I wonder what my blog will look like in a few months time. Up to now, although hardly setting world news, I have been able to publish a good range of “bigger” stories during my time here, some of them based around popular tourist destinations. Once I move to Isaan day to day life, although still interesting because of its newness, will have a more limited range of major places to visit, certainly in the immediate area, and I suspect some of my posts will be formed of a mix of small stories like this one today.

I have found myself in the middle of a longer stay in Si Bun Ruang, my new home town, than I planned. We took my house plans into the local Tessa Ban, or Planning Department, the first week we arrived to have them drawn up ready for quotes to build.

Gaun and Yuan in front of the imposing Tessa Ban government building.

Gaun and Yuan in front of the imposing, for Si Bun Ruang, Tessa Ban government building.

The guy doing them did a good job on the first draft, which we reviewed on Tuesday. Having approved the draft the finals will now be ready for collection Tuesday this week. He is also providing a cost estimate, which will help me decide the next step. All of this for under $150.00.

If my current design works out to be too expensive then I have a fallback design, which I will get drawn up and costed – see below, which will keep us in Isaan for a bit longer. When we move here in November I want the plans to be sorted and a building schedule in place rather than start from the beginning then.

Update 8 October 2014:

My latest house design can be found HERE.

My smaller version with living areas combined.

rather tan  My smaller version with living areas combined.

Because all of this is taking a lot longer than I planned we moved out of the resort, which was costing us big money at $25.00 a night! and into the family home on Wednesday. It was a good opportunity to finalise setting up the house as it will be our base once we move here permanently in November.

The living area. In typical Thai style it has almost no furniture. Most living is done outside.

The living area. In typical Thai style it has almost no furniture. Most living is done outside. In the hot season the concrete floor becomes the alternative to air cond as the coolest place in the building.

Upstairs this is the wooden part of the house and has more character as a result.

Upstairs this is the wooden part of the house and has more character as a result. That pine look sheeting is direct from the 70’s.

We have the upstairs part of the house to ourselves, which has two bedrooms, one for Gaun and one for sister number 2. I only know many of the family by their numbers! As you can see it is pretty basic by our standards, but keeps the rain out. The tin roof is a little lacking in insulation, a foreign concept to many Thais even if they could afford it. We are in a cooler period at this time of year but upstairs would be unlivable when the temperatures hit the 40’s as they do in Isaan.

The Western toilet - one of my basics to moving in.

The Western toilet – one of my basic requirements to moving in. Washing machine to the right. Concrete floor polished through use. The old water troughs, which were filled very slowly by the Moo Baan or village supply. Now quickly after I had a pump installed.

The bathroom with the previous washing system. Throw water over body, soap up, and rinse. There are actually a couple of catfish in the tub. No idea how they got there.

The bathroom with the previous washing system, still used by the family in the warmer seasons. Throw water over body, soap up, and rinse. There are actually a couple of small catfish in the tub. No idea how they got there.

My other requirement to moving in - a proper hot water shower.

My other requirement to moving in – a proper hot water shower. Like the fancy plumbing?

I have added this kitchen bench this visit to hold some of my Australian additions to the family home.

I have added a kitchen bench this visit to hold some of my Australian additions to the family home. Can you spot the Tim Tam mug? A small fridge. Thais eat fresh so not much is ever stored.

Can you tell in a farang is in residence? The knife will always give it away. The odd one out.

Can you tell if a farang is in residence? The knife will always give it away. The odd ones out both the knife and farang!

Actually living fulltime in a Thai rural village is a more noisy experience than I have had so far in Thailand. The resort down the road where we usually stay was mostly deserted and we were often the only people there. Our house in Chiang Mai is wonderfully quiet.

Sleeping here the night is often broken with dogs barking, chickens, loud speakers early in the morning and the rush hour well before I want to surface from sleep. It will be a challenge in the early days but I guess you get used to it longer term.

Our home when built will be double brick with double glazing in the bedrooms and extensive insulation, so I expect to have a quieter and cooler night-time experience. Daytimes are very peaceful like Canberra suburbs because most people are working.

