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.