A true surprise in northeast Thailand—often considered to be solely a rice-farming region—these wetlands remain predominantly hidden by tall elephant grasses that belie the expanses of water lying beyond them, and are known for the most part only by the local villagers who venture out to fish and to collect snails and lotus stalks for use in the preparation of their daily meals.
Best visited in the cool season from December through February, these shallow, limpid waters may only be visited on a wooden boat belonging to the local fishermen and villagers. Having cleared the elephant grasses, a thick carpet of pink lotus blooms suddenly confronts you. A constellation of millions of startling, flamingo-pink lotus flowers dance above the crystalline waters of the Lotus Sea.
This is quite literally the land of the lotus eaters! The seeds and stems may both be eaten, and the flowers are an important Buddhist symbol. If the lotus plant does not seduce you from a culinary standpoint, then do try the fiery local cuisine with its spicy salads, lime-bathed fish, and fresh meat dishes: the food of the Northeast has now become a favorite among the Thais and may be found throughout the kingdom.
The wetlands are home to around 80 species of bird, including the endangered grey heron, purple heron, and black kite. Other rare species include the Brahminy kite and the cotton pygmy-goose.
Know Before You Go
Due to the picturesque sea of pink and red lotus flowers which cover lake Nong Han, this place becomes insanely busy during Valentine's Day weekend by couples all waiting to capture that perfect shot.
There is also a Red Lotus Sea Festival which is held mid-January at the nearby Wat Bandiem. From Udon Thani Airport, the lake is around 50km (31 miles) away and is easily reached in about one hour by hiring a local driver, motorcycle, or a car. Booking a place to stay within minutes of the lake's boat departure point is the most convenient option, at properties such as Gecko Villa or Green Gecko.