Ubon Ratchathani has been a well established community for hundreds of years. Relatively unknown to the most tourists, the province boasts a number of natural wonders, cultural and historical attractions, national parks, silk producing shops, etc.
The province is renowned for its strong Buddhist tradition, particularly the practice of forest-dwelling monks and the ancient Buddhist temples, which can still be seen throughout the province today.
A gateway to Laos, Ubon Ratchathani is bordered to the east by the Mekong River and Laos, to the south by Cambodia, to the west by Yasothon and Sisaket Provinces and to the north by Amnat Charoen Province. The provincial capital is approximately 630 kilometers northeast of Bangkok. The province is unique in its folk culture, which is expressed in the indigenous cuisine, handicrafts, such as silk and cotton products, basketry, and bronze-ware, and traditional events such as the Candle festival held every July. There are natural beauties and historical sites including the 4,000 years old rock formation, prehistoric rock paintings, national parks, waterfalls, and the two-colored river, etc.
Since the 10th century, Ubon Ratchathani, or simply Ubon, was part of the Khmer Empire until the Kingdom of Ayutthaya conquered it. Towards the end of the 18th century, Laotians immigrated to the northern banks of the Mun River and founded the provincial capital. The Laotian influence is evident in the architectural structure of some of the city's religious buildings. This incident was told in the provincial seal which features a pond with a lotus flower and leaves in a circular frame. It symbolizes the ancient community of the people who fled the massacre of King Siriboonsarn of Vientiane and came to settle in Nong Bua Lam Phu Province in 1779 during the reign of King Thonburi. This community was established as a province with the name Ubon Ratchathani Srivanalai in 1792 during the reign of King Rama I, the first king of the Chakri Dynasty.
During the reign of King Rama V, Ubon Ratchathani was annexed to Lao Kao town. Later in 1899, the area was under the supervision of Northeastern Monthon, with Ubon Ratchathani serving as an administrative hub. In 1900, the name was changed to Monthon I-San. When the Monthon system was abolished, the city has become Ubon Ratchathani province. During the Vietnam War, Ubon encountered expansive growth due to its proximity to an American air base.
Today, the province is the largest and one of the most important provinces in northeastern Thailand. Due to the large number of fascinating temples dotting the city, Ubon is a place of pilgrimage at the beginning of Buddhist Lent. Aside from the numerous attractions, festivals and holidays are celebrated with a unique Ubon flair.
Located in the Korat Basin about 68 meters (227 feet) above sea level, most of Ubon Ratchathani is a plateau sloping to the east to meet the Maekhong River, a border between Thailand and the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic. Other major rivers in the area are the Chee River, Moon River, Lum Saybok River, Lum Domeyai River and Lum Domenoi River. There are some high mountain ranges in the south such as Bantad Range and Phanom Dongrak Range which border Ubon Ratchathani and the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic and the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The most important natural resource in Ubon Ratchathani is its forests, such as Teng-Rung forests, Red forests and mixed forests. In the province, there are 50 national preserved forests, 3 national parks, 2 botanical gardens, 1 wild life preservation area and 1 botanical park.
There are highways and rail roads connecting different districts in Ubon Ratchathani with other provinces and there is one international airport located in Muang District.
People of Ubon Ratchathani are engaged in activities related to agriculture and livestock raising. They are religious and still abide by tradition and culture. Locals usually dwell in groups of houses, speak their own dialects and practice their traditionally handed down cultures.
The province covers 15,517 square kilometers and is divided into the following districts: Muang, Warin Chamrap, Det Udom, Buntharik, Na Chaluai, Nam Yuen, Phibun Mangsahan, Khong Chiam, Si Muang Mai, Trakan Phuet Phon, Khemarat, Mung Sam Sip, Khueang Nai, Kut Khaopun, Tan Sum, Pho Sai, Samrong, Sirindhorn, Don Mot Daeng, Thung Si Udom, Na Yia, Na Tan, Lao Suea Kok, Sawang Wirawong and Nam Khun.
How To Get There
a)From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 to Saraburi and Highway No. 2 to Nakhon Ratchasima, then use Highway No.226 and proceed to Ubon Ratchathani via Buri Ram, Surin and Si Sa Ket, for a total distance of 629 kilometers.
b) From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 and Highway No. 2 unil arriving at Sikhio, then turn into Highway No. 24 and proceed to Ubon Ratchathani via Chok Chai, Nang Rong, Prasat, Det Udom and Warin Chamrap.
