Ubon Ratchathani (อุบลราชธานี) is a city in Isaan, Thailand. Often referred to as simply Ubon (อุบล), it should not be confused with "Udon" to the north.
Candle sculpture in Thung Si Muang Park
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. Thai Airways has two daily non-stop flights between Bangkok and Ubon and return. NokAir has three daily non-stop flights between Bangkok Don Muaeng Airport 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 city almost within walking distance, but accommodation is scattered around Ubon, so better not to consider walking. Much better to go to one of the two limousine (taxi) counters that are located in the airport arrivals hall and purchase for only 100 baht a taxi coupon that will take you to almost any point in the city. Limousine (taxi) rates in Ubon are extremely cheap by Western standards and lower than those in Bangkok. Set prices have been established to most destinations in and around Ubon. A taxi from Ubon to Chong Mek costs only 1,000 baht for the 90 km one way trip and a taxi from Ubon to Mukdahan costs 2,000-2,500 baht (depending on the vehicle type) to travel a one way distance of 192 km. The driver does not charge for the return trip like some western countries. There are no taxi meters and the fare must normally be purchased from one of the two taxi counters at the airport arrivals desk.
If you prefer not to take a fixed price taxi, you can always walk the 200 m beyond the general airport parking area to haggle with the waiting tuk-tuk drivers, but chances are that your trip will end up costing you more.
Buses to Bangkok take 10 hours (due to stops) and arrive near the BTS station known as Mo Chit or Mo Chit Mai, in the north part of the city. The Nakhon Chai Air private bus company  also has frequent, well-maintained buses that ply the route and also leave from the Ubon bus terminal, but arrive at their own private terminal in Bangkok, near the main Mo Chit terminal.
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.
Daily trains connect with Bangkok and stop at all the southern Isaan provincial capitals (Si Saket, Surin, Buriram, and Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat)). The station is to the south of the city on the opposite side of the Mun River in Warin Chamrap; buses 2 and 6 connect to the center.
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.
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. Jay-Jay Car and Motorcycle Hire provide good, clean vehicles at competative prices.
Ubon is a little short on must-see sights, although there are a few mildly interesting temples.
Thung Si Muang Park
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.
- 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.
- D-Block (Formerly Thean Chai) for gardening products made by hand from Isan and concrete products for construction.
- Phanchat Esan Folk Arts & Handicrafts for a wide selection of souvenirs and handicrafts. Has two beautifully designed locations downtown.
- 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.
- Peppers Bakery & Café, 297/2-3 Uppalisan Rd (opposite the entrance to the air force base), ☎ +66 45-264599, . 08:00-21:00. Great coffee, along with cakes, pies, fruit shakes, milkshakes, tea, beer and wine. An all-day breakfast, pizza menu, and hamburgers are also available.
- 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.
- 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.
- Miss Aree Coffee (Opposite Ubon University) serves freshly brewed coffee.
- 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..
- 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 Ratchathani Hotel, 297 Khianthani Rd. Tel. +66 45-244388-90. Boutique hotel with restaurant. Rooms from 450 baht.
- River Moon Guesthouse is the only guesthouse in town. 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.
- 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.
- Preah Vihear (Prasat Khao Phra Wihaan in Thai) - Khmer temple accessible as a day trip from neighbouring Si Saket Province (currently closed to the public)
|Routes through Ubon Ratchathani