburi to Chiang Rai, without any hesitation... 

The big problem in this part of western Thailand, which is so beautiful, is the period of time when it is smoked by the slash-and-burn operations carried out systematically by farmers every year between February and April or even May, and which goes down beyond Phitsanulok. 

Personally, I really don't want to have to put up with this because the people who live there have serious respiratory problems, and sometimes even planes can't land... and living in these conditions for 3 or 4 months a year with visibility reduced to around 300m is out of the question for me. 

In fact, in some of the reports about this region that you can find on this site, I said that you had to be a bit crazy to visit Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai between the end of January and April...

This image clearly shows the proximity of Udon Thani airport... the frequency of flights is not comparable to that of Bangkok or Phuket (around ten flights a day) but an airport in a town is quite rare...

Right in the city centre

Over the last few years, the city has been modernised and as soon as we dropped our suitcases at our hotel, we made a stop at the brand new Central Plaza... which, in the end, was nothing new for us as all these "Central" stores look the same, whether in Phuket, Bangkok or Khon Kaen. As my wives were in urgent need of shoes, I was sure I would find a Bata shop in this centre, and so I did... so nothing very surprising. 

Nothing looks more like a Thai shopping centre... than another Thai shopping centre... apart from the size. Even the car parks look the same, so you can't say that discovering a new Central Plaza is a change of scenery... you'll always find the same brands, whether for clothes, food or other needs...

I'm a bit surprised to discover this place that it's not busier, as it's Sunday afternoon. In Phuket it would be a human tide... here? it's quite calm.
The traffic around the shopping centre is relatively free-flowing, at least it's not the madness of Phuket. You get the feeling that you're in a quiet, peaceful little town.
Well... the scooters are still properly stowed away, but again in much smaller numbers.

My second discovery after the shopping centre was this pub "the brick house" just opposite the hotel I'd chosen... nice, like an Irish pub with Guinness on draught. I liked it.

I had time to quench my thirst before joining Titi for a family meal in the busy station area, just a few minutes away on foot.
We reach the first restaurant area, which isn't too busy yet. It's only 6.30pm
Aesthetically, the tuk-tuks here are quite different from those in Phuket... are the drivers less mafia-like than in Phuket? I suppose so, because in this area, Phuket takes the cake, as everyone knows.
We're just a stone's throw from the station. It's quite busy - it's Sunday, after all...

It's past 7pm and the crowds in this other restaurant area have become much busier. The Thai system is still very practical: you buy a card at a counter, then go to the different stalls to choose your dish... each time you buy a dish, the vendor swipes your card in his machine, which updates the credit... then you find a seat and once you've finished your meal, the balance of your credit is refunded to your card. 

You don't have to spend your time paying 36 times, and the vendors at their stalls waste far less time counting and giving you your change.

And here's our national Titi and his spuse Jum, whom I haven't seen for years.

Some beautifully arranged buildings

As we strolled through the city, just to kill time, we came across a huge square containing several temples and buildings. 

It seems that at the end of the day, a lot of Thai people come here to jog or do aerobics. In any case, the square is huge and surrounded by many large government buildings.

City Pillar Shrine ou San Lak Mueang

Located in the Tung Sri Mueang field in the middle of the city, San Lak Mueang (the City Pillar Shrine) was established in 1999. Built in the contemporary Isan architectural style, the complex also houses the statue of the deity Wetsuwan, who is the tutelary deity of the province (depicted on the provincial seal). Together with the city pillar, considered to be the heart of the city, the shrine is highly respected by the city's inhabitants.
We are in a large square with a series of temples, including this very beautiful one. It's actually more of a building housing an important statue than a temple.
I'm always drawn to the roofs of Thai temples, and I can't resist highlighting certain angles... I love these beautifully stacked structures.

Chinese shrines

Right next door, this extremely colourful Chinese temple... and very busy with decorations, to say the least...

Wat Pa Phu Kon 

Located 130 km north-west of Udon Thani, we're on our way to discover a fairly recent temple... with a rather imposing aesthetic.

Wat Pa Phu Kon is located in the Na Yung-Nam Som national forest reserve, in Ban Na Kham Yai, Tambon Ban Kong, at the junction of three provinces: Udon Thani, Loei and Nong Khai.
I'm once again dazzled by all these overlapping roofs

Wat Pa Phu Kon is a peaceful place where monks can practise meditation and mental development. The temple's image hall, the pavilions surrounding it and the buildings at the top of the hill all feature fine Thai architecture.

The Image Hall, in the applied art of Rattanakosin, has three entrances and houses a white marble image of Buddha in the posture of entering Nibbana, called "Phra Phuttha Saiyat Lokkanat Satsada Maha Muni". 

The 20-metre-long reclining image features exquisite Buddha markings and was built to mark the 7th cycle or 84th birthday of H.M. the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2011.

Superb realisation of this reclining Buddha who seems to be resting so well
This statue was built from blocks of white marble imported from Italy, then sculpted in Thailand.

Location of this temple

Location of this temple

Wat Pa Ban Tat

This magnificent temple, which we discovered completely deserted, is magnificent.
I'll limit myself to these two photos in this article, but you can find out more by following the link: Wat Pa Ban Tat