This collection of small stories has ended up being quite garden orientated so for those of you who aren’t into that sort of thing I will be publishing a back issue of some other stories soon to make up for this biased post 🙂 There are some other topics here so don’t just ignore the post – just jump to the bits that interest you.

Topics include a few garden stories of course but also a local house for sale, some tips about painting in Thailand, a day with the family, eating out at Good View, more bricks and the family help out.

A Brief introduction – regulars can skip

You will find many expats writing blogs about life in the coastal centres and places like Chiang Mai but fewer make the effort to record what living in the northeast (Isaan) out this way looks like.

None of my stories are spectacular and will never be found in the search results of tourists looking for adventure. However, most of the readers who follow this blog, and there are some who have become “virtual ” friends over the years, are people who have a much more committed and personal connection to Thailand and have moved well beyond elephant riding, zip-lining and bar hopping. For them, these little insights help maintain that connection to village life if they are living elsewhere, and for those who are newer to the scene maybe help with understanding what a life in rural Thailand might look like if that ever happens for them.

These stories are extracted from my Facebook page HERE, which I use as a mini-blog to give me an everyday outlet for my enjoyment of words, photography and of course the wonderful lifestyle I am privileged to enjoy. They are very day by day accounts as a result. I hope you enjoy them.

6 Sept 2018 – Morning Coffee

We have had so little sunshine for months that waking up this morning to make coffee was a real treat. They are talking about the ‘wet’ season (we have had 50% of ‘normal’) ending early, which will bring cooler days and sunshine. Maybe the weather forecasters have got it right and this is a taste of what’s to come sooner than expected.

The photo above is one of my favourite views from the house and I get to enjoy it while making coffee. The wine is a treat from our friends Bob Sekhon and Jasbeer Sekhon who stayed with us for a few days. Aged Aussie reds are being saved for my birthday on Boxing Day!

Always beautiful but the sunshine brings it all to life.

The entrance from the house to the new tropical garden.

My idea of tropical Thailand.

We mostly have coffee sitting here and why wouldn’t you!

Gaun on the move inspecting her garden.

A Garden Update in the Sunshine

With camera already in hand I had to add a few garden updates, which is transformed in sunshine.

Looking to the front of the land facing the street.

The rice hut looks as if it has always been there not moved there less than three months ago.

An earlier shot to below.

The same view as the previous photo almost exactly five months ago.

The brick paving has transformed these paths.

I had 6,000 bricks ordered for delivery yesterday to start paving this area. The couple that hand make them phoned to say they weren’t happy with the quality and they were making more for me ETA next Thursday. Normally these are used as house bricks and are embedded in concrete and plastered so the presentation doesn’t matter too much. I am lucky with the Isaan people I get to do business with.

This area to be paved as well this month.

The garden hand basin area.

You can’t have too much shade in Isaan.

The house roof in the distance on the ‘old’ land.

The view from the rice hut deck.

The vines are starting to cover the trellis and providing some shade. This will be a roof of greenery faster than I expected and the umbrella can be removed.

The house is hidden in the ‘jungle’, which is the look I wanted.

Garden hand wash basin on the left.

A House For Sale

We had a guy come to see us recently offering a land/house package for sale at 1.5 million baht in a small village called Ban Nong Saeng/Sang 20 minutes south of Nong Bua Lamphu on the 228 – the main highway to Si Bun Ruang. It is always hard to find properties for sale as they tend to be ‘advertised’ by word of mouth so I thought I would post this one.

It is right on the highway so will be noisy but on the plus side it would be good if your partner wanted to start a business of some sort. I have NO further details but as we drove past it yesterday I took a couple of photos.

It looks pretty neat from the outside but who knows if that extends inside. Posted as a courtesy to locals. I have no financial interest in this (a spotter’s fee type thing). Phone the owner to get details. Google Maps location here:https://goo.gl/eBpQ3g Cheers.

Orchids

Last post for the day unless something else happens. Si Bun Ruang has markets every 2nd of the month based in the centre surrounding the the food market. As this coincided with friends visiting we took them along and I couldn’t resist the orchids. Coming from the extreme weather of Canberra I still can’t believe that I can grow them so easily here. 50 baht or $2.00 each.

I normally hang the orchids but I wanted a few pots this time for colour at ground level.

And what a colour they are. These are only ‘standard’ orchids, as you can get some exotic colours, but I love them all the same.

Jasbeer Sekhon Your orchid has a new home.

If you remember from a recent post Gaun picked up some cacti from a local temple that grows them to raise money. This is her new collection.

