Ubon Ratchathani (อุบลราชธานี) is a city in Isaan, (North East Thailand). It is the Capital City of the Province of this name. It is often referred to as simply Ubon (อุบล), it should not be confused with "Udon" (Udon Thani), to the north.
Ubon was founded on the northern bank of the Mun River by a group of Lao princes fleeing Vientiane in the late 1700s. They applied for King Taksin's protection, duly granted in 1779 along with the city's new name, meaning "Royal City of the Lotus". Modern-day Ubon was a U.S. air base during the Vietnam War and grew rapidly at the time, but little has happened since then. The town of Warin Chamrap, on the south bank of the river, is effectively a suburb of Ubon these days.
The sleepy Ubon office of the Tourist Authority of Thailand (264/1 Khuan Thani Road) is worth a visit to pick up useful English maps of the town and nearby provinces. Basic English spoken. Open daily 08:30-16:30.
The grandly named Ubon Ratchathani International Airport (IATA: UBP), (ICAO: VTUU) in reality serves only flights to Bangkok most of the year. Nok Air has 7 daily flights to Bangkok Donmueang. Thai Airways has two daily non-stop flights between Bangkok and Ubon and return. Air Asia has two daily non-stop flights between Bangkok and Ubon and return year-round. AirAsia operates 3 weekly flights between Phuket and Ubon from October to March and between Chiang Mai and Ubon from November to March. Flight time is 50 minutes in Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 aircraft.
The airport is at the northern edge of the downtown area of the city, almost within walking distance, but accommodation is scattered around Ubon, so better not to consider walking. Much better to go by either metered taxi or a fixed-fare car service company (limousine). The metered taxis are significantly cheaper, however, they are not allowed to pick up passengers at the terminal so you will have to walk 200 m to the airport entrance gate to get one. Destinations within 2-3 km of the airport will cost less than 50 baht, and virtually any destination with the city proper or Warin will be under 100 baht. If you prefer to leave directly from the terminal, there are two limousine counters located in the arrival hall. Rates vary by destination and number of passengers, but are usually around 200 baht for a nearby destination within the city and go up from there.
Both taxis and limousines can serve destinations outside of Ubon such as Chong Mek and Mukdahan. Prices must be negotiated beforehand.
The main bus station is the BTS station known as Mo Chit or Mo Chit Mai, in the north part of the city. As is common in Thailand there are many competing bus services to major and minor destinations. It is not easy to determine which window to go to for your destination or how to avoid the overcrowded, ever stopping but cheaper locals' buses (or to select them if you prefer) as there is very little written in English. Going through to the bus area itself can help as most bays have destination and route information and you can see what sort of buses are there, then start asking! (2014) Buses to Bangkok take 10 hours (due to stops).
The Nakhonchai Air private bus company has frequent, well-maintained buses that go to Bangkok, Pattaya, Chonburi and Rayong. Nakhonchai Air has its own private terminal in Ubon. Buses start their journey at this terminal and then continue to Ubon Bus Terminal. The company also has a private terminal in Bangkok. Bangkok bound buses first stop at this terminal and then continue to Mo Chit terminal. Bangkok bus ticket costs about 570 baht and journey takes about 8 hours. Bangkok bound buses operate between 8:20-23:00 hours and Pattaya bound buses operate between 6:30-19:45 hours. The company also has 2 daily buses going to Chiang Mai-Lampang, 1 daily bus going to Phayao-Chiang Rai and another one going to Uttaradit-Phitsanulok. Most expensive tickets are 1st Class, then Gold Class and Silver Class.
Ubon is less than 100 km from the Lao border at Chong Mek / Pakse. A regular bus service now operates direct from Ubon bus station (near the "Big C" shopping complex) to Pakse in Laos, and caters for travellers who wish to obtain a Lao visa on arrival (it waits for all passengers to complete immigration and visa formalities before continuing to Pakse). The fare is 200 baht. There are ATM's and private money changers at the border. (2014): If you are on a VIP bus you will go to a private terminal close to the area of Guest houses. On other lines once you come to a roundabout after crossing over the big Mekong bridge you should try to get let off as you could well end up at a bus station well out of town to the east or south east.
One option is to catch the overnight night express train from Ubon (Warin Chamrap station) to Bangkok. Train departs at 18:30 and arrives Bangkok at 05:30. Travel first-class in a two berth private sleeper compartment with fresh starched sheets and pillows for a little over 2,000 baht per couple. Travel is also available in 2nd class sleeper seats and 3rd class seats for a lower cost.
