More small stories based on my everyday life in a Isaan rural village:

Photo Stories

A bike ride out to the family farm recently resulted in a few photos I thought I would share as they give more little insights to life here in Isaan. Each one has a story.

Another simple low-mortgage extension happening across the road from us. They brought in soil to raise the level for this structure, which will put the ground level of the main house underwater come the rains. Do you like the satellite dish. Got to get your priorities right.

Another simple low-mortgage extension happening across the road from us.

This is going to be a noodle shop (takeaway!) They brought in soil to raise the level for this structure, which will put the ground level of the main house underwater come the rains (It poured the other day and yes a new pond was formed in the village). Do you like the satellite dish. Got to get your priorities right.

I spotted this lady working a weaving loom on her front veranda. Some of the old crafts are still practiced in the moo ban although they will die out in time. You can still get hand woven silk here with silk worms raised at home and fed on mulberry leaves. Note the rainwater jar in the background. Every house has a few.

I spotted this lady working a weaving loom on her front veranda.

Some of the old crafts are still practiced in the moo ban although they will die out in time. You can still get hand woven silk here with silk worms raised at home and fed on mulberry leaves. Note the rainwater jar in the background. Every house has a few.

Our house from the next door neighbours place. They obviously aren't as keen gardeners as Gaun. I like our almost white roof as it blends into an often gray sky here.

Our house from the next door neighbours place. They obviously aren’t as keen gardeners as Gaun. I like our almost white roof as it blends into an often gray sky here.

The next door neighbour on the other side getting ready to plant vegetables using one of those multi-purpose tractor engines I have written about before. It can be taken off the plough and then put into a farm truck or used to pump water. This guy is usually a taxi driver in Bangkok and only comes home to family a few times a year.

The next door neighbour on the other side getting ready to plant vegetables using one of those multi-purpose tractor engines I have written about before.

It can be taken off the plough and then put into a farm truck or used to pump water. This guy is usually a taxi driver in Bangkok and only comes home to family a few times a year.

A government funded dam built on the edge of the village. If you can see the motorbike on the far right you will see this is a serious pond. No water of course but maybe I can show you a photo of it full later this year.

A government funded dam built on the edge of the village. If you can see the motorbike on the far right you will see this is a serious pond. No water of course but maybe I can show you a photo of it full later this year if we get rain.

Another stimulus package project. Built late last year it has yet to be used. I think it is supposed to be a storage shed for some community farms that sit behind it but no one asked them if they had anything to store! They obviously don't.

Another stimulus package project. Built late last year it has yet to be used. I think it is supposed to be a storage shed for some community farms that sit behind it but no one asked them if they had anything to store! They obviously don’t.

And one more. It seems that every school in Thailand has had new classrooms built during the last year. This is part of the primary school that is located in the moo ban. I presume it is being used but wouldn't put money on it.

And one more. It seems that every school in Thailand has had new classrooms built during the last year. This is part of the primary school that is located in the moo ban. I presume it is being used but wouldn’t put money on it.

This sign stands at the entrance to the village's community farms area. The farms are part of the royal family's commitment to self-sustainability, and the concept came as a result of the Asian financial crisis, which hit Thailand very hard. The lady on the left is one of the princesses who is much admired by many Thais. She is a tireless worker for her country whatever you might think of royalty.

This sign stands at the entrance to the village’s community farms area. The farms are part of the royal family’s commitment to self-sustainability, and the concept came as a result of the Asian financial crisis, which hit Thailand very hard.

The lady on the left is one of the princesses who is much admired by many Thais. She is a tireless worker for her country whatever you might think of royalty.

The farms are small plots of land given to people who don't have their own and they are used to grow crops for sale or for their own use. The workers are mostly elderly women.

The farms are small plots of land given to people who don’t have their own and they are used to grow crops for sale or for their own use. The workers are mostly elderly women.

You get an idea of the width from the positioning of the two women talking to Gaun. Very narrow but quite long. Enough to provide for a family plus maybe some left over to sell at the local markets. Every bit helps.

You get an idea of the width from the positioning of the two women talking to Gaun. Very narrow but quite long. Enough to provide for a family plus maybe some left over to sell at the local markets. Every bit helps.

Thai basil being grown on one of the plots - this is the one with an aniseed smell that you will taste if you order a Thai coconut milk based meal.

Thai basil being grown on one of the plots – this is the one with an aniseed smell that you will taste if you order a Thai coconut milk based meal.

This is what Gaun calls Isaan basil, which has quite a strong lemon smell to it. Quite a different flavour.

This is what Gaun calls Isaan basil, which has quite a strong lemon smell to it. Quite a different flavour.

