Udon Thani is one of Isan's major cities, located in north-east Thailand. Udon Thani is situated some 550 kilometres Northeast of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, in between the university city of Khon Kaen and the border town of Nong Khai, on the banks of the Mekong river, opposite the Lao capital Vientiane. It is an agricultural and trading base, and capital of the eponymous province.
The name is pronounced "Oo-Dorn Tar-Nee"
Visitors buying tickets by plane or train to the city should ensure they request "Udon Thani" (often shortened by the Thais to "Udon") rather than Ubon Ratchanthani (in turn frequently shortened to "Ubon.")
The history of Udon Thani, both ancient and modern, is mired in confusion and interpretation.
Many profess that the Thais originated in China's north western Szechuan province approximately four and a half thousand years ago, and later migrated south to the kingdom known formerly as Siam - and today as Thailand. However, when an American citizen accidentally stumbled upon extraordinary prehistoric remains in the village of Ban Chiang (near Green Gecko, in Nong Han district), this theory was soon to be challenged. Could a precocious Bronze Age civilization have evolved here, and could Ban Chiang be the ancestral home of the modern day Thais - some of whom later migrated to China?
The small village of Ban Chiang lies a little to the east of Udon Thani and is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the same name. It is often claimed that this hamlet was the site of the world's first Bronze Age civilization more than 5,000 years ago.
Further archaeological remains are evident at Phu Phrabat National Park north-west of Udon Thani, where strange sandstone structures remain to this day and house Bronze Age cave paintings.
Just as unravelling the ancient history of the province leads one to conflicting interpretations of events, a review of its more recent history is equally cloaked in Byzantine mystery. It is common knowledge that Udon Thani grew considerably in size during the Vietnam war, playing home to a major joint forces Air Force base, an important front lines facility of the US Air Force from 1964 to 1976. However, the Air Force base also comprised the headquarters of Air America, the professed passenger cargo airline secretly owned and operated by the CIA. Air America was in fact involved in ensuring provisions to, and support for, covert operations in S.E. Asia during the Vietnam War. The Hollywood film Air America, starring Mel Gibson, refers to Udon and features shots from the Udon military base.
And even recently, the controversy continues into the cloak and dagger world of American politics and Guantanamo Bay. Sources including The Washington Post have reported that one of the USA's secret facilities for interrogating terror suspects is located at Ban Dung (about 65kms from Udon Thani airport), to which suspects are secretly transported. This base, it is claimed by some, was developed in the 1970s to monitor China, and camouflaged as the regional relay station of the Voice of America.
Thailand's former army chief however has denied that the Americans operated a secret prison where prisoners were tortured: ”I can confirm you that there is no such place in Thailand,” he has said, thus countering the details in documents submitted to a court in New York as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Udon Thani province encompasses the districts of Kumphawapi, Nong Han, Phen, Ban Phue, Ban Dung, Si That, Nam Som, Nong Wua So, Kut Chap, Non Sa-at, Wang Sam Mo, Chai Wan, Nong Saeng, Sang Khom, Thung Fon, Na Yung, Phibun Rak, Ku Kaeo and, Prachak Sinlapakhom - the latter being home to Green Gecko.
The province of Udon Thani has numerous places to visit, including those often mentioned in Thailand travel guides such as the Huai Luang Reservoir - a favourite place for fishing and rafting; the Than Ngam Waterfall; Udon Sunshine - home to unique orchids; Ban Na Kha, a silk, cotton and khit weaving village; Ban Chiang - the UNESCO World Heritage Site and Museum; the Phu Phra Bat Historical Park - at the foot of Phu Phan hill, with pre-historic cave paintings, Buddha images and footprints; and Wat Pa Ban Tad - a famous forest monastery.
However, perhaps the most fascinating things to do and places to visit are not marked on travel itineraries: getting out of the city and into the countryside around Green Gecko will reveal a whole panoply of interesting sights, sounds and experiences. More details on these may be found on our experiences page, and the Thai family that will welcome you will be delighted to tell you of any festivals, ceremonies, or similar that will occur during your stay, and are best placed to make suggestions depending upon the time of year of your visit.