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Off the Beaten Track: fun and unusual things to do in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.

By Edited Dec 20, 2013 4 18

With over 20 million visitors each year, getting off the beaten track in Thailand and trying something different and unusual is proving ever more difficult.  But for those of you with a touch of adventure in your soul and perhaps a little time to spare, making a trip to Ubon Ratchathani could prove to be just what you needed to make this trip to Thailand an unforgettable one.


Don’t fancy fighting for a spot on the packed island beaches?  Ever thought of joining a self-sufficient Buddhist commune instead?  How about learning muay thai, the traditional sport of Thailand, in a professional training camp?  Or are you more inclined towards meditation with monks at an international Buddhist temple? How about teaching  schoolchildren at remote schools in the  Isaan countryside?  If the answer is yes to any of these, then Ubon Ratchathani could just be the hidden gem you’ve always been looking for.

Get Directions
Ubon Ratchathani Airport (UBP), Rai Noi, Mueang Ubon Ratchathani, Ubon Ratchatha

Bordering both Laos and Cambodia, Ubon Ratchathani is the easternmost province in Thailand,and although only an hour’s flight away from Bangkok, tourists are still few and far between in the region.   But it is here that you can have some of the most unusual holiday-defining experiences of any trip to Thailand.

Stay with the Ratchathani Asoke Community - a vegetarian Buddhist commune.

Imagine a self-sufficient community of vegetarian Buddhists living organically on an idyllic 40 acre compound of natural forests.  Does it sound too good to be true?  Well, the Ratchathani Asoke Community have been doing just that in Ban Satha Asoke village, on the outskirts of Ubon Ratchathani, since the early 1990’s.

Off the Beaten Track: Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.(74995)

The Ratchathani Asoke community is part of a bigger community called Santi  Asoke.  It was founded by a renegade monk called Bodhiraksa, who broke away from mainstream Thai Buddhism in 1975.  He is still viewed by many as a religious heretic, mainly due to his recognition of women’s rights to be fully ordained as nuns.  If you visit the Asoke village today , you will be able to witness the unusual sight of Buddhist nuns living within, and serving, the community.


Ban Satha Asoke village lies well off the beaten track on the road between Ubon and Phibun.  It boasts its own primary and secondary schools, a small library, a museum and a very impressive temple.  The temple itself is worth a special mention as, in keeping with the Asoke founder’s principles, it doesn’t contain a single image of the Buddha. 

Get Directions
Putthasathan Ratchathani Asok, Kham Nam Saep, Warin Chamrap, Ubon Ratchathani 34

Community members live in houses around the main temple, some of which are restored Chinese houseboats.  Members are expected to work six days a week to help maintain the community.  Types of work vary, from working in the fields and communal kitchens, to working in the Asoke vegetarian restaurant and organic store in the city.


They community welcomes visitors who are genuinely interested in their philosophy and teachings and provides free accommodation for those who wish to stay for any length of time.  In return, you are expected to do your fair share of chores.

Harvesting Rice, off the beaten track, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

There are plenty of unusual tasks to do within the community, which must produce food for 400 people. You could opt to teach at the school, or tend the gardens, or perhaps even help in the production of Asoke's own organic shampoo, soap and cosmetics.


Every New Year, the Ratchathani Asoke community holds a huge three day market when foodstuffs and Asoke products are sold to the general public and the village plays host to around 80,000 Thai visitors.

Join the English Crazy Club at a weekend English camp for disadvantaged children.

Ever wondered what it would be like to see the “real” Thailand?  Or perhaps you fancy yourself as a bit of a showman?  Do you like working with kids?  Why not try your hand as a volunteer staff member at the English Crazy Club, a charitable organisation for underprivileged kids in Ubon Ratchathani?   

English Crazy Club, off the beaten path in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

Who are English Crazy Club?

English Crazy Club are a volunteer teaching organisation set up and run by English undergraduate students from Ubon Ratchathani University.  The club’s main aim is to bring fun and excitement to underprivileged rural schools in Ubon Ratchathani in the form of weekend English language camps.  They travel to schools well off the beaten track and run fun-filled weekend camps in English.  Volunteers are provided with a place to sleep at the camp, although this may sometimes be as rudimentary as a mattress on a classroom floor shared with the other staff members. 

English Crazy Club, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

How do you join a camp?

You can contact English Crazy Club through their blog or their yahoo group.  They love to have foreign volunteers participate in their camps as it gives rural students a chance to meet and chat with people from countries they have only vaguely heard about.  Remember though that the club is run and managed by full-time students, so it may bea couple of days before you get a reply to your enquiry.