A yai or old lady working on her plot. She told Gaun that she wanted to talk to the farang and wished she could speak English. One of the other yai asked Gaun if she could find her a farang that wanted an old Thai lady :-) The elderly are respected here and have important social and family status. Good news for me :-)

A yai, which means grandmother in Thai and is a respectful term (thank you MIke – see comments) working on her plot.

She told Gaun that she wanted to talk to the farang and wished she could speak English. One of the other yai asked Gaun if she could find her a farang that wanted an old Thai lady 🙂 If you feel you fit this category please get in contact. The elderly are respected here and have important social and family status. Good news for me 🙂

We met the guy who owns a manaw (lime) plantation next to the family farm when we arrived. Gaun asked him for a kilo of limes as we were running low. He jumped on his motorbike and returned ten minutes with a bag of them just picked. $2.00 for the kilo.

We met the guy who owns a manaw (lime) plantation next to the family farm when we arrived. Gaun asked him for a kilo of limes as we were running low. He jumped on his motorbike and returned ten minutes with a bag of them just picked. $2.00 for the kilo.

Back home here's me working hard in the kitchen. Truthfully an illusion as I am one of the most spoiled men in history.

Back home here’s me working hard in the kitchen. Truthfully an illusion as I am one of the most spoiled men in history.

Those manaws are not just for cooking but this evening they are being used for a Mojito cocktail to help me recover from that bike ride. This is a Thai rum called Sang Som. Very tasty as a mixer and only $10.00 a bottle. Not a bad way to finish a hot tropical day.

Those manaws are not just for cooking but this evening they are being used for a Mojito cocktail to help me recover from that bike ride. This is a Thai rum called Sang Som. Very tasty as a mixer and only $10.00 a bottle. Not a bad way to finish a hot tropical day.

I have just realised that this is my second push for SangSom in this and the last post. You will either think I have shares in the company or am a typical farang drunk or both and I am not confirming or denying either 🙂

Happy Birthday Gaun

Birthdays aren’t a big thing in Thailand. Gaun doesn’t even know when her family’s birthdays are. I only found out Yuan’s birthday, Gaun’s younger sister and best friend, when I was copying her ID card one day. Since I turned up with my odd farang customs they are taking more interest. Yuan forgot her husband’s birthday this year but when I arrived with gifts she threw a party the next evening.

We collected Gaun's traditional sarong from the dressmaker yesterday. Photos were in order to mark the occasion. Flowers from our garden.

We collected Gaun’s traditional sarong from the dressmaker the day before Gaun’s birthday. Photos were in order to mark the occasion. Flowers from our garden.

We were up early on the morning to give food to the monks. Gaun does it regularly but I less so as it is at 6 am! There are two local temples supported by the village. One is the big one in the moo ban itself, which is a traditional Thai wat and the other a Pha wat (pha = forest), which is a more pure line of Buddhism practice (A few photos later in this post). This temple is just being built maybe 3 kms outside the village. The monk from this one walks in every morning, collects his food and walks back.

This photo taken opposite Gaun's family home. The monk from the pha wat doing the rounds. Note the three attendees - Gaun, her daughter Peng and a small dog.

This photo taken opposite Gaun’s family home. The monk from the pha wat doing the rounds. Note the three attendees – Gaun, her daughter Peng and a small dog.

Always barefoot to collect food and always slightly shocked to see a farang.

Always barefoot to collect food and always slightly shocked to see a farang.

Heading off down our soi (road). The orange monk robes and lush tropical greenery are the colours of Thailand for me. Our house is just past the monk on the left.

Heading off down our soi (road). The orange monk robes and lush tropical greenery are the colours of Thailand for me. Our house is just past the monk on the left.

Everything moved over to the other side of the road. This is the abbot from the moo ban wat.

Everything moved over to the other side of the road. This is the abbot from the moo ban wat.

Peng making merit.

Peng making merit.

And the monk heads off down the main road of the moo ban.

And the monk heads off down the main road of the moo ban returning to his wat, which is at the end of this soi.

Feeding monks is a part of normal morning ritual here. You will see many houses set up with food from about 6 am and people waiting for the monks to come around. No food and the monks don’t eat. The monks have two meals a day – a breakfast and then one late morning. They can only take liquids after noon.

Interestingly because there are two temples people set up on the left side of the road for the forest wat donations and the right hand side for the local temple. Monks from a pha wat won’t give a formal blessing, the one’s from the traditional temples will. Only two monks today, one from each.

The monk gave a special blessing as it was Gaun's birthday, which involved Gaun pouring water into a bowl. Once the blessing is over the water is then given to a plant with a Buddhist prayer. Gaun doing that here. If in Thailand, although easier with a Thai speaker, do ask a monk for a blessing if you visit a wat. They are usually around and happy to do it. It allows you to touch the culture and gain some Buddhist merit points as a bonus!

