Gecko Villa's Blog. Thailand Travel Tips and Insights

Thailand villa for holiday rental

News from the Northeast

News, views and updates from this Northeast Thailand vacation villa. Interesting snippets on Thai food, Thai travel, local customs and history. Plan your Thailand holiday and discover the Isan region out of Udon Thani, where a unique experience awaits the inquisitive traveller at this unique holiday rental villa.

Leaping Frogs Game: Test your Brain

leap frogs game

Many guests have asked us what happened to our leaping frogs game - the brainteaser where you have to click on the frogs to move them from one side of the lake to the other, without getting stuck. Well, here it is! See if you can move all the green and brown frogs to the opposite side of the pond without creating a frog jam (!) Click on the image of frogs in the pond above to start.

Trust Tripadvisor? What you need to know


How many fake reviews are there on Tripadvisor? Can property owners pay to enjoy a better listing? How much commission do Tripadvisor take on bookings made via their site? We answer these questions, look at the review website's transparency, and investigate whether "no availability" shown on a Tripadvisor listing means there are no rooms available, or "there are probably rooms available but we cannot make a commission, so why not stay somewhere that pays us?"

US$10 billion. How you made travel portals rich.

OTA rate parity booking

Discover how the way you book your holiday pushes your vacation costs up. What is behind those travel comparison sites, online booking engines and those oh so useful apps and review sites.

Top 5 Restaurants and Cafes in Udon Thani

Top 5 Udon Thani restaurants

In Udon Thani and looking for a quick bite to eat, or a full dinner? Check out our list of recommended places to eat in town. These are independently owned restaurants and cafes in Udon Thani, rather than chain outlets. Our selection covers all budgets, from cheap bowls of northern Thai curry noodles, to lakeside garden restaurants for dinners with friends or family, and recommended cafes for an invigorating iced coffee and a home-baked cake.

20 Films Shot or Set in Thailand with Interactive Shoot Location Map

Thailand films and documentaries List

Come and check out our
interactive map of 20 film locations in Thailand. This Thailand movie map pinpoints film shoot locations of movies where the storyline includes Thailand as a setting, as well as films where Thailand's scenery stands in as a double for other either genuine or imaginary settings.

Beyond the films and locations mentioned, we also include a list of documentaries about Thailand that will be of interest both to visitors to Thailand and to others. Subjects covered in these documentaries include Thai boxing as a way out of poverty, the life of a prison executioner, Thailand's trains and what they represent, northeastern villagers raising deadly snakes to make a living and the real workings of multi-billion aid agencies....

Finally, we include a list of films which, whilst set in Thailand, were in fact filmed in other countries.

What kind of Thailand traveler are you?

Thailand regional toursim

Your choice of travel destination in Thailand may say a lot about you. Big data companies could certainly extrapolate a few assertions. Come and see what the Thailand travel statistics say...

Our Kids Look Forward to Meeting Yours

Thailand goat farming

A family of goats have now moved into their own accommodation in the grounds at Gecko Villa, with extensive pastures and their own shelters. They look forward to meeting you during your stay!

CNN lists Northeast Thailand in Top 10 Places to Visit 2017


CNN has named Northeast Thailand as one of its Top 10 places to visit, highlighting the fact that the area has much to see and do. The area, known as Isaan, is, it says, perfect for the "Been There, Done That" crowd seeking new experiences. You can find their Top 10 List here.

Udon Thani Airport Flight Status Check

Check the flight status of arrivals and departures at Udon Thani airport (UTH) using our real time monitor. The tool can be used to keep up to date with delays, departures and arrivals of all flights from the airport. Bookmark the page and you will have an easy, go-to tool for travel by air to and from UTH airport.

How do you cook Thai food?

wing bean salad recipe

We are often asked how we cook the dishes we prepare, and are happy to involve guests in learning to perfect their preferred Thai dishes. Check out our ever-growing list of Thai Recipes to learn how to make perennial favourites, such as Som Tam, Basil Fried Beef or Pork, delicious dipping sauces with an extra zing, spicy salads, soups, curries and more...

Salt Water Swimming Pool Chlorinators in Thailand

how install salt water chlorinator pool

We are often asked about the salt water chlorinator system we use in the swimming pool at Gecko Villa. So here is a quick summary of installing and using your own salt water system in Thailand or elsewhere.

In short, a salt water pool uses a hidden salt cell near the pump and filter to pass a low current through the salt water,  producing water and chlorine though chemical reaction. The chlorine sanitizes the swimming pool before the compounds revert to salt water.

Advantages of salt water pool chlorinators

  • No need to store liquid or powder chlorine chemicals.
  • No strong chlorine smell
  • Ease of maintenance - just add a bag of pool salt into your pool when required - generally in times of heavy rainfall.
  • Salt water is generally softer on the skin and hair, and provides a more agreeable swimming experience.
  • Relative ease of installation. Low cost of salt vs. chlorine

Disadvantages of salt water cells

  • Relatively high replacement cost for the plates component of the cell, although generic replacements are cheaper and work well.
  • Models that do not feature automatic reverse polarity should be avoided, as these involve regular manual cleaning with an acid solution.
  • Just as with any other swimming pool systems, it is necessary to ensure the correct PH / water balance in the pool, in order that the relatively  low levels of chlorine produced by the unit can remain effective.

