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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.

Elephants and motorbikes prohibited.

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.

A common sight in many parts of Thailand.

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.

One of the more blatant bars in Udon.

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.

A common bar-mall closed during midday.

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.

Benjamin Williams

Hi all, my name is Ben. I’m a native Michigander with a passion for human culture and new places, and more than that, new experiences. I have degrees in archaeology and writing, pursuing a career in the latter. However, I never quite lost that fascination for archaeological theory. For the past 11 years, I’ve been living and travelling between Asia, Europe, and North America, documenting ancient sites and the peoples who built them, and then adapting them into practical archaeological travel information at


  • jaydolf says:

    Holy shit! How can you afford to do this!?

    • Ben says:

      Still in the process of figuring that part out myself. Sometimes travel to work, others work to travel. Last spring I went south to PR to actually work on a ship and travel around, and didn’t like that so much. I spent the summer working at an island resort saving and then flew to Thailand to start around this side of the world. Currently I’m working in a school near Bangkok and travelling in my free time. Just winding up a trip down through the Malay Peninsula into Singapore.

      I’ve also met plenty of people along the way that pick up random jobs at bars or hostels or just random other places. I’m not looking for one now, but time may come when I just start asking around at places I go. I randomly met a girl from my hometown in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia last week that was working at a hostel, getting free room, meals, and beer and getting paid under the table for working as their “guest social event coordinator.” Essentially she got to set up nightly parties and drink with the guests.

      Also, if you have a special talent, you could always do that. I’ve met lots people who travel with an instrument and get guest spots at night venues or just play in public. Also read aabout a guy a while back that said he had made some money working as an extra in Bollywood films.

What are your thoughts?

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