One year ago, Citylife visited Ubon Ratchathani and explored some of its lesser known attractions, ate some of the local food and exposed some local secrets. This year, we headed back to the city to see how it has grown, and now with daily direct flights from Chiang Mai to Ubon Ratchathani with AirAsia, this North Eastern city has become even more accessible for us northern folks.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before setting off comfortably on an AirAisa direct flight that departs daily at noon. Ubon is a quiet city in the mornings so you’ll not be missing much, and by the time you arrive the town will be bustling with activity. As is standard with any trip in Thailand, a temple visit is usually first on the list. Ubon is packed with temples but is famed for its forest monasteries. Today, Ubon has become a hub for international Buddhism, with monks and practitioners from across the world visiting the various forest monasteries in the province, and there is even an International Forest Monastery known as Wat Pah Nanachat, which provides English-speaking lessons, sermons and courses for those who are interested.
Ubon is the easternmost province in Thailand and is often heralded as the place to go to watch the most beautiful sunrises in Thailand. In reality, what makes these border sunrises so beautiful is the Laotian landscape, with rolling mountains that cut off abruptly into cliffs that plunge back down to the ground. A quick trip over to Pakse is well worth it if you have time — a small city set on a bank of a vast Mekong River that is famed for its coffee, French colonial architecture, surrounding temple ruins and curious cultures. However, if you are happy just taking in the views why not look out across the border from Wat Sirindhorn Waram, an artistic temple on a hilltop, adorned with glow-in-the-dark paint and luminescent glass that reflects light in mystical ways even well after sunset. If you prefer a more natural setting, head to the Emerald Triangle, where Thailand, Laos and Cambodia meet — found deep in the Phu Chong Na Yoi National Park, a place famed for its turquoise waters, stunning waterfalls and dense forests.
Back in the city, take refuge in one of the city’s many new hotels that have sprouted up over the last year such as 168 Studio which is modern yet refreshingly inexpensive and can be found right next to the Bureau of Arts and Cultures — a stunning white building inspired by Thai and North Eastern temple architecture.
For dinner, check out the city’s most well stocked craft beer bar that just happens to serve some amazing food too — Ricco Caf. Packed every night with Ubon’s hippest residents, this place can easily eat into your savings given the extensive craft beer collection in the refrigerators along with four or five local and international beers on tap. Wake up early the next morning and walk off that hangover by visiting Ban Chi Thuan village and take an elevated stroll across the lush green paddy fields on a concrete pathway linking the village to a temple. There is also an old temple called Wat Si Nuan Saeng Sawang Arom that is run by the elderly of the village and has some interesting artefacts such as the one of a kind alter on the back of a Singh, decorated with Vietnamese and French inspired artwork depicting the lives of people in the area around 100 years ago.
Before heading to the airport for the late afternoon flight home, stop off in town and explore the spicy somtum dishes that Ubon is famed for. In reality, almost every somtum dish in Ubon seems to have more red chili than green papaya, so wherever you stumble upon will surely light a fire in your mouth that will still be burning when you touch down in Chiang Mai. We recommend Ubon Cuisine if you want to sample some of the local food but don’t want to risk the heat of a roadside pok pok lady.
All in all, Ubon Ratchathani has a lot more on offer than first imagined. With our up to date recommendations this year, along with the attractions mentioned in last year’s article, you’ll need a good three or four days to experience it all, but it’ll be worth it. Mix it up a bit and head eastward instead of southward this summer, we know you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
AirAsia leaves Chiang Mai at 12.05pm daily,
arriving at 1.35pm and departs Ubon
Ratchathani at 5.05pm, arriving in Chiang Mai at 6.35pm.
Visit AirAsia.com for more details.