Buses depart from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit 2 Bus Terminal) to Ubon Ratchathani every day. Contact Transport Co. Ltd at Tel: 0 2936 2852-66 for more information.
Regular trains depart from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Railway Station to Ubon Ratchathani every day. Call 1690, 0 2223 7010-20 for more information.
Thai Airways has several daily flights connecting Bangkok with Ubon Ratchathani. For more information, contact their Bangkok office at tel. 0-2280-0060, 0-2628-2000 or view their website at www.thaiairways.com. Air Asia operates two flights every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to Ubon Ratchathani International Airport. The flight time is 1.05 hours. Call 02 515 9999 or visit www.airasia.com for more details.
Getting around the city
Getting around the city is easy with city buses. They usually run along the main avenues, from north to south of the town. The fare is only 5B.
Taking Samlor around the city would cost approximately 30B/kilometre
If you, however, choose to enjoy the ride of a rented car, there are several car rental companies, big names and local names, which provide this kind of service.
There are buses departing from a bus terminal located at Chayangkun Road to Ubons neighboring provinces and its own districts. They include: (please note that fares are subject to change without prior notice)
Kaeng Sa Peu Songkarn Festival
Kaeng Sa Peu Songkarn Festival is held yearly in April. Villagers will splash water on each other and swim in the Mun River. The festival also features local sports and northeastern folk music.
The Candle Festival
The Candle Festival is the largest religious ceremony in Ubon Ratchathani. It is celebrated yearly on Asalha Bucha Day and Khao Phansa (Buddhist Lent) Day in July. The ceremony is held at Thung Si Muang and Chaturamuk Pavillion. At night, there is entertainment to celebrate the Lent candles. The reflection of lights on the candles creates a picturesque effect during the festival.
Popular items include silk and cotton products. Souvenir shops located along Khuan Thani Road near the Ratchathani Hotel usually have such souvenirs in stock. Alternatively, you can get them cheaper from the market in town.
Phu Chong Na Yoi National Park
This was declared as a national park on 1 June 1987. Covering an area of 687 sq. km over mountainous areas in Ubon Ratchathani, the park is where borders of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia meet. To get superb view of the three countries, visitors are recommended to take hiking trails which lead on to the high plateau. The best view can be seen from the cliffs at Pha Pheung. Interesting attractions include: the 40-metre Bak Tew Yai waterfall, which is located approximately 4 kms from the park office, rock formations at Phlan Yaw and a group of springs in the forest at Bo Nam Sap.
Kaeng Tana National Park
This park can be reached on two routes. The first route is by taking Highway No. 2222 where visitors will be presented with a beautiful view of Kaeng Tana. On the other hand, visitors can take the route to the National Park Office along Highway No. 217 (Phibun Mangsahan-Chong Mek route) and turning left onto Highway No. 2173 and proceeding for another 13 kilometers.
Khong Chiam District
The Khong Chiam district overlooks the Mekhong River and is located 80 kilometers from Ubon Ratchathani. Boat rental services are available here to go to Kaeng Tana cataract and to go sightseeing at Mae Nam Song Si or the bicolor river where the Mekhong and Mun Rivers meet.
Maenam Song Si
Maenam Song Si or the Bi-colored River or the Mun Rivers alluvium, is the place where two rivers join: the brown Mekong River and the blue Mun River. It is located in Khong Chiam District, about 84 kilometers from Ubon Ratchathai City centre. Visitors can hire a boat from Khong Chiam district to see the alluvium.
Namtok Saeng Chan
This waterfall is only 1 kilometer from Thung Na Muang Waterfall. This is a very beautiful waterfall with a special characteristic of its own the small stream of water cascades down the face of the cliff through an opening in the rock resembling a hole. Visitors viewing the waterfall at noon when the sunlight shines through the hole will be presented with a view of the cascading water similar to that of the full moon shining onto the world. Travelling can be made from Highway No. 2134, followed by Highway No. 2112, and then turning right to the waterfall.
Namtok Soi Sawan
This is a big waterfall cascading from two sides of steep cliffs about 20 metres high and is located 30 kilometers from Khong Chiam District.
