By Steve Graham – Udon Thani Magazine Guide Issue 21
To be honest, before writing this article, I didn’t know too much about UD Town except for what my children have told me and let’s be truthful, am I really going to believe them? They are always asking if it is OK to go to UD Town and see a show or go shopping etc. I thought I would have a look for myself.
In order to get a good picture of what is going on, I interviewed Khun Tanakorn who is the CEO of UD Town to find out what the initial concept of UD Town was and where it is going, especially as 2015 and the Free Trade Agreement is just about upon us.
Khun Tanakorn, a self professed native of Udon Thani, informed me that the idea behind UD Town was to do something completely different from what residents of the province had been used to before. By using green spaces and water features, the aim was to have a commercial and entertainment center that conserved energy rather than consumed it by air conditioning areas that were just used as walkways by the general public as demonstrated by the majority of shopping malls around the world. In addition, it was also pointed out to me that the fire risk had also been reduced and there was easy escape for the public in this event.
I was informed that another objective was to increase the economic growth of the province by assisting local entrepreneurs from Udon Thani and surrounding provinces to start their businesses at UD Town after graduating from university; with an emphasis on private companies rather than government ones. Khun Tanakorn hoped that some graduates would prefer to stay in Udon Thani rather than go to Bangkok to do business. In fact, some examples were put forward where workers in Bangkok had been granted transfers to Udon Thani, staying at the same company and receiving the same salary. He wants Udon Thani to be the trade and transportation capital in the region.
The Free Trade Agreement is eagerly awaited by Khun Tanakorn and he confirmed that business was good as the financial crisis was being offset by the influx of natives from Udon Thani returning from Bangkok due to the floods that took place last year. He observed that in times of financial crisis, it is fashion and beauty products that people cut back on first and UD Town was predominantly for dining and entertainment.
I asked Khun Tanakorn how safe it was at UD Town at night time as I was a parent with two teenage children who constantly ask my permission to go there (at least they ask). He explained that although there is a large area to secure, everyone can be seen as there is abundant lighting and security guards patrol to ensure public safety. During concerts there is an increase in security and age limits are enforced daily when it comes to drinking and smoking in those designated Plaza areas. I confirmed this later with my daughter who was quite specific with her detail (How did she know? Someone must have told her!).
It won’t surprise you to know that UD Town is involved with the local community and does its fair share of charity work too. Projects like “Keep Udon Tidy” helps to educate people about recycling and the environment and they also provide art classes for children with HIV. I was able to see the junior “Club UD” in their preparation for a dance competition. A senior team, sponsored by UD Town has just come back from competing in France, representing S.E. Asia.
I had to ask about McDonald’s. Why did it take so long for McDonald’s to come to Udon Thani? Khun Tanakorn explained that the people at McDonald’s were not sure that Udon Thani was a viable option, so they spent a long time considering their position before opening at UD Town with opening day record sales figures for Thailand. I must admit to finding this difficult to understand, especially if you watch Udon Thani’s youth filling their faces with all things fast.
So, apart from stuffing my face with McDonald’s, what else is there for me to do in UD Town? It was explained to me that the people at UD Town were conscious of the amount of foreigners visiting or living in Udon Thani city and the surrounding districts. Special events were always on the calendar to celebrate days like Valentine’s Day and Halloween. If the kids are happy, then so are the parents!
Songkran is obviously a special time for Thai people and UD Town has organised many events in the past to entice people to the area. Last year, it was estimated that 150,000 visitors were drawn to UD Town for the Songkran festivities and this year there will probably be more. This would explain the extra parking that is being made available as UD Town continues to grow, keeping in mind the 51% green policy that the company adheres to.
This year we were able to enjoy the Chang Wonder Water Land which was placed in three zones around UD Town. Zone 1 was located at Soi 1 of UD Town and comprised of ‘Arayathai’ (Thai tradition), Zone 2 was at The Square and called ‘Sook Jai’ (Fun) and the last, Zone 3 called ‘Muan Lai’ a distinctly Isan phrase meaning enjoyable. After an extravaganza like this it makes you wonder what they will come up with next year!
And don’t mention the beer bar. I thought I told you not to mention it! Seeing as you have, I couldn’t help noticing it when I was eating in the food court area. I may have to investigate that section of UD Town on special assignment. All I have to do is find a sponsor!
So much to do and so little time! Having visited UD Town and spent time listening to my children, it seems that we now have an alternative venue for shopping, eating and entertainment that has moved away from the normal shopping mall concept. To be truthful, I don’t do shopping at all as it isn’t compatible with my wallet; however, the idea of just walking through and stopping for an iced coffee or a quick snack (Whoa, steady on there big fella!), sitting outside watching people go by does seem appealing when I need to take a break from the rigors of daily life.
To obtain more information, UD Town has a free magazine with many articles for the discerning shopper; however, at the moment there are not too many articles in English. This, I am told will be remedied in the future. For up to date information concerning all the future activities that will take place at UD Town, have a look at their website at www.goudtown.com which will explain, in English all the up and coming attractions. Be there or be square!