The tiny hamlet of Ban Chiang, approximately 50km (31 miles) east of Udon Thani on the Sakon Nakhon highway, boasts a history of more than 5,600 years; the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. It was—quite literally—stumbled upon in 1974 and, since then, has been excavated by an international team. The objects at Ban Chiang National Museum (open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm; admission is 150B) prove the existence of a distinct and very sophisticated Bronze Age culture in Southeast Asia, long before any earlier findings. The museum itself has a ‘70s vibe, and not much has changed since it opened, including some facts that accompany exhibits! Historians have revised the dates to more recent time periods, but those changes aren’t reflected in most of the museum’s displays. Nevertheless, the museum, which was partially funded by the Smithsonian Institute, houses a fine collection of whorl-designed pottery, intricate bronze jewelry, arrowhead, and ladles.

Next swing by the nearby Wat Po Si Nai (daily, 9am-6pm; 150B) excavation pit to see the elaborate interments of these ancient people. Along the main road to the sites, look for villagers producing replica Ban Chiang ceramic ware, with its distinctive spiral design.

If you’re in town in December, January or February, take a worthwhile and photogenic half-day trip to the Red Lotus Sea, or Talay Bua Dang, on Nong Han Lake. Join a pontoon boat tour (all boats are created equal here so take the first available option) from Ban Diem Pier (100B for 90-minutes; approximately 500B for a private tour) from 6am to 5pm and float among innumerable vibrant pink lotus flowers. The blooms open early and close in the mid-day sun, so arrive before 10am for the best viewing and to beat the crowds.


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