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Udon Thani - Thailand

By air: Udon Thani International Airport, located very close to the city centre (within the ring road), serves a number of domestic airports, Including Chiang Mai, Pattaya (U Tapao), and Bangkok (Don Muang and Suvarnaphumi) with a total approximately 24 daily flights to the capital (55 minutes) by various carriers, Nok Air, Thai Airways, Thai Smile, Air Asia, Bangkok Airways and Lion Air, (as of 2017).

By train: Udon Thani Railway Station in the city centre, 4 trains daily from Bangkok (Hua Lamphong) including overnight sleepers. 9 to 10 hours.

Isan (Isan/Thai: อีสาน, pronounced [ʔīː.sǎːn] (About this sound listen); also written as Isaan, Isarn, Issarn, Issan, Esan, or Esarn; from Pali ऐशान aiśāna or Sanskrit ऐशान aiśāna "northeast") consists of 20 provinces in the northeastern region of Thailand. Isan is Thailand's largest region, located on the Khorat Plateau, bordered by the Mekong River (along the border with Laos) to the north and east, by Cambodia to the southeast and the Sankamphaeng Range south of Nakhon Ratchasima. To the west it is separated from northern and central Thailand by the Phetchabun Mountains.

Isan has a number of important Bronze Age sites, with prehistoric art in the form of cliff paintings, artifacts and early evidence of rice cultivation. Iron and bronze tools such as those found at Ban Chiang may predate similar tools from Mesopotamia.

The region later came under the influence of the Dvaravati culture, followed by the Khmer Empire. The latter built dozens of prasats (sanctuaries) throughout Isan. The most significant are at Phimai Historical Park and Phanom Rung Historical Park. Preah Vihear Temple was also considered to be in Isan, until the International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled that it belonged to Cambodia.

After the Khmer Empire began to decline in the 13th century, Isan was dominated by the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, which had been established by Fa Ngum. Due to a scarcity of information from the periods known as the dark ages of Cambodia, the plateau seems to have been largely depopulated. There were few if any lines of demarcation, for prior to the 19th century introduction of modern mapping, the region fell under what 20th century scholars called the "mandala system". Accordingly, in 1718 the first Lao mueang in the Chi River valley — and indeed anywhere in the interior of the Khorat Plateau — was founded at Suwannaphum District (in present-day Roi Et Province) by an official in the service of King Nokasad of the Kingdom of Champasak.

Isan is home to one-third of Thailand's 67 million citizens, but contributes only ten percent to the national GDP.

In terms of regional value-added per capita, Isan is Thailand's poorest region. Bangkok is the richest, followed by central Thailand, southern Thailand, then northern Thailand. This ordering has been unchanged for decades. :57 Thailand's highly centralized fiscal system reinforces the status quo. An obvious example of this Bangkok-centric policy is the allocation of budgets: Bangkok accounts for about 17 percent of population and 25.8 percent of GDP, but benefits from about 72.2 percent of total expenditures. Isan accounts for about 34 percent of population and 11.5 percent of GDP, but receives only 5.8 percent of expenditures. :58

Agriculture is the largest sector of the economy, generating around 22 percent of the gross regional product (compared to 8.5 percent for Thailand as a whole). Sticky rice, the staple food of the region, is the main agricultural crop (accounting for about 60 percent of cultivated land). It thrives in poorly drained paddy fields, and where fields can be flooded from nearby streams, rivers, and ponds. Often two harvests are possible each year. Farmers are increasingly diversifying into cash crops such as sugarcane and cassava, which are cultivated on a vast scale, and to a lesser extent, rubber. Silk production is an important cottage industry and contributes significantly to the economy.

Isan's total population as of 2010 was 21,305,000. Forty percent of the population is concentrated in the provinces of Khorat, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, and Khon Kaen, known as "big four of Isan". These provinces surround the four major cities of the same names. As of 2010, their populations were: Khorat 142,169; Udon Thani 137,979; Khon Kaen 113,828; and Ubon Ratchathani 83,148. However, as of 2010 only 50 percent of the region's population lived in municipal areas. Kalasin was the most urbanised province (with almost 100 percent in municipal areas), and Roi Et the least (2.8 percent). Thus, the population is still largely rural, but concentrated around the urban centres.

The main language of the region is Isan, a dialect of the Lao language. Northern Khmer, a dialect of the Khmer language of Cambodia, is also spoken in the southeast. Standard Thai is understood by everyone and is used for all official matters. The number of speakers of Isan has been estimated at between 15–23 million, the majority of those living in Isan.

The Khorat dialect, spoken by around 400,000 people, occupies a linguistic position somewhere between Lao and standard Thai.

There is a substantial Khmer minority, concentrated in the southern provinces of Buriram, Surin, and Sisaket, and some Vietnamese refugees in Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom.

Marriage and courtship in Isan still mainly follows strict tradition, especially in rural areas, and most young women are married by the time they are 20 years old. Many girls, in spite of the legal requirement, marry as young as 14 to escape poverty, as usually marriage is associated with a dowry paid by the husband to the bride's family. A dowry will not normally be less than 40,000 baht, and according to the status of the bride and/or her family, can often greatly exceed 300,000 baht.

Isan women rarely have boyfriends until they meet the man whom they will eventually marry, and tradition requires that the betrothal is then announced. Younger fiancées will be chaperoned, usually by a female friend, brother or sister while in the company of their future husband. The wedding ceremony usually takes place in the bride's home and is normally officiated by one or several monks or a respected village elder who has been a monk. Young couples are increasingly registering their marriages at the city hall, which they can do if they are over 17. The extended family system is still very much the traditional social structure in Isan, with newlywed couples often living with in-laws or building a home on the family compound or farmland.

It is not unusual however, for many women to remain single until much later. Tradition demands that the youngest or only daughter continues to live at home to take care of her parents. They are then only free to marry when both parents are deceased. There is also the tradition that a woman should "marry up" in status. If the woman is tied to an occupation in a rural area as a farm or business owner, teacher, or similar profession, finding a suitable husband who is prepared to relocate is often not easy.

Water buffalo are a regular feature, even in the suburbs, being walked to and from the fields at dawn and dusk. Although rarely used nowadays for working the land, they are considered an important status symbol. The current value (2010) of one head of buffalo is about 20,000 baht (2010: US$620).

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