8 Sept 2018 – The Isaan Fishing Boat

The attached photos of our Isaan fishing boat is nothing new as I have posted this story before but I thought I would add them because Gaun has planted cuttings all across the front as of yesterday.

I will take updates each month to see how quickly these plants establish themselves and grow. It will be interesting as an example of how easy it is to create lushness here. Having said that, these will probably be the first of Gaun’s cuttings to die and I will have to buy some from a garden centre to save face 

I was also looking for a particular photo in my collection and came across a few photos I took of these fishing boats based on Lake Ubol Ratana so I thought I would add them to this post.

A reminder of what we bought.

Restored and looking pretty smart. I was going to drill holes in it to let the rainwater out but it does that very nicely on its own! Not to be used in a flood situation 🙂

A closer look at Gaun’s cuttings. There are two types of leaf groundcover – a green and burgundy border around the edge and then a burgundy filler at the front of this photo. Flowering ground cover fills in the rest.

The border ground cover ends up looking like this. Tradescantia Spathacea or dwarf (height challenged) oyster plant!

While the burgundy like this – cuttings taken from the garden of Michael Cromer

A working fishing boat on Ubol Ratana.

Love the mix of colours. This is a very typical Isaan lake. Pretty boring in themselves. As always it’s the people you meet that give interest.

This is Gaun’s older brother’s fishing boat. It is a working boat that doesn’t leak.

A Local House Painter

Finding a decent painter in Isaan is a real challenge. When my house was painted it was part of the contract price and the guys who basically built the place did the paintwork. It wasn’t bad but I have since had it repainted to give a better coverage and to fix up aspects I wasn’t 100% happy with.

Since then Gaun’s older brother Jun has moved to live in the village and he and his family are professional painters, in the loose way that term applies here. By that I mean they were working Bangkok way only painting as a job and have decent experience. I believe they do good work by Thai standards.

Pit, Gaun’s sister-in-law and her son do most of the work and they are looking for local jobs so I recommend them if you need some painting done. They have just finished painting a house inside and out (18,000 baht) and got a bonus from the owner, so they must have done OK.

I now have a phone number for Pit and it is 0927172301 – Thai/Isaan language only.

Gaun modelling house paint!

TIPS & TRICKS: I started off using Dulux paint at 1,800 (?) baht for 9 litres. I then changed to a brand Global House has called SuperCote at 750 baht. The thing is paintwork gets dirty quickly here that I don’t see the point in paying extra for something that is rated to last 15 years (?) when you’ll be repainting regularly if you are interested in keeping your home looking the best.

It’s a bit like paying for a car that is rated to last 50 years when you buy a new one every year! I will be repainting the outside of our place every year, now using Pit and son, but I am a perfectionist. At a paint and labour cost of 5,000 baht ($200.00) why wouldn’t I?

The undercoat. A mystery to many Thai houses.

9 Sept 2018 – With the Family

The family was all fired up today as Gaun’s elder sister Yurt, who works in Udon Thani, was visiting for an overnight stay to check in on mama, who is recovering well from a minor stroke. Normally we only see Yurt when she takes a few days off for the three Thai New Year celebrations being ours (31 December), the Chinese one and the best being Thai NY (Songkran) 😁 To have her visit outside of those events in a big thing for the local family.

Yurt is a cook for a Thai/Chinese family (that’s why she gets time off for Chinese New Year – an event that Thais mostly ignore). She lives to cook and always brings so much food and gifts for the family that in this case Yuan and Lud had to take their pickup to Udon early this morning to collect both her and her contributions.

I always enjoy Yurt visiting because she arrives, she cooks and doesn’t stop until she leaves. My fridge is already starting to be filled with Yurt’s excess meals. Gaun received a phone call when Yurt was on the road to Si Bun Ruang to tell me not to eat because she had food for me and, as it ended up, half the village as well.

With Yurt here local family we don’t see so often also made an appearance and at one stage we had all five daughters at mama’s house plus other relatives that I lose track of even when Gaun explains where they sit in the web of family history.

Neighbours and friends also turned up as word of Yurt’s arrival had spread and one of her lunches is not to be missed. A spontaneous social event that had mama looking slightly confused wondering what all these people were doing here! Typical Isaan and so enjoyable.

Gaun, Yurt, Peng, mama, a couple of neighbours and an uncle. More friends were at a separate table behind me.

Yurt and Peng. — with รอนะ. เจ้าควานฝัน.

