Udon Thani’s Night Market Scene

When I’m feeling a bit down in the mouth here in the UK, I pick myself up by thinking about some other location I’d like to be. More often than not I imagine I’m with Wonderful Wi at our village home in Udon Thani Province. The day inside my head is warm but not too hot and we’re sat at our garden table chattering the afternoon through. The thought of being with my lady sharing a glass of ice cold beer in a place I like to be is enough to lift my darkest mood. However, village felicity doesn’t hold a monopoly on erasing my dampened spirits. Sometimes I whisk the pair of us into the city.

If you ever want to sample true Thai life then Thailand’s market scene is one of the very best places to see it. Day markets have a freshness and colour about them mirroring the fruits and vegetables they stock, but for me and my dreams I love Thailand’s night markets and Udon Thani’s Centrepoint night market is my favourite one of all.

The market is in front of Udon Thani train station and if availability of car parking spaces is a judge of a locations popularity, then the Centrepoint is top drawer. At weekends finding a parking space can be hard.

Jumping into one of the city’s many samlors is a far more amiable way of getting there. Slap on your darkest sunglasses, close your eyes and let the driver take the pain because the sound of the market’s buzz and scent of freshly cooked Thai food will announce your arrival there.

The market is in truth two separate markets acting as one. Centrepoint is on one side of the road leading to the train station and the newly constructed Lum Udon market (UD Town) on the opposite side. Two entirely separate outlets but I wrongly refer to both as the Centrepoint night market. Photographs accompanying this post were taken at both sites.

The first thing to hit you about Udon Thani’s Centrepoint night market is its pure size. We’re talking big and every available outlet space on either side of the road is taken. If they could make the walk aisles any smaller I’m sure they would, but when manipulating the catwalk Thai girls need a little room.

Surveying Thai night markets is a glimpse into Thailand’s real social life. The bizarre and bazaar mingle together in a kind of polite mannerly mayhem. Couples dine, youngsters pose in fake designer clothes while others seek merit making gifts, but for most, night markets are the place to massage the mind free from the day’s hardship and hassle. Behind most Thai smiles wafer thin perplexity is hidden by a set of white enamelled gates.

Thailand’s own reality version of slugs and snails and puppy dog tails are readily available at Udon’s Centrepoint market.

Deep fried Jing Leed (crickets), Non Mai (worms) and Isaan’s speciality insect snack Maeng Da (beetles) fill the night air with their own distinctive smell as puppy dog tails wag just yards away. The pups aren’t for eating, nowadays Thais are becoming more of a dog loving nation.

A bag of succulent insects cost about 20 baht but decent bred puppies are priced around the 2,000 baht mark. I’m happy too say my purchases have only ever been expensive ones.

The Centrepoint market is a giant clothes horse under a hot tin roof and kitting yourself out in the latest fashion or heat friendly clothing isn’t expensive. Just remember not to put your portion of Maeng Da inside your Nike t-shirt plastic bag.

The market has enough restaurants and snack stalls to feed the whole of the city and every conceivable taste is covered. There are also many small bars and the Centrepoint market itself has a large seated bar area where gorgeous Thai girls keep customers happy with swift drinks service and pleasant smiles.

On most weekends live music pumps into the tepid night air and top sports action can be viewed from TV screens set amongst the restaurants and bars, failing that, you can always catch up on the latest Thai TV soaps. There’s a challenging thought, watching an whole episode of a Thai soap whilst crunching on a bag of Jing Leed.

If you ever find yourself in Udon Thani then please do check out its Centrepoint and Lum Udon night markets, I just know you’ll enjoy the experience.

My apologies for the pictures but my camera doesn’t fare too well at night. I must buy one with an insomnia mode.

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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.

26 Responses

  1. Peter M says:

    I’ve only spent one evening in Udon Thani and enjoyed the night market, as I do most Thai markets. Udon is definitely a place I will revisit.

  2. Hoo Don says:

    Peter, thanks for your input and from one who has sampled the delights of Udon Thani too. I’m glad you have commented positively about the place, it’s a great city.