A bus/songthaew network with 13 fixed routes operates around the city. Most routes are numbered and colour-coded; pick up a map at the Ubon TAT office. Songthaews stop working at 6:00 pm.
Alternatively, there are plenty of tuk-tuks puttering and samlors pedaling around. As always, agree on a fare before you get in, and expect to pay 20-40 baht depending on distance and your haggling skills.
If you're feeling a little more adventurous, try renting a motorbike or a car to get you to one of the many national parks in the province.
To enjoy the beautiful tracks and peaceful ways outside the city, and to get to know more from Ubon, moving free toward the different neighborhoods, rent a bicycle.
My Dear Corner (bicycle rent), 168 Ratchabutr Road A. Muang, ☎ +66 081-076 1399 (email@example.com). price starts at 80 baht/day. edit
Located at the center of town in front of City Hall, this pleasant little park has several points of interest:
A bright yellow elaborately carved candle sculpture, completed in 2000, standing 22 meters tall and dedicated to the King, showcases Isaan art styles and has become the symbol of the city. The candle is placed on a junk, with a garuda eagle at the bow and a naga serpent around it.
A statue of Phra Phatumvoraratsuriyawang commemorates the tersely named founder of the town.
A Monument of Merit has been erected by former World War II POWs to commemorate the kindness of the people of Ubon.
At one temple a local pointed out a small bus that tours at least 7 temples: useful for temple addicts! (no further details)
Wat Nong Bua (off Chanyangkun Rd, past the BKS station) is a highly unusual large white angular chedi, said to be a copy of the Mahabodhi stupa in Bodh Gaya, India. Quite stunning in appearance, but the decorations seem rather modern and with reason - the structure was built only in 1957 to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of Buddha's death.
Wat Thung Si Muang (Luang Rd) is primarily notable for its wooden scripture hall (hor trai), on stilts above a pond to stop ants and termites. The monastery itself was built in the reign of Rama III (1824-51) to house a replica of Buddha's footprint. The Ayutthaya-style bot is currently (2004) being repaired.
Wat Pah Nanachat (International Forest Monastery) is a famous forest meditation temple with more than 20 foreign/western monks from all over the world. If you come before 08:00 AM you can join in the morning meal, and maybe speak to a monk afterwards. You can take a red song-thaew (public shuttle bus/truck) from Warin Chamrab to Wat Pah Nanachat for about 10 baht.
Wat Nong Pah Pong is the forest monastery of the late venerable Ajahn Chah, one of the most famous meditation masters in Thailand in recent times. About 70 monks live here, and there is a small museum and a stupa (or chedi) with the relics of Ajahn Chah to visit. A few foreign monks live here, also.
Ubon's biggest event is the Candle Festival, held in early July on Khao Phansa day, which marks the beginning of the rainy season retreat. During three months, monks do not leave their temple, unless for an emergency, and lay people vow to abstain from taking alcohol as well as to refrain from any negative action. Huge wax candles are displayed in Thung Si Muang park, which are carried around town in a procession the next morning.
A less well-known illuminated boat procession is also held in October to mark the end of the rainy season (Ok Phansa).
Wat Pah Nanachat (WPN) The International Forest Monastery, Ban Bung Wai, Amper Warin (12 km from Ubon Ratchathani). . Established in 1975 by the late Ajahn Chah, the monastery offers full training courses in English. Full board and lodgings are available, though prior notice is required. Write to The Guest Monk, Wat Pah Nanachat, Bahn Bung Wai, Warin Chamrab, Ubon Ratchathani 34310.
Muen Thip, Phichit Rangsan Rd (east of intersection with Thepyothi). A popular two-storey place specializing in a Thai interpretation of Korean barbecue (Neua Yang Kaolee), grilled at your own table and dipped in fiery sauces. A plate of your meat of choice and a large tray of veggies, plenty for two, costs 90 baht. English menu available, not that you really need it.edit
Peppers Restaurant, Bakery & Café, 297/2-3 Uppalisan Rd (opposite the entrance to the air force base), ☎ +66 45-245-275 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 08:00-22:00. Great Coffee, along with Cakes, Pies, Fruit Shakes, Milkshakes, Tea, Beer, Wine and Cocktails. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. Serves American, Italian, German, Mexican and Thai Food. GPS Coordinates: 15.239702, 104.855480edit
Risotto, Phichit Rangsan Rd (intersection with Phonphaen Rd, 100 m west of Laithong Hotel), ☎ +66 81-8791869. 11:00-23:00. Authentic Italian style pizza, pasta, and steak.edit
Spago Original Italian Pizza, 420 Chaengsanit Rd, ☎ +66 45-281100, . 11:30-14.30 and 17:00-22:00. The pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven and the flour and tomatoes are imported from Italy.edit
It's not always easy to find the accommodation in Ubon. As well as the listed places below, there are about 10 budget hotel/motel/guesthouses in the area bounded by Chayaung Kun 28, Sukha Songkhro Ally and, Sukha Songkhro 1. They are about halfway between the main bus 'Terminal' (from which most inter provinces depart) to the north and the bus 'station' to the south, and very close to the Nong Bua market.
