Life in Ubon Ratchathani as a soldier during the Vietnam War. Part II

This is the sequel to a blog entry a few days ago with John reminiscing about life in Ubon as an American soldier during the Vietnam war.

Once again, I let John explain things in his own words.

“Ubon I remember was a culture shock at first having come from the States but I got used to it quickly. I remember there were Indian tailors shops (had a few suits and shirts made) and a shoe maker shop (had a pair of elephant hide boots made).

The open air market near the river was something to see, basically no refrigeration.

Downtown ubon open air market (these days it is known as market number 1)

I can still see the old Thia women chewing on beetle nuts. Sent a bunch of Thai silk back home bought at one of the shops. Spent time (won’t say how much) at the Ford Fairlane Club and drank a lot of Shinghigh beer and Mekong whisky. The bar girls were all ways friendly.

The Ubon Hotel was another spot we hung out at. You could get a Thai dish called Khaophat from the street vendors. It was rice, peas, chicken and cucumber really very good and cost next to nothing maybe 5 Baht.

Downtown Ubon street

Downtown Ubon

Getting back and forth from the base to Ubon we rode on the Baht bus (something to see the way they had them decorated), during the dry season the dust would choke a horse.

Pedal cab driver

Ubon construction

Ubon street with shops


The monsoon season quickly had everything flooded seemed to rain every day at 3 pm. The clouds looked like you could reach up and touch them they hung so close to the ground.

The result of a heavy monsoon down pour.

The Buddhist temples in and around Ubon were beautiful and the people of Ubon could not have been more friendly. I would truly love to go back. My tour ended January 1971, discharged May 1972.

Buddhist temple. There were several around Ubon.

Ubon looking from the bridge

Ubon school

Ubon school

Ubon school

I think this was the road outside the airforce base. (Uppalisan road - perhaps this building is where Peppers now stands??!!)

32 responses to “Life in Ubon Ratchathani as a soldier during the Vietnam War. Part II

  1. Pingback: Life in Ubon Ratchathani as a soldier during the Vietnam War. Part II | Isaan Five O

  2. Bravo! Bravo!

  3. John took some very neat photos. It’s always fun and interesting to see how things appeared in “the good ‘ole days”. Thanks for sharing!

    Regards from Ken C.

  4. This is a very fascinating glimpse into Thailand’s past. In some ways it looks totally different, but in other ways it looks like hardly anything has changed. It almost reminds me of the way present day Cambodia looks, and I don’t mean that in an insulting way. I once met an old American Thailand lawyer who was here during this time. He remarked that although the infrastructure was perhaps less developed back then, the people were just as friendly, and just as eager to meet and interact with foreigners. Thai people have always been friendly with guests in their country it seems. Here is one thing I wonder: where would all the young Thai people socialize back then? It seems like modern Thai socializing revolves around the shopping malls for teenagers. I understand some of the younger people were more politically involved back then as well. Very interesting generational shift.

    • Hi Daniel, I guess every generation has a slight shift doesn’t it but this last generational change in SE Asia has been huge and in my eyes not a very good one.

  5. I was there most of 1971 and part of 1973 74 an have returned many times. I agree with John. Now by sight the Esso station, Tung si Mung park and Shell station, and near by the train station is most of what I remember.

    • Hi Larry, great to have another Ubon ex army expat reading. Also, good to hear that you have been back many times since. Wouldn’t it be nice if there could be some kind of get together organised for all you men who were based here. Organised in conjunction with Wing 21 and the Ubon City Government allowing you all full access guided tours to the places you remember.

  6. Bongkarn Panpeng

    Hello everybody.My name is Bongkarn Panpeng.I am Thai.And i was bron in 1974 Ubon.I live in Ubon.I try to study about Ubon in period of war. and American base,American GI in Ubon.I know Ubon rtafb,Robin Olds,etc by many website.But is not by living man and participant.you are living story.If you want to see Ubon town in recent year. I will share to you.Thank you so much

  7. Wow Bongkarn, that sounds like a really nice invitation. Hopefully one or more of the readers here who were in the war will take you up on that.

  8. Sawaddee ka to every uncles,
    I might say that, as I’m the no.6 daughter of Mr.Manas and Mrs. Nantiya who ran the business of the 9th floor at Ubon Hotel at that time. We (sisters & brother) still remember the GI period, some scared with the very big body and high of you, some funny of broken chairs because its weak and can’t support your weight. Nice memories with the new things, toys, candies, food, polaroid camera form the west those you gift to us. My mom’s cooking book (still with me), she noted many of western homemade cooking that some of you taugh and asked her cook when missing home. Thank to all of you again for the pics and stories that recall our childhood. Nice memories for now even it was in war. Hope all you are in peace of mind and good health all the times.

