A Postcard From Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

 

Whilst talking to Panadda nickname Da on the very first Thai women living abroad interview called

Thais Abroad: From Ubon Ratchatani, Thailand to Venice, Italy

I asked her about her home in Thailand – where she was born and brought up. Da was born and brought up in the north-east of Thailand in Ubon Ratchathani. This starts another new theme on the blog called ” a postcard from.” It takes a bit of a look at the towns, cities and the rural areas that make up the Kingdom of Thailand with the added extra of an  inside angle.

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Khun Panadda, nickname Da

Ubon Ratchathani –  อุบลราชธานี

Usually known as Ubon (อุบลฯ) for short and with an urban population of around 200,000 it is one of the north-east’s four main cities. The other main cities are Korat, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani. The name Ubon itself means the royal lotus city. You have to be careful as it’s quite easy to get Ubon and Udon mixed up.

(Trevor) I know that you left Ubon quite a long time ago, but how often do you manage to return for a visit?

(Da) I left Ubon a very long time ago at 15 years of age, it was just after I graduated from junior high school. After that I travelled to Bangkok to study and stayed there for quite a while before moving to Italy.

I try to get back home to Ubon every year to visit mum and dad, but everything has changed so much from the place I knew whilst growing up. Although there are many changes, I still love Ubon and I love the rural countryside so much. When I go back I slot straight back in to the regional way of life and I love visiting the temples in Ubon and the surrounding areas.

Tips

Ubon is approximately 600 kilometres from Bangkok, but can be reached by car, bus, rail or air.

A trip by bus to Bangkok from Ubon or the other way from Ubon to Bangkok will take approximately 10 hours.

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Sam Phan Bok (สามพันโบก)  – Photograph by Khun Oy Onuma (อ้อย อรอุมา)

(Trevor) What was life like growing up as a child in Ubon? What was a regular childhood day like?

(Da) I was a child from up country, a girl from the rural area and I grew up on a farm in the countryside. Life as a child was so much fun. We used to run around the pasture and around the woods with so much freedom. We didn’t have toys to play with in those days, they were too expensive. In the mornings I used to walk to school. The school was not that far away at all only about two kilometres and you could walk with friends along the fast road. I preferred to cut across the rice field though and catch frogs along the way. I would then give them to my teacher when I got to school…. Da laughs.

Tips

The Ubon Ratchathani airport is also an active Royal Thai Air Force base. It was formerly a U.S air base during the Vietnam war.

Nok Air, Air Asia and Thai Airways fly daily from Ubon to Bangkok and there are between 3 – 7 flights departing each day.

(Trevor) What did your parents do for a living?

(Da) My parents were rice farmers, but have retired now. They are very old now and anyway they don’t have anybody that can farm the land now. They worked hard all of their lives and I don’t want to see them tired from work at this stage of their lives… certainly not. Now, us children all help together to take care of them.

Tips

The main industry in Ubon is agriculture and the area is full of rice fields and forests. After that, it’s military, schools and universities.

Getting around Ubon in itself is fairly convenient with either Songtaew – a mini bus form of transport, tuk-tuk or motor bike taxi. You can always walk everywhere as well and really get to know the place.

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Sam Phan Bok (สามพันโบก) – Photograph by Khun Oy Onuma (อ้อย อรอุมา)

(Trevor) So you have brothers and sisters then?

(Da) I had 5 brothers and sisters as a child, but that has changed now as two of my brothers lost their lives. My youngest brother died at 19 years of age in a motorbike accident. My younger brother, but in the middle of our family died at 30 years of age with a heart attack. I now have one older sister, one older brother and one younger brother.

Tips

A lot of the buildings and architecture have a large Lao influence, this is especially evident in the religious buildings.

Ubon is only 100 kilometres from the Lao border at Chong Mek / Parkse. There’s now a regular bus service that operates from Ubon bus station straight to Pakse in Lao.

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Sam Phan Bok (สามพันโบก) – Photograph by Khun Oy Onuma (อ้อย อรอุมา)

(Trevor) What are people of Ubon like, what is the character of Ubon people?

(Da) You will find the people of Ubon Ratchathani to be kind and welcoming. They extend a warm welcome to all guests that come to visit city and surrounding area.