How much does a salt water chlorinator cost in Thailand?

Well, how long is a piece of string? The system you will require will depend primarily on the size and volume of your swimming pool. Other factors, such as bather load (the number of people who normally use the pool), the immediate environment, exposure to the sun  and the ambient temperature also play a part. That said, prices vary enormously. Pool distributors often feel they have a captive market and generally charge huge mark-ups. We have regularly been quoted prices that are several hundred percent more than the base price. In addition, reliability is a factor, and not all brands are created equal.

If you are looking to install - or to swap to - a salt water cell pool system in Thailand, do your homework, or drop us a line and, with over 15 years experience of using these systems,  we will do our best to point you in the right direction. We can often source a suitable chlorinator for around half of what you may be quoted elsewhere.

Mushroom Farming


het kone mushrooms

A constant supply of fresh mushrooms seemed like a good idea, so we have started to grow our own at Gecko Villa. We chose to launch our mushroom hut with the Het Khone - or "Termite Mushroom" - variety. We constructed a simple hut using a black polyethylene material to make heat-absorbing walls, and a straw roof. The floor of the hut is simply earth, kept wet to ensure a high level of humidity. After boiling large quantities of straw in water in an old oil can over an open fire, we bundled the straw into blocks, layered with the mushroom spores.

Within only a few days, our first crop is ready. Today we will make a mushroom broth with chili and fermented fish - an Isan specialty - and also a gratin with garlic and cheese, in the French style. 

Basil Faulty? Knowing what type of Basil to use when Cooking Thai dishes

Deploying the correct type of basil in Thai cooking often confuses those learning to cook Thai food. Specific dishes call for specific varieties to ensure authentic flavours and fragrance, so the following brief summary of choosing the right basil may be of interest - and will help in picking the right herb from the gardens at Gecko Villa.

Thai basil types for cooking

Of the three types of basil used in Thai cooking, two are the most prevalent. The first is Thai holy basil (Bai Krapow, or Ocimum Tenuiflorum), the most widely used form of basil in Thailand. This has somewhat hairy leaves and is essential in preparing spicy stir fried meats with basil (pat krapow) or Drunkard's Noodles (pat ki mao.) The second is the purple-stemmed Thai sweet basil (Bai Horapha, or Ocimum Basilicum), used in making the famous Thai green and red curries, and the basil that is most redolent of the herb in Italy or Europe. The third type is the narrow-leaved Thai Lemon Basil (Bai Maenglak or Ocimum Citriodorum), a fundamental herb in preparing Khanom Cheen noodles and certain Thai curries and Isan dishes.

Two dishes that may be prepared to highlight the differences between Thai holy basil and Thai sweet basil are Beef Pat Krapao and Neua Joom respectively. This first, spicy chopped beef stir-fried with holy basil, garlic and fresh chilies, is a well-loved dish at lunchtime, whilst the second is an Isan beef hotpot with slices of meat cooked in a broth infused with sweet basil and pickled garlic.


Travel between Udon Thani or Nong Khai and Vientiane, Laos

Travel between Vientiane and Nong Khai

Many guests travelling to or from Gecko Villa combine a stay at our country pool villa with a visit to Vientiane or Luang Prabang in Laos, given the proximity of the Thai / Laos border. Here we list some travel options from Udon Thani to Vientiane.

By Train: Train 69 leaves Udon Thani at 07.14 and arrives in Nong Khai at 08.25. Delays are frequent. From Nong Khai train station, you can transfer to the bus station to head over to Laos. There is also a once daily train service from Nong Khai to Thanaleng, which is in Laos but about 13 kms from Vientiane.

By Bus: There is an international coach service from Udon Thani to Vientiane, although we would only recommend this if you have your Lao visas issued prior to arrival in Thailand. If you have these, this alternative is fairly straightforward and inexpensive (approx. THB100 per person.) Buses generally depart each way at 07.00, 09.30, 15.00 and 17.00 If you plan to get a Lao visa on arrival, you can take a coach from Udon to Nong Khai. A shuttle bus runs from the bus station across the Friendship Bridge to Laos every 20 minutes throughout the day ( fare about THB30). It stops at Thai immigration 5 mins after leaving the bus station, where you need to get your exit stamp, then crosses the Friendship Bridge to arrive at Lao customs and immigration some 10 mins later (a visa on arrival is available for Laos at this border point). You now remove your luggage from the bus luggage hold and go through Lao customs. Then take a tuk-tuk to your chosen hotel.

By Car or Taxi: Private Thai vehicles are not allowed into Laos without a special license. This means you need to get to Nong Khai in one vehicle, go through the various passport and customs controls, take a third party bus across the bridge, go through Lao immigration, then take another bus or taxi into Vientiane. Guests of Gecko Villa may book a fully licensed car in advance for the transfer between Gecko Villa and Vientiane (in only the one vehicle, and without border issues.) This is the quickest and most independent option but is more costly, at approx. THB3,500 each way.