A couple of very minor changes to this regular posting of everyday stories about life in a small Esan rural village, in the northeast of Thailand. Firstly I have changed the title again and it will now be Esan Village Life. The previous title was Living in Isaan  (17 editions) and the original series was called Isaan – the Small Stories  (31 posts). Most of my stories are nothing more than sharing life spent living in the village so it seems appropriate to match the header with the content.

I have also decided to also adopted a spelling of Esan, rather than my previous spelling of Isaan that I have used in the blog up to now. As I have written before there is no formally correct English spelling for Thai language. The spelling you see is phonetic (how it sounds) so your guess is as correct as anyone else’s. However there are more generally accepted spellings for many words, although place names are very hit and miss. Back to the spelling of Isaan/Isan/Esan. I have always spelt it Isaan, picked up from something I read in the early days. However, the more popularly recognised spelling, based on Google search terms, is Esan, which from the way it is pronounced with a more ‘E” than ‘I’ sound makes sense.

I will be changing to Esan from now on because when running a website search terms are important. Better late than never. If you are interested in comparing search words then the service offered by Google Trends is invaluable and you can find it HERE. Once you have entered your terms remember to change it to worldwide, from the default US, if you want a broader spread of results.

Introduction – Skip if you are a regular reader

You will find many expats writing blogs about life in the coastal centres and places like Chiang Mai, which for the many westerners with connection via their Thai partner to Esan is not very helpful. There are some excellent Facebook resources as well as blogs I am sure that focus on Esan life in the bigger centres and focus more on answering questions and exchanging tops and tricks, but not so many writing as regularly as I do on what village life actually looks like from the inside.

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.

This edition covers all of July 2108. 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. I haven’t included topics in this edition that I have already published on the blog in July, so the dates of these stories will jump around. They are very day by day accounts as a result. I hope you enjoy them.

The blog posts I wrote for July were:

Renovating an Isaan Rice Hut 6th July HERE

The Dan Sai Ghost Mask Festival 8thy July HERE

Wat Pa See Vichi 8th July HERE

A Thailand Tropical Garden – Update 3 16th July HERE

Wat Pa Keson Sin Khun Thamma Chedi 21st July HERE

and finally Mushrooms & Monks 28th July HERE

6 July 2018 – R & B Cafe Si Bun Ruang

One for locals with kids and for you outsiders another small insight into life here 

There are four newish, or new to me, cafes that have opened in Si Bun Ruang, our local town. As part of my unselfish dedication to Isaan life I will try them all out and report the good and ugly.

R&B Cafe may have been there forever, or I have just noticed it. It had a slightly rundown feel but that could be just as a result of the standard poor maintenance. However, leaving that aside, it does have a decent pool out the back, which had spotless water, and for any locals with kids you could sit and have a cool drink while the young folk had a splash or vice versa. I don’t know if there is a charge for use of the pool but even if there was it is still a good option.

Inside is air conditioned and funky. I especially liked the Christmas decorations! The drinks are more expensive at about A$2.00 for a large mango and banana shake but it is upmarket for SBR.

R&B is located shortly after the SBR hospital heading out on the right. On Google Maps you’ll find it here: https://goo.gl/1Tokmy

As is often the case a lot of money goes into an initial investment, which is then left to gradually fall apart. It all felt a little used and things like the windows not having been cleaned in months detracts from the appearance.

A small but clean looking pool. Sit in one of those salas at the back with a drink and keep an eye on the kids. Life could be worse

From the cafe looking towards the pool.

And the reverse view. Plastic grass.

Gaun with our friend from Australia Gary Emms

Inside was clean and colourful. The young girl who served us was bored, but as we were probably her first customers for the day I can relate. They do serve a range of steaks and other food including Isaan of course.

A clever use of some barrels. I wouldn’t go there again but as a reasonable place to stop for a drink it is better than the SBR average.

7 July 2018 – A Timber House in Prayao

I know there are a few of you who are Thai timber house enthusiasts and I thought I would share this one with you. It belongs to Shane, an Aussie, and his wife Kannika who bought an old timber house and then used that as the basis for a merged western/Thai home in Phayao, in the far north of Thailand (Chiang Rai way).

Shane originally contacted me via this blog was kind enough to update me with regular photos of their build. Shane and Kannika recently completed the main work and moved into the house and I think it looks brilliant. This is five star timber house living – comfort with style.

Shane is a keen Jim Thompson House person (a must see in Bangkok HERE) and is wanting to develop their garden along the same lines as Jim and myself. Sadly in more recent news Shane and Kannika informed me they had to return to Australia for a while so they didn’t have too much time to enjoy their newly completed home. It will be patiently waiting for their return.