Tips

Ubon has a university called Ubon Ratchathani University, it is based approximately 15 – 20 kilometres south of Ubon.

The University aims to provide educational opportunities for people of the area of the north-east of Thailand. The provinces of Mukdahan, Sakon Nakhon, Yasothon, Amnat Charoen, Nakhon Phanom, Si Saket and Ubon Ratchathani itself are specifically catered for.

(Trevor) Could you give me 3 things that you think might be of interest to visitors

(Da) These are my choices: The candle making ceremony, Pha Taem National Park and Wat Phu Prao Temple.

The Candle making ceremony

The largest and most prestigious annual event in Ubon is the candle festival. This is held in July on ” Khao Phansa day – วันเข้าพรรษา. ” This is a tradition that’s been handed down from generations and is still present today. It is said that the monks would remain in one place i.e. the temple for 3 months during the rainy season. Candlelight was the only light in the old days and folk would make offerings of large candles for use during the 3 months.

The  Candle making ceremony  “Khao Phansa Candle Making Ceremony” – (ประเพณีหล่อเทียนพรรษา) is held at Thung Si Muang temple.

” Khao Phansa day – วันเข้าพรรษา. ” is also a no alcohol day. In fact to abstain from drinking alcohol for the 3 months period is highly encouraged by a government campaign called ” Ngot Lao Khao Phansa – งดเหล้าเข้าพรรษา.”

Music 

Candle festival parade with traditional dancing and music from Ubon Ratchathani

Pha Taem National Park

Pha Taem is a national park approximately 100 kilometres from Ubon Ratchathani. This place is well worth a visit as it has some of the best views across the Mekhong river. Along with the fantastic views are some incredible rock formations and beautiful waterfalls. A word of warning though; make sure you take plenty of water to drink and a hat or an umbrella as it can get very hot.

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Pha Taem – Ubon Tatchathani, Thailand (ผาแต้ม) – Photograph by Khun Panadda (ปนัดดา)

Wat Phu Prao Temple

If you enjoy your temples then you’ll love this one. Wat Phu Prao is a temple of stunning beauty with incredible views across the mountains towards Lao.

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Wat Phu Prao – Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand (วัดภูพร้าว) – Photograph by Khun Panadda (ปนัดดา)

Sam Phan Bok – สามพันโบก

A further interest to visitors is a place called Sam Phan Bok in the district of Buntarik in the province of Ubon Ratchathani –  (อำเภอ บุญฑริก จังหวัด  อุบลราชธานี.) Sam Phan Bok translates as 3000 holes and  is about a 2 hour drive from Ubon Ratchathani. With the beautiful scenery and the amazing rock formations it makes for a very photographic area. The best time for a visit is either early morning or toward sunset time when it’s cooler. Whatever you do, make sure you take plenty of water to drink.

Thanks to Khun Oy Onuma (อ้อย อรอุมา) featured in the photograph below for sharing her photographs of Sam Phan Bok with us and for the food photos.

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Sam Phan Bok (สามพันโบก) –  Khun Oy Onuma (อ้อย อรอุมา) protecting herself from the sun.

Food Tips

Food of course is always at the forefront of a Thai persons thinking with Isaan food having a distinct flavour of it’s own. There are the very famous dishes like papaya salad (som tam – ส้มตำ), grilled chicken and sticky rice (gai yang -ไก่ย่าง) and spicy chopped duck slad (laab pet -ลาบเป็ด) . Beware as the som tam Isaan – north east is a lot more spicier than the central Thai papaya salad with a whole host of different spices and tastes.

Another dish to try is Guay jap yuan – (ก๋วยจั๊บญวณ) a delicious Vietnamese style noodle but very popular in the province of Ubon Ratchathani.

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Guay jap yuan noodles – (ก๋วยจั๊บญวณ ) – photograph by Khun Oy Onuma (อ้อย อรอุมา)

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Guay Jap Yuan Noodles (ก๋วยจั๊บญวณ ) – Photograph by Khun Oy Onuma (อ้อย อรอุมา)

Further Information on Ubon Ratchathani

 

 

 

 

 

 

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