Our living area upstairs. Bedroom to the front left.

Our living area upstairs. Bedroom to the front left. Wooden shutters – no glass.

Peng continues to make progress on her new motorbike. She has been to the local shops a few times to get things for mama or ice for me. I don’t think the bike will get a huge use but it is now an option for her if she does want to be more mobile.

Peng and friend.

Peng and friend.

Off to the shops with friend.

Off to the shops.

Gaun and Peng riding to the family farm about a ten minute trip, Peng's longest.

Gaun and Peng riding to the family farm today about a ten minute trip, Peng’s longest.

I have taken Yuan, Gaun’s younger sister, to the hospital a couple of times since we have been here but they have been unable to properly fix her. Gaun has limited ability to translate more technical subjects so I am a bit in the dark as to what might be the problem. Medical science falling short a family friend who has connections with the “other side” was consulted and evidently Yuan has upset two Phi or spirits by starting to build her new house on the family land across the pathway they used to get to the road.

Yuan and Lud's new house started on the right and cutting across a Pi pathway to the road.

Yuan and Lud’s new house started on the right and cutting across a Phi pathway to the road.

A session with a monk this week and a “sorry” ceremony performed by my surrogate mama has since been completed. The monk will be here on the 6th to perform an in-house ceremony and the rice storage hut you see to the left in the photo above, will then be moved by tractor a few meters to the left, which will open up a new path and road access for the spirits. Hopefully this fixes things. I have to say that since the ceremonies Yuan has been in good form and back working on the farm. The post of the monk clearing ceremony and a lot more can be fund HERE.

The new pathway for the Pi once the rice storage is moved a to the right.

The new pathway for the Phi once the rice storage hut you see at the back is moved to the right. I just hope that blue water tank isn’t a problem because I put that in!

The Yuan smile is back and lights up the day.

The Yuan smile is back and lights up the day.

The recognition of Pi or spirits is still very strong here. Gaun provided a meal with whisky and a cigarette for her Papa, who died when she was five, the first morning after we moved in as part of a ceremony to make sure he was comfortable with a new bloke on the scene. So far so good!

This is the only photo of Gaun's dad. It is taken from his ID card and was in bad condition. I had it Photo-shopped enhanced and enlarged.

This is the only photo the family have of Gaun’s dad. It is taken from his ID card and was in bad condition when I first saw it. I had it Photoshop enhanced, enlarged and framed.

I wrote in my last post about the closer connection of people to land here. This is especially true living with a farming family where what is growing on their farm often forms the basis of the next meal. I took some photos recently of Lud net fishing in the farm pond for a contribution to dinner.

Gaun watching the fishing operation.

Gaun watching the fishing operation.

A cast about to  be made.

A cast about to be made.

Lud who has one of those Thai smiles you can't but return.

Lud who has one of those Thai smiles you can’t but return.

And just to reinforce the point....

And just to reinforce the point….

Now that is fresh.

Now that is fresh.

Yesterday evening Yaun and Gaun walked over to the part of the farm worked by sister number 4, called Paed pronounced more like Bared, and her partner Tham. Corn and long-beans were the outcome and that is what formed the basis for dinner that night.

Sisters with the evening meal.

Sisters with the evening meal.

12-DSC_0379

Gaun preparing dinner with Peng. The long beans were eaten raw with noodles, made locally photos to follow, and a warm fish soup. Not my thing but they enjoyed it.

Gaun preparing dinner with Peng. The long beans were eaten raw with noodles, made locally photos to follow, and a warm fish soup. Not my thing but they enjoyed it.

Speaking of fresh I have also written about the joy of market shopping in Thailand. It is not just the freshness and “localness” of what is being offered but the atmosphere of mixing with everyday Thai people, both sellers and customers, going about their everyday activities. Nothing touristy about these scenes. This is especially true in Si Bun Ruang, where the family is well known and a trip to the markets is a social as well as a shopping experience.

