Ubon Ratchathani Travel Guide
Introduction to Ubon Ratchathani
One of the major cities of Issan, those looking for a bustling place to regroup and recharge before heading back out into the countryside will find plenty of services here for that purpose. With a number of interesting temples around, there is enough to keep you busy over the course of a couple days before moving on to your next destination in Thailand.
Cultural Attractions in Ubon Ratchathani
Start your time in this lively Issan city by exploring the Ubon Ratchathani National Museum. Decidedly European in appearance, this building started out its life in 1918 as Ubon’s City Hall, before being converted into a museum for the city and province in 1983.
Within, you’ll learn about a variety of topics, including the geography and geology of Issan, the history of the area stretching from prehistory through the periods of Dvaravati and Khmer rule to the present day, and artifacts like pottery and religious iconography.
Make Wat Phra That Nong Bua the first temple you visit when in Ubon Ratchathani. While it was only built in the 1950s, it is a noteworthy temple for the chedi contained on its grounds. Constructed to commemorate the 2,500 year anniversary of the founding of Buddhism, the 55-metre high chedi was built to resemble the one located at the Indian temple where the Buddha was believed to have attained Enlightenment.
The inside of the chedi contains a massive room covered in gold-coloured bling, as well as a shrine which contains relics of the Buddha.
Next, head out of town to pay a visit to Wat Nong Pah Pong. A monastery surrounded by forest, meditation courses are this sacred place’s claim to fame. After taking in an American man in the 1960s, other foreign travellers followed in his footsteps, as they sought a change of course in their lives.
Want to do the same today? First, you need to know that this place is not for meditation novices. Before showing up here, you need to have completed a three-day beginner course. If you choose to spend seven days, you’ll be expected to follow the lead of the other monks – this includes awakening at 3 am, and eating one meal daily, served at 8 am.
Want to completely overhaul your life by staying longer? In addition to the above, men are expected to shave their head, facial hair, and eyebrows – if this has yet to deter you, you’ll have much to gain from an extended stay here. Just want to visit? In addition to observing the daily workings of a forest monastery, there are trails around the site that will give you a chance to appreciate the natural beauty surrounding this sacred institution.
Got room in your schedule for one more temple? Drop by Wat Thung Sri Muang. Built in the 19th century to preserve what is believed to be one of the Buddha’s footprints, this wooden wat is also notable for a building built on stilts over the water. Built in the Laotian style, it has seen better days, but it is still worth a look despite its present rundown state.
Other Attractions in Ubon Ratchathani
Still haven’t got enough culture during your time in this prominent Issan city? Take some time to visit the Ubon Ratchathani Cultural Center. While most of the captions for the exhibits here are in Thai, there is still a great deal to admire here, from the diorama-style depictions of rural life in past years to the elaborate exterior of this gorgeous building.
If possible, time your visit here to coincide with the occurrence of the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival. Held during the month of July, the centrepiece attraction of this event is a parade. On this day, huge, expertly carved candles make their way through the streets of Ubon Ratchathani alongside dancers, much to the pleasure of observers on the sidewalk.
Prior to that day, there is an evening candlelight procession with normal-sized lighted candles which is also worth checking out, and throughout the festival, there are plenty of games and street food carts that will keep you occupied.
Tired out from all the sightseeing you have been doing? Relax in Thung Si Mueang Park for a spell. Formerly a rice field used to feed the leaders of Ubon Ratchathani, this public gathering place is filled with joggers, basketball players, folks doing aerobics, and other content to just socialize.
Here, you’ll find a statue of Chao Kham Phong, the city’s founder, as well as Ubon’s city pillar shrine and a gilded Garuda image dedicated by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the year 2000. Bring your appetite come sundown, as tonnes of food carts set up shop starting at around this time.
Still hungry? Head over to Rachabut Night Market, as this Ubon Ratchathani institution is famous for its food vendors. Serving not just Thai but Vietnamese food, you won’t walk hungry from this place. There are also plenty of clothing sellers here as well if you are looking to pick up some threads on the cheap.