This photo taken before it was finished, but nearly there. Big open areas, a cool under house retreat and characterful timber. Nice.

Shane had an old waterpot and it was cut in half to make two features. You can see the top being used as a tree surround and the bottom as a water feature. Great idea.

I like the pathway to the door made from a darker tile.

Water features must be part of a tropical house and this one incorporated into the entrance is a nice touch.

Very resort style.

You don’t get more Thai rural than that!

Western standards in a timber house.

Traditional open plan to let available breezes flow through the house.

Love the small double doors and lilies in the foreground.

An open kitchen area.

What a great place to take in rural life.

 

What a nice place to relax.

One of Shane’s last photos of their home before heading back to Australia. courtesy of a newly purchased drone.

11 July 2018 – Guttering and Buffalos

One of the joys of village living is that if you wait long enough everything you ever desire will pass by your front gate! I heard the advertising for gutters this morning (I do have some Thai words) and sure enough on their next sweep through the village they came down our road.

I wanted guttering for the rice hut to keep roof rain off the decking and at the back water pouring into the clothes drying area and garden shed. I also thought guttering would finish off the look of the hut at the front. 45 minutes later 12 metres of guttering had been installed at a cost of $70.00 (150 baht a metre supplied and installed).

Pull them over and ten minutes later they are working on your gutters.

The ends and downpipes are made by hand soldered in place.

I only added this photo because he was an unusually tall Thai, and I thought had made a good career choice.

Remember the two Buffalo yokes I was given by Gaun’s uncle? I mentioned these in a previous post. This was their original state.

And today. They have been treated and with some natural rope now hang at the end of the rice hut. Perfect.

You would never know this beautiful timber was underneath that grime in the previous photo would you?

More colour in this one. Each one is unique. Gaun spotted an old wooden plough next door but the house is mostly vacant so we will have to wait until the owners make an appearance to make an offer (They did and the plough is now part of the Eastmead collection).

Modern and old.

The edging for the paths is going in and finishes the paving off nicely. The groundcover plants will overhang the path and soften the look over time.

Gaun with a recently flowering Crepe Myrtle bush. Her love of flowers shows. 

This corner of the garden on 8 June 2018.

And one month later with rice hut! The guttering isn’t too intrusive and cleans up the end of the iron roof, which was a bit messy.

A closer look at the guttering. I built a small table yesterday, which has yet to be stained. It will come in useful for…………….

…………..morning coffee and evening drinks.

11 July 2018 – Time Spent with a Friend

We had a Gary Emms a friend from Australia recently visit us for three days and I thought I would show you some of the range of simple but uniquely Isaan things we did during his time here.

On the way back from an afternoon in Udon Thani for lunch and shopping after picking Gaz up from the airport we stopped into this newly constructed wat in the hills overlooking Nong Bua Lamphu. You’d need a strong person pushing a wheelchair up this slope but at least the option is available. 

Two 1 km long dragons lead up to the crest of the hill with a huge Buddha statue (not this one – see photo 1) keeping an eye on this part of Isaan.

The view looking towards the hills of Loei where we drove recently to see the Ghost Mask festival covered in a recent blog post HERE.

The 2nd of each month are the markets in central Si Bun Ruang. A few oddities were purchased by Gaz for a man cave in southern Australia. I bought the cure to a cough I have had for ages from this lady. My cough will be fixed but I will probably turn blue.

21 Oct update – it did nothing but I stayed my normal rather pale colour – so not all bad news.

Out to the farm to see the newly planted rice.

Lud wanted to show Gaz off to the locals so even a simple thing like buying ice needed a farang companion!

Lunch and drinks at the farm.

A very strong Thai massage provided by a lady called Nit Noy, which means “a little bit” and she doesn’t feel like that when she’s standing on you. She was planting rice but cleaned up for this massage. She is hard but excellent. 2 hours for 300 baht ($12.00)

We popped into our local forest wat where they were working on making monk statues using these molds. The mold is made from the plastic and then the statues from the mold.

Why one should want lots of statues of the same monks is a puzzle. Practice makes perfect maybe. You will often see a lot of emphasis being placed on individual monks rather than Buddha here. I have collection of bookmarks, badges, ornaments and books I’ve been given by various monks of other living monks!

This is a such a friendly monk. He speaks a little English. and gave us cool drinks, coffee and showed us around. We have been invited an event being held towards Udon Thani on the 21st, which will be attended by the abbot of this wat (called Dit for regularly readers). Photos to follow.

A forest wat so huge timber going into building the main Buddha hall. Gaun and Yuan to give you an idea of size.

Drinks at a local cafe the one covered earlier.

