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The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival

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Every year, around this time, I hear about the huge candle festival in Ubon that just happened the week before. And every year I say to myself, I have to remember to go next year! So, at the end of my fourth year in Thailand, I finally made it to see what it was all about.

After arriving back in the city of Ubon last night after our tour of the countryside, most of the huge candle floats were lined along the streets waiting for tomorrow's parade. Finally, we were able to see what we came 600 km to see -- huge wax floats!

Each float was intricately carved will all kinds of Thai symbols made from wax -- elephants, Buddhas, garunas, kinnaree, monks, nagas, and even (at least) one life-sized wax King. We were exhausted after our day of driving, but we decided to walk around the parade area to get a close look at the floats anyway.

And I am glad we did. The actual parade this morning was a bit of a let-down. The floats went by our hotel, but did so very slowly. And each float had all kinds of Isaan music blasting, so you could hear the music from four floats at a time. It was certainly not a peaceful and relaxing place to be. After about 30 minutes and seeing 4 or 5 floats, we had seen enough and we decided to hit the long road back to Bangkok.

Tonight we had decided that instead of going all the way back to Bangkok, we would stay at a resort outside of the Kao Yai National Park. And it was another great decision. By the time we reached this area, which is about 160 KM from Bangkok, the traffic was just about unbearable. It probably would have taken us four or five hours to make what should be a two-hour trip the rest of the way.

But instead, we stayed at the very relaxing and quiet Bonanza Resort, and had a delicious steak dinner at the brand new Outlet Mall nearby. (Both are highly recommended, by the way.) It was a perfect ending to a very fun 5-day road trip through eastern Thailand.

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In lieu of my own pictures, which I will hopefully be able to post soon, I will point you to the " Life and Times in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand" blog. The author, an American living in Ubon, posted tons of picutures of the festivities. See the following links:

A Festive Morning At Tung Sri Muang Park Ubon

The People Make The Festival in Ubon Ratchathani

Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival 2007 Parade)

Our main purpose for driving all this way (600+ km) to Ubon Ratchathani is to see the annual candle festival and parade. The parade is tomorrow, so today we decided to spend our time by driving around the province to see some of the sights.

We headed east about one hour to the Mekong and the border with Laos. On the way we stopped for a snack in Phibun Masahan. We bought a sack of freshly cut mango, and decided to be adventurous with a stick of two inch wide, deep-fried buu hin (rock crabs). They were actually pretty good, shell and all. Our taste for adventure stopped there, however, and we decided not to sample the fried frog skin that was for sale.

Our next stop was the Mekong, and a National Park called Pa Taem. The highlight of this park, other than the beautiful views over the river and into Laos, are a collection of prehistoric paintings on the side of a cliff. They looked exactly as you would expect "cave paintings" to be, but it was still pretty cool to imagine that someone was at this spot 4,000 years ago drawing pictures of elephants and fish traps.

We also stopped by the Pak Moon Dam (pak moon means "mouth of the Moon River, where it flows into the Mekong). This dam is quite controversial because it has allegedly killed off many fish species who used to travel up and down the river. The dam itself is unremarkable, but since it is in the news so often, I wanted to see it. (For more information on the controversy, see the International Rivers Network website.)

On the way back to Ubon we stopped by a unique waterfall that pours through a hole in the side of a rock. It's hard to describe, so I will try to post a picture here sometime soon. Another highlight of the trip was visiting a temple complex housed in a cave over looking the Mekong. This temple was unique in that the mummified remains of the former monk abbot are on display in a glass case for all to come and pay their respects to.

In any case, we finally made it back to the town of Ubon long after the sun had set. The big candle parade is tomorrow, so in my next post I'll give more details about the huge wax floats that were lined up outside our hotel when we returned to the town.

Pictures from Ubon and Pakse

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I can't believe that it has been 10 months since I posted any pictures to this website. That is pretty sad. Well, I have remedied the situation by posting a few from my last trip to Ubon and Pakse. They can be seen in the Ubon Photo Album.

Ubon Ratchathani

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I have been spending the last few days in Isaan (Northeast Thailand). My base has been the town (and province) of Ubon Ratchathani. Ubon (as it is called for short) is another small, quaint provincial capital, and is located in Eastern Thailand on the banks of the Mun River near the borders of Laos and Cambodia. The "downtown" area is quite small, so over the past few days (when it hasn't been raining) I have been able to explore it completely.

In general, there is not much here. There is a very nice, well-maintained park and a few old temples, but since Ubon is a relatively new city and "only" around two hundred years old (similar to Bangkok), there isn't much in the way of historical places to visit.

The people here more than make up for the lack of tourist attractions, however. As in most places in Isaan, the people have been incredibly friendly to me. Most of the people I see at least say "Hello" to me as they pass on the street (or on their motorbikes). Some try out the few phrases of English that they know. Others, however, give me full stories about how they learned to speak English when the American troops were here 30 years ago.

But perhaps the most exciting part of my trip was finding out that Ubon has perhaps the cheapest Internet cafes in Thailand. And the quality has been surprisingly good as well. The one I am at now costs 10 baht (US$0.25) per hour. Contrast that to the 120 baht (US$3) an hour that you might find in the tourist areas of Bangkok, and you know why I've been sitting at this terminal all day.

My trip has not gone without disappointment however. But it has not been Udon's or the people of Udon's fault; it is 100% my own. My original plan was to come to Udon for a few days and then cross the border into Laos and visit Pakse and Champasak. But guess what brilliant move Yours Truly made? What would be the one thing that I could not do without?

Yup... I forgot to bring my passport. D'oh! But again, luckily my mai bpen rai attitude is still going strong. Instead of Laos, I have been enjoying the quiet and peaceful life in this small Thai town on the Mun -- eating its food, chatting with its residents, and spending my time in its fabulously cheap Internet cafes.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Ubon category.

Nong Khai is the previous category.

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