Namtok Tat Ton
This waterfall is on Highway No. 2173, which is about 6 kilometers off Highway No. 217. This beautiful waterfall is created from Tat Ton Brook flowing past a stone platform and plunging onto the plain forming a basin large enough to swim in that is surrounded by flowering shrubs and forests in the shady area.
Pak Mun Dam
Constructed from stone and reinforced with clay soil, this dam has a width of 17 metres and a length of 300 metres. The dam, which facilitates agriculture and generates electricity, is located approximately 75 kilometers from town, or about 6 kilometers from the area where the Mekong River meets the Mun River. It is possible to travel along the top of the dam wall as a short cut from Khong Chiam District to Amphoe Sirinthon without driving back to Phibun Mangsahan District. Cruising along the beautiful Mun River is possible from the end of the dam to the Bicolored River, where the Mun River joins with the Mekong River.
Pha Taem National Park
This park covers an area of 140 square kilometers, where plateaus and hills dominate the parks landscape. There are sheer cliffs, which resulted from earthquakes. Most trees are of the deciduous dipterocarp forest. Irregular shaped sandstone is found scattered throughout the area. Beautiful flowering plants grow among the rocky ground. Travelling can be made from Khong Chiam District along Highway No. 2134, followed by Highway No. 2112, and then turning right for another 5 kilometers. Places of interest within the park are:
Pha Taem and Pha Kham are located near the national park headquarters. On the cliffs surface are numerous prehistoric cave paintings dating back 3,000-4,000 years ago that offer insight into the way of life that existed during the pre-historic days and reflect the ancient lifestyle of the people who once lived in the area. These painting depict scenes of fishing, rice farming, figures of people, animals, hands and geometric designs. It should be noted that the most extensive site for cave paintings in the country is that of Pha Taem.
Home to one of the world's oldest agrarian communities, Ubon Ratchathani is also the 'cradle of northeastern civilisation'. Recently discovered archaeological evidence suggests that humans settled in the region between 14,000 to 6,000 years ago.
Sao Chaliang, which is 11 kilometers from Khong Chaim District on Highway 2112 is a place that is scattered with natural mushroom-like piles of stone slabs with a large amount of shells embedded in their surface. The area is believed by geologists to be a long dried up seabed (over a million years ago).
Tham Heo Sin Chai
This cave is on Highway No. 2222, about 7 kilometers before reaching Amphoe (district) Khong Chiam, turn left and proceed for about 2 kilometers. This cave, which is on the same route as Kaeng Tana, is a Buddhist center with a beautiful reclining Buddha image. In addition, there is a waterfall cascading down the cliff to the area in front of the reclining Buddha image making the place very cool and beautiful.
Tham Muet means dark cave. It is at Ban Sa Som, is a cave approximately 4 meters wide and 6 meters high. Within the cave are many carved Buddha images, indicting that it used to be a place for religious ceremonies.
Wat Tham Khuha Sawan
This temple is on Highway No. 222 about 6 kilometers before reaching Khong Chiam District. The temple was built in 1978 by Luang Pu Kam Khaning Chula Mani and was his residence and place of meditation during his lifetime. Despite the fact that he passed away many years ago, his body remains in perfect condition. Along the route to the temple are numerous scenic spots for visitors to admire the beauty of the Mekong River and the Laotian border.
Lion Pulpit at Ban Chi Thuan
Located in a sermon hall of Wat Si Nuan Saeng Sawang Arom, the pulpit was elaborately crafted in the form of a lion upholding a tower. This Vietnamese-style pulpit was built in 1925 by a Vietnamese artist. The site is located approximately 26 kilometres from the district town. To get there, travel along Highway No. 23 (Ubon Ratchathani Yasothon) for approximately 24 kilometres. Upon reaching the 268-km. marker, turn left to the village and proceed for another 5 kilometres.
Ban Kan Lueang Archaeological Site
This is situated in Wat Ban Kan Lueang, 3 kilometers from the town along Highway No. 212. Turn right onto Highway No. 2050 and proceed for 2 kilometers. In 1992, the Fine Arts Department excavated the site. Discoveries include artifacts, implements, ornaments, beads, pottery and iron axes. It is believed that this settlement dates back at least 2,000 years.