The monk gave a special blessing as it was Gaun’s birthday, which involved Gaun pouring water into a bowl. Once the blessing is over the water is then given to a plant with a Buddhist prayer. Gaun doing that here.

If in Thailand, although easier with a Thai speaker, do ask a monk for a blessing if you visit a wat. They are usually around and happy to do it. It allows you to touch the culture and gain some Buddhist merit points as a bonus!

I am not sure how I became so lucky. Maybe those merit points paid out. Happy birthday Gaun.

I am not sure how I became so lucky. Maybe those merit points paid out. Happy birthday Gaun.

A Traditional Isaan Village House

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A typical Isaan home compound. The house is on the right. Buffalo would have been kept underneath in their day. Gaun can remember riding buffalo out to the farm when she was a child after school, when they provided all the “tractor” power. Many of these spaces have now been enclosed and upstairs isn’t used much. Timber construction and very basic.

The hut on the left is for rice storage. Many Isaan rural houses have them and they are stocked with a year’s supply. What is left over at the end is sold and the new crop added for those with access to a rice farm and who have had a crop during this drought.

The wood is probably for cooking. A lot of charcoal also still used here (see further on in this post). A packed clay ground – deadly slippery in the wet and sticks to everything like chewing gum.

Time with the Monks

We dropped my stepdaughter Peng off to the Si Bun Ruang temple recently to join a three day Buddhist retreat with other classmates before school started the following week after the long Songkran (Thai New Year) holidays. BTW Thai kids only get two formal holiday breaks a year in April (around six weeks) and October (two weeks).

It shows how important the Buddhist connection still is, although I suspect it is breaking down with young people along with many of the other traditional cultural beliefs in Thailand as elsewhere.

Despite the incredibly early hour I was awake enough to take a few snaps that I thought I would share.

Mini monks on broom duty. Most of these guys will be back at school and out of the orange next week. The deciduous trees are only now starting to get new growth.

Mini monks on broom duty. Most of these guys will be back at school and out of the orange next week. The deciduous trees are only now starting to get new growth.

Booking in. Lots of kids and one mum (Gaun).

Booking in. Lots of kids and one mum (Gaun).

This is where they sleep. No phones allowed for the three days. Counselors on hand to help with the withdrawal symptoms and panic attacks :-)

This is where they sleep. No phones allowed for the three days. Counselors on hand to help with the withdrawal symptoms and panic attacks 🙂

Most of the group in attendance.

Most of the group in attendance.

You know a Thai meeting is happening. We were always going to start a no shoes in house policy in Canberra but it never happened. Now I never even think about taking my shoes off and on the very occasional times I go inside with shoes it feels really strange. Don't bring lace-up shoes to Thailand. They will drive you crazy!

You know a Thai meeting is happening. We were always going to start a no shoes in house policy in Canberra but it never happened.

Now I never even think about taking my shoes off and on the very occasional times I go inside with shoes it feels really strange. Don’t bring lace-up shoes to Thailand. They will drive you crazy!

Part of the temple. This is the ordination wat and isn't open to the public.

Part of the temple. This is the ordination wat and isn’t open to the public.

If you want your ashes and a few lucky bones to sit in Si Bun Ruang than I have just the spot. Be quick. Thai driving will ensure this space is taken soon.

If you want your ashes and a few lucky bones to sit in Si Bun Ruang than I have just the spot. Be quick. Thai driving will ensure this space is taken soon.

Like gravestones everywhere you always wonder about the stories. Quite a spread of ages here.

Like gravestones everywhere you always wonder about the stories. Quite a spread of ages here (bottom row).

A Thai version of tombstones. You won't find a living Thai person anywhere near this area at night. Gaun isn't even that keen in the daylight. Too many stray spirits (Gaun calls them ghosts!).

A Thai version of tombstones. You won’t find a living Thai person anywhere near this area at night. Gaun isn’t even that keen in the daylight. Too many stray spirits (Gaun calls them ghosts!).

An Awesome Burger in Isaan

90% of Facebook contributions, which is where this story originated, seem to be photos of food so I thought I would do my bit – but with a small story attached.

Thai takeaway as an end of week treat back in Australia was wonderful but I have to confess that on an everyday basis it is not my favourite style of food. I tend to be more mediterranean biased given a choice. A good lamb roast and veggies goes down well too. I cope with this in Thailand by eating about 50/50 Thai/western food.

The downside to living in a small Thai town as we do is that for obvious reasons all the eating places cater for the Isaan diet. There are so few of us in the area that the business to support a farang or mixed Thai/farang restaurant just isn’t there yet.

The next town to us 30 minutes drive away called Nong Bua Lamphu (Nong = lake, Bua = lotus, Lamphu = long hill – so a town with a lotus lake next to a hill) we are lucky to have a few western choices for when the munchies hit. There is an Italian pizza place run by two Italians, a sports bar owned by a New Zealander and a small pizza shop established by an Aussie called Chris.

