The excavated Bronze Age settlement of BAN CHIANG, 50km east of Udon Thani in sleepy farming country, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. It achieved worldwide fame in 1966, when a rich seam of archeological remains was accidentally discovered: clay pots, uncovered in human graves alongside sophisticated bronze objects, were eventually dated to around 2000 BC, implying the same date for the bronze pieces. Ban Chiang has been hailed as the Southeast Asian vanguard of the Bronze Age, about three hundred years after Mesopotamia’s discovery of the metal.
The village of Ban Chiang is unremarkable nowadays, although its fertile setting is attractive and the villagers, who still weave (and sell) especially rich and intricate lengths of silk and cotton mut mee, are noticeably friendly to visitors. The museum here, which focuses on the Bronze Age finds, is one of the region’s most interesting. There’s also a bird and animal sanctuary 6km away, and a couple of interesting forest wats closer to the village.
Some travellers base themselves in Udon Thani but others visit Ban Chiang on a day-trip from Nong Khai.