I think the lady on the right is a daughter of Gaun’s eldest sister, who lives in a moo ban 20 minutes from us and made an appearance later, plus her daughter and grandson. I could be wrong 555

Here Gaun’s uncle is heading home with food supplied by Yurt ‘for Ron’, which in Aussie-speak translates to ‘for later on’.

Me and the wife. I am well fed at this stage and thinking that a little lie down might be a good option.

10 Sept 2018 – Garden Extras

A friend of ours Michael Cromer visited one of our favourite garden centres in Udon Thani recently and posted some photos on his FB page, which you should check out.

This is a unique place to spend time because they have a superb range of quality garden ornamentation, from timber to statues, pots and more. They are expensive by local standards but as you will not find anything like it elsewhere you are paying for not making a trip to Chiang Mai, where this sort of selection is easier to come by. I only ever go there if I have spare money in my pocket because I have never visited and not bought something for our garden.

For some reason the garden place doesn’t let you take photos on site, which is a shame because it is worth the visit just to see the amazing landscaping. Perhaps that’s why in that they don’t want a lot of freeloaders with cameras like me. Make sure you check the rice hut and beautiful rock pool if you go.

As it is difficult to give you an idea of the range of items they stock at their location I thought I would share a few of the things we have bought from them actually in place in our garden

On Google Maps you will find them here: https://goo.gl/bKcS9F

This waterpot was originally a terracotta colour but I have left it to weather naturally. The base also came from this place.

She looks like an ancient statue doesn’t she. Again I just leave them to do whatever nature decides is appropriate!

A birdbath and stand. A gift from good friends when they first visited us in Isaan.

This little guy welcomes you to our house.

The most expensive piece I have bought there but also a lovely addition.

A colourful turtle. You won’t find this sort of thing in your local garden centre, which understandably caters for a more local budget. With more affluent Thais and lots of resident farang (27,000) Chiang Mai offers a much wider range of alternatives with prices to match.

Regular readers have already met the Jackfruit lady.

A water fountain but just as nice as a garden statue. You will find a few examples of statues like this in some garden places.

Small additions that help give interest to an otherwise bare space.

And again.

Lovely. Floodlit at night.

Lunch at Good View

A pleasure to meet up with Clemens Barnard for lunch in Nong Bua Lamphu today. Clemens is a reader of my blog who was driving through the area on his way to Udon Thani and beyond. Thank you Clemens for the invite. Great to meet and chat and we look forward to seeing you again for a village tour and party.

Nong Bua Lamphu doesn’t have a great choice for farang-friendly places to eat once you want something more than basic food with red plastic furniture so I thought we’d give Good View a go as the alternative Pizza Pinocchio’s is closed on a Monday.

I haven’t been to Good View for well over a year because it was looking a bit sad and run down in a way that so many Thai places end up because maintenance is never a high priority.

I was therefore surprised and pleased to find that, maybe as the result of new owners (?), things like sagging furniture that had your knees close to your ears has been replaced with quality and comfortable alternatives. The whole place was very tidy and well presented and I would be happy to recommend it to anyone.

They have an extensive Thai/Isaan menu, unfortunately all in Thai but with small photos, and a few farang type dishes such as chicken/pork/beef with salad and French fries 159 baht.

The service was attentive, we got our beers topped up and the bill came quickly at the end. All in all a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours especially with good company. Good View can be found on Google Maps here https://goo.gl/SWXkgy

Enjoy the rest of your travels in Isaan and thank you for lunch.

A nice setting well maintained. An open area on the left and an internal aircon space behind. I think they do live music in the evenings. Good View Massage on the right.

Things like the three pots on the left are new, which makes me think there are new owners involved because it adds a touch of class.

An internal courtyard.

Situated on the Nong Bua Lamphu ringroad on the eastern side. This isn’t a busy road so it is no hardship sitting outside apart from the rain and the heat 🙂

Inside with new tables and chairs and overall a classy presentation for rural Isaan.

Next to the restaurant is a new business (or new since I was last there) called Good View Massage. It was beautifully presented, spotlessly clean and the lady who welcomed us was very friendly. I have no idea what the massage is like and still highly recommend Sunan Massage here https://goo.gl/eyAjmk but there’s an alternative if you want one. The prices are higher than Nun at Sunan but the presentation reflects that.

The entrance to the massage place.

Reception.

The spa room.

Attached to the spa room.

Quality presentation for Thai massage.

Oil massage would be done here.

