In this new series of strange ranty type things, a Slightly Lost Geek (read as me) wanders various places on the planet with somewhat limited resources. The SLG will then tell everyone what the SLG notices about the topic location. Take note that the SLG is from a “reasonably developed” third world country known to many as Malaysia, or home of the corrupt… and all thoughts and opinions are of the SLG alone. In this episode, SLG explores Udon Thani, Thailand.
Now, Udon Thani according to Wikipedia is a province (changwat) in northeast Thailand. It is bordered by the provinces of Nong Khai to the north, Sakon Nakhon to the east, Kalasin Province to the southeast, Khon Kaen to the south, and Loei and Nong Bua Lam Phu Province to the west. It occupies an area of 11,730 km². The provincial capital is Udon Thani, the major city in the province. I ended up here mainly because I had already visited Bangkok and didn’t particularly like it. Note that despite my home being the bustling Kuala Lumpur, I am actually averse to noisy, loud, and crowded places. After a wee bit of reading, I discovered that a great many travelers favored the North of Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Udon Thani) because of the relative quietness compared to Bangkok (and other more popular tourist destinations), and much lower cost of living. Also, I figured Udon Thani would be a more developed location compared to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai mainly because of the large expat population there – Udon Thani apparently has the 2nd largest expat population in Thailand after Bangkok. Surely expats wouldn’t flock in droves to somewhere without running water and electricity right?
The Udon Thani International Airport is similar in some ways to the Siem Riep International Airport… they both seem like they came straight out of a 1980s movie. A lot less so when you are on the way out (for both airports) which is strange. Both of them are rather small, but that’s sort of to be expected seeing as neither of them are a transportation hub of any kind. Udon Thani International Airport does, however, tend to give you this vibe that tells you that you’re in the wrong place if you’re looking to party like it’s 1999. It feels like you just arrived back in that tiny hometown of yours in Des Moines, Iowa… I have no idea why I chose Des Moines, but you get my point. While the province is sizeable, the city itself is rather small… and so, from the airport to the city centre is probably going to take you 15 minutes or less. The taxi service is ridiculously cheap to reflect the time and distance, so much so that I didn’t even bother to remember how much it cost – all I remember is hearing the price and immediately tossing my bags into the boot.
Hotels in Udon Thani are ridiculously good value for money. If you are prepared to spend anywhere from US$15 onwards per night, you’ll probably be getting a pretty nice, clean, and large room. You may not be getting spectacular room service and fine dining in the restaurant, but just remember that you’re essentially paying the equivalent of 2-3 burgers depending on where you’re from for a full day/night at a hotel, and you’ll be fine. I tried out 2 hotels during my stay, and while both had some small issues, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to stay at either one of them again. Okay, I lied… the second one was a little too close to the city centre for me and various noises from the roads/streets were audible in the room. This is personal preference though, and others may appreciate the proximity to various watering holes (I think). It actually didn’t occur to me to take photos of the hotel, but I did happen to snap a few shots either in the vicinity or just outside of the hotel/s.
Now, as always… the main thing I look for anywhere is food. I have to say that I very much enjoyed my food adventures in Udon Thani. The food here (on average) is incredibly cheap and tasty, even for the less adventurous among us. If you decide to eat in a mall at a relatively nice restaurant, you’d be looking at about US$7 per head. That’s for 2 dishes and rice… which I had a lot of difficulty finishing. I downgraded myself to 1 dish and a set after a couple of times, and the bill started to look more like US$5 (or less) per head. If you eat at a restaurant along the roadside, you’re in for a surprise. I bought dinner for some new found friends, and a feast including fish (in Malaysia this is an automatic recipe for bill shock) came up to about US$15. Let’s just say that as long as you don’t mind spicy food, you’ll probably have an absolute whale of a time stuffing your face here.
Also strangely interesting is the fact that there seem to be a lot of tiny ramen stalls around Udon Thani. Like along the roadside. With like 6 tables. And one of them had a corgi. A slightly smelly corgi. But still a corgi. Typically, a sizeable bowl of ramen at one of these places would set you back around US$1.20. They’re not spectacular by any means, but then again it depends on what ramen you’re comparing them to and at what price point. This is also a good way to get an idea of what “cheap food” costs around Udon Thani. If an “international dish” like ramen only costs you US$1.20, what does a local dish cost you?
What else is there? I like my coffee, so I suppose this is the one thing that Udon Thani kind of disappoints at. There are a LOT of really nice looking coffee places, but unfortunately, the coffee itself isn’t that great. In my adventures, I only found one place where I really liked the coffee. So, if you want good coffee in Udon Thani, head over to Dose Espresso – it’s located directly outside Prajaktra City Hostel.
Besides the obvious food adventures, I also adventured inside and outside the city… to touristy locations… to do touristy things. There are so many things to take pictures of here… maybe it’s because I’ve never been here before… but, I do honestly think Udon Thani in general has a lot of picturesque sites.
Did I enjoy Udon Thani? Absolutely. Are there downsides? Sure. In general, you’ll be using Google Translate a lot. The petrol prices are a little on the high side. What are the upsides? The roads are incredibly good… The roads in Kuala Lumpur City Centre are garbage compared to anything within the city limits of Udon Thani. If you live in the city limits, you can get fibre Internet at low prices. The food is great (if a little spicy, even for me). The lifestyle is just laidback in general… almost island like. Prices of things in general are cheap relative to Malaysia.
I’ll be back here soon… no doubt about it. Maybe after I explore Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai…