With a weekend to spare, we decided to cross the Lao-Thai Friendship bridge into the neighbouring Thai province of Udon Thani. Usually this means a visit to the shopping mall and stocking up on grocery staples which are around 25% cheaper in Thailand than in Laos. But this weekend we had a plan to visit the natural attraction of the Red Lotus Sea or Talay Bua Daeng (ทะเลบัวแดง) in Thai. The Red Lotus Sea is not actually a sea, rather an inland lake, and the lotus flowers are more pink than red, but nevertheless a stunning sight to see these blooms stretching far off into the distance.
The Red Lotus Lake is only in bloom during the cooler months from December until the end of February each year. It has been said that the best month to visit is in January as the lotus plants cover a wide area of the lake. We visited in mid-January 2018 and the lake was very impressive with a full cover of open blooms. The lotus flowers are at their best in the early morning as they tend to close up slightly as the sun heats up towards the middle of the day. Having said that, by the time we crossed from Laos into Thailand and drove to Talay Bua Daeng we did not arrive until around 12 noon and the blooms were still in perfect shape. In fact, I had heard stories of queues waiting for the boats to go out on the lake in the early morning but arriving at this time of the day proved to be very quiet and serene.
A virtual sea of red lotus awaits – a tantalising view from the shore of Nong Han Kumphawapi Lake
Rows of boats hint at the lake’s popularity
Having secured our boat, we headed out from the shore towards the pink glow beyond the lake grasses. Suddenly we were surrounded by bright pink bulbs and huge green lilypads. The water was surprisingly clean and clear and quite shallow. Our boat came to a stop and we bobbed amongst these regal flowers becoming part of the scenery.
Boats wind their way amongst the lotus flowers on watery roads cutting through the blooms
Just so pretty! I can see why Red Lotus Lake is a popular Valentine’s Day destination.
Is this the perfect lotus bloom?
The clear, still water produces a mirror-like effect
How to get to the Red Lotus Lake
The Red Lotus Lake is one hours drive south of Udon Thani, in Kumphawapi District, Udon Thani Province, Northeast Thailand. You will need to hire your own car or arrange a private driver as there is no public transport to the lake. Driving yourself is pretty straight forward as there are several signs to the lake (they are quite small but just keep a look out for the pink lotus flowers!) The access point to Red Lotus Lake is in Ban Diam on the Northeast side of the lake (see Google map below). There is a large dirt car park next to the tourist boats, as well as a restaurant and basic toilet facilities.
Begin driving from Udon Thani city on Route 2 (Mittraphap Road) heading towards Khon Kaen.
Turn off Route 2 onto Route 2023.
Follow Route 2023 looking for the small pink Talay Bua Daeng (ทะเลบัวแดง) signs. Approximately 500 metres after crossing a small bridge you will find the turnoff to the Red Lotus Sea. This is Route 2350. Drive along Route 2350 for around 3 kilometres before turning into the access road for the Lake (pictured below).
When is the best time to visit Red Lotus Lake?
The Red Lotus Lake is in bloom during Thailand’s cool season from the beginning of December to the end of February. We visited in mid-January 2018 and the amount of lotus flowers was incredible. The Red Lotus Lake is also a very popular place to visit on Valentine’s Day. The lotus blooms are best viewed in the early morning between 6:00am until around 11:00am as after this the flowers will begin to close due to the midday sun.
What is the cost?
There are several choices when it comes to hiring a boat; there are small wooden longboats which seat two people and larger plastic boats which seat eight people. We hired a small boat which cost 300 Baht for one hour (i.e. 150 Baht per person) while the larger boats cost 500 Baht for one hour. The boats all had life vests and small canopies which provided shade.
If you are looking for a day trip from Udon Thani in the cooler months, visiting the Red Lotus Lake will certainly fit the bill. Have you been to Talay Bua Daeng? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.