11 Sept 2018 – Are You Hungry?

I almost never post photos of food but thought I would make an exception with this one, not for the food image but the story behind it’s arrival on the table.

Food is one of the main topics I write about in my ‘Living with a Thai Woman’ post HERE, which I start by writing:

The most often asked question I will get from Gaun is “Are you hungry?” and this can happen at any time and sometimes at several times during the day. The subject of food is absolutely central to living here, not just as a way of maintaining energy, but almost as a religion………………The decision to go with a simple breakfast rather than something cooked is met with a look of disappointment! All in all it is the one area I feel that I let Gaun down  She should have married a big eater. Sorry Gaun.

A ‘simple breakfast’ was on my agenda for this morning only to be called inside by Gaun who had cooked up a full version. “I not ask you because you only say no” she told me! Very nice it was too.

This was an absolutely perfect example of the observations I made in that post and I know that many you with Thai partners will be nodding your head to this story 

12 Sept 2018 – More Bricks

Deja vu – 6,000 more handmade bricks were delivered today ready for the next stage of paving around 60 metres of paths in our tropical garden. I think we will need around the same again to finish this project, which will happen later this year. I can’t wait to see them all in place.

Handmade and unloaded by hand too. A lovely husband and wife team.

Isaan ladies don’t sit around (mostly).

These are the ‘before’ photos showing the areas that will be paved this time. The paths look fine even now but the bricks raise the presentation to a whole new level.

The same view in February this year!

I love this view – jar, water pot and boat. What a great combination.

And as at February 2018.

Just a reminder of how they will look when completed.

I have provided details of this couple’s business in Si Bun Ruang before. If you need reminding let me know. Bricks are 1 baht each or 1.5 baht delivered.

Good job. Thank you and see you in a couple of months!

What Family is all About

I often write about the ah hoc nature of living here. I wake up alarm-free with no agenda or schedule and the day unfolds the way it happens. I am always surprised at how things just turn up to fill in time and prevent any thought of boredom. Today has been a good example.

Early (for me!) the bricks arrived, a day before they were expected (they had phoned Gaun for the OK). Then the family came over as Gaun had booked Lud and his son Game to build a couple of gateways for me. Yuan, mama and Duk Dik made a surprise visit – mama’s longest walk so far since the stroke.

We then headed to Si Bun Ruang central to do some shopping as Yuan wants to make a donation to a Buddhist monk who did some ‘work’ for mama just after she had her stroke. An afternoon trip to sister number one’s village 30 minutes away might be on the cards to make the presentation to the monk. If not today then tomorrow. All of this and it’s only midday.

As always the family help us if they are able without any demand for payment. Lud and Game came, did the work then left. I knew they wouldn’t take money afterwards so a bottle of Lao Kao for Game and some tobacco for Lud had since been delivered.

Lud and Game. The uprights to this timber gateway are already in position but the crosspiece has been waiting for the guys to have some spare time. This is Mai Dang timber – super hardwood and a two person lift.

Mama arrives to supervise the building 🙂

Yuan (Gaun’s younger sister) examining Gaun’s new cacti collection. Note Yuan is doing that wonderful Thai squat, which means you have a virtual chair wherever you go.

As always Gaun is right in there helping out and making sure it is perfect. I am an optional accessory.

Gaun, Yuan, mama and Duk Dik.

Duk Dik, the world’s scruffist family dog had a bath yesterday although that is hard to believe I know. This is one of the better village dogs as he rarely barks and is fiercely loyal to the main characters in the family.

Wife to one worker and mum to the other keeping an eye on the process.

This is the second gateway, although this one goes nowhere. This is a little area Gaun has developed herself and she installed these posts as well as doing the paving and concreting.

The daughters take mama home, which is only 100 metres from us. For an Isaan family I love we have the ideal position in the village.

The crosspiece in place. I have since bought some natural rope to replace the temporary red one and the buffalo bells will be reinstalled as will my fibre optic broadband cable! All the timber has yet to be treated.

The last of the Feb 2018 photo comparisons I’ll post.

A few misc photos from today. I have show you these flowers before. I am delighted with them because the first batch died and I thought that was that but then it threw out this new collection.

Game’s Honda bike dressed up with all the boy’s own goodies.

A good friend contacted me today asking if I could source 20 handbags and send them to her. It reminded me of a bag we bought ages ago for my dear sister-in-law Samantha Koren, which has been patiently waiting for its new owner to visit us again. Rather nice.

The end of another batch of small stories that I hope you have enjoyed. Many of you are leaving comment these days and I thank you for that.

Tony