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Introducing Ubon Ratchathani

Survive the usual knot of choked access roads and Ubon will reveal an altogether more attractive face. Racked up against Mae Nam Mun, Thailand’s second-longest waterway, the southern portions of the city have a pedestrian, sluggish character rarely found in the region’s big conurbations. Temples pepper the surrounding area, the urban push-and-shove is easily escaped and despite the quick-time march of modernisation, a deep sense of Isan identity continues to live on. Few cities in Thailand reward aimless wandering as richly as Ubon.

A US air base during the Vietnam era, 21st-century Ubon is primarily a financial, educational and agricultural market centre for eastern Isan. With the nearby Thai–Lao border crossing at Chong Mek drawing a steady stream of foreigners, Ubon is an increasingly popular travel destination. The hotel scene is glum, but there are plenty of good restaurants and well-stocked stores that offer a chance to enjoy the good life before heading off into rural Laos.