Well not THE final but the last one I will be publishing as a result of our latest visit here. It started with a hospital visit with Peng HERE and is finishing with us completing what I wanted to achieve on planning for our house build later this year. I am hoping to hit the road for Chiang Mai on Tuesday. This post is a mix of stories, but you already suspected that was going to happen didn’t you 🙂

The main thing that has been keeping us in Isaan has been the drawing up of our house plans through the Tessa Baan, or planning department, in Si Bun Ruang. We collected the almost finished plans yesterday, which ended up costing $260.00, more than expected but still a good result. A cost analysis for the materials required will be ready for collection next week along with the final specifications for the roof structure.

The plans were sufficiently advanced to give to a builder recommended by the family last night. He must be in his 70’s but can actually read plans, which is not always the case with builders here many of whom do it as a sideline in-between harvests! This guy does it for a living and today we inspected a huge house/business he is currently building in Si Bun Ruang central. Much grander and more complicated than ours so he shouldn’t have any trouble with our simple design. He can start November, which is when we move here, and the house will take 3 months to finish, which has us in before the super-hot season starts.

He was back this morning to present a quote, which ended up included a grilling by the family. His charge for all labour, including his own, works out to around $13,000! I buy all the materials and he builds. The best of both worlds.

The family conference with the builder this morning. One in all in.

The family conference with the builder this morning. One in all in.

He had a friend do a cost analysis overnight, on the back of a rice packet I suspect, and thinks we can build all up for around $40,000. I will be adding a lot of farang type comforts and necessities so even if we say $60,000, that would still be an amazing outcome. This is for a house with two en-suites and 160 sq mtrs living space with around 300 sq mtrs under roofline. On that basis we can build the larger version of what I wanted, which I didn’t think we could do. A cautiously happy man today.
The house design.

The house design. Covered by a rectangular roof one metre beyond the widest points to form two large separate outdoor undercover areas.

Sister number 2 has worked for a Chinese family in Udon Thani for decades. They have a builder’s supply business and the family expect that we can buy whatever they are able to provide for a good discount. This project is a big thing for them as well as me and it will be a team effort. I am once again slightly overwhelmed with the automatic level of support that is offered to me, someone they haven’t know for long at all.
We have some paperwork to complete on Monday, which will hopefully register the land and give us a resident’s book. The provision of all services is  based around that book and it adds us to the official Moo Baan role of residents I think. If that goes OK we will be heading back to CM on Tuesday, as I said before. I am looking forward to getting back “home” and I know Gaun is fretting about her garden there. She continues to expand her new garden here:
These plants were spotted by Yuan and Lud, a price agreed and now repotted they are Gaun's latest addition to her plant collection. $10.00 each including pots.

These plants were spotted by Yuan and Lud in another Moo Baan, a price agreed and now re-potted they are Gaun’s latest addition to her plant collection. $10.00 each including pots.

The trip to Nong Bua Lamphu, our local bigger neighbouring town, to buy the pots shown above also gave us an opportunity to price small “starter” plants for the hedge we plan to establish around the land. Thais, if they can afford it, and many farang as well build concrete walls, which are expensive and rather bleak in my opinion. We will put in a five strand barbed wire fence around three sides, mainly to discourage mushroom hunting wanderers! and dogs and then plant up on either side of the fence with hundreds of hedging shrubs. A permanent watering system fed from our bore will keep things alive in the long dry season. A two meter high hedge can be achieved in a few years in this tropical climate.

$0.10 each. Less for bulk.

$0.10 each. Less for bulk.

The front of the land facing the road will have a concrete wall with an electric sliding gate to the entranceway just to impress the neighbours!

Another recent trip to Nong Bua Lamphu allowed us to eat at my favourite stall, which does a great BBQ pork lunch. Nothing at all to look at from the outside. All food preparation done in the front, with pork, fish and chicken cooked over state of the art equipment. Inside is simple, clean and airconditioned. Food brought in to you. Free water and ice – help yourself on the right as you come through the door. If you are ever in the area you can find this eatery here: N 17 12.982 E 102 25.603!

