Good things come in threes and this is my third Small Stories post in the last couple of days. I am always amazed at how much can be extracted from everyday living in Isaan if you keep your camera handy and your eyes open.

24 Sept 2016 – A Secret Cave Wat

Wat Pha Thum Praphukao: 16°58’37.3″N 102°25’29.7″E

The other day my brother-in-law Tham, who is married to Gaun’s older sister Paed (number four of the seven children – Gaun is number six), told us of a cave wat in his village of Ban Don Han. As this wasn’t far from our home and I don’t need much of an excuse for an explore we hit the road today to check it out.

This is a story with a twist so make sure you read the ending about the secret cave. I have also just completed a much more detailed post on this afternoon outing on the blog HERE.

A lot more water this way because of the hills in the background. This was a fast flowing river and the big net on the left shows that there must be fish around. Sugar cane in the background.

A lot more water this way because of the hills in the background. This was a fast flowing river and the big net on the left shows that there must be fish around. Sugar cane in the background.

Being a Saturday Peng my step daughter joined us. I try to get her involved in our times away because she has such a contained life otherwise.

Being a Saturday Peng my step daughter joined us. I try to get her involved in our times away because she has such a contained life otherwise.

Local boys cleaning their bikes in the stream and spinning the rear wheel to gives friends a splash.

Local boys cleaning their bikes in the stream and spinning the rear wheel to gives friends a splash.

Not the wat but a collection of mushroom hunters coming back from the hills with their harvest. From all the faces turned my direction you can tell they don't get too many farang this way!

Not the wat but a collection of mushroom hunters coming back from the hills with their harvest. From all the faces turned my direction you can tell they don’t get too many farang this way!

How nice is that.

How nice is that.

A mobile ice cream van in attendance. Peng and I had four scoops of coconut ice cream in a sweet bread roll with kernels of corn and a topping of evaporated milk. All the essential ingredients for a cave visit for 10 baht each (A$0.40).

A mobile ice cream van in attendance. Peng and I had four scoops of coconut ice cream in a sweet bread roll with kernels of corn and a topping of evaporated milk. All the essential ingredients for a cave visit for 10 baht each (A$0.40).

The "path" to the cave. No one told me it was at the top of a mountain. Just follow the arrows.

The “path” to the cave. No one told me it was at the top of a mountain. Just follow the arrows.

And the cave is at the top of that ladder. Not too impressive so far.

And the cave is at the top of that ladder. Not too impressive so far.

Really! I have been climbing all this way for that little indentation at the top? What a let-down. Not so. There's a large hidden cave behind that entrance and you'd never know it was there. You will also find a hidden monk (an alive one), pond and view up this way. I didn't! Read my full post for more.

Really! I have been climbing all this way for that little indentation at the top? What a let-down.

Not so. There’s a large hidden cave behind that entrance and you’d never know it was there. You will also find a hidden monk (an alive one), pond and view up this way. I didn’t!

The main temple building still under construction at the base of the hill.

The main temple building still under construction at the base of the hill.

One of those large serene Buddhas. This was a trip where the journey was just as interesting as the destination and I find that this is so often the case in Thailand. If you are totally fixated on the place you have picked out to see you will often be disappointed as the big “wow” experiences are a little thin on the ground here. But if you keep your eyes open and are prepared to stop to explore you will be rewarded in many small ways that makes the trip worthwhile whatever the rating of the original destination.

One of those large serene Buddhas.

This was a trip where the journey was just as interesting as the destination and I find that this is so often the case in Thailand. If you are totally fixated on the place you have picked out to see you will often be disappointed as the big “wow” experiences are a little thin on the ground here. But if you keep your eyes open and are prepared to stop to explore you will be rewarded in many small ways that makes the trip worthwhile whatever the rating of the original destination.

Update 29 Nov 2016: With the cooler weather I am planning a return visit to discover the hidden cave and also meet the monk who lives up the top. I will report back.

26 Sept 2016 – A Local Drive

I must be feeling a bit restless because this is the second outing we have had in the last few days.

