Over Valentines weekend Jillian, Maya and I took a 3 hour shuttle van journey to Udon Thani to escape Buengkan for a few days and, primarily, to see for ourselves the beauty of the Sea of Red Lotus (or Talay Bua Dang). I have been pining to get there ever since I saw an ad for in on the BTS in Bangkok over 6 months ago, so I of course jumped at the chance to actually check it out! The entire weekend in general was lovely; full of pizza and wine and more pizza and hamburgers (bet you thought I was gonna say more wine). When you live in a town where the only western food is KFC, you kind of go crazy when you finally have the chance to eat something from home that isn’t fried chicken. The highlight of the trip, however, was not the food; the highlight was definitely the Sea of Red Lotus.
These little flowers are actually pink and not red, but no less beautiful, which is a good thing because getting there turned out to be somewhat difficult. I have read on various blogs that you can take the bus from Udon Thani Terminal 1 to Wangsammo and jump off at Kumphawapi for 30 baht. They depart at every hour, and it takes about an hour to get there. This option sounded appealing and seemed easy enough to accomplish. We figured we could just grab a tuk tuk from Wangsammo to the lake.
Things did not pan out as expected. Yes, the bus does leave every hour, but the bus doesn’t start until I think 8 or 8:30am. You can go to the lake any time of day, but the lotuses bloom fully in the morning and by noon the begin to close up again in the afternoon sun so its best to get out there before 10 or 11am. Long story short: we woke up early enough, checked the bus times, got lied to about the bus times, left to eat breakfast, missed the bus, and ended up having to take a tuk tuk for a whopping 900 baht round trip total. I don’t wanna talk about it. My only advice would be if you want to take the bus DON’T LEAVE the station for any reason.
Difficulties in getting there aside, it was well worth the weekend trip away! Once at the lake you can hire a boat to take you out for an hour for I think it was either 300 or 500 baht per boat. You can go with just your group or wait for the 10 person boat to fill, but either way the cost stays the same. I was actually shocked at how few foreigners I saw there, apart from a scattering of old men with their Thai wives we were the only foreigners there that I could see.
As you stand near the “port” and wait for your number to be called over one of the loud speakers (don’t worry, whether you know your numbers in Thai or not there are plenty of helpful people around who will assist you 🙂 ) the view is a bit dismal. Even after you first push off and make your way through the murky waters, you may begin to wonder what exactly it is you paid for. Have no fear, once you get out far enough the grasses turn into bulbs and smatterings of pink begin peeking out. In just a few minutes you will be surrounded by hundreds of little pink flowers, the only break in the floral blanket being snaking pathways that previous boats have carved. Your guide will stop wherever you like to take some photographs, but I warn you now…unless you have a nice, high quality camera your photographs will pale in comparison to the real experience. For me, the Red Lotus Sea is something that has to be personally experienced in order to truly enjoy and appreciate. I look back on my photos and it just isn’t the same as how I remember it. But I have seen photos taken that do give it justice. Our guide was very perceptive of our wishes; at one point I was trying to take a picture of a heron for my bird enthusiast mother and he slowed down and tried to get closer for me. He even slowed down later whenever we saw more birds because he figured I would want to take more photos.
If you end up in Thailand and get the chance to explore Issan, don’t miss the Sea of Red Lotus! It’s definitely worth the trip.