Udon Thani isn’t a particularly big city. You can easily walk from Nong Prajak Park to Matcha Park. If shopping and night markets aren’t what delight you during your Thailand trip, then this post is for you. Because Udon Thani isn’t only wonderfully close to the Laos border (10 baht for the train ride!), it also has outstanding landmarks an hour’s drive away. These are quite the gems and well worth multiple Udon Thani day trips.
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Phu Prabat Historical Park
This is an open air area with unique rock formations and mysterious prehistoric alignments. Ages ago, hunter gatheres followed the game up to this plateau and started settling down, painting on the rocks, putting up stones in strange circles. One particular scene reminded me of a cemetery version of Stonehenge.
Research is currently undergone to decipher the meaning of all of this, so without a guide, you will be left in the dark. Of course, that doesn’t lessen the appeal of Phu Prabat. It is quite an interesting world you enter into, with winding and intertwining trees, a rock floor that looks like solidified magma and puzzling building-like creations.
Getting to Phu Prabat
If you are lucky and have a car at your disposal, you simply drive up Highway 2 northwards and then turn left into 2021, towards Ban Non Ngam. Go all the way to Ban Phue and leave the town on motorway 2348 in the Northeast (where the hospital is located).
Continue on the same road once you reach village Ban Tiu and you will see a wooden entrance sign. After that, just follow the road upwards. You can turn left at the park guard’s booth to visit the temple or turn right to get to the National Historical Park.
In case you rely on public transport, you need to take two local buses. The first one, you can catch at the bus terminal 1 in Udon Thani. It is to the right of the numbered platforms. If you cannot find it, simply show someone Phu Prabat as a screenshot or written in Thai. Buses leave hourly as far as I understood.
The bus driver will then drive for about 15 minutes and drop you off to catch another bus in about half an hour. Both rides cost me 100 baht. (Though I think the official price might have been 80 baht for each ride.) An hour later, you will be dropped off at an intersection in the village of Ban Tiu. You either get a motorbike ride up to the Historical Park or walk for an hour. The buses leave every two hours (e.g. 2pm, 4pm, 6pm).
A much cheaper version for me was to hitchhike to Ban Phue and get a regular green bus to Udon Thani for a mere 27 baht! It will drop you off at the bus station in the north of the city centre.
Red Lotus Lake
It really is as great as the photos you might have seen in magazines and online. A lake covered in red lotus flowers as far as the eye can see, that is the famous Red Lotus Lake near Udon Thani. The best time to get the red lotus flower in full bloom is during late January and early February. Come in the early morning (between 8 and 9am is ideal) or for sunrise to see the buds fully open. Later than that, and you chances decrease drastically.
You cannot see the flowers from the lakeshore and therefore have to hire boat to go on an hour or 1.5 hour long tour. Those are quite affordable and well worth it, so do not hesitate! It is up to you if you would like to go on a private tour with a smaller boat or join more people for the larger boat. With both, you will get to cruise over the lake and have stops to get your photography fix.
How to Get to the Red Lotus Lake
Car is by far the easiest option. You follow Highway 2 southward towards Khon Kaen. Once you reach Thai Phian, turn left and follow the road signs. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi or grab car for 600 to 800 baht one way.
Public transport is a bit tricky – especially if it’ not during peak season and under the week. Get a bus from Udon Thani bus terminal 1 to Ban Na Di Sang Bong or jump on a train from to Khumpawapi. If you are lucky, you can hire a tuk tuk or motorbike to get to the lake. Otherwise, try hitchhiking.
Ban Dung Rock Salt Farms
Before coming here, check the weather and season. You wouldn’t wanna make it all the way here into the countryside to see crusty basins without any water whatsoever. If you time your visit right, however, you get the chance to see the still water surface reflect the white crystals of the mined salt. It really is quite beautiful.
You can learn about the salt production process and buy your own satchel of rock salt. The area has been producing salt for industrial purposes for the past 25 years. The method used is solution mining as this is a low cost production. It takes 10 days for the salt beds to try. If you are not into salt and learning about how it is “made”, this might not be the best day trip idea for you, though.
Getting to the Rock Salt Farm
Driving to Ban Dung takes around one hour and 20 minutes. Head north on road 2 and then turn left onto motorway 2255 that transitions into 2022 after an intersection. For local buses, you can book your bus ticket from bus terminal one in Udon Thani and get directions on where to change there as well.
What Photography Gear to Bring on these Udon Thani Day Trips
As usual, this depends on your photography style and gear. If you are just a dedicated amateur photographer, your regular camera will suffice. Slap on a polarising filter to get those blues out of the clear water surfaces and crank up the contrast. Add a small tripod if you want to take some great stills of the water surfaces of the salt farms or rock formations in Phu Prabat.
Drone users should be aware that they a permit to fly is required. You need to register with CAAD in advance. More information on flying drones in Thailand can be found here.
Where to Stay in Udon Thani?
The big question is: what is your budget and travel style? If you want to treat yourself and love overlooking the water and watch the sun rise/set in the arms of nature, check out the Tanita Lagoon Resort. Conveniently, it also provides car rental, which makes getting to the Red Lotus Lake a lot easier. A more central stay is Prajaktra Design Hotel near Nongprajak Public Park.
In case you are on a budget and want a super central stay, nice staff and a rooftop terrace, check out Oldie and Sleepy Hostel. This is where I stayed and I enjoyed it. It has really atsy and hipster design and several chillout areas.
Which of these Udon Thani Day Trips is the Best?
I personally loved the Red Lotus Lake the most. It really is out of this world. I flew to Udon Thani particularly to see it and I was not left disappointed. If you time your visit to Udon Thani around 19 January, you can also take advantage of the annual founding celebrations. This includes a night market by Nong Prajak Park and lavish fireworks.
Now I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever been to Udon Thani? Or do you want to visit?
Is the Phu Prabat Historical Park Worth a Trip from Udon Thani?
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