Gaun spotted this happening on the drive out. Mats being woven by hand.

A community event.

This one is unusually detailed and a lot more expensive as a result. Most have very simple straight-line patterns. Gaz bought one for the cave back home.

A visit to one of my favourite timber wats close to Gaun’s eldest sister. You’d never find it normally. This could be the reception to a five star resort but it’s the utility shed for this temple.

Stunningly simple.

Yuan and Gaun playing up. The monks use this trolley to move timber. This is a huge wat and the only people here other than us was a lady sweeping.

Great wood as always in these temples.

Onto another temple, this one in Nong Bua Lamphu, that I wrote about recently in a blog post HERE.

An even more impressive Buddha hall.

Tiered Buddhas.

And the cactus farm at this wat was a surprise.

Raising money for more building.

A drive in the opposite direction another day for lunch at Noi’s Kitchen and a visit to yet another timber wat. The building is less impressive but the surroundings are beautifully maintained and very peaceful.

These paths lead off into the greenery. Forest monks do a lot of walking meditation. Environments like this would help that.

The countryside as we drove back.

An early start to Gaz’s final day to drop him at the airport. Peng was sleeping at mama’s home and here is the final photo as Peng waits for her school bus. Enjoyable as always Gaz.

13 July 2018 – Longan

Every Friday Si Bun Ruang has markets, which Yaun attends to sell whatever is growing at the farm. Today Peng is spending the day with her because for some strange reason army cadets have moved into her school for an extended training session and 3,000 students have been given a ten day holiday as a result!

Peng decided that she’d make some pocket money at the markets too, plus she enjoys spending time with Yaun her second mum, so our garden was raided for papaya and longan fruit.

A basket-full of papaya. Green of course for papaya salad. Gaun doing what mum’s the world over do – the hard work while their kids enjoy the benefits 🙂

What is Gaun up to?

Picking Longan fruit. Masses on this tree.

Longan in case you didn’t know – not my photo.

A bit like a lychee. We are currently harvesting the following from the garden: papaya, longan, mangos (only a few left), chillies, mint, custard apples, lemongrass, basil – Thai and Isaan, ginger, galangal and a couple of other things that I have no idea of their name!

18 July 2018 – Timber and Farmhouse Extensions

Not much is happening today at the farm crop-wise because the rice is planted and new vegetables are still at the pre-harvesting stage. Everything is also very wet after two days of light but steady rain. So the project for the day is to extend the farmhouse to ensure the main “living” areas are better protected from sun and rain.

Yuan and Lud have lived in this farmhouse, which is in itself an extension of Gaun’s mama’s farm hut, for over twenty years now, so this is a cha cha (slowly slowly) Isaan-time project!

This is the sort of rural landscape you see all over Isaan this time of year and it is the way people picture Thailand. New rice and sugar here.

New crops on their way

The individual clumps of rice tells you that this has been planted by hand. If you see this same grouping but in straight lines, then it has been machine planted.

The end of the farmhouse that will be extended. Gaun is in the process of moving her roses! Yuan and Lud’s bedroom upstairs, the living room is two hammocks, kitchen and dining areas at the back.

These are trees harvested from a cousin’s land next door when she extended her sugar fields. Yuan wanted to use them before the termites got to them.

Yuan stripping the bark off and being careful about it. Why? Read on.

In Australia with old timber we look out for spiders, here it is scorpions. A small one here under the bark but even at this size a sting will be very painful.

And an even smaller one that also packs a punch way above its size. Farang eyes would never see it until it was too late. And where there are babies………………

………..mum or dad will be around somewhere! Now get hit by one of these and it’s a hospital visit. Funnily this one ran off and Lud and his son Game were happily moving the wood in bare feet! It was caught later, stinger removed and let go.

Another find. If you brush up against one of these caterpillars you will have a rash that stays around for ages. I speak from experience.

Teamwork.

This small example was heavy enough. Imagine the weight of absolutely huge pieces in the timber wats.

Like this temple I wrote about recently.

This is Mai Dang. It has a yellow colour unless stained or wet when it turns almost back. A super hard hardwood. These logs will form the columns for the extension. The rest of the frame will be eucalyptus with a corrugated steel roof. I will be sanding these posts back and staining them to bring out those beautiful colours.

Yuan gave us three Mai Dang for a gateway I want to make at home. Game is washing them down for us.

Once again that colour will be fixed once I varnish them. We can’t move them today because someone has died in the village and in one of those Isaan quirks, you can’t move timber that day! The eucalyptus can be bought and moved to the farmhouse because the shop and farm are outside the village!

Holes for the columns being dug by Yuan and Lud. Isaan women do as much manual work as the guys. The umbrella, which is usually shade from the sun, is today shelter from the rain.

