Ubon Ratchathani, (Lotus Blossom) in the south-east of the Isaan region of Thailand, is flanked by the Banthat Mountain Range. Sharing a border with Cambodia to the south and the Mekhong River and Lao to the east, Ubon is known as the ‘Emerald Triangle’ due to the meeting of the 3 borders.
Not yet a popular destination for sightseers the region does possess cultural and historical attractions and several natural wonders, specifically the 4,000 year old rock formations, prehistoric rock paintings and the two-coloured river. The main natural resource in Ubon is its forests - Teng-Rung forests, Red forests and mixed forests. In fact the area has around 50 national preserved forests, national parks, a wild life preservation area and botanical parks. The province is well-known for its strong Buddhist beliefs, predominantly the forest dwelling monks and numerous ancient Buddhist temples. The town is popular with pilgrims who travel here for the Buddhist Lent. People of Ubon mainly work in agriculture, religious people they still live a traditional way of life. Locals habitually reside in groups of houses, have their own dialects and continue their traditional cultures; this is expressed in the local food, products such as silk and cotton, basketry and bronze ware and festivals and events.
Wat Thung Sri Muang is close to Thung Sri Muang Park and said to be around 200 years old. It was constructed during the early Chakri dynasty in the reign of King Rama III. There are two artefacts of significance worth mentioning: The ordination hall shows mural paintings of the Jataka tales, depicting stories about the past lives of Lord Buddha. The murals provide a valuable insight into the culture and history of the ancient Ubon people, some of the paintings are quite erotic; Haw Trai (library) is a scriptural container made of teak that was built in the centre of the pond and contains holy Buddhist scriptures, inlaid with gold leaves. In Thailand’s hot and humid tropical climate wood and objects made of pulp can be destroyed by insects such as termites and so the Haw Trai is built on raised pillars over a pond thus reducing the risk of damage.
Wat Maha Wanaram is an ancient and principal temple of Ubon and home to the sacred Phra Chao Yai Indra Plang image; greatly admired by the people of Ubon and adjoining provinces.
Kaeng Tana National Park is 90 km from Ubon town in Amphoe Khong Chiam and has the biggest rapids of the Moon River. You will find under-water caves with fish and plenty of wildlife including wild pigs, macaque, barking deer, civet, gibbon and birds. Within the park ensure you pay a visit to the Kaeng Tana (Tana Rapids) sandstone rapids in the middle of Moon River in lower Don Tana. In rainy season the heavy current flows over the rocks and is very dramatic to see. Hanging bridge is another must-see, a connecting bridge between the headquarters of the park and Don Tana, from here you will have a panoramic view of the river and Kaeng Tana.
The Candle Festival is held annually at the beginning of Buddhist Lent at Thung Si Muang. At the start of the Lenten period, it is traditional for the devout to donate to monks items of personal use, such as candles. This part of the festival became the core of the Ubon Ratchathani version of the event. It is now a major event both for residents and for tourists: The procession takes place on the morning of Wan Kao Pansa, activities include a competition to find the best moulded and carved candles and giant candles paraded through the town, each one representing a local temple, district or other institution. These are normally dancers or musicians in traditional dress. The more elaborate versions are accompanied by scenes of Hindu and Buddhist mythology sculpted in wood or plaster and coated with wax.