The many attractions of Udon Thani

Hundreds of people from Vientiane visit Udon Thani province of Thailand every day, and a majority of them travel there to shop or to seek medical treatment.
Officials at the first Lao-Thai friendship bridge are always busy, catering to the numerous Lao and Thai nationals using the passage. Thai people usually travel to Laos for tourism, and they visit Vientiane and famous tourist sites such as Vangvieng.
But Udon Thani has more than just shopping centres and medical facilities.
Recently, I visited some tourist sites in Udon Thani and found them to be very interesting. It takes a little more than an hour to get there from Vientiane, and many Lao people travel there after going to Nong Khai.

Some of the displays at Ban Chiang museum at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

One of key attractions is Ban Chiang, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Ban Chiang National Museum is located at Tambon Ban Chiang, and Nong Han Amphoe is a famous archaeological site dating from c.1822-4600 BCE that showcases the local culture and was discovered by the Thai Fine Arts Department.
Here, visitors can see many types of handmade pots painted in a unique way. There are also models depicting the ancient lifestyle of the people.
Besides being the location of the museum, Ban Chiang is a charming cultural village with old wooden houses that showcases the simple lifestyle of the local people. When I visited, I was welcomed by a traditional music band while some elderly women performed the charming Phou Thai dance.
Talking with some of them, I learnt that many of them were immigrants from a northern province of Laos.  
Visitors can shop for textiles and pottery at several outlets located near the museum. Those interested in learning how to make pottery can interact with some pot-makers in the village. 
Another important place that I visited is the Ho Chi Minh educational and historical tourism site. Between 1928 and 1929, Ho Chi Minh used the jungles around Nong Hang village as one of his bases to train soldiers and rally the sizeable Vietnamese community for his resistance against the French occupation of Vietnam.
There is a replica of his thatched-roof, mud-wall house, and a modest museum about his life. Bâhn lung hoh (Uncle Ho’s House), as the locals call it, is 10km from Udon Thani city.
During the city tour, visitors can go to Udon Thani museum, which features the historical of the province and models of important historical sites of the region, and the Thai-Chinese Cultural Centre, which is a hub for preserving the artistic, cultural, social and philosophical heritage of the Chinese diaspora that settled in the area and became ancestors to many Thais. 
Travelling with a local guide, one can also visit the Mor Lam (traditional folk opera) street, where all the big brands are available with colourful signs.  
Udon Thani is also famous for its natural tourist attractions, such as the Red Lotus Sea. The spectacular water show is located at Nong Han Kumphawapi Lake and the lotus plants flower from late October to the end of February. It is best to arrive between 6 am and 11 am to guarantee seeing the flowers in full bloom.
Other attractions include Phu Phra Bat Historical Park, located at Tam Bon Muang Phan, and Amphoe Ban Pheu, at the foot of Phu Phan Mountains, where prehistoric paintings were discovered dating from c. 2,000-3,000 BCE. 
Udon Thani has many other lesser-known attractions to be explored. Next time you visit Udon Thani, you should head for these tourist sites instead of spending all your time shopping. 

By Keoxomphou Sackdavong
(Latest Update September 22, 2018)

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