    I’m sure you’ll get another great welcome next time you’re there.

  3. Mike says:

    Martyn enough to lift my spirits here on an unusually cloudy day. PKK only has two very small night markets and nowhere near the opulent offering in today’s post.

    I can still remember my first eating experience in a night market back in 2005, in Ayutthaya.

    Great food, a cold beer or three, yes I had really arrived in Thailand(or so I thought).

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Mike good to hear from you. I have today off work and I’ll try to phone you later. At worst I can at least hear the vuvuzela horns once again. I’m not to confident of getting a good connection if it’s still cloudy in PKK come your evening time.

    Thai markets are great. I love sitting in them with a large bottle of cold beer and watching the world go by. The food is also amazing, the Centrepoint has even got a kebab stall, 29 baht a go and two’s more than enough. Great places.

  5. malcolm says:

    Martyn, night markets are great , and not only fun to people watch , but great food and some terrific bargains if you are in the market for gifts and what not . Glad thoughts of Thailand soothe the savage beast in you . Just think it want be to long and you can call this home for real . Malcolm

  6. Hoo Don says:

    Malcolm I read your fish market post and that’s what gave me the inspiration to push this one out. It’s a post I’ve had in mind for a long time but I didn’t feel my photos were good enough to use but in the end I went with what I had.

    It’s pretty rare I do get down, but if so, this is one of the places I take my mind to.

  7. Catherine says:

    Martyn, the more you write about Udon Thani, the more I want to spend time there. I just asked the man how long it would take to get there and he replied, ‘long’.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine the answer is about seven hours from Bangkok although a really mad taxi driver can do it in just over five. Udon Thani has plenty of decent hotels and it is also a gateway to Nong Khai and Laos. Don’t forget the province is also home to Ban Chiang’s National Museum, I know you’d enjoy visiting there.

  9. Talen says:

    Martyn, There is nothing I love more than a good night market. Udon really has a lot going for it and definitely some place I plan on visiting.

  10. Hoo Don says:

    Talen, markets are the life and soul of Thais evening entertainment. If you haven’t got too much money then you can eat simple and just have a good nose around. I myself don’t usually spend much at the night markets, normally a couple beers and perhaps a small purchase of something here and there.

    Sorry about my double entry comment on TLOS, the first one didn’t take and then and then they both appeared at once.

  11. Catherine says:

    Seven hours – so that’s pretty much the same as driving to Chiangmai. I spent nine hours in a car yesterday and my butt still hurts. Is flying doable?

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine, Chiang Mai is a lot more than seven hours from Bangkok, I’d have thought double that, perhaps someone might help out there with a quote.

    Udon Thani has a very good airport and the flight is only one hour from Bangkok. They fly from both Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang and there are about 9 flights a day. A decent price for a return ticket would be about 3 – 4,000 baht.

  13. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I drove to Chiangmai on my second trip to Thailand. Well, a Thai friend/co-worker was driving.

    It took 5 hours to drive to Tac from BKK. And I believe it took us 3 to 4 hours from Tac to Chiangmai.

    There are places where you can go fast, but I do realise that there are some where you slow down as well.


    Chiang Mai is roughly 800km north of Bangkok.

    A bus journey from Bangkok to Chiangmai takes 11 hours (but I don’t know how many stops along the way).

    So a car without long stops, averaging 100km (we usually went faster when roads were good) should be able to make it in 8-9 hours. Say 9 to be on the safe side.

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine thanks for the quick update (it took me a few seconds to remember how to spell quick, I think a beer is needed soon). That puts my five hour mad taxi driver ride to Udon about right, although he might have to pay a few fines along the way.

    I stayed in Tak quite a lot in my early Thailand years. The Ping River which flows through the city is an amazing sight. Unfortunately in those days the place didn’t have much going for it apart from two Viang Tak Hotels. The one on the banks of the river was decent and had a few things to do in its complex.