A typical open shop front location. Not much in the way of atmosphere but excellent food.

A typical open shop front location. Not much in the way of atmosphere but excellent food.

100 THB = A$4.00 roughly.

100 THB = A$4.00 roughly.

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Gaun and a friend of ours visiting from Australia.

Gaun and a friend of ours visiting from Australia.

I can't tell you how happy I was to find a burger that looks like this :-) The Thais have no idea.

I can’t tell you how happy I was to find a burger that looks like this 🙂 The Thais have no idea.

I have only discovered this place recently and it has become my lunch stop for a top burger. The location is typical streetside but the food is fresh and tasty. The beetroot is homemade by a local guy. It isn’t a vegetable you see in the local markets. Bread baked on the premises, Aussie beef, local veggies, pineapple, egg and of course the beetroot served with a cold beer makes for a good combination.

Update 4 Mar 2017: Eat Me has closed as have both the alternative farang bar/eating places in Nong Bua Lamphu.

Wat Tham Sang Tham

This wat pops up in these posts regularly so I won’t spend too much time on this entry. The arrival of a friend from Canberra for a few days prompted a return to one of my favourite local temples Wat Tham Sang Tham. A massive construction built halfway up a cliff it is only partly finished but even so is an impressive sight.

Great views from the top, which makes the climb worthwhile. Difficult to find as it is literally in the middle of nowhere and well off the tourist route. If you want more details and lots of photos go HERE.

A sort of alien construction. Starwars?

A sort of alien construction. Starwars?

Only two workmen on site so don't expect completion anytime soon. Adding detail and painting.

Only two workmen on site so don’t expect completion anytime soon. Adding detail and painting.

Making clay moulds for the relief statues.

Making clay moulds for the relief statues.

The things us photographers do to get the ultimate shot. Phillip, my Canberra friend here.

The things us photographers do to get the ultimate shot. Phillip, my Canberra friend here.

Looking down on the temple area currently being worked on very slowly.

Looking down on the temple area currently being worked on very slowly.

Fields being prepared for new plantings.

Fields being prepared for new plantings.

A large thunderstorm building on my left shoulder..

A large thunderstorm building on my left shoulder..

Rain in the background. A great landscape.

Rain in the background. A great landscape.

A cooler smoky day. The smoke has mostly left but it does still roll in from time to time.

A cooler smoky day. The smoke has mostly left but it does still roll in from time to time.

Two cool dudes. No safety railings and a drop pretty well to the bottom with a couple of bounces. Most Thai kids seem to survive.

Two cool dudes. No safety railings and a drop pretty well to the bottom with a couple of bounces. Most Thai kids seem to survive.

The rainstorm hits just as we get to ground level. When it does rain here it REALLY rains. Wonderful to see after such a long period of dry.

The rainstorm hits just as we get to ground level. When it does rain here it REALLY rains. Wonderful to see after such a long period of dry.

Bun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival)

We have been busy following the small Bun Bang Fai festivals being held by the villages in our area. Bun Bang Fai is a festival of music, dancing and the launching of rockets all designed to encourage new rainfall at the beginning of the rice planting season. Held in May/June the celebrations are normally split over two days with a procession and dancing one day and then the launch of the rockets and more music the second.

This will be my last post on the subject (although I will write a post on the rockets next month) as we have covered it before. However the procession for two of the moo bans (villages) on the South side of Si Bun Ruang are always worth a visit as the locals put in an effort to present their dancing groups. The street party of a moo ban across the road from us is also great fun.

In mid-June all the villages combine under their Amphur (town) and put on a big main street procession. Si Bun Ruang town is made up of 12 moo bans so it is a big affair lasting several hours.

Some of the dance troupe arrive in bulk.

Some of the dance troupe arrive in bulk.

Each dance troupe is often lead by these couples on a horse - beautifully presented.

Each dance troupe is often lead by these couples on a horse – beautifully presented.

Lovely girl, lovely outfit.

Lovely girl, lovely outfit.

Believe it or not the dancer on the left is a ladyboy. Hard to tell sometimes. Ladyboys are often the artistic power behind events like this. You will see them leading the dancing and they most likely will have been central to makeup and the costumes too.

Believe it or not the dancer on the left is a ladyboy.

Hard to tell sometimes. Ladyboys are often the artistic power behind events like this. You will see them leading the dancing and they most likely will have been central to makeup and the costumes too.

Stunning.

Stunning.

They are up there to make sure the speakers get through low hanging power and internet cables. Another mini sound system.

They are up there to make sure the speakers get through low hanging power and internet cables. Another mini sound system.

Powered by this!

Powered by this!