Typical Thai. Not a tourist beauty photo. This is what real Thailand is like.

Typical Thai. Not a tourist beauty photo. This is what real Thailand is like.

Everything you need.

Everything you need. Make your choice and it is cut up and brought inside.

Beautiful tasty pork with sticky rice, sauce and a few raw veggies. Yum.

Beautiful tasty pork with sticky rice – in those little baskets, sauce and a few raw veggies. Yum. Under $10.00 with enough for two or three people. Gaun is pointing to free Longan fruit provided for dessert. Growing everywhere at this time of year. If you are paying more than $0.30 a kilo you are being ripped off!

The trip back from buying pots had us stopping at this Wat, courtesy of Lud, who suggested a visit and knew where it was. Known to the family because one the sons of a neighbour took monk-hood there and is still in residence, although not on the day we visited.

Entrance to this lovely Wat.

Entrance to this lovely Wat. Thai chaos on the other side of that gate.

A striking tree sets the scene for this nature based Wat.

A striking tree sets the scene for this nature based Wat.

Everyday Isaan, or my bit of it anyway, is a pretty much a cleared landscape and the only Wats I have seen are the two local ones in Si Bun Ruang, which are nothing special. The Wat belonging to our Moo Baan in particular is unkempt and not worth a visit. Gaun says “Monk lazy, spend money on lottery”, and she could be right. They are currently building a large new addition to the Wat while the current structure is decaying through neglect.

A testiment to the desire to gain merit by building new rather than maintain the current.

A testament to the desire of Thais to gain Buddhist merit by building new rather than maintain the current.

It was wonderful then to enter the grounds of this Wat, which was both immaculate and surrounded by beautifully lush vegetation. A cool, peaceful place just off the main road to Si Bun Ruang and totally invisible unless you knew it was there.

The central temple building is only small but well looked after.

The central temple building is only small but well looked after.

The main entrance.

The main entrance.

Lud and me after making an offering.

Lud and me after making an offering at the outside Buddha area. If in the presence of a monk it is more advisable to sit in the position Lud is demonstrating. To sit as I am is to replicate the monks, an implication that one is at the same level as them and could be seen as a no no.

This seems to be a place designed for meditation and retreat rather than imposing structures. The formal temple buildings are modest but there are many different accommodation buildings, some larger like the compound for nuns below and others more modest set in the huge forested grounds of the Wat.

A separate for the nuns.

A separate building for nun accommodation.

Paths lead away to small individual houses set in the trees.

Paths lead away to small individual houses set in the trees. A great place just to wander in solitude.

A full circle can be done around a large pond. Candles line the path.

A full circle can be walked around a large pond. Candles line the path.

One of the monk's houses.

One of the older style monk’s houses.

Complete with shower!

Complete with shower!

We called into the house of the monk the family knew but he wasn't there.

We called into the house of the monk the family knew but he wasn’t there. It looked very tidy and I wouldn’t mind spending some time there myself.

The dappled light and more intimate settling was a pleasant change from the  broader landscapes and large sky outside the Wat.

The dappled light and more intimate setting was a pleasant change from the broader landscapes and large sky outside the Wat.

The forest Wat can be found at GPS N 17 02.040 E 102.20.454.

I have been keeping an eye on my surrogate mama’s house extension build, which is happening a couple of doors down from the family home. For those of you who haven’t been following the blog, my Thai surrogate mama is the yai or old lady who stood in for my own mother at the marriage to my now wife Gaun HERE.  She is just a delightful person, all four foot and a few inches of her! She is adding three bedrooms and a living area to her house, which unlike so many, is well maintained and has concrete in all the places where mud usually prevails this time of the year in the village.

I went over recently to see what progress had been made and the outcome is a vivid demonstration why Thais generally don’t understand what we farangs are on about in building our style of house over here.

The extension.

The extension. This is probably about as furnished as it will get.

