Ubon Ratchathani Travel Guide

This provincial town in Isaan is part of a unique subculture. Founded by Lao royalty in the 18th century, it’s little more than a sleepy side trip for tourists these days.

Ubon grew exponentially during the Vietnam War when US forces set up an important air base here. Given the war’s unpopularity, there aren’t many relics from those days. Instead, the only major war memorial is a shrine erected by those who served here during WWII. Specifically, the memorial praises the locals’ kindheartedness.

As with any secondary tourist destination in Thailand, the main attractions here are temples. Among these, two forest monasteries are outstanding. One was home to a preeminent Thai monk who recently passed away and draws pilgrims accordingly. The other houses a novel collection of international monks, including a number of Westerners.

More often than not, Ubon is a final stop for Laos-bound tourists. Its hospitality scene is growing, but hasn’t yet arrived. A variety of restaurants await though the hotel scene leaves a bit to be desired. Above all, this is a nice place to enjoy an urban convenience or two before delving into the rural reaches of Laos.

The best time to visit Ubon for the sake of Ubon is during the Candle Festival in early July. It marks the beginning of the annual Khao Phansa Festival when monks hole away in a single temple for the duration of the rainy season. There’s also a provincial boat festival in October.

Getting There & Away

Ubon Ratchatani is best reached by air from Bangkok. Roughly four daily departures are available, and travel time is around an hour. The express train is another comfortable option. There are more departures and the trip takes 8 hours, 30 minutes. Buses work for budget travelers and take 9 hours to reach Bangkok.

Ubon Ratchatani attractions

  • Wat Nong Bua: this white chedi is modeled on a stupa in India. It was built on the 2,500th anniversary of Buddha’s death in 1957.
  • International Forest Monastery: this temple is a famous meditation venue and is staffed by international monks.
  • Wat Nong Pah Pong: another forest monastery, this is the former residence of Chah, one of the most famous masters of meditation in recent Thai history.
  • Candle sculpture: carved in 2000, this sculpture is nearly 70-feet tall and displays a variety of iconic images from Isaan culture and history.
  • Monument of Merit: a war memorial, this shrine honors Ubon people for the kindness they showed the Allied Powers during WWII.