Udon Thani (12-14 Mar 14)


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March 13th 2014
Published: March 13th 2014
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Ban Chiang MuseumBan Chiang MuseumBan Chiang Museum

Unesco World Heritage Site, and apparently the discovery that forced archaeologists and anthropologists to rethink the origins of Southeast Asian civilisation.
And so with my fresh new 14-day visa in hand, it was time to start heading back to the capital.

But first not without a layover at my third stop in the this mini-Isaan adventure of mine. Just a short 1h bus ride away from the Mekhong, and I found myself in Udon Thani.

Like Nong Khai, truth is this was in fact not exactly my first time in Udon. For my Laos trip seven years ago, I'd landed in Udon airport, but was bussed directly to the Friendship bridge. So yes I'd seen the airport, but that was pretty much it.

This time though I had a little more time to spend exploring the place. Udon isn't a particularly popular destination for cultural buffs, though it is home to a sizeable population of retired Western male expatriates, who seem to have chosen to settle here with their Isaan wives. I can't immediately understand why Udon has become such a magnet for these folks, because there's nothing particularly special about it from my point of view. It obviously doesn't have the buzz of the capital Bangkok or even the beach resort of Pattaya, and certainly not the cultural atmosphere of say, Chiangmai. But well the farangs have decided, and so it shall be. Another (somewhat) interesting observation I made about this city is the preponderance of farang missionaries. In just the two days I spent here, I was twice approached by them, speaking good Thai. After I told them I wasn't Thai, they switched to English with interesting opening lines -- "Would you like to be baptised on the 23rd?" and "Have you seen this picture (of a father hugging a child, if I remember correctly).

Anyway, that's not to say Udon is completely void of anything of interest to a casual backpacker though. Some 50km east lies the archaelogical site of Ban Chiang, a Unesco World Heritage site. The story has it that sometime in the 1970s, a Harvard undergrad was doing some research in the area, when he tripped over a tree root, fell and came face-to-face with an intriguing pottery shard. He brought the shard back to US for dating, to discover it might have been thousands of years ago, much older than what conventional anthropological theories had assumed about Southeast Asian civilisation then. And as they say, the rest is history.

This wasn't my first encounter with the Ban Chiang story either. I distinctly remember on the first of my stints in Bangkok almost two years ago, I'd visited the Suan Prakkad museum which featured exhibits about about the discovery. At the time, the story had indeed seemed so exotic, and the destination of Ban Chiang so far away... It was therefore of some satisfaction and poignance to me, when I actually had the opportunity to visit the site.

Stayed at Sritrakarn Hotel.


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Ban Chiang MuseumBan Chiang Museum
Ban Chiang Museum

Lots and lots of pots! Apparently some of those recovered from the excavation sites date back thousands of years.
Ban Chiang MuseumBan Chiang Museum
Ban Chiang Museum

Told you about the pots!


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