A more low key event at a local moo ban. Here you can join in with the dancing but I won't embarrass myself with any photos of that!

A more low key event at a local moo ban. Here you can join in with the dancing but I won’t embarrass myself with any photos of that!

Gaun on the left with friends and her sister Yuan, third from the left.

Gaun on the left with friends and her sister Yuan, third from the left.

I bet the monks wish they were out of robes and having a beer with the rest of the party.

I bet the monks wish they were out of robes and having a beer with the rest of the party.

The procession ends up at the temple.

The procession ends up at the temple.

We called in briefly to Gaun’s eldest sister’s moo ban to join in their very small celebration mainly because we had an Aussie friend visiting and wanted him to experience this very local tradition.

The formal dance troupe, in this case a group of young schoolgirls, started off performing for the spirits at the san phra phum or spirit house area on the edge of a small lake before a short walk through the village and joining up with the less formal and more inebriated section of the party.

The dancers just finishing by the time we arrived.

The dancers just finishing by the time we arrived.

San phra phum or spirit houses. You see these everywhere in Thailand.

San phra phum or spirit houses. You see these everywhere in Thailand.

The music truck just making it out through the trees.

The music truck just making it out through the trees.

This yai or elder wanted her photo taken.

This yai wanted her photo taken.

Gaun with a niece who was all dressed up for the dancing. Gaun's handbag called "my dog" has been part of our family ever since I meet her.

Gaun with a niece who was all dressed up for the dancing. Gaun’s handbag called “my dog” has been part of our family ever since I meet her.

A hot procession through the main street. Note the iced water bucket left out for the dancers. These are always provided by households for any festival and quite often the water gets thrown over people rather than consumed!

A hot procession through the main street. Note the iced water bucket left out for the dancers. These are always provided by households for any festival and quite often the water gets thrown over people rather than consumed!

The sight of a farang always stops them dead.

The sight of a farang always stops them dead.

A group of four ladyboys travelled to the village to do the makeup for the dancers and then got involved in the party, as ladyboys tend to do :-) One of them lives in our moo ban and I included a photo of her in a previous post. In this photo you have the one dead centre and a larger version on the left.

A group of four ladyboys travelled to the village to do the makeup for the dancers and then got involved in the party, as ladyboys tend to do 🙂 One of them lives in our moo ban and I included a photo of her in a previous post. In this photo you have the one dead centre and a larger version on the left.

Although hardly spectacular I get so much enjoyment from observing and joining in with these local festivals. These are not people dressing up and doing stuff just for the tourist buses as you find in the more popular destinations. These are everyday Isaan people enjoying the day and just being themselves.

Aussie Muscle Car

I see this car quite often as it seems to do a regular run between our home town of Si Bun Ruang and the next place 30 km up the road called Nong Bua Lamphu. I missed the opportunity to talk (well getting Gaun to talk) to the owner this time to see if he knew how a 1972? Aussie XA Ford Fairmont ended up in the wilds of Isaan. Maybe next time.

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Photos from the Farm

A few miscellaneous recent photos from the farm with stories attached.

One of those all purpose diesel engines in action. Here being used by my brother-in-law Tham to plough the field for new plantings. If you apply what looks like a brake level on the handle it disengages the traction to that wheel. The other wheel still has power so the whole thing turns. Once you are back in the right direction you release the handle and both wheels engage. Still hot heavy work but better than buffalo.

One of those all purpose diesel engines in action. Here being used by my brother-in-law Tham to plough the field for new plantings.

If you apply what looks like a brake level on the handle it disengages the traction to that wheel. The other wheel still has power so the whole thing turns. Once you are back in the right direction you release the handle and both wheels engage. Still hot heavy work but better than buffalo.

The farmhouse lounge room! Three hammocks, a bit of shade and a fan and what else do you need. All that carpet and leather furniture is totally overrated.

The farmhouse lounge room! Three hammocks, a bit of shade and a fan and what else do you need. All that carpet and leather furniture is totally overrated.

The Thais are usually a lot better with their intake of water than us Aussie in a hot climate. There is always a bucket like this one around usually with iced water inside and a single metal cup shared by everyone. You will note that both Yuan and Gaun are well covered up, another thing we farang doesn't do well. How Thais work in the heat with balaclavas is beyond me. Most Isaan farm workers look like potential bank robbers.

The Thais are usually a lot better with their intake of water than us Aussie in a hot climate.

There is always a bucket like this one around usually with iced water inside and a single metal cup shared by everyone. You will note that both Yuan and Gaun are well covered up, another thing we farang doesn’t do well. How Thais work in the heat with balaclavas is beyond me. Most Isaan farm workers look like potential bank robbers.

Daily watering is part of farm life. The family farm has a large bore/well so there isn't a shortage of available water. The cost of diesel to provide the water is an extra cost over what comes naturally from the sky. The farm is currently growing spring onions, coriander, dill and lettuce. The planting of rice will start in the next couple of weeks.