  15. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I stopped in Tak for the Lan Sang National Park (another rock experience). I found the hotels quite fine for the town they were in (this was in ’95 or so).

    During those days, if you could say Sawadee kha/crap you were deemed Thai and could get into parks on a Thai ticket.

    Enjoy your beer. I’ve passed on alcohol and went for Durian instead.

  16. Snap says:

    Martyn it seems you are indeed pining for Udon Thani, which is understandable. I have never been, but can’t wait to get back to Chiang Mai.

    When do you plan to return? I and maybe Stray are willing to brave those memorable curtains you told me about (or FLY) and visit Udon. We arrive in late October, but will be flat out until December. I’d love to visit and shout you a beer (Shiraz).

  17. Steve says:

    Definitely 5 hours or so to Tak, I know because Golf’s family lives there so we’ve made the trip many times. And 4 hours or so from Tak to Chiang Mai according to Golf (I have no idea since I’ve always flown to Chiang Mai, quick and cheap).

    I would be surprised though if you could make it to Udon Thani in just 5 hours driving. Anyway flights are cheap and quick making it easy to come visit you Martyn once we’re both settled in the LOS.

  18. Hoo Don says:

    Snap I’m not really one to pine but yeah I miss Thailand.

    Udon is a decent enough place to visit, give it a go for 3 or 4 days. I’ll be in Thailand for two weeks from late September and for 3 weeks December – January. Keep in touch.

  19. Hoo Don says:

    Steve I have been in a taxi which took about five and a half hours to get to Udon, the bloke drove like a lunatic, never again. The bus to Udon from Bangkok takes around 7-8 hours with one 20 minute stop for refreshments on the way.

    Tak and the Ping River, great memories.

  20. So true. Thailand’s markets are quaint and interesting look into their culture. Food can we frightening sometimes. Probably would never find so many different options in one place. Studying at Webster University Thailand we see a few markets in Hua Hin. Best times to see them are during the weekdays when not so crowded and rushed, otherwise you’ll even find the shopkeepers moving you along.

  21. Boonsong says:

    I enjoyed this. Thanks.
    I last visited Udon Thani in 1997. I used to travel there by aeroplane then – quick and cheap. Nowadays I prefer to go everywhere by road.

    All the best, Boonsong

  22. Hoo Don says:

    Boonsong thanks for your kind words.

    1997 is a long time back, hopefully you’ll get yourself back up to Udon sometime in the near future and enjoy the night market scene. Like you I much prefer to travel by road rather than air, even though Udon is a seven hour coach ride from Suvarnabhumi airport.

  23. Siam.Rick says:

    Travel by road — that’s my preference. I would go by air if I’m in a real hurry to put in as much as possible during a short vacation.

    To go by road you experience so much more. Like bus breakdowns! Skirting sheer precipices from landslides unmarked by safety cones on the mountain roads! Gas station markets on expressways! Tourist gouging at bus station tuk tuk taxi stands! Mystery meat in sandwiches in Vientiane bus station markets! Doing the watutsi on rail cars while drinking a can of beer! Trying not to fall between rail cars while smoking on the deck over the couplers! All that fun stuff! Can you do that in a jet? huh?!?!?

    Anyway, thanks Martyn for reminding me about Udon again. Spent quite a bit of time up that way a few years ago. Worth going back, methinks.

  24. Hoo Don says:

    Rick – I have been on a bus which broke down, it was years ago but luckily the driver pulled over opposite a gas station, they still sold beer in those days. The rest of the passengers were Thai and they all sheltered from the sun under a couple of massive trees, no guessing where I headed for.

    “Trying not to fall between rail cars while smoking on the deck over the couplers!”

    I’ve done that quite a few times, it’s kind of scary but it gives me a big buzz as well. I love Thai trains.

  25. Laura @ los angeles town car service says:

    i am going travelling next month and my first stop is Thailand! I can’t wait, gonna spend three weeks there, it looks pretty awesome! great pics and info on whats good!


  26. Hoo Don says:

    Laura thanks for your comment and I hope you have a great time in Thailand.

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