Ban Pa Ao
This village is situated at Tambon Nong Khon, 18 kilometers from the city on Highway No. 23. At the 273-km. marker, turn right and travel along the track for another 3 kilometers. This village is one of the oldest villages in Ubon Ratchathani. According to history, the villagers migrated from Vientiane, Laos during the reign of King Siri Bun San. The village is over 200 years old and has a special identity of its own which has been handed down from generation to generation by its ancestors, such as the craft of making bronzeware and weaving beautiful silk.
Ban Tha Khong Lek
This village is on Highway No. 226 (Ubon Ratchathani-Si Sa Ket Route) about 3 kilometers from the district center. This whole village produces clay pots where the clay, taken from the Mun River, is thoroughly mixed with chaff and other kinds of material. The whole process is done by hand.
Hat Khu Duea
This is a sandy river shore on the Mun River bank about 12 kilometers from town. There are varieties of local food sold along the shore.
Hat Wat Tai
This is a sandy island in the middle of the Mun River. The island becomes larger than usual in summer. It is also used as a recreation place by townspeople.
The Stone Inscription at Phu Manat Cave
This is believed to date back to the 12th or 13th Buddhist Century. This sandstone inscription records the spreading of King Srimahanetaravoramans (Jitrasane) power to the Mun River area. A rectangular shape 82 centimeters in length and 24 centimeters in height, it narrates the victory of the King in the Sanskrit language. Blurred but still readable, it is now kept at the National Museum of Ubon Ratchathani.
Thung Si Muang
This is a wide-open area in the middle of the city used as a recreation and festival celebration area for the townspeople. A monument of the founder of Ubon Ratchathani is also located here.
Ubon Ratchathani Cultural Centre
Located in Ubon Ratchathani Rajabhat University, the centre features several halls that display Isans history, local wisdom, religion, geography and culture. The centres 7-story building is constructed in an Isan-contemporary style of architecture. Inside the centre are seminar rooms, theatre, banquet rooms, restaurants and hotel rooms.
The centre opens daily except Sunday and public holidays from 9.00a.m. 4.00p.m. For more information, call 0 4525 0115-20 for more information. Tourists are welcome to stay, please contact 0 4526 2901-2 to reserve your room.
Ubon Ratchathani National Museum
This is on Khuean Thani Road. Built in 1918, the building was once used as the City Hall. It is regarded as the museum with the best arrangements and displays artifacts from all districts in the province. Within the museum are displays of prehistoric events, history, and culture of Ubon Ratchathani natives. The Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
Wat Ban Na Mueang
Wat Ban Na Mueang is 5 kilometers from town. The temple has a very beautiful ordination hall built of ceramics in the shape of the Suphannahong Royal Barge.
This temple was once the residence of many famous monks who practiced meditation. Their statues, carved from stones from various rivers, are kept here for the people to visit and pay their respect.
Wat Chaeng, on Sapphasit Road in the municipal area, has one of the oldest ordination halls in the province that is well preserved and illustrates the perfect northeastern style.
Wat Maha Wanaram
Wat Maha Wanaram, located on Sappasit Road, is an ancient temple in the city that enshrines the holy Buddha image, Phra Chao Yai Indra Plaeng that is greatly revered by the people of Ubon Ratchathani and nearby provinces. An additional attraction is an engraved stone tablet interred behind the pedestal of the Buddha image.
Wat Nong Bua
This is the only temple in this province that has a rectangular Chedi, which is an imitation of Chedi Buddhakhaya of India. The temple is located on the outskirts of Ubon Ratchathani on Highway No. 212 (Ubon-Amnat Charoen). At the 3-km. marker on the highway, turn into a side road and proceed for 800 meters to the temple.
Wat Pa Nanachat
This temple is approximately 15 kilometers from the province on the Ubon-Si Sa Ket route and is renowned for its meditation activities and the large number of foreign monks practicing there.
Wat Si Ubon Rattanaram
This is a royal temple on Upparat Road beside the City Hall. The ordination hall is in the same style as the Marble Temple in Bangkok. The main attraction enshrined within this temple is the towns sacred Topaz Buddha image.
This is a royal temple of the Dhammayut Sect in the northeast. The temple, built in 1853 on the bank of the Mun River surrounded by beautiful and tranquil scenery. There is a Thai-Chinese-European style ordination hall, which houses the principal serene Buddha image of the temple.
