Thailand's North-East

UBON RATCHATHANI

Global Mark : 11.33

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
3 2 3 2 3 2 2 5 2 10.67

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
1 100% (1) 100% (1) 100% (1) 12 12.00


Description :
  A big friendly town on the way to/from Laos or the North-East.

Comments : Most travelers only spend enough time here to board an onward train but other end up spending weeks...

What to do ? If coming from Laos, rediscover the charms of Thailand (the cheap food, the helpful people, the colorful culture) and modern civilization (internet, good transports, shops full of goods, night life, you name it !) / If going to Laos, store on snacks & eat your last ice creams / While you are here, why not actually take the time to explore the place (Temples, markets, river side, museum, etc.) / Enjoy the great nightlife ! / Play petanque with the locals / Turn into an archeologist at Ban Kan Luang, a 2000 years old settlement (5km) / Become a western monk at the Forest Monastery / During dry season, spot rapids at Kaeng Saphu (45km) / In July, watch a Candle Festival / 

What you may not like ? If coming from Laos, rediscover the ugly side of civilization : noise, pollution, traffic, commercialism and busy streets / The cost of accomodation / The street signs in Thai only / The sheer size of the place / Not getting a same day sleeping berth to Bangkok (a good reason to delay your trip no ?) / 

How long ? It depends where you wishes to go next. Checking the place would require a full day. Partying could last for weeks...


Where to stay ? 

Hotels  << Get precise info, book online and save money !

- In Warin Chamrap area, south of the Moon River, near the train station (B5 by songthaew from Ubon)

  • River Moon GH (045 286093), 21 Sisaket Rd, go straight from the train station, first left at the cart sculpture until the traffic lights. The guesthouse is in the front of the Varin fire station / Dorm (4) 60, (5) 50 or (6) 40, Sgl or Dbl without shower 100 or 150 / Go there for the cheapest bed or room in town, to check the backpackers' book full of tips, to discuss with Phanth Boonjob, the friendly owner, a backpacker, teacher & marathon runner who know tons about the area / What you may not like : the plan to increase the prices up to 150 & 200 after the garden has been improved, the mosquitoes' invasion 
  • Varin GH, 1-23 Ksermsul Rd, opposite the playground, south of the above / Grotty atmosphere and just OK rooms w. cold shower 170


- In Ubon : fate decided that I should not go back to Ubon so I could not check the northern places. 

  • Tokyo Hotel, on Uparat Rd (south of Sapphasit Rd) was reported as having correct rooms w. shower for B170.


Where to eat ? If coming from Laos, you are used to find your way around aren't you ? On Tuesday between 16:00 and 20:00, stuff yourself with pizza at Pizza Hut (all you can eat for B75)

Internet ? Being untouristy the basic price is the local price : B15 per hour. One such place is Tang Toi Shop ( open 9 to 22) on Kanthakaluk Rd (straight from the train station, third road, turn right, head south for 100m)


Going to Laos ? For the time being, you can not get a visa at the border but an "entry permit" only, for which you will need a sponsor. Moon river GH can arrange this for B1600, an hefty price for a 15 days permit. Better to show up in Ubon with a regular visa... This is the only border which is on land (others are on the Mekong) and this incites some people to enter Laos illegally. This is fine as long as you do not get caught : the penalty on the Laos side is apparently a week in jail plus a US $2000 fine. The argument that you lost your way does not seem to work too much nowadays...

Going to Cambodia ? Take the 6:55 ordinary train to Buriram (arr. 11am) then a bus to Aranya Prathet. Spend the night there before heading to the border. In Poipet, pick up trucks go to Siem Reap on a very bad road.

Backpacker's Tips : Alexandre Zosso, Swisszerland (Sept 07)
 
I've read the good comment about Prasat Phanom Rung, but for me, the best Khmer Temple in Thailand is Prasat Preah Vihar, south of Ubon Ratchatani. I've always gone there by car, so I don't know about the public transportation. But I've read it is somehow difficult to go there by bus... Go there, you won't be disappointed. The only problem: it is expensive for foreigners: 400 thb to enter the national park on the thai side and 200 thb again on the cambodian side. Go there early, there won't be anybody at the top. You will have the amazing view on the cambodian plateau just for you.
About the crossing of the Border to Loas from Ubon, I went there during the last february, and I got a visa of 30 days! Usually it is only 15 days (Ventiane or any other borders...)

Backpacker's Tips : Tam Chiwai, Hong Kong (Sept 00)
 Khao Phra Viharn is a beautiful Khmer ruin, right at the Thai-Cambodia border. Actually it is inside Cambodia : they will keep your passport while you are inside. It occupies a mountain top, with a long corridor walk to the main temple, and is guarded by Cambodian soldiers. Entrance fee is B100. You will see land mine warning everywhere inside the site. There is no public transport to get to the ruin. So you should rent a motorbike (B200 a day) or join the tour from Ubon.
Khong Chiam is a small town with a beautiful cliff painting at Pha Taem cliff, 21km from town by the Mekong river. Further on 16km is Soi Sawan waterfall. You can climb all the way to the top of the fall and have a good view. In this area they have a wowen football league. Funny to see all the village female playing football , most of them without shoes. Stay at the apple guest house for B100.
Surin is a small town with friendly guesthouse Pirom, one of the place where you can join the tour to Khao Phra Viharn. Night market is quite good there.


Leaving Ubon ? 
For Bangkok, most people choose a train ride. Usually, you need to reserve a sleeper berth (B411, upper, leave at 18:15, arrive at 5:20) one day in advance so quite a few travelers end up on a much cheaper & enjoyable third class seat (as low as B95 for the ordinary train leaving at 6:55 and arriving at 19:30).
Buses leaves throughout the day (last ones at around 22:30) from a lot of places for as little as B125 (fan) to as much as B430 (VIP with 24 seats). Ask around.
If taking a day train or bus, breaking the journey in Khorat to visit Phimai and Phanom Rung would be recommended. To Phimai, take the 6:55 train to Hin Dat (only ordinary or DRC trains stop there), then board a songthaew (see below). There are also buses straight to Phimai, the last one leaving at 16:15 (6 hours, B125 AC).
To Khorat, ordinary train (at 6:55, arr. 13:28) cost B58. Add B40 for the 6:35 rapid train. Buses would cost from B38 (fan, 8 hours) to B140 (AC, 5 hours). 
Going to the north east of Thailand (Mukdahan, Nakkon Phanom, etc), buses leave from the Ban Donklang Bus Station (Tuk-Tuk B5) every 20mn or so during the day.


The trip to Phimai : SS / L&R / B49 + B16 / 5.5 hrs + 45mn / 3rd class train + songthaew
Phimai is usually reached from Khorat but, coming by train from Ubon, I was told it would be best to stop at Hin Dat and connect from there. Also, I choosed to take the ordinary train leaving at 6:55. Taking the 6:35 rapid would cost an additional B40 for a 40mn time saving and hopefully better seats...
The train was here when I showed up at 6:35. Not too much choice with this one : only third class with hard wooden banks. You really do not wish to travel up to Bangkok on those... Stopping at Hin Dat instead of Khorat, I was therefore happy to save 1h15. The scenery was nice but rather boring. Sitting on the right side would make you avoid the sun.
A songthaew is waiting each train for convenient connection to Phimai. The trip took 45mn and B16. So altogether, this was a saving of about 2 hours and a few bucks compared to going via Khorat. 

The trip to Mukdahan : I did not do it but dreamt about it. It cost B51 and takes 3 hours. 

See also the trip from Laos