This afternoon’s road trip was another example of setting a destination and then being open to stopping or heading off track to see what else was around. As I have said before the big “wow” sights are few and far between in Thailand but I find the little photo opportunities just as rewarding and a lot more personal in some ways.

With the rain falling I have been very productive and have published a full post of the day with heaps more information and photos HERE. This entry in Small Stories 22 is more of a teaser for the full post.

This is the tourist’s impression of how Thailand should be but you need to be quick. You will mostly only see paddies like this in the wet season July – September/early October. Some of this rice is already starting to tinge brown and these will be fields of golden brown by mid-late October.

This is the tourist’s impression of how Thailand should be but you need to be quick. You will mostly only see paddies like this in the wet season July – September/early October. Some of this rice is already starting to tinge brown and these will be fields of golden brown by mid-late October.

The goal for the afternoon. To find out what that gap in the hills looked like, shown in this aerial shot, and whether I could get into the valley inside. Almost space-like in black and white isn't it.

The goal for the afternoon. To find out what that gap in the hills looked like, shown in this aerial shot, and whether I could get into the valley inside. Almost space-like in black and white isn’t it.

A newly discovered lake (by us) formed by a small dam about 20 minutes from our home. This sits inside the ring of hills I spoke about in my last post here: http://tonyinthailand.com/wat-pa-thum-pra-phukao/ and vividly shown in the last aerial photo.

A newly discovered lake (by us) formed by a small dam about 20 minutes from our home. This sits inside the ring of hills I spoke about in my last post vividly shown in the last aerial photo.

More net fishing observed on the way. Dinner happening.

More net fishing observed on the way. Dinner happening.

Gaun chatting to a yai (grandmother). A lovely mix of ages.

Gaun chatting to a yai (grandmother). A lovely mix of ages.

Another big Buddha. I am on my hobby elephant with this wat, which you can read about in my post.

Another big Buddha. I am on my hobby elephant with this wat, which you can read about in my post.

What is this? If you want to find out read my blog post. You might be surprised! Expats - no telling :-)

What is this? If you want to find out read my blog post. You might be surprised! Expats – no telling 🙂

Now this is what looking after your animals is all about. That's either Isaan whisky or water. They both cost about the same :-) Only one will kill you though! Another great time getting involved with the local sights. Always very rewarding.

Now this is what looking after your animals is all about.

That’s either Isaan whisky or water. They both cost about the same 🙂 Only one will kill you though! Another great time getting involved with the local sights. Always very rewarding.

30 Sept 2016 – Express Growth

It is easy to forget how quickly things grow here. The days slip by and next thing you know you are sitting in the shade of something that it seems you only planted yesterday! Two examples in the following photos – rice at the farm and our hedge at home.

This photo was taken less than 3 months ago in early July. It shows Tara, the granddaughter of a friend of ours, helping the family plant rice at the farm.

This photo was taken less than 3 months ago in early July. It shows Tara, the granddaughter of a friend of ours, helping the family plant rice at the farm.

Tara enjoyed getting muddy feet and she made her mark on the landscape here.

Tara enjoyed getting muddy feet and she made her mark on the landscape here.

And here's Gaun (somewhere) showing how much the rice has grown in that 3 months.

And here’s Gaun (somewhere) showing how much the rice has grown in that 3 months.

Other farmers are very impressed with the quality of Yuan and Lud's crop this year. The only problem with this success is that the rice is very susceptible to any storms because it is easily blown over. This makes the harvest a lot harder.

Other farmers are very impressed with the quality of Yuan and Lud’s crop this year. The only problem with this success is that the rice is very susceptible to any storms because it is easily blown over. This makes the harvest a lot harder.

Our hedge at home. This was how it looked 18 months ago. 4,000 of these bought for 3 baht or A$0.12 each. We have nearly 200 metres of hedging.

Our hedge at home. This was how it looked 18 months ago. 4,000 of these bought for 3 baht or A$0.12 each. We have nearly 200 metres of hedging.

And 18 months later. Giving the garden great privacy from our neighbours as you can see.

And 18 months later. Giving the garden great privacy from our neighbours as you can see.

And Gaun at work with her favourite toy - a cordless hedge trimmer. You can now get an idea of how high this has grown in such a short time.

