Though it certainly didn’t feel like it upon my arrival, Udon Thani is one of the largest cities in Thailand. After having ridden through Nakhon Ratchasima (more popularly called Khorat) and Kohn Kaen on what was probably the shakiest bus ride of my life so far, it just didn’t seem to have the scale of those cities.
Though most of the sights I wanted to check out in the area in Isan were closer to Nong Khai and the Laos border, I had come here as a jumping off point to go to Ban Chiang, a Bronze Age site to the east of Udon and the earliest example of ancient civilization in this area of the world east of India and south of China.
The foreign district is located in very close proximity to the train station and a brand new development of shopping and restaurants on that end of the city. Lonely Planet points out that Udon Thani is a popular spot for sex tourism, and while I didn’t notice the blatant act happening as I had in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it certainly seemed a common theme in the décor and atmosphere of the malls full of foreign-oriented bars.
These malls were curious in that all of them were essentially just stalls that would close by pulling down their aluminum gate. For most this happened around midnight. Others, those, stayed open later or left their gate just slightly open so that people could duck in or out. I asked a woman who owned one of the bars why she stayed open later than others and she said that she is able to because she pays 1000 baht to stay open until 2am but it is worth it.
Wandering out of the foreign district in the morning, I got a much better feel for the town as a whole. And, in all honesty, it didn’t seem so much like anything special. It certainly didn’t scream out to me as a foreigner to come and settle down like so many seem to have done. So I pretty much just figured I’d do Ban Chiang and move on.