Daily watering is part of farm life. The family farm has a large bore/well so there isn’t a shortage of available water. The cost of diesel to provide the water is an extra cost over what comes naturally from the sky.

The farm is currently growing spring onions, coriander, dill and lettuce. The planting of rice will start in the next couple of weeks.

Storm clouds building over the farm's pond as we head home. The rain is happening as I type a big difference from the last two years when it never even looked like starting a wet season.

Storm clouds building over the farm’s pond as we head home. The rain is happening as I type a big difference from the last two years when it never even looked like starting a wet season.

Moo Ban Exam

We joined in part of a big event to decide if the moo ban (our village) had done enough to win the beautiful village of Si Bun Ruang competition (Gaun calls it an “exam”). Everyone has been working so hard that if effort was the criteria they should take the prize.

We joined in the official party arriving late for a lot of boring speeches, which Thais are very good at, and moving quickly into an inspection of some of the activities happening in the moo ban, all of which counted pointwise to the end result.

I have heaps of photos that just won’t fit on a small Small Stories entry so I will motivate myself to write a new post on the blog. If you want the full story go there shortly. Otherwise here is a small selection to give you a glimpse into the day. Great fun.

The presidential motorcade in place for the village inspection by the big wigs from the provincial HQ of Nong Bua Lamphu. This is one of the daughters of the lady you'll see at the end of this series of photos.

The presidential motorcade in place for the village inspection by the big wigs from the provincial HQ of Nong Bua Lamphu. This is one of the daughters of the lady you’ll see at the end of this series of photos.

One of my favourite photos. Isn't it just so Thai rural. The official party on their way.

One of my favourite photos. Isn’t it just so Thai rural. The official party on their way.

We head into the country to visit a guava farm.

We head into the country to visit a guava farm.

The guy is "mayor" of the village next to ours. Thais having a good time.

The guy is “mayor” of the village next to ours. Thais having a good time.

I never knew what these fruit were. I do now - guava. A bit like apples, for those who haven't tried them, but drier in this case. $0.80 a kilo if we buy directly from the farm, double that at the market.

I never knew what these fruit were. I do now – guava. A bit like apples, for those who haven’t tried them, but drier in this case. $0.80 a kilo if we buy directly from the farm, double that at the market.

The guava farmer who gave a presentation and answered questions from the official group.

The guava farmer who gave a presentation and answered questions from the official group.

Heading back into the village with a storm building in the background.

Heading back into the village with a storm building in the background.

The next stop was this sala (bamboo hut) built over the village pond. It was full of chickens for some unknown reason! Whether this impressed the judges I don't know.

The next stop was this sala (bamboo hut) built over the village pond. It was full of chickens for some unknown reason! Whether this impressed the judges I don’t know.

I am not sure I would be eating fish from this canal. He was only catching tiny fish, which will still be eaten often ground up to make a sort of dipping sauce for sticky rice and chillies.

I am not sure I would be eating fish from this canal. He was only catching tiny fish, which will still be eaten often ground up to make a sort of dipping sauce for sticky rice and chillies.

Next stop a plastic bag recycling centre, which I never knew existed. EVERYTHING comes in a plastic bag here so good news to see some of them being recycled. Not the best job though for this guy. Here the bags are being washed.

Next stop a plastic bag recycling centre, which I never knew existed. EVERYTHING comes in a plastic bag here so good news to see some of them being recycled. Not the best job though for this guy. Here the bags are being washed.

They are double dried and then end up in these packs to be on-sold.

They are double dried and then end up in these packs to be on-sold.

Another stop had us at a display of villagers making flower garlands and also a presentation of local produce. Love the mix of colours.

Another stop had us at a display of villagers making flower garlands and also a presentation of local produce. Love the mix of colours.

Child labour. She's starting young and can thread the stalks of small flowers onto a metal spike to make those garlands you see in the front. That's a "don't mess with me" sort of look isn't it. She doesn't really do this for a living in case you were about to get onto the Thai child protection agency, just weekends :-)

Child labour. She’s starting young and can thread the stalks of small flowers onto a metal spike to make those garlands you see in the front.

That’s a “don’t mess with me” sort of look isn’t it. She doesn’t really do this for a living in case you were about to get onto the Thai child protection agency, just weekends 🙂

And that storm arrived. Full on for 30 minutes. An Isaan style tuk tuk in case you haven't seen one before. Very different from the ones you will see down south in Phuket or Bangkok.

And that storm arrived. Full on for 30 minutes. An Isaan style tuk tuk in case you haven’t seen one before. Very different from the ones you will see down south in Phuket or Bangkok.