And Gaun at work with her favourite toy – a cordless hedge trimmer. You can now get an idea of how high this has grown in such a short time.

This is about the full height now. We will trim the top at this level to encourage it to thicken up lower down.

This is about the full height now. We will trim the top at this level to encourage it to thicken up lower down.

The internal hedge. This is about 12 months old and is so thick you could almost walk on it.

The internal hedge. This is about 12 months old and is so thick you could almost walk on it.

Off topic but these are some lovely small orchids we bought the other day. A$4.00 each with pots.

Off topic but these are some lovely small orchids we bought the other day. A$4.00 each with pots.

30 Sept 2016 – Ban Mai Khao Restaurant

We had a day in Udon Thani on Wednesday and it gave us the opportunity to try out a restaurant that had been recommended to us called Baan Mai Khao. This is another definite to add to your eating places next time you are in the area!

Hidden away off a small soi (street) the place is restful, well maintained, pleasant inside and a decent if small mixed farang and Thai menu. Inexpensive and the food was tasty and presented nicely. A real find in an area that is severely limited in non-street stall locations.

Closed Mondays. This is more of a lunch place than an evening one - it was that sort of menu unless they have a different one for the evening.

Closed Mondays. This is more of a lunch place than an evening one – it was that sort of menu unless they have a different one for the evening.

This is a cannon ball tree. Note how the fruit grows straight off the trunk rather than the branches.

This is a cannon ball tree. Note how the fruit grows straight off the trunk rather than the branches.

Beautiful flowers. There's a great article on this tree here if that's your thing http://scribol.com/environment/plants/the-dangerous-and-dreadful-smells-of-the-cannonball-tree/

Beautiful flowers. There’s a great article on this tree here if that’s your thing HERE.

How refreshing to find a restaurant that looks inviting. Tin sheds and concrete floors are interesting as something different for a while but not all the time.

How refreshing to find a restaurant that looks inviting. Tin sheds and concrete floors are interesting as something different for a while but not all the time.

The cannonball tree from our table.

The cannonball tree from our table.

It was a sunny and hot day so this beer went down very well. 48 baht for a small Leo.

It was a sunny and hot day so this beer went down very well. 48 baht for a small Leo.

I haven't seen the small Thai bricks being used like this before. Normally they are hidden behind render. They make quite a decent feature wall.

I haven’t seen the small Thai bricks being used like this before. Normally they are hidden behind render. They make quite a decent feature wall.

Knitted little chair leg sliders. What a great and novel idea.

Knitted little chair leg sliders. What a great and novel idea.

Very good crumbed dory fish with salad and fries. A$6.00. Today was a list of firsts. I have never seen lemon used in a dish here. A kilo of lemons (if you can find them - Makro have them) cost 180 baht while a kilo of limes is currently 20 - 40 baht.

Very good crumbed dory fish with salad and fries. A$6.00. Today was a list of firsts. I have never seen lemon used in a dish here. A kilo of lemons (if you can find them – Makro have them) cost 180 baht while a kilo of limes is currently 20 – 40 baht.

The Thai order. Slightly spicier.

The Thai order. Slightly spicier.

No I don't have unexpected news to share with family and friend. This is Daniel and he belongs (!) to friends we met up with for lunch. Gaun enjoyed playing with him and also enjoyed handing him back :-)

No I don’t have unexpected news to share with family and friend. This is Daniel and he belongs (!) to friends we met up with for lunch. Gaun enjoyed playing with him and also enjoyed handing him back 🙂

Small. Best to book and ask for the window table. I booked via messenger on Facebook and they responded very quickly to confirm. The manager lady speaks good English. https://www.facebook.com/baanmaikhao.udon/

Small. Best to book and ask for the window table. I booked via messenger on Facebook and they responded very quickly to confirm. The manager lady speaks good English. Link HERE

Just a hint. The restaurant is down this lane off to the right. This is the view you get from the main street. That's its name in Thai at the top so not too useful for you and me.

Just a hint. The restaurant is down this lane off to the right. This is the view you get from the main street. That’s its name in Thai at the top so not too useful for you and me.