Meditate with the monks at Wat Pa Nanachat, International Forest Temple.

Around 15 kms from the city of Ubon Ratchathani, the forest temple of Wat Pa Nanachat remains one of the most truly unusual temples in Thailand.  Why?  There are no Thai monks at the temple.  In fact, everybody at the temple comes from abroad (the abbot, the permanent monks and the novices).  

Get Directions
Wat Pah Nanachat, Bung Wai, Warin Chamrap, Ubon Ratchathani 34310, Thailand

Anyone is welcome to visit the temple for morning services and there are usually plenty of local Thai villagers there to tam bhun (make merit) by joining in the morning vespers and donating food to the resident monks for their first and only meal of the day. 


After the morning prayers, some of the monks and the abbot hold a question and answer session for people looking for spiritual guidance and/or those looking to find out more about Buddhism.


Then, the congregation make their way home and the monks head to their quarters, to study and meditate.  They meet again at 4.30 pm for drinks and sometimes sangha(lessons about Buddhism).

Meditate at Wat Pa Nanachat: Off the beaten track in Thailand

How can you stay there?

Visitors wishing to stay at the temple are expected to act and live as the monks do, rise at 3.30am for cleaning duties, share one meal a day at 8am, and in the case of men, shave their heads if they intend to stay at Wat Pa Nanachat longer than two nights.  It helps to have previous meditation experience as the temple is not a retreat and as such provides no real guide to meditation.


Those interested in staying as Wat Pa Nanachat are asked to contact the temple in writing at: Wat Pah Nanachat, The Guest Monk, Ban Bung Wai, Amphur Warin Chamrap, Ubon Ratchathani 34310, Thailand or telephone



Dec 16, 2011 9:02pm
I had heard of the retreats in Buddhist monasteries, but had no idea they were still on-going ventures. Good information, and the green fields in that one photo is emerald in a way I've never seen before (brilliant)
Dec 17, 2011 9:11am
Very informative article...Well done! Thanks!
Dec 17, 2011 5:31pm
Impressive and informative article - It's interesting to hear about the less taken path of Thailand. I think it's hard to get a real feel for culture in touristy areas.
Dec 17, 2011 9:58pm
Great interesting article, Its good to see how others live in others countries. Many of us take so much for granted and do not appreciate the way others live and survive. Good pictures too. rated up and great starting article
Dec 18, 2011 8:58pm
The "English Crazy Club" sounds great! This is a wonderful article, good job!
Dec 19, 2011 3:07pm
They are great. They were my first real contacts in Thailand and they are still a real inspiration to me; people who want to make the world a better place and are actually doing something about it.
Dec 19, 2011 3:07pm
This comment has been deleted.
Dec 19, 2011 1:22am
When I think of Ubon, I always think of the Candle Festival, surprised you didn't mention that here. Your ideas are definitely a bit more unique though. Love Thailand - I was a Peace Corps volunteer there and have been back several times since.
Dec 20, 2011 7:19pm
Wow - I've been a lot of places but I've not been to any of those.

Nice job.
Jan 9, 2012 9:49am
Awesome article! My husband and I will be going to thailand soon and this is really informative. Congrats on the feature!
Jan 9, 2012 11:45pm
Thanks for the comment. If you guys have any questions about Thailand, feel free to message me here. I've been living here for almost 6 years, so I might be able to answer any queries you have, or at least point you in the right direction.
Jan 9, 2012 12:06pm
If I ever find myself in Thailand and looking for something to do in Ubon Ratchathani, this will come in really handy - very nice, thanks.
Jan 9, 2012 11:43pm
There are plenty of things to do in Ubon Ratchathani(I will write about the national parks soon), these are just some of the more unusual ones. Thanks for reading.
Jan 10, 2012 12:34pm
Not sure I'll ever make it to Thailand but this is a really interesting article with some neat ideas to see a side of Thailand that most probably don't see. Thumbs up!
Jan 10, 2012 6:30pm
Thanks for reading.
Jan 11, 2012 9:55am
Never knew this side of Thailand. The most I know were the urbanized cities. Great piece.
Jan 14, 2012 8:44am
Very well documented article and I specially like the photograph of the rice fields.

Thank you for contributing.
Aug 14, 2012 2:11am
That is you, right? Where are you - still in Ubon or in Brazil?

Well written! We just visited that community some days ago, thats why I was searching information about it and saw your username - still remember it.

You have any idea who I am? :-)
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