This is a lovely lady who acted in place of my mother for my wedding to Gaun. She is a highly respected elder of the village and owns half of it. She is working the hand loom here in the community centre, which was the final stop for the day.

This is a lovely lady who acted in place of my mother for my wedding to Gaun. She is a highly respected elder of the village and owns half of it. She is working the hand loom here in the community centre, which was the final stop for the day.

Happy Thais

Thais are such a photogenic bunch that it is hard not to go out for an afternoon and capture some great shots. Both adults and older kids are always open to a photo being taken so never be shy in asking if you visit Thailand. Thais spend half their lives taking selfies and the other half photos of friends. Younger kids can be a bit overwhelmed by a farang but mum will often step in to help. Here are a few from today.

Gaun, who always shines in photos, and a local elder. Our transport for today was Gaun's motorbike, which didn't work out so well when the rain hit!

Gaun, who always shines in photos, and a local elder. Our transport for today was Gaun’s motorbike, which didn’t work out so well when the rain hit!

The daughter isn't sure but mum wanted the photo to be taken. Those Thai rabbit ears on display again, not V for Victory.

The daughter isn’t sure but mum wanted the photo to be taken. Those Thai rabbit ears on display again, not V for Victory.

More rabbit ears. Here one bike fits all. You will see Thai children either on tiny bikes or ones that are twice their size. Bigger kids ferry younger family members around.

More rabbit ears. Here one bike fits all. You will see Thai children either on tiny bikes or ones that are twice their size. Bigger kids ferry younger family members around.

In my day it was sitting in dad's car and pretending to drive. Here it must be the family tractor.

In my day it was sitting in dad’s car and pretending to drive. Here it must be the family tractor.

A thoughtful moment. She was watching a dance group who were entertaining the official party at the village competition and maybe wishing she was on the floor.

A thoughtful moment. She was watching a dance group who were entertaining the official party at the village competition and maybe wishing she was on the floor.

The next door neighbour to the family home in the village. She has a semi-permanent smile like this one.

The next door neighbour to the family home in the village. She has a semi-permanent smile like this one.

Recycling

Thais are pretty good about recycling, not because they are necessarily ecologically aware, but there’s money in it. Even in a small town like ours there are several recycling centres buying from locals and repackaging to sell to bigger operations. There’s enough money in it to have people come through the village and sort through your recycling, weigh it and buy any glass, metal, aluminium or cardboard/paper.

We normally give our recycling to Lud, my brother-in-law and he on-sells. This day however the bins were full and the truck passed our front gates so Gaun flagged them down.

I was hopeful of getting maybe a free beer from the proceeds. Unfortunately, much to Gaun’s amusement, we only got 10 baht ($0.40), which left me 50 baht short. Enough for an ice cream through! At 3 kilos of glass for 1 baht ($0.04) you can see my problem. BTW take the glass directly to the centre and cut out the middleman and you’ll get 3 baht for 1 kilo. Yet another post-retirement income stream idea.

Sorted and weighed at your front gate.

Sorted and weighed at your front gate.

A happy recycler. That's before she knew how little we'd get :-)

A happy recycler. That’s before she knew how little we’d get 🙂

Sawadee. Thank you. Every little bit helps.

Sawadee. Thank you. Every little bit helps.

Charcoal

My day started earlier than normal this morning as the family pick-up wouldn’t start and Yuan phoned Gaun to see if I would help take the day’s crop of coriander to the local markets, which I was happy to do. By the time we got to the farm the pick-up with new battery had arrived and my farming skills were no longer needed. Good timing though because there were a couple of other things happening I thought I would share.

Charcoal is still widely used for cooking in Isaan even though bottled gas is easily obtainable and not expensive by my standards anyway. A 16.3 kilo bottle exchange costs 350 THB or $14.00. A smoke haze covers the village in the morning and evenings some days as a result of the charcoal habit.

Just up the road from the farm a charcoal trench had been opened and the results were being piled into bags that sell for 160 THB each. It pains me to see hardwood being used in this way instead of something more creative. Low incomes mean that the destruction of resources like hardwood trees to provide short term cash crops like this is an everyday event. More explanation as you click through the photos.

The lady on the right is a neighbour of Gaun's mother in the village. The guy nearest to the camera on the left is one of my brother-in-laws Tham. He and his wife run the other half of the family farm. The Isaan tuk tuk in the background is mostly used for transporting produce rather than people. "My dog" on Gaun's arm was up early this morning too.

The lady on the right is a neighbour of Gaun’s mother in the village. The guy nearest to the camera on the left is one of my brother-in-laws Tham. He and his wife run the other half of the family farm. The Isaan tuk tuk in the background is mostly used for transporting produce rather than people. “My dog” on Gaun’s arm was up early this morning too.

Tamarind hardwood trees to charcoal. What a waste. The roadworks happening in the background is covered in the next post.