Bua Boutique Hotel (Formerly Montana Hotel), 179/1-4 Upparat, ☎ +66 45-261-748,749,750. Rooms with air, cable TV and mini-bar. There is a karaoke attached to the hotel. It is a convenient location downtown with easy access to public transportation. Recently remodeled and renamed.500/700 baht.. edit
Laithong Hotel Phichit Rangsan Rd, Tel. +66-45264271  Advertises itself with the tagline "In Ubon, Luxury Equals the Laithong Hotel", which is probably true, if only for lack of competition. A little faded in decor, but kept in reasonably good shape, and features a pool, restaurant, nightclub, and karaoke bar. From 14,00 baht.
Nevada in midtown. Has a Starbucks in front of the hotel, a cinema complex nearby and near enough to Tesco and Robinson (the town's biggest department store) to walk. From 1,000 baht.
The Outside Inn 11 Suriyat Rd, Tel. +66 88 581-2069  Boutique guesthouse with 8 rooms. Garden setting with traditional Thai architecture and design. Restaurant with Mexican, Thai, and Western food and full drink/bar menu. Free Wifi. Located on the East side of town, near the large hospital and Laithong Hotel. All rooms include hot breakfast and brewed coffee. Three types of rooms priced 400 - 750 baht.
The Ratchathani Hotel, 297 Khianthani Rd. Tel. +66 45-244388-90. Boutique hotel with restaurant. Rooms from 450 baht.
River Moon Guesthouse is a 5 minute walk from Ubon train station, opposite the fire station. 120/150 baht.
Sri Isan Hotel Ratchaboot Rd, tel. +66 45261011  Boutique hotel across from the open-air market, beside the Moon River. Within walking distance of Ubon Ratchathani Museum and Tung Sri Muang Park. The basic rooms are small but clean. Good location and overall service. From 500 baht.
T3 House Soi Sapphasit 1 (a small soi off Sapphasit Road between Phadaeng Road and Nakhornban Road - there's a sign on Sapphasit Road). Tel. + 66 45 244 911  A 5 storey modern hotel with a car park out front. Rooms include Fridge, TV, A/C, Wet Room and Free wifi. 600 baht/night.
Tohsang City Hotel, 251 Palochai Rd. Tel. +66 45245531-9  Same owner as Tohsang Khongjiam Resort. From 1,200 baht.
Tohsang Khongjiam Resort 66 Moo 7, Baan Huay-Mak Tai, Khongjiam (over an hour away from the city). Tel. +66-45351174  A classy resort on the banks of the Mekong River near the Lao border. From 2,000 baht.
Tokyo Hotel, 178 Uparat Rd. Tel.: +66 45-241739, Has an old and a new wing. Cheapest single rooms with a fan for 220 baht as of Feb 2010. In the new wing a fan room is 360 baht, A/C 450 baht (Aug 2012) with hot water, 2 bottles of water, TV and free WiFi. Songthaew No. 2 runs from bus station opposite to the hotel for 10 baht.
Ubon Buri between Muang Ubon amd Warin Chamrab. Resort hotel by a lake in the town's outskirts. From 1,000 baht.
Pakse, Laos - There are two common methods to get to Pakse across the border in Laos. One is to catch the VIP bus leaving from the main bus station (bor kor sor) in the north of town. There are two buses per day, 9am and 3pm. If you can't make this bus there are regular minivans leaving from the main bus station (stand 18) every half hour. The cost to the border town of Chongmek is 100 baht. From the Chongmek minivan terminal you can take a tuktuk the extra 1km to the border for 20 bath. Once on the Lao side it's 30,000 kip (about 120 baht)(2014)by minivan to Pakse. Cheaper Songtaew's make the trip from the border to Pakse for 15,000 kip but take quite a bit longer as generally locals who are not going the whole way to Pakse take this option. If you don't know where to get off in Pakse get off soon after you cross the Mekong Bridge - or you might end up way out of town!