You can see the three bedrooms off on the right. Super small, just big enough for a double bed and nothing else:

Spacious it ain't but keep in mind that a "normal" Thai bedroom can often be a large room with mattresses on the floor.

Spacious it ain’t but keep in mind that a “normal” Thai bedroom can often be a shared large room with mattresses on the floor. No glass or fly-screens.

Funnily the doors into the bedrooms are about 1.8 meters high, good enough for a small old lady owner but not so good for tall farang. The tiling is quite the go for Thailand. Bright and often clashing colours are normal and these tiles are quite restrained in design compared with some. It is not my taste but then it is not my house. The tiling seems to be laid in many building projects well before the actual construction is complete, which is really odd. We would leave the tiling right to the end to prevent damage. Thais work to a different sequence, except in the house they will build for me 🙂

This is a time consuming and expensive option on display here. Wood is not cheap and the design takes a lot of time to achieve.

This is a time consuming and expensive option on display here. Wood is not cheap and the design takes a lot of time to achieve.

That raised effect in a closer view. All done individually.

That raised effect in a closer view. All cut individually.

One of the daughters telling Gaun that the builder is going to have to add another step here given the size of the family using them!

One of the daughters telling Gaun that the builder is going to have to add another step here given the virtually challenged nature of the family using them! Even Gaun looks tall in this household.

No insulation in true Thai form. So little cost for such a benefit in heat transfer.

No insulation in true Thai form. So little cost for such a benefit in preventing heat transfer.

The usual dirt or mud this time of year covered over. All neat and well looked after.

The usual dirt or mud at this wet time of year covered over here. All neat and well looked after.

My surrogate mama off to give lunch to the local monks.

My surrogate mama off to give lunch to the monks at the local Wat – the unkempt one 🙂

She didn't have to walk too far. A lift is offered and accepted!

She didn’t have to walk too far. A lift is offered and accepted!

I thought I would finish this bunch of stories with a couple of examples of things you will never see in Australia. I have been meaning to get this photo for a while and today was the day. Taken opposite the local markets in Si Bun Ruang central:

This is a TV and electrical REPAIR shop. Yes, Thais have a cost of labour that allows things to be fixed and not just thrown out.

This is a TV and electrical REPAIR shop. Yes, Thais have a cost of labour structure that allows things to be fixed and not just thrown out.

This guy was going through our Moo Baan this afternoon letting people know he could fix all electrical type problems. Just pull him over and he will get to work. Try and get an electrician in Australia to even turn up let alone effectively knock on your door!

This guy was going through our Moo Baan with a loud speaker this afternoon letting people know he could fix electrical problems. Just pull him over and he will get to work. Try and get an electrician in Australia to even turn up let alone effectively knock on your door! A bit cheaper too I suspect.

A couple of photos to finish. Walking through the markets this afternoon this little guy popped out to say hello. He was chained underneath a ute so I hope his owners remembered before driving off.

Small friendly dog.

Small friendly dog. Please don’t forget me…..

Gaun is making up some powerful Isaan chilli paste for my sister-in-law Sam. The final ingredients were bought today and a fiery concoction made up by Gaun with Peng’s help this afternoon. Gaun tells me she has toned it down for Sam but her definition of a mild chilli sauce is in a completely different dictionary from mine.

Peng in action.

Peng in action.

I hope you have enjoyed the stories I have written from Isaan on this visit. I have a post to catch up on some stories and sights from our recent trip to the North of Thailand HERE and HERE. It will cover the gardens at the Royal palace of Doi Tung I originally wrote about HERE and a couple of re-visits in Chiang Rai. After that we will search out some new entries for you to read over coffee, tea or something a little stronger.

We travel to Hong Kong on 2 September to stay with good friends on their harbour houseboat and that trip will be well covered here. Friends arrive for a ten day visit starting 30 September and then we fly Peng, Gaun’s daughter down, her first plane trip, to spend time with us in Chiang Mai mid-October before we pack up and move to Isaan permanently on 31 October. A busy time with lots of stories to tell.

Thanks for reading.