Google earth/maps actually has the restaurant in the correct location. An unusual event. If using a GPS these coordinates will get you close 17 25'13.95 N 102 47'10.97 E

Google earth/maps actually has the restaurant in the correct location. An unusual event. If using a GPS these coordinates will get you close 17 25’13.95 N 102 47’10.97 E

1 Oct 2016 – A School Holiday Feast

Peng’s last day of school yesterday for the October break of two weeks. Unlike Australia Thai school kids only get two holidays a year. A six week equivalent to our Christmas break in April starting with Thai New Year (Songkran) and this one sometime in October. Mind you between teacher’s retirement days, public and Buddhist holidays they get plenty of other shorter breaks during the course of a year.

Peng’s foodie request to celebrate this happy occasion was an Isaan buffet. Both Peng and Gaun managed to consume their own body weight so a good time was had.

Rabbit ears for good luck - not the V for victory sign. Churchill is a bit of an unknown in Thailand for some reason :-)

Rabbit ears for good luck – not the V for victory sign. Churchill is a bit of an unknown in Thailand for some reason 🙂

All the ingredients, meats, squid, noodles, vegetables, broth and sauces, bought at the local buffet place for A$8.00. Top up with half a kilo of prawns for A$6.00. Peng's not expensive to keep!

All the ingredients, meats, squid, noodles, vegetables, broth and sauces, bought at the local buffet place for A$8.00. Top up with half a kilo of prawns for A$6.00. Peng’s not expensive to keep!

My sound system can be heard in Sydney when I turn it up in true Isaan tradition.

My sound system can be heard in Sydney when I turn it up in true Isaan tradition.

3 Oct 2016 – Farang Food

Two associated topics in this story. Firstly I cooked our first NZ leg of lamb last night using the small benchtop oven we bought from Makro for A$140.00. It worked a treat. Roast potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, broccoli and homemade mint jelly and gravy. One very happy farang and two well fed Thais, who demolished more of the leg than me 🙁

This leads into a related topic – the cost of food shopping here. I am probably stating the obvious but if you move here and eat like a Thai then it is very cheap. However if you still want to enjoy some farang comfort food then you will be paying as much as you will back home in many instances (not all).

I thought I would give you a very limited example by sharing our Makro shopping bill from yesterday. You can see that the majority of more pricey items are farang related only. Now none of it is a major cost but if planning on retirement in Thailand you do need to realise that the old living on $10.00 a day books require a complete change in your eating habits. I enjoy Thai food but I would prefer not to have give up the occasional roast either. BTW that leg of lamb cost around A$11.00 a kilo.

It will probably stop working the day after the warranty runs out but so far this little oven on the right is a great addition to the family.

It will probably stop working the day after the warranty runs out but so far this little oven on the right is a great addition to the family.

Peng is becoming quite farang in her eating habits, which is really unfortunate for my food budget. Gaun eats Thai and Isaan (and the two are COMPLETELY different) and western. Gina if reading your meat thermometer worked perfectly.

Peng is becoming quite farang in her eating habits, which is really unfortunate for my food budget. Gaun eats Thai and Isaan (and the two are COMPLETELY different) and western. Gina if reading your meat thermometer worked perfectly.

Farang items marked in yellow. If only Gaun was shopping the bill would have been less than $30.00.

Farang items marked in yellow. If only Gaun was shopping the bill would have been less than $30.00.

3 Oct 2016 – A Day in Udon

The story about Baan Mai Khao, which you have just read above has now been expanded into a long post about the full day we had in Udon Thani, which included so much more than this entry, and you can find it HERE. This is another teaser to encourage you to read the full story if you haven’t already. In it we rescue a turtle from being road kill or dinner, drop into a local wat, catch a raunchy stage show for spirits, find hidden shopping treasures in Udon, feed the family and much more.

The rescued turtle off to his new home at a local temple.

The rescued turtle off to his new home at a local temple.

This is one way to get the spirits on-side. Why? Read the post.

This is one way to get the spirits on-side. Why? Read the post.