There are three different types of markets here. From about midnight and finishing early morning the wholesale markets open catering to the small stallholders and local eating places as well as distributors supplying a wider area. I have no photos of this market and never will!

During the day and into early evening the retail markets open up selling core food items of vegetables, meats, fish, fruit as well as more general items such as shoes, clothes and toys.

Yuan and Lud offloading their ute with bulk produce for stallholders.

Yuan and Lud offloading their ute with bulk produce for stallholders.

Yuan chatting with one of her customers.

Yuan chatting with a couple of her customers.

Beautiful colours and fresh, fresh.

Beautiful colours and fresh, fresh.

Mushrooms picked early morning. What a range,

Mushrooms picked early morning.

I haven't seen such a range of colours in mushrooms. A bit different from what you'll find at Woolworths or Coles.

I have never seen such a range of colours in mushrooms. A bit different from what you’ll find at Woolworths or Coles.

Cheap flowers mostly for use in temple offerings. A small bunch will cost you less than $0.20.

Cheap flowers mostly for use in temple offerings. A small bunch will cost you less than $0.20.

Gaun chatting. Shopping is more talk than buying.

Gaun chatting. Shopping is more talk than buying.

Character filled shopping.

Great choice for food lovers.

More.

More.

$1.60 for a large bunch of what the Thais call farang bamboo!

$1.60 for a large bunch of what the Thais call farang bamboo!

Prawns at under $10.00 a kilo and asparagus for my dinner last night.

Prawns at under $10.00 a kilo and asparagus for my dinner last night.

If you want a machine gun for your kids this is the place.

If you want a machine gun for your kids this is the place.

The final type of markets are the street stalls that set up in Si Bun Ruang every Friday evening and surround the food markets on the first Saturday of every month.

The weekly markets in Si Bun Ruang are very well set out and I recommend them next time you pop in.

The weekly markets in Si Bun Ruang are very well laid out and I recommend them next time you pop in. They are located next to the main Wat behind the Police station!

Food is a big aspect to these markets being an evening affair. Grilled salted fish to keep the moisture in.

Food is a big component to these markets of course being an evening affair. Grilled salted fish to keep the moisture in.

Gaun and Peng shopping.

We picked Peng up from school and went for a browse.

Food everywhere.

Food everywhere.

Future food for sale.

Future food for sale. Baby chicken and ducks in colours not chosen by God.

More basic stalls set up along the street.

More basic stalls set up along the street.

Many of the main food market stall holders move to this location on a Friday evening.

Many of the food stall holders from the main daily markets move to this street location on a Friday evening.

Small orchids for $0.35 each.

Small orchids for $0.35 each.

Larger orchids we bought  from the main markets for $1.00 each. My first Thai orchids - very exciting.

Larger orchids we bought from the main markets for $1.00 each. My first Thai orchids – very exciting.

A good friend of mine emailed me recently and said what a pleasure it was to see the close relationship that obviously exists between Gaun and Peng. For a number of years when Gaun was away working in Phuket they only saw each other once a year in April for a week or less. They have always spoken on the phone everyday that I have known Gaun but that is different from having your mum around for real. This is our fifth trip to Isaan to see the family in a bit over 12 months and it is a real joy to see the closeness between mother and daughter being expressed day to day.

My favourite photo where a picture says it all.

My favourite photo where a picture says it all.

When Peng arrived home from school one day last week she went straight over to Gaun and gave her a hug. Gaun commented “Peng give me hug like farang”. Thais rarely display any signs of affection in public or within family groups. Touching, hugging and certainly kissing just don’t happen. For Peng to give Gaun a hug was certainly unusual and reflects the pleasure she has in seeing her mum.

The girls.

The girls.

Another Isaan evening. No need to Photoshop these skies.

Another Isaan evening. No need to Photoshop these skies.

So there you have a long post made up of nothing major but covering topics that are more special to me than any impressive Wat or tourist spot. I hope the small stories will still hold your interest as they form the basis to the next stage of my life in Thailand.

Thanks for reading.