Isaan on the edge

lifestyle May 10, 2014 00:00

By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul

2,959 Viewed

Nok Air heads to the Northeast for its third destination cycling trip

Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin made a solemn promise last year to get Thais active by flying them and their bicycles to various destinations around the country and encouraging them to discover new cultures and make new friends.
So far, the airline has taken groups of cyclists to Trang in the South and Nan in the North and last weekend spread its wings to the Northeast with a tour of Udon Thani.
The hardy pedal pushers are joined by members of the press on the airline’s flight out of Bangkok and collected at Udon Thani airport by a double-decker tour bus that swiftly deposits us for an early dinner at Krua Khun Nid, a well-known family-run restaurant that specialises in such traditional Isaan fare as fermented fish papaya salad, vegetable soup with ant eggs and pickled river fish.
After a peaceful night at the Prajaktra Design Hotel, we are up and about early the next morning to enjoy breakfast in the adjacent Nong Prajak park where local folk regularly cycle and jog around the lake.
Our ride starts at the Krom Luang Prachaksinlapakhom Monument and we all limber up in preparation for the trip that marks Udon Thani’s 121st anniversary this year. Provincial vice governor Kobkiat Kanjana along with Nok Air senior executives Apiporn Pasawat and Piya Yodmanee line up at the front and we head off through the city’s streets towards San Chao Pu Ya, the Chinese Spirit Shrine behind the train station near Nong Bua Market. 
This large and beautiful shrine features two Chinese pavilions in the centre of a lotus pond, home to several of the largest carp we have ever seen as well as an extraordinary 99-metre-high replica of a golden dragon and a museum showcasing the history of the Thai-Chinese relations in Udon Thani and the life of Confucius. 
We stop again at Wat Phothisomphon, a royal temple built in the late reign of King Rama V where we pay our respects at the Phra Maha That Chedi and receive a blessing from the abbot.
We ride through the Udon Thani Museum, which displays the province’s history, archaeology, natural science, geology, folk history, arts and culture and also has a section dedicated to Krom Luang Prachaksinlapakhom, founder of Udon Thani, before pedalling on to our final destination, Ban Na Kha.
While many of the group opts to travel by car for the16km journey, others prefer to get there under their own steam pedalling along the highway leading from Udon Thani to Nong Khai route, executing a sharp u-turn at Udon Thani Rajabhat University and passing Rang-sina Market on the way  to the village.
Ban Na Kha is a centre for silk weaving and an acclaimed “One Tambon One Product project in Udon Thani. It produces the scarves and handkerchiefs that sell like hot cakes at any Otop fair.
The local silk, known as pha mai lai khid or khid-patterned silk, is much admired all over the Northeast and features geometric patterns in contrasting colours, as well as animals and flowers.
Our decision is bike both ways is rained on – literally – on the way back to Udon, as the clouds open and the thunder rolls. By the time we’ve covered the 16km, we are not just drenched but also extremely muddy.
Good humour is quickly restored though with a hearty lunch of somtam, grilled fish and fried chicken at Somtam in Soi Banjang behind Udon Thani Technical College.
The rest of the afternoon passes quickly and soon we are being led to Rabiang Phatchani restaurant for a fusion dinner and onwards to Thung Si Muang Square near the City Pillar Shrine to be entertained by the airline’s rocking chief executive Patee and his PP Project as well as Dome Pakorn Lum, Lipta, ETC and Boy Peacemaker.
Flying bicycles
_ Nok Air has daily flights between Don Mueang and Udon Thani. There’s no surcharge to check your bicycle as luggage, but it must be properly packed.
_ For details, check