Tamarind hardwood trees to charcoal. What a waste. The roadworks happening in the background is covered in the next story.

Another load being stacked in the trench.

Another load being stacked in the trench.

This is another charcoal trench post firing waiting for the contents to be taken out.

This is another charcoal trench post firing waiting for the contents to be taken out.

An alternative use for the wood. Somewhat rustic but does the job!

An alternative use for the wood. Somewhat rustic but does the job!

These are the more professional kilns used for charcoal production. They are a clay structure dug into the earth inside with a firepit on one side.

These are the more professional kilns used for charcoal production. They are a clay structure dug into the earth inside with a firepit on one side.

A closer view. That wall is breached and wood is burnt underneath the structure to slowly dry and charcoal the contents.

A closer view. That wall is breached and wood is burnt underneath the structure to slowly dry and charcoal the contents.

Not my photo but illustrates the point. More timber burnt to produce the charcoal. My thanks to http://teakdoor.com/living-in-thailand-forum/129182-borey-and-the-charcoal-kiln.html

Not my photo but illustrates the point. More timber burnt to produce the charcoal. My thanks to teakdoor HERE 

Roadworks to the Wat

The other thing happening this morning was that the road to a small local temple was being improved and as always there’s a story here.

Maybe four kms outside the village a new wat or temple has been started by a monk friend of Gaun called Dit. His mother gave him a piece of the family farm and part of this is now being developed as a wat under the Pha or forest tradition, which is described as “The Thai Forest tradition is the branch of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand that most strictly holds the original monastic rules of discipline laid down by the Buddha” (more information here http://www.wbd.org.au/about-wbd/forest-tradition/).

In order for the monks to get their daily food they have to walk barefoot into the village each morning arriving about 6.30 am. With the rainy season approaching some of the villagers were worried about the state of the small rural track that the monks use to get to the moo ban.

The monks can’t specifically ask for anything so it is up the the locals to totally support them not just in food but in any other way to help them maintain their spiritual path. This included an idea to contribute money to improve the temple road and make the monk’s’ life easier in the wet.

I was told about this project a couple of days ago and have been waiting for the work to start as I offered five truckloads of soil (200 baht or $8.00 a load) as part of my contribution to local life.

Today the soil donated by a local farmer was being transported to the road and being spread by a tractor included in the soil cost. It is another example of the way community pulls together here and doesn’t just expect government to do it all for them. In Thailand’s case they would be waiting forever.

This road runs past the front of the family farm and only goes to the temple with a few other farms along the way.

This road runs past the front of the family farm and only goes to the temple with a few other farms along the way.

Soil being dumped.

Soil being dumped.

Thank you Gaun. You can see this would be pretty hopeless in the wet.

Thank you Gaun. You can see this would be pretty hopeless in the wet.

The soil was supposed to have a stony mix but this just looks like topsoil to me. Time will tell how successful the project has been. We may have to rescue bogged monks in the wet season.

The soil was supposed to have a stony mix but this just looks like topsoil to me. Time will tell how successful the project has been. We may have to rescue bogged monks in the wet season.

This is Gaun's friend Dit. He is a lovely monk.

This is Gaun’s friend Dit. He is a lovely monk.

A super simple temple. The forest Buddhist temples tend to be open timber structures. You won't see many structures like the more traditional white, red and gold buildings that cover Thailand in a forest wat compound.

A super simple temple. The forest Buddhist temples tend to be open timber structures. You won’t see many structures like the more traditional white, red and gold buildings that cover Thailand in a forest wat compound.

Dit's new accommodation being constructed by volunteers. Everything will have been donated.

Dit’s new accommodation being constructed by volunteers. Everything will have been donated.

One of the other monk's accommodation. Looking through the window you can just make out a shape which is a small tent. You will often see these igloo type structures for sale along the side of the road here. They are used usually undercover to keep the mosquitoes out rather than for protection from the elements. The path on the left is another sign this is a forest wat (apart from the trees!). The monk will use this for a walking meditation.

One of the other monk’s accommodation.

Looking through the window you can just make out a shape which is a small tent. You will often see these igloo type structures for sale along the side of the road here. They are used usually undercover to keep the mosquitoes out rather than for protection from the elements. The path on the left is another sign this is a forest wat (apart from the trees!). The monk will use this for a walking meditation.

The main wat building. Very Australian!

The main wat building. Very Australian!

I thought this post would connect with Isaan – the Small Stories 11 HERE but there is a gap between the two, which means I will probably add more happenings to yet another Small Stories post shortly as I am on a roll. They will be sequentially in-between 11 and 12 just to confuse you.

I think that’s enough for this batch of stories. Don’t be afraid to leave a comment. Most people don’t but it is always nice to get one.

Thanks for reading.