Udon Thani’s Hidden Treasure – Ban Dung

I always thought the word Ban in Thai translated into English as ‘a village’. I must be wrong because Ban Dung is a fair-sized town in Udon Thani Province. If it isn’t, then it’s the largest hamlet I’ve ever seen. Ban Dung is a charming rural town, and for me, it’s Udon Thani’s hidden treasure – I rate it highly. Have you ever heard of Ban Dung? I didn’t think you would have.

According to Wikipedia in 2005 Amphoe Ban Dung had a population of 121,303 and is divided into 13 sub-districts of which the town of Ban Dung is one. Sticky Wiki quotes the sub-district municipality of Ban Dung as having 13,137 residents.

The town and surrounding area is home to quite a few expats, and the district has a large salt farm (produce, photo right) and many rubber plantations. Ban Dung is an expanding town, and my guess is Sticky Wiki’s populace figures need an update.

Ban Dung is about 32 kilometres east from me and Wonderful Wi’s village home and is a place we visit quite often. Although, not as much as I’d like to. Wi loves to go there for a traditional Thai massage, and I’m all for a visit because the town is home to a small collection of decent beer bars.

Outside of Udon Thani city good bars are hard to find. Ban Dung has four or five western-style ones. They also have traffic police who could scare the pants off a Mogadishu warlord.  Joking aside, the three policemen were quite friendly and happily posed for my photo.

I think there’s a certain excitement about exploring a town which is relatively new to you. First, you’ve got to fix yourself a landmark to return to, and then you can head off on any route you wish.

I was trying to find a pharmacy which sold those amazing sachets of mosquito wipes, but when I did locate one, they didn’t stock them. Ban Dung’s laughing policemen pointed me in the direction of a local store, and I restocked my armoury. I’ve always found Thailand’s police officers to be very helpful.

The area around Ban Dung has a couple of attractions which are worth a visit. Both sites listed below have free entry. In my opinion, they are excellent places offering a lot of interest and enjoyment. Two worthwhile places to visit in an agricultural province in need of a significant cash injection to improve tourism and local facilities.

  • Wat Kamchanod holds one of Thailand’s most famous ghost stories deep in a forest within its grounds. Kamchanod is a popular place for Thai visitors who flock there daily to look around one of Udon Thani’s most beautiful and picturesque temple sites. Kamchanod’s forest is on a small island, and its surrounding water is believed to be home to a mythical sea serpent (Naga) who swims in the Mekong River.
  • Head out of Ban Dung onto Highway 2096, and another hidden treasure lies just 20 kilometres outside of the town. Ban Chang Noy Resort has excellent swimming facilities, and the food served there tasty, and portions are more than generous. A fabulous little resort in a rural area and a great place to take the kids for a swim.

My own two treasures are back in Ban Dung itself, and they are on opposite ends of the town. While Wilai has her aches and pains from hours of gardening duty and devotion massaged away, I somewhat selfishly relax with a couple of beers in one or two of Ban Dung’s bars.

Eddie’s Sports Bar (photo above) is run by an expat Mancunian and is probably Ban Dung’s oldest western bar; formerly it was Tam’s Bar. Eddie is a jovial character who sings out loud during mid-sentence and has tortured tunes at local karaoke haunts. The bar is popular, well-stocked and serves both Thai and western food. Add Eddie’s chirpy, humorous banter into the mix, and it’s easy to see why Eddie’s Sports Bar is a sanctuary for many of Ban Dung’s expats.

My other favourite drinking hole in Ban Dung is Gary’s Bar (photo below) run by London born British expat Gary. The bar is well furnished and like Eddie’s bar also has a pool table. Gary is an amiable and chatty host, and his bar has a Thai and western menu. Pictured right is the lovely but an only mid-teen member of Gary’s family who was serving behind the bar on my last tour there.

However, on my last visit to Ban Dung, Gary was looking to sell the bar and move onto bigger and better things. Amazingly the bar rental is only 36,500 baht a year (£2 a day) but buying the fixtures and fittings would cost a much more considerable amount. I for one hope Gary is still playing host on my next visit to Ban Dung, and if he and his young barmaid are still there in five years, I’m sure the place will be even more popular. A charming man and a strikingly good-looking young lass. A winning combination for a very successful bar.

If you are ever in the Amphoe Ban Dung region, please do check out Kamchanod and Ban Chang Noy Resort, they won’t disappoint you. When I first saw Ban Dung on a map, I inexcusably guessed it was a village. I figure that means when I am in Ban Dung, I’m the village idiot who’s arrived in town. Oh well, to me Ban Dung’s worth it.

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I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

18 Responses

  1. tom yam says:

    My home town of Ramsgate back in England has a massive surplus of idiots. Perhaps there are some vacant positions for them in S E Asia. But there again, i wouldn’t wish them on this part of the world!

  2. Hoo Don says:

    Tom – I’ve heard of Ramsgate but I don’t know where it is….I’m guessing Derby way but I have a feeling it might be way south and on the coast, hold on I’ll google it……..It’s a seaside town in Kent with a population of 40,000 according to Sticky Wiki and has a ferry port. here’s an odd bit Wiki says about Ramsgate:

    ‘Ramsgate has its own meridian line and Mean Time which is 5 minutes 41 seconds ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.’

    Strange, the surplus of idiots must be forward thinkers.

  3. Hoo Don says:

    Thanks to all the guys above who regularly tweet my posts (good or bad), I appreciate your help in promoting Beyond The Mango Juice and Udon Thani.

  4. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I have GOT to find my way to Wat Kamchanod’s ghosts! Problem is, both my Thai friends who travel with me are afraid of things that go bump so I have to sneak up on the areas instead. My friends believe that if they or I bother the spirits, the spirits will follow them home. Even in ghostless wats, they do a lot of bowing to appease whatever I’ve disturbed with my camera and poking around. And since I’m an expat, the spirits will ignore me and go after them.

    always thought the word Ban in Thai translated to English as village.

