The city of Udon Thani might not be the prettiest in Thailand, but it can lay claim to one of the most charming parks in the country. Udon Thani residents are justifiably proud of Nong Prajak Park which serves not just as a recreation area, but as a focal point for the local community.
In recent years the profile of Nong Prajak Park has increased significantly thanks to the efforts of the governor of Udon Thani. At the end of 2013, the governor installed a giant inflatable duck on the lake at Nong Prajak Park. The duck proved to be an instant hit on social media with thousands of images uploaded by selfie-loving Thais to their Facebook and Instagram accounts. All was going well until March 2014 when a summer storm hit Udon Thani. The strength of the wind lifted the duck from its moorings and catapulted it into nearby trees leaving a trail of overturned motorbikes in its wake.
Undeterred, the Udon Thani governor saw an opportunity. A few months after the storm, repairs to the giant inflatable were complete and it was ready once more to take pride of place on the lake. And much to the delight of local residents the original duck was joined on the water by two ‘ducklings’. The family of ducks have since become one of the most recognisable images of Udon Thani. So much so that it would be almost unthinkable for any Thai person with a smartphone to visit Udon Thani and not snap a selfie taken with the yellow inflatables and the ‘@Udonthani’ sign in the background.
Although it is the ducks which feature prominently in most photos of the park, there is more to Nong Prajak than oversized inflatables. With a vast fish-filled lake at the centre and separate jogging/walking and bicycle tracks around the perimeter, the park is a lovely place to unwind for people of all ages. Teenagers play football on the expanses of grass, adults cycle around the edge of the water and children feed the fish.
When the sun begins to dip and the heat of the day dissipates, the south-east corner of the park becomes an al-fresco aerobic studio with plenty of Thai-style sanuk worked into the routines. If that all sounds too much like hard work, simply sit on the grass or a bench and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and splendid sunsets. Opposite the main entrance to Nong Prajak, relax with a rejuvenating Thai massage at any of the little massage venues overlooking the park or pull up a plastic chair at one of the numerous roadside restaurants and enjoy some local food.
See the Udon Thani page for a location map of Nong Prajak Park. The park is open from 4am until 8pm with the most popular time to visit being late afternoon and early evening. Bicycles can be hired in the north-west corner of the park, but make sure you stay in the bike lane to avoid pedestrians and follow the one-way system in operation. Please note the park is an alcohol free zone and anybody caught breaking the ban is liable to a heavy fine.