Update 29 Nov 2016 – With the death of the king all activities like this came to a stop. Live music and shows are back on the agenda now but they are required to be “tasteful” in respect to the mourning period. I am not sure if this sort of display would fall under that category 🙁

Shoe shopping in all its glory (Sam).

Shoe shopping in all its glory (Sam).

Low mortgage solutions.

Low mortgage solutions.

There's a story to these kids.

There’s a story to these kids. All covered in the full post.

4 Oct 2016 – Usufruct and its uses in Thailand

I am publishing this information on “Usufruct in Thailand” here to pick up on any westerners in Thailand, or anyone looking to move here at some stage, that aren’t regular readers of my blog.

I have published a very specialised post HERE which is geared to the expat planning to buy land here and build. For others it might be interesting just to see how things work in Thailand compared to the process back home, wherever that might be.

As secure as I can be with a Usufruct in place.

As secure as I can be with a Usufruct in place.

The reason I have added this subject as a stand alone post on the blog is that the information contained within it is absolutely vital for any farang in a relationship with a Thai person who wants to gain security over their investment in land and a house here. In the majority of situations it is the farang that is making the major if not total financial investment in building a home and while houses are pretty secure in the long term, relationships aren’t!

The premise to a Usufruct is that FOREIGNERS CANNOT OWN LAND IN THAILAND. Almost no exception. When “you” buy land you aren’t. You are buying land for your Thai partner – period.

My thanks to Joe Lynch lawyer at lynchlaw.net.au@gmail.com based in Chiang Mai for the article, which forms the majority of this blog entry.

Joe Lynch Specialist Australian Family Lawyer, Consultant Lawyer with Lanna Lawyers in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Lewis and Bollard Migration Lawyers in Sydney, Australia. Experienced in Thai law for expats, surrogacy law in both Australia and Thailand and property law, wills and estates, estate planning and business law in Thailand.

5 Oct 2016 – Gutters

The house we built in Isaan is basically gutter-free. I love the waterfall effect of the rain coming off the roof in the tropical downpours and as we are well above surrounding land and everything slopes away from the house there is no likelihood of flooding.

However since completing the construction I have added gutters across the front of the outdoor living space to stop splashback in that area. The entry portico also has gutters now because actually walking through a waterfall to get inside is not as appealing as looking at the cascade when dry.

Today we expanded the gutters across the front of the internal living room. We have large double sliding doors and it is nice to keep them open when the rain comes and we were getting a little splashback inside with the big downpours. The rainy season is also a warm period so there’s no reason to close up the house as you might in countries that have rain in cool/cold seasons.

If I had to build the house again I would have extended the eaves to 2 metres, leaving the paved surround at 1 metre to better protect the walls and windows from rain.

A phone call to the husband and wife team had them here an hour later. The gutters come in 2 metre lengths and three different thicknesses. The guy does the roof work and his wife builds the gutters as you watch. The joins are soldered together, which is what she is doing here.

A phone call to the husband and wife team had them here an hour later.

The gutters come in 2 metre lengths and three different thicknesses. The guy does the roof work and his wife builds the gutters as you watch. The joins are soldered together, which is what she is doing here.

The gutters aren't that thick, even though I was paying for the best, but they put up masses of support brackets so it's not a problem.

The gutters aren’t that thick, even though I was paying for the best, but they put up masses of support brackets so it’s not a problem.

You can see the full extent of the new gutters. 6.5 metres. The cost is based on thickness and you can choose between 120, 150 or 180 baht per metre (A$4.80 - $7.20) built and fitted. They also have a fourth choice, which is more industrial sized at 300 baht per metre.

You can see the full extent of the new gutters. 6.5 metres.

The cost is based on thickness and you can choose between 120, 150 or 180 baht per metre (A$4.80 – $7.20) built and fitted. They also have a fourth choice, which is more industrial sized at 300 baht per metre.

Both the end sealing and the round drain were hand made by the lady.

Both the end sealing and the round drain were hand made by the lady.

Our climber is making really great progress filling in the pergola as you can see. Bare feet on the roof and step ladder made from bamboo.

Our climber is making really great progress filling in the pergola as you can see. Bare feet on the roof and step ladder made from bamboo.

