Udon Thani, colloquially known as Udon, is an upper northeastern province near the Thai-Lao border. If you've never set foot in the northeastern region of Thailand, you may be surprised by the diverse attractions awaiting to be discovered from natural beauties, cultural sites and historic (and pre-historic) sites.
Udon, in particular, has a strong presence of Thai-Chinese and Thai-Vietnamese communities. So “moo yor” being a top Udon souvenir is perhaps no coincidence.
Centara Udon reminds you that you've officially arrived in Udon Thani with a big tapestry depicting Ban Chiang pottery and a small pond dedicated to the nagas, both of which can be found within its spacious lobby. Another reason to check in is that the 14-year-old property has recently undergone a renovation that goes beyond face value.
Centara Udon's corridors are worth a mention. They face each other, forming multiple layers of semi-triangles that go up to the top, and serve as an unlikely but cool backdrop for photo ops before you enter your room.
Some 259 rooms and suites in the 13-storey building are grouped into six types, starting with 32m² of no-frills Standard Room and peaking at 128m² of Executive Suite, of which there's only one.
All rooms have been given a new lease on life being transformed into inviting cocoons dominated by earthy tones with pops of green pillows and curtains with patterns that bring to mind “pha kid”, local handwoven fabrics. The bathrooms, while not completely renovated, have been touched up thoroughly.
If you want to live large, opt for the sole Executive Suite with a spacious living area with a dining table and a bedroom connecting to a bathroom through a walk-in closet.
The bathroom with a jacuzzi alone is big enough to fit in another room. The large windows also afford top-tier guests a view of Udon's townscape.
Along with a new look for rooms, Centara Udon offers brand-new culinary experiences at four venues. Publico, an all-day dining venue, serves Thai, European, Chinese and fusion cuisines while the Lobby Bar offers local and imported wines, beers and cocktails.
Publico also hosts an all-you-can-eat dim sum lunch that lasts two and a half hours. For the upcoming Father's Day on Dec 5, four people can enjoy the dim sum lunch for the price of three.
Peppina Verde is the latest addition to the on-site eateries offering Isaan-meet-Italian flavours, pizzas and wood-fired meats. Think Larb pizza with tuna, larb spices, garlic cream and Thai herbs. Read more about Peppina Verde here.
The outdoor swimming pool is a good spot to unwind after a day of exploring or meetings, where guests can enjoy light snacks and refreshments from the Pool Bar. The pool is walled in on all sides with the exterior of adjacent Central Ubon, affording swimmers privacy.
Guests also have access to Cenfit, a fully-equipped fitness facility with separate single-gender hot/cold tubs, as well as rejuvenating treatments at the award-winning Spa Cenvaree. The spa, fitness room and pool are all on the fifth floor.
In the same way as several Centara properties in Thailand that sit next to Central malls, Centara Udon is adjacent to Central Udon, making it very convenient for guests to access plenty more dining options or indulge in retail therapy.
Since I didn't want my ancestors to frown upon me from the afterlife, I stopped by the Chao Pu Chao Ya Shrine and the Thai Chinese Cultural Center and, luckily, they are next to each other. The shrine is where you can pay respects to Chinese and local deities at six stations for auspiciousness and purchase a charm to increase your luck should your Chinese zodiac be considered unlucky this year. There are two overwater pavilions for visitors to take in the view of Nong Bua Public Park as an added bonus.
A short walk away from the shrine you'll arrive at the Thai Chinese Cultural Center where beautiful gardens, eager-to-be-fed carp, museum and tea shop are housed. Rent a Chinese costume should you want to make the most of your photo ops at various scenic spots in the garden. Check out the museum to learn about the history of Chinese in Udon Thani and Chinese philosopher Kong Qiu (Confucius) before capping off your visit with a tea ceremony and tea sampling. Buying is optional.
Wat Phothisomphon is another auspicious stop worth checking in. The royal monastery has a main three-storey tower with a golden naga railing and golden top, which doubles as a place of worship and backdrop for your photo ops. Buddhist devotion, awe-inspiring architecture and photo-ops await at the Dhamma Chedi Museum by Wat Pa Ban Tat (aka Wat Gaysorn Sin Khun). It consists of two white main buildings; a convocation hall and a tower housing Buddha relics. They look very majestic against the clear sky.
For layman's fun, there is Nong Prajak Park for lakeside relaxation and the Udon Thani Museum for edutainment, which takes visitors through the different eras of the province in an engaging way with cool backdrops for your social media posts along the way.
If you're looking for a stay that allows you to explore what Udon has to offer, Centara Udon is an affordable and convenient choice.