This area to the right of the farmhouse is one of the two dining areas 🙂 and this photo was taken pre-Gaun taking over with another garden.

And this is the shady outcome post-Gaun.

By this evening the timber structure for the farm extension was finished. I want to put some insulation underneath the roofing before it goes on tomorrow as it faces west (setting sun) so we will be doing a quick drive to Global House (a DIY place) in Nong Bua Lamphu early morning. My contribution to the project.

The posts were in early afternoon.

900 baht worth of eucalyptus to build the roofing frame.

The roof going on. A neighbour and Game, Yuan and Lud’s sion.

What is Gaun up to?

Trimming TONY 🙂

The last photo taken from this position!

Gaun contemplating the final structure end of day while the sun sets in the background.

After three days of rain maybe tomorrow will be dry.

20 July 2018 – Extensions Complete

The farmhouse extension was finished yesterday complete with insulation – an Isaan first for a farmhouse I suspect. Total cost for all the materials for a 7 x 2.5 metre ‘veranda’ was about $150.00.

A warning for locals planting fruit trees included in this post.

Gaun and Yuan measuring out the insulation we bought. At only 629 baht ($25.00) to cover 20 sq mtrs it is a complete mystery to me why it isn’t used more often. Bare steel roofing in a 35+ degree heat is uncomfortable to sit under and this simple cheap solution makes all the difference.

Roof and insulation installed. The ground will be concreted come the dry season. We just can’t get heavy materials down the driveway ATM.

It has actually ended up looking pretty smart. The big timber pillars add character.

The steel roofing was bought cheap as ‘seconds’ from a place opposite the hospital (for locals). It is thin enough to cut with scissors as is happening here but it will do the job.

The view from the farmhouse veranda.

Peng wasn’t in building mode but spent the day at the farm lending sideline support (like me).

Remember this photo from a the last story showing Gaun picking longan fruit.

Well the weight of fruit plus recent rain split the tree and we now have a hole in the greenery at the edge of the garden. This is the second longan to split this way.

You see how the trunk divides in two at the base. Once it gets older this is an obvious weak point for the tree to split. I would recommend anyone planting trees that will have a heavy crop like longan, look for a single stem seedling or if there is a split that it is higher up like the example in the next photo.

This is a replacement plant for the other longan that split. You see that it too has a couple of main branches although they aren’t at the base, which would be more susceptible to rot.Gaun tells me that this one will be fine. Mind you are are talking ten years but at that stage a failed tree leaves a big gap in the landscaping.

Gaun has been hanging out to finish her area of the garden. A break in the rain yesterday allowed her to concrete the edging and rearrange her garden ornaments.

23 July 2018 – Searching for Timber

A search for Mai Dang hardwood led us into the wilds of Isaan on motorbikes this morning. And also a few photos of the other side of Gaun that we don’t see too often.

Regulars will know this photo as it is one of my favourite shots of the new garden.

I want to have a more dramatic entrance to this area by making a timber doorway separating old from new. Do you see the wooden post on the right. There’s a matching one on the left and I just need to replace that bamboo crosspiece with the same timber to create a gateway. Funnily I also need a crosspiece because my 80 kbps fibre optic internet line runs across the back of that piece of bamboo!

This is the timber we used cut at the farm and transported to home yesterday, which form the uprights to the gateway in the previous photo. Mai Dang hardwood.

The only problem is that we don’t have a long enough piece of timber to make the crosspiece. Yuan and Lud and been out at 3:00 am last night looking for mushrooms and had come across exactly what we needed at a farm in what Australians would call ‘bush’ a few km from her farm. This is the road into it.

Yuan showing us later this morning. We’d never have found it. The tall trees are Mai Dang. I don’t know what they are called in English.

The guy who owns this place makes charcoal. That beautiful hardwood will be cut up and turned into cooking material. Such a shame.

Hardwood laying around ready to be ‘baked’ into charcoal. I am hoping I can liberate a couple of pieces for my gateway and also a smaller version for a structure Gaun is building in her area of the garden.

Turn this into planks and what could you make? 

What a colour. A table out of this would be magnificent.

Several small rice paddies hidden away in an area cut into the bush.

New topic. Many of you will be used to the everyday photos of a working-Gaun like this one.

But less so of the other Gaun that makes an appearance sometimes off-Facebook. Haircut day for me so Gaun dressed up for a trip into Si Bun Ruang CBD 🙂 and she wanted a few photos taken of her and the garden.

I get the best of both worlds. A hard working gardener and a lady who scrubs up pretty well 🙂

Thanks for reading and if you need any more information about any of these topics or anything else please write to me at [email protected]