The Changing Face of Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

Change is inevitable no matter where you live or travel. It’s grinding its gears here in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. The quiet mid-sized village, of even a decade ago is a thing of the past.

Everywhere you look there are grey organisms sprouting up. It’s like a character from a fairy tale is flying around sowing brick & mortar seeds in any vacant spaces that can be found.

Double and single trailer trucks loaded down with dirt are invading the streets heading to formerly productive rice paddies to empty their burdens.

Franchises and chain stores and restaurants are appearing with increasing frequency. Businesses and residents are migrating from the city center to the fringes of town. Rush hour is becoming a common occurrence with more and more automobiles joining the population of motorcycles on the streets.

There are now metered taxis here in Ubon. Not just one company, there are several companies that operate 24/7 competing for customers. So, if you are in Ubon without a vehicle you don’t have to limit your travels to places close to the mini-bus routes.  You can still use a tuk tuk if you want that experience but now you can call a taxi at 1am or on a rainy evening instead of hoping and praying a tuk tuk happens by.

What is happening in Ubon Ratchathani is known as progress. It is human nature to want improvements and a higher quality of life. Most of the growth I have seen in the area is home grown. It also is fed by the impending ASEAN agreement due to take effect in 2015. Nothing that is going on is a result of western influences.

Many stand to benefit from the activity.  Investors will realize profits. Locals will have more jobs available. Locals and visitors will have more choices for accommodations, dining, and shopping. There might be more reasons to stay at home in Ubon instead of heading out to Bangkok or Chiang Mai to spend money.

Just the other day I was strolling through the frozen food section of, the currently being remodeled, Tesco Lotus. I noticed, to my surprise, the freezer contained frog, wild boar, lamb, quail, and crocodile meat. These are all items I never expected to see in an Ubon supermarket. There are now three multi-theater cinemas here with at least one showing at least one English soundtrack movies per week. There are seven daily flights between Ubon and Bangkok provided by three separate carriers. Additionally, there are two flights weekly between Ubon and Chiang Mai.

The transformation of Ubon Ratchathani could cause some people to give serious consideration to moving here. Others might not like the change and think about going to look for greener pastures elsewhere.  There is no need to leave. Even though there are alterations to the Ubon we know and love, the changes are only superficial and her heart is still the same.

I have discovered that it is like a new relationship. In the beginning, everything is perfect. As the relationship matures you begin to notice faults and imperfections. That is not important though because the value received far exceeds any shortcomings.

Despite the new and evolving look and feel you can still enjoy everything that makes Ubon Ratchathani great.  The friendly people are still here. The locally owned and operated eateries service delicious Thai and Isaan cuisine are still here. A variety of temples for you to explore and experience are still here. The artistry and playground created by nature is still here for your travel and adventure pleasure. Ubon Ratchathani is still the heart and soul of Isaan and even with all the changes, We Love Ubon.


  1. I entirely agree with your fine description of Ubon, as I love and have loved since 1986 when I was here for the first time

  2. firasy says:

    Hye Pae,

    I’m firasy from Malaysia. And I came across your blog after searching on marathon in ayutthaya but your post on ubon ratchatani caught my attention more since i planned to go there for Sam Phan Bok (Grand Canyon of Thailand). If you don’t mind, can u share a bit the ambiance there. Isit safe for me to go there since i’m travel alone. I’m female btw ;D

    Thank you so much for reply. 🙂

  3. Darwin says:

    I would say it is safe. I have not noticed any questionable situations occurring there, but that don’t mean they never happen. My recommendation would be to stay alert and remain aware of your surroundings. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are alone and isolated or in the dark. If you are planning to go to Sam Pan Bok make sure you get there before the monsoon season begins. When it rains the water levels raise and cover what makes Sam Pan Bok, Sam Pan Bok.

  4. My isaan (ubon) and I had planned to move to upon when i retired. for some strange reason, that she can’t explain, she is more comfortable her with our 40’s aged children and grandchildren. I have visited her family in 2012 and 2013 for several months each time. she came in 2015, stayed a month and came back to the u.s. early. her family says that i adapt easily, but my wife does not. i have lived and visited many villages, towns and cities in thailand since the 1960’s. there is absolutely NOTHING better than upon.

  5. Hi Darwin,
    Thanks for your informative website, much appreciated.
    I am from Singapore and planning to retire in Thailand in a couple of years time. I have been scouting around in Thailand for the past 2 years, deciding on the city that will suit my lifestyle best. Basically i am a nature person with an affinity for mountains and river. I had dropped Chiang Mai n Rai for the fact that it has the 3 months haze season.
    Would it be possible to lease a simple home on a mountain facing the Mekong River?
    Your assistance is much appreciated.
    Warm Regards, gary fong

Speak Your Mind