    I’ve never been and know nothing about it, but in T2E, Ban Dung, spelt บ้านดุง, apparently means house/home coconut tree/coco palm. And when I googled, I can only find a district (Amphoe). So are there two? A town and an Amphoe?

    Btw – there’s even a blog for Ban Dung http://expat-ban-dung-thailand.blogspot.com/

  5. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine – Likewise I have a big interest in ghost stories mainly because I’ve never seen one and don’t believe they exist, but you never know. The ghosts of Kamchanod is a true story and a Thai film was made about it called The Screen. Here’s a clip from Yahoo Movies about it:

    ‘Based on a supposed true story that took place in 1987 in Udon Thani, an outdoor film screening was booked at the Kamchanod forest reserve. The projection crew rolled the film but there was no audience…..’

    Amphoe Ban Dung has 13 sub districts and Ban Dung is one of them. I did manage to find a few references to the town myself. Here’s a link to a Thaivisa thread about Ban Dung town.


  6. Mike says:

    Martyn perhaps the use of “ban” in this sense means settlement/commune, because like you I always associated it with village like Ban Nong Hin where I live.

    I would be intrigued to know how there is a salt farm in the area given the distance from the ocean and the conventional way that Thais harvest salt.

    I have yet to find an expat bar in Prachuap, or even an expat drinking at a bar……perhaps Gary is heading down this way 🙂

  7. Hoo Don says:

    Mike the word Ban in this town’s name confuses me because like you I always thought it meant village. Perhaps your settlement theory holds salty water.

    I don’t know how the area produces salt but there is a massive salt farm just outside the town and every 100 metres or so back from Ban Dung, salt sellers line the road. I believe the salt is not the table grade but more for industrial use. I’ll have to buy a bag and put some on my chips.

    Wilai’s village doesn’t have a bar either and I’m quite pleased about that although I wish the nearby town of Sang Khom had one.

  8. Talen says:

    Ban Dung sound like a really nice town Martyn. I plan on visiting Udon before the new year and I might just pop in to Ban Dung as well.

    Gary’s bar sounds like it would be a steal but like you say the fixtures and all will cost ya and besides if I owned a bar I would drink the profits away.

  9. Hoo Don says:

    Talen I’m not sure how much the fixtures and fittings would cost but I guess it would be near the one million baht mark. Perhaps I’m way off line there.

    If you do visit the Ban Dung area then try to get to see Kamchanod. After reading your blog for a long time now I’d say it’s the kind of place you’d enjoy. I’ve been there three or four times and it’s rare you see another western face but there’s always plenty of Thais about.

  10. Catherine says:

    Martyn, Apologies. I was sooooooooooooo not awake when I first read your post…

    My very asleep mind got stuck on population of 121,303… That’s one bloody big village so went in search for the answer to this mystery of a HUGE home to coconut palms.

    Thanks for the link. I especially enjoyed this comment The Washington Post claimed various countries had secret USA prisons on their territories holding terrorists Thailand was one of those countries named. And in the papers Bandung was named as the likely place because of the enormous VOA transmitting station there, just 3 miles from my wife and family’s house.

    And now I’m off for an afternoon nap as three continuous days of headaches do not improve with time…

  11. Catherine says:

    Ok, I’m awake enough to answer this one. The salt was deposited during the Cretaceous. Most likely when a sea was in the area.

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine thanks for the information on the mysterious salt farm far from any ocean. I take it your ‘rocky past’ held the answer to this one.

    For those readers who like me thought Cretaceous was a planet in a Star Trek movie here’s some information about it. Once again the adorable Sticky Wiki rides to my rescue on what looks like a white horse. Then again it could be a cow because you never know with Sticky Wiki.

    ‘The Cretaceous (pronounced /kriːˈteɪʃəs/), Latin for “chalky”, usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide (chalk), is a geologic period and system from circa 145.5 ± 4 to 65.5 ± 0.3 million years (Ma) ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows on the Jurassic Period and is followed by the Paleogene Period of the Cenozoic Era. It is the youngest period of the Mesozoic Era, and at 80 million years long, the longest period of the Phanerozoic Eon. The end of the Cretaceous defines the boundary between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras. In many languages this period is known as “chalk period’.

    That’s a lot of heavy information for a horse to carry and there’s more here…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretaceous

  13. Catherine says:

    My pleasure Martyn (I had to do something fast to redeem myself 😉

    The Cretaceous is an all time favourite of mine because it’s loaded down with fossils. The rest are boring (don’t tell the man I said so).

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine it’s a deal as long as you can make sure I don’t win your wonderful competition. The prize is great but it really must go to someone who is dedicated to learning Thai. I still have the original Teach Yourself Thai package and I still have much to learn from that. Cheers.

  15. Catherine says:

    Deal. I can take your name out of the draw before passing it over to the two in charge of picking the winner. No problem. And I agree, it is a great prize to win. I’m drawn to it as well (there are bits here and there in that book that got away from me during my scattered process of learning Thai).

  16. expatudon08 says:

    hoodon ban dung the back of beyond love it just hanging out in issan the wife is missing home where only a short ride outside well 20 mins at 100 k a hour over country but i prefer 50 k on my Honda wave 125 the best way to get around its good to see everybody still going strong out there i hope to cross paths with you one day until then iam keeping very busy take care and keep on blogging regards John

  17. Hoo Don says:

    John nice to hear from you again, I’ve missed your travel stories. I wouldn’t want to be travelling at 100 km an hour on some of those country roads, mind you you’d get one hell of a suntan. We’ll meet up one day and share a few beers and stories. Best wishes.

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