“Where is Udon Thani?”! That’s a question that is often asked by visitors who are perhaps familiar with the islands such as Phuket and Koh Samui; or other popular resorts such as Pattaya; but have not ventured into the northern heartland of Thailand.
The hotels, restaurants, bars and shops in those major tourist resorts are often staffed by ambitious Thais from Udon Thani, who have moved south in search of a new challenge. It is sometimes the case that they meet and start a relationship with a foreigner, a scenario that leads to the inquiry “where’s Udon Thani?” If the relationship develops, there will undoubtedly be opportunities to quench that curiosity by actually visiting the place; and just as they fell in love with the person, they are sure to soon be besotted with the city from where that person hails.
Udon Thani is ideally situated, in the traditional, un-spoilt, Isaan (north east) area of Thailand. Often referred to as the “Gateway to Asean” Udon Thani is an important regional focal point, being just a short drive from the Laos border and only 80km from the cosmopolitan Laos capital, Vientiane.
Udon Thani is about 50km from the Laos border
Udon Thani is seen as a key link between Bangkok, Laos and south China, and has become even more significant with the advent of Asean; The Association of Southeast Asian Nations; which has seen a big increase in the number of people of different nationalities visiting this wonderful city.
Udon Thani is a key location within Asean
Lonely Planet describes Udon Thani as “a big, brash city with one of the largest expat populations in Thailand” and Isaan’s “primary transport hub and commercial centre”.
Offering a refreshing alternative to beaches and bars, which initially attract a lot of visitors to Thailand, Udon Thani is the location of choice for many foreigners looking to explore pastures new, well off the tourist track in the Kingdom of Smiles.
The area boasts endless natural beauty and it is not just the place itself but its wonderful inhabitants; a major reason for its popularity is that the smiles in Udon Thani are often seen as wider, and more genuine, than anywhere else in Thailand. If you think you know Thailand but haven’t yet seen Udon Thani, then it is fair to say that you have a real treat to come.
Udon Thani is not a major tourist hub and that’s part of its attraction. Nevertheless, it is well served by bars, restaurants and nightclubs; the vestiges of the Vietnam ‘R n R’ era, when Udon Thani became the Pattaya of the north for American GIs in the sixties and seventies. The reputation built in those days has led to many expats, in search of something new, choosing Udon Thani as the place to be. It is therefore no surprise that the dining and nightlife scene is culturally widespread and there are plenty of lively and entertaining nightspots. If you’re hoping for a great night out then Udon Thani certainly delivers.
First time visitors to Udon Thani are usually surprised by just how big and bustling the place is. One reason for that is the highly rated Udon Thani Rajabhat University, which boasts around 25,000 students and over 1000 staff.
So it is no wonder that Udon Thani is becoming increasingly popular, with both Thais and foreigners looking to set up home there.