Wat Thung Si Muang
This temple is located on Luang Road in the municipal area. The temple was built during the reign of King Rama III and has a beautiful ordination hall in the northeastern architectural style. A scripture hall is located in the middle of a pond, featuring a roof that shows the Burmese architectural style while the lintel was carved in the Laotian architectural style. Mural paintings in this temple feature the civilizations and cultures of the people of Ubon Ratchathani over 200 years ago.
Kaeng Saphue, which is the most beautiful cataract in Ubon Ratchthani, is in the Mun River near the Phibun Mangsahan District Office, about 45 kilometers from Ubon Ratchathani City center, on the left-hand side of Highway No. 217. This beautiful cataract of natural rocks is visible for half the year during the dry season.
Wat Phukhao Kaeo
This temple is on the slope of a hill in Phibun Mansahan District along Highway No. 217, 43 kilometers from Ubon Ratchathani. The main attraction inside the temple is a beautiful ordination hall built entirely from ceramics. In addition, within the hall are replicas of all the Buddha relics found in Thailand.
Chong Mek Border
Chong Mek is the boundary between Thailand and Laos that marks the end of Highway No. 217, which is 89 kilometers long. This highway will be connected to a 38-kilometre road in Laos leading to Pak Sae, which will be part of the Asian Highway.
Prasat Ban Ben
This is a medium-sized Khmer stone castle found in Ubon Ratchathani. The whole compound consists of three brick Prangs seated on separated laterite bases. Several religious art objects including Lintel depicting God Indra and Erawan elephant, etc. were discovered on site in 1990. Archeologists believe they can be dated back to the late 15 to the beginning of 16 Buddhist Century.
The Sirindhorn Dam
This is about 70 kilometers from the city center on Highway No. 217. Turn right at the 71-km. marker and proceed for about 500 metres. A multi-purpose dam, it was built to generate electricity and to facilitate agriculture across a tributary of the Mun River. The nearby forests have been turned into the park which recently has gain an increasing amount of popularity. As an ideal recreational area, water sports and boat trips are available.
Ban Tha Khong Lek
The village is located on Highway No. 226 (Ubon Ratchathani Sri Saket), approximately 3 kilometres from the districts town. The specialty of the villagers lies in the wisdom in making pottery. All earthenware are made by using special clay taken from Mun River. They are all hand made.
Wat Nong Pa Phong
Wat Nong Pa Phong is a mediation center with a quiet and peaceful atmosphere where a number of foreigners practice Buddhism. The center is located on Highway No. 2178 about 6 kilometers from the city.
Wat Nong Pa Phong and Wat Pa Nanachat, provide a special opportunity for non-Thai speakers to find out more about Buddhism and to experience the insight meditation (Vipassana-style of meditation). For those interested, it is recommended that you can pay a visit to the temple of your choice and discuss with foreign monks beforehand. The participation in the meditation course may require some commitments. Call Wat Nong Pa Phong at tel. 045 322729 for more information. Staff speaks English.
Necessities to take with you when staying in Buddhist temple/monastery/retreat Centre:
The following items are suggested as useful to take:
- Clothes:Loose fitting, easily cared for. Simple sandals and some loss fitting tops, especially T-shirts are highly recommended. An umbrella can be useful in the rainy season. In the cold season a sweater or two would be practical. Also a blanket or sleeping bag.
- Medicine:Pills for diarrhea and constipation, mosquito repellent and coils, tiger balm or other ointment for bites. Some kind of antibiotic or disinfectant for cuts, band-aids, minor first-aid stuff. Eye wash can be very useful. Anti-malaria preventives.
- Food items:Most of the temples/monasteries provide both food and accommodation. However, there are some useful items you might bring along but not necessary: thermos, coffee, tea, sugar, milk, ovaltine, hot plate, cup and kettle.
- Toilet articles:Toilet paper, soap, mirror, all toilet articles. Helpful to have a small scrub brush for laundry.
- Tips: Behave with full awareness, dress conservatively, have much patience to yourself and others.
Wat Pa Nanachat
Located at Ban Bung Wai is perhaps the second most famous temple amongst tourists. The temple is the 19th branch of Wat Nong Pa Phong. What attracts foreigners most is the monastery's peaceful ambience and its practice of Buddhists insight meditation a unique meditation style that also known as Vipassana in Pali.
Travelling to the monastery can be made from Highway No. 226 (to Sri Saket Province). Approximately 14 kilometres from the districts town, turn right and proceed to the temples entrance which is the same to the entrance of Wat Pa Mongkol.