Thailand's Must-Do: Go Boating on the Red Lotus Sea

Thailand’s Must-Do: Go Boating on the Red Lotus Sea

Found in the region of Udon Thani, the Red Lotus Lake (also known as Talay Bua Deang) bursts into shades of pinks during the months of January and February. Don't miss it.

The so-called Red Lotus Sea is one of Thailand’s loveliest seasonal attractions. Somewhat off the beaten path for international visitors, the charming destination is popular with Thai couples looking for a spot of romance and families who want to take the kids somewhere special. Here’s everything you need to know to inspire you to take a trip and plan your travels.

What is the Red Lotus Sea?

Known in Thai as Talay Bua Deang, the Red Lotus Sea (sometimes also referred to as the Red Lotus Lake) is officially called Nong Han Kumphawapi Lake. A large yet rather normal lake at most times during the year, the lake transforms into a magical wonderland of beautiful pink shades during the cooler months. Indeed, due to the picturesque beauty when the striking lotus flowers are in full bloom, the lake has been named as one of the world’s strangest lakes.

Pink lotus flowers spread across the water like a blanket, with narrow channels cleared through the flowers to allow small boats to pass through with ease. There are a number of small islands in the lake, some with shrines and other places of spiritual interest.

Small fish swim through the waters as small birds playfully flitter around the boats. There are few water birds though; if you’re lucky, you may spot a heron, moorhen, duck, or other bird typically found close to water. The chances of spotting bird life are higher in the early mornings.

How can I explore the Red Lotus Sea?

Image credit: georgios kaleadis

The lake’s full majestic beauty isn’t immediately apparent from the edges, though you can peer through binoculars to get an idea of the wonder on the water. The best way to enjoy the fairytale-like visions is with a boat ride across the expansive lake. Boat trips can be arranged with ease from the main car-parking area in Chiang Haeo sub-district.

There’s no need to join a tour as you can easily charter your own vessel to discover the lake. Boats cost around 500 THB for a trip, and the prices are per boat, not per person. Boat rides last for around an hour to an hour and a half. (Shorter trips can also be taken for around 300 THB.) The traditional wooden boats are perfect for couples looking to inject a little Thai romance into their experience, whereas the larger plastic boats are ideal for bigger groups of up to around ten people. Each type of boat has a canopy to provide shade from the sun. It can get pretty hot out on the water so do be sure to take a bottle of water along on your ride.

Your boat will journey into the middle of the lake, following small channels through the lotus flowers, to eventually bring you to a large and dense patch of vibrant pink flowers. Pause and admire the glorious vistas and snap plenty of pictures to remind you of an unusual day filled with scenic splendour. Spikes of grass poke up between the lotus pads and the shrines and statues of the small islands sometimes seem to float right on top of the water, rising up out of the sea of enchanting pink.

What facilities are available near the lake?

Facilities and amenities are basic, though you will find public toilets (with squat-style toilets) and several food vendors in the main car park. Stock up on snacks for a picnic on your boat ride.

Where is the Red Lotus Sea?

The Red Lotus Sea is located in the Thai province of Udon Thani. Udon Thani is in the northeastern region, the part of Thailand that is also commonly referred to as Isan. The lake can be found roughly 45 kilometres outside of the heart of Udon Thani city, in the district of Kumphawapi. The most convenient way to access the stunning lake is by private transport, though taxis and tuk-tuks will also carry visitors there from nearby areas. Udon Thani is well connected by road and rail to other parts of the country.

When can I visit the Red Lotus Sea?

The cool season is the prime time to visit the Red Lotus Sea. The pink buds begin to bloom at the end of the rainy season, reaching their peak in January and February. Some flowers remain open through March, but then from March to around October, the lake is devoid of any special colours.

The flowers tend to close up in the heat of the day, meaning that visits past midday are likely to be quite disappointing. Get there as early as possible for the best experience; any time between sunrise and around 11am is a great time for admiring the lake’s natural splendour. Earlier visits also typically beat most of the crowds; although the lake rarely gets overly busy, fewer people mean more of a serene ambience for you to enjoy!  

A local flower festival, The Red Lotus Sea Festival, is held each year in the middle of January at the temple of Wat Bandiem, situated next to the lake.

Are there any other attractions nearby?

There are a handful of attractions in the main provincial town, including the ornate temple of Wat Photisomphon, the pretty Nong Prajak Park, and the City Pillar Shrine. Pay a visit to the Udon Thani Museum to learn more about the city’s past. Nature lovers can check out Na Yung Som Forest Park, while history enthusiasts shouldn’t miss Phu Phra Bat Historical Park with its interesting rock formations, caves, and monuments.  

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.

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