These are the windows I wanted to protect. That pergola will be solid greenery in six months.

These are the windows I wanted to protect. That pergola will be solid greenery in six months.

A bucket of water was poured into the gutter to test them. Eureka.

A bucket of water was poured into the gutter to test them. Eureka.

Guan, who is now my building supervisor having learnt so much from the house construction, approves the final result. All done in an hour for 1,200 baht or under $50.00.

Guan, who is now my building supervisor having learnt so much from the house construction, approves the final result. All done in an hour for 1,200 baht or under $50.00.

5 Oct 2016 – Upgrading the Driveway

Finishing off the driveway into our home has been on my list on things to do for a while. The plain concrete was wonderful after the gravel we had covering the clay for a few months until the post-construction budget improved, but it doesn’t add much to the look of the home. I saw some pebblecrete being laid at a place close to us and decided that was what I wanted.

We got the phone number of the tradesman and today he contacted us to let us know he had finished work on a temple job and was free to start ours.

Follow the photos to get the details. I will report back on progress as it happens.

The driveway from inside looking out to the ice cream man making his regular stop outside our gate today.

The driveway from inside looking out to the ice cream man making his regular stop outside our gate today.

10 Paddle Pops and my sweet tooth is happy for another week.

10 Paddle Pops and my sweet tooth is happy for another week.

From the outside looking in. Just under 100 square metres of pebblecrete to be laid, which will take around 3 weeks. It will start from the road, at the very front of the photo and go back to the building at the back.

From the outside looking in. Just under 100 square metres of pebblecrete to be laid, which will take around 3 weeks. It will start from the road, at the very front of the photo and go back to the building at the back.

Two pebble costs. Local stones for 380 baht a sq metre laid (about $15.00) or 450 baht a metre for pebbles brought in from the coast (smaller). This is the colour we have chosen (local). The pebbles on the left are set in a red concrete base and the ones on the right a yellow base. Same pebbles.

Two pebble costs.

Local stones for 380 baht a sq metre laid (about $15.00) or 450 baht a metre for pebbles brought in from the coast (smaller). This is the colour we have chosen (local). The pebbles on the left are set in a red concrete base and the ones on the right a yellow base. Same pebbles.

The smaller pebbles are the coastal imports at 450 baht sq metre. The price includes a sealing/anti-fungus coating. As you can see the samples are slightly shiny.

The smaller pebbles are the coastal imports at 450 baht sq metre. The price includes a sealing/anti-fungus coating. As you can see the samples are slightly shiny.

We are having this effect on the area outside the gate with a mix of red and yellow base colour. These scallop shapes cost an extra 3,000 baht (A$120.00) for the entrance to the house but I thought it was worth it.

We are having this effect on the area outside the gate with a mix of red and yellow base colour. These scallop shapes cost an extra 3,000 baht (A$120.00) for the entrance to the house but I thought it was worth it.

Our end result will look something like this but more modest obviously. You may not be surprised to hear that this is the office and home of a local money lender :-)

Our end result will look something like this but more modest obviously. You may not be surprised to hear that this is the office and home of a local money lender 🙂

The final job we organised today on top of the guttering and the pebblecrete was to arrange the concreting of 50 metres of garden paths, which are currently covered with gravel.

The final job we organised today on top of the guttering and the pebblecrete was to arrange the concreting of 50 metres of garden paths, which are currently covered with gravel.

The paths will end up something like this one with flat stones set into the surface to make it look more interesting. Total cost for materials and labour for the 50 metres will end up being around A$400.00.

The paths will end up something like this one with flat stones set into the surface to make it look more interesting. Total cost for materials and labour for the 50 metres will end up being around A$400.00.

7 Oct 2016 – Chiang Khan

Yet another teaser for the full post of this topic, which you can find HERE. The following photos give you a summary of the day if you are time-poor!

We have been on the road the last couple of days and I thought I would report back on what we’ve been up to. Day 1 has us travelling to the popular (for Thais) town of Chiang Khan on the Mekong River a three hour drive from us.