    • Wow! So amazing to hear from you! Thank you for taking the time to send us all your message. You miust have so many amazing memories from this time. I was laughing out loud thinking about the big soldiers breaking all those chairs! Please, if you could right down some more stories from that time it would be amazing to read them. Are you parents still alive? Where are you now?

  9. Yes, Mr. Memock, and I’ll send some photos of our restaurent with some of you there later. (pls. give me the time – I have to dig and scan it to jpec file)
    And once, I remember the day, while we swimming at Lotus Hotel (they are my father’s friend). We heard a very big noise of engine then saw a big big white plane fly over the heads but very very low, like it will touch the ground near us. That so frighten. It was our first experience with the plane. So we were hurry back to Ubon Hotel, to our parent, to see what was happen. Then we saw from the 9th floor balcony that the plane got accident & can’t fly reach to camp. Then the pilot chose the “Thung Sri Muang” for landing with safe. And then use the tank pull the plane along the street back to camp. I still remember the people came to see along the street as it look like a festival, and some soldiers standing on the wings, people and soldiers waved their hands to each others. That year was nearly end of the war.

    • That is a fantastic story Siwyong! Just imagine if a plane crashed landed at Tung Sri Muang park these days! it is always so crowded. I can’t believe that they simply dragged the plane the 6 blocks or so back to the airforce base using a tank! Someone must have a photo of this somewhere – would be so great to see it. Thanks again for sharing.

    • That would have been the C-47 that ended up in the river when it developed problems and couldn’t make it back to the base.

  10. Maybe the plane not in white, but sorry I can’t remember the true color.
    And about my parent, they pass away – my mom 27 years ago by cancer, my dad 7 years ago by cerebral hemorrhage.

  11. Pingback: Ronnie’s Vietnam War Illness …Continued | Wonderland1981 - The Wonderland Murders

  12. Pingback: Looking for her parents from the Vietnam War era in Ubon Ratchathani, can you help? | Family life in rural Thailand & Australia

  13. Wow! I love reading about “old” Ubon. Thanks to all of you for the stories and great pictures. I can never get enough of Ubon’s history. Additionally, I love Viet Nam era stories. I am a 62-year old Canadian. I had the great luck to move to Ubon Ratchathani in 1997. I had decided that I wanted to teach there after a long career in government. For most of the past 19 years (some years in Roi Et and Khon Kaen) I have lived and worked in Ubon. I quickly fell in love with Ubon and to this day I believe it is the best place to live in Thailand. It will be my home for the rest of my life. I will continue to go around Ubon, watch my ex-students grow and absorb all of its quaintness and old charm. To quote an old government campaign “We Love Ubon” ,,,how true!

    • Hi Stephen, great to hear from you. 19 years is a long time in Ubon! Glad you like the Vietnam War History and old time Ubon that is scattered around this blog. Although the blog has been quiet for a while I am firing it up again soon and hopefully some people will supply more memories and photos for me to share.
      Did I ever meet you when I was operating Peppers Bakery?

  14. Hello, I think the first time I was in Peppers was about 2008. I recall the Australian guy. In my early years myself and a couple of other teachers made our home at Mister Donut in Robinsons. We were weekend fixtures there and that’s how we met a lot of people. We could watch all of Ubon walk by.That was pre-Lotus Tesco and pre-Big C days. I knew many people in the day but don’t see anyone anymore. How I long for those old days. I’m temporarily in Canada but returning to Ubon for good at the end of March. Hope to run into you one day. Stephen

  15. Hi Stephen,
    Thanks for your reply. That Aussie bloke would have been me I am guessing. Mister Donut was still there last time I checked but just a small hole in the wall type operation. All the best with your move back ‘home’. I only visit now and have just returned back to Australia after a 7 week visit – was great to be back in Ubon town for sure.

  16. Charles Rosario

    My name is Charles Rosario I was Sgt in the US Air-Force I was TDY from Korea to Ubon Thailand from April/1974 to Dec/1974 i was staying at Ubon hotel. The VA can’t not find any record that I was there no information on my DD214. I also wrote to Ubon Hotel for any information that I was there. I work at as military customs inspection checking bags and military parts going back to the US. I just have to show the VA that I was there around that time. I did go to sick call on the base, but no record to show.
    Please me help how to get any information about me
    I have PTSD and had a heart attack
    Charles Rosario
    email charlesrosario@bellsouth.net

    • Check your APRs and see if their is any mention of your TDY. That is the only way I had to prove I was in ‘nam…….I was at Ubon May’69-May’70

  17. I was with the Army at Ubon in ’72-’73. We were billited at the Bodin Hotel but I owned and lived in the Sweetheart Bar just down the street from the Cobra Pit. I have many fond memories of Ubon and would love to go back someday. Sadly, all of my photos were lost in a flood.

    • Wow! You ran the sweetheart bar while still active in the army or after you were discharged? I bet you have some stories to tell! You need to come back for another visit. What a shame your photos were lost. 🙁

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