The attraction here is the main street running parallel to the Mekong and is made up of largely restored wooden houses, which are now hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and shops. Although quiet during the day things kick off from sundown when the street is closed and the night markets take over. Day 2 where we follow the Mekong east to be posted shortly.

We have passed this place a few times on trips to various destinations west of us on highway 210. Gaun describes it as a the home of a gay man from Holland (what can I say Saskia!).

We have passed this place a few times on trips to various destinations west of us on highway 210. Gaun describes it as a the home of a gay man from Holland (what can I say Saskia!).

The main street of Chiang Khan. Very quiet before the evening markets start. It was great to see a Thai street with some character. The old houses have been retained and concrete ugliness kept one street back.

The main street of Chiang Khan. Very quiet before the evening markets start. It was great to see a Thai street with some character. The old houses have been retained and concrete ugliness kept one street back.

When I say quiet I do mean it. Not too much through traffic as you can tell.

When I say quiet I do mean it. Not too much through traffic as you can tell.

The last two days have been a "selfie" bonanza for Peng. This is Gaun and Peng capturing the moment on the banks of the Mekong River.

The last two days have been a “selfie” bonanza for Peng. This is Gaun and Peng capturing the moment on the banks of the Mekong River.

The Mekong at sunset. Laos across the river.

The Mekong at sunset. Laos across the river.

Fancy a snack? The evening markets have started.

Fancy a snack? The evening markets have started.

So pleasing to see some quality development happening. This hotel overlooks the Mekong.

So pleasing to see some quality development happening. This hotel overlooks the Mekong.

Every hotel and guesthouse has free bicycles available and the theme of the town is using them to get around. I believe the Chiang Khan gets super busy on weekends, which is way we visited on a week day. Not too busy here as you can see.

Every hotel and guesthouse has free bicycles available and the theme of the town is using them to get around. I believe the Chiang Khan gets super busy on weekends, which is way we visited on a week day. Not too busy here as you can see.

All the usual Thai market standards. Not much that is truly local crafts. Mass produced somewhere and distributed Thai-wide. However there were a few non-original (mass produced) shops I haven't seen elsewhere and the setting in these lovely wooden shopfronts made this an experience worth seeing.

All the usual Thai market standards. Not much that is truly local crafts. Mass produced somewhere and distributed Thai-wide. However there were a few non-original (mass produced) shops I haven’t seen elsewhere and the setting in these lovely wooden shopfronts made this an experience worth seeing.

See what I mean. Nicely restored. A hotel in this case.

See what I mean. Nicely restored. A hotel in this case.

This is our little guesthouse called "Husband & Wife" situated on the walking street. I never saw the wife but the husband makes a decent coffee.

This is our little guesthouse called “Husband & Wife” situated on the walking street. I never saw the wife but the husband makes a decent coffee.

7 Oct 2016 – Problems with Google Maps

I have written many times on my blog and once on Facebook about the often useless information provided by Google Earth when looking for a location in Thailand, and maybe elsewhere. I wish I read my own propaganda because finding our guesthouse in Chiang Khan was a perfect example of what not to do.

For some unknown reason I had a mental blank and trusted Google to give me the correct location without checking on the street view. The GPS coordinates for the wrong location were recorded and endless frustration experienced when we tried to find our accommodation.

If you have a look at the Google Earth image I have provided you will see Google’s location is on the left (not even on the main street) , while the guesthouse is correctly shown on my version on the right. NEVER trust Google Earth/maps without more checking. It is often wrong.

P.S. I advised Google of the change required and they responded in a few hours. I will make myself a local “expert” as I don’t have a lot else on my schedule and maybe help others before they too get lost 🙂13

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8 Oct 2016 – From Chiang Khan to Nong Khai

Another short summary of a post you can find HERE in more detail. Day 2 of our trip to the Mekong had us following the 211, a road that travels alongside the river from Chiang Khan heading east to Nong Khai, which is a border crossing to Laos.

It has been three years since I have driven this route and the road has been improved a lot with a great surface most of the way. The Thais are also putting heaps of money into long sections of boardwalks on the edge of the river especially at the Chiang Khan end.

This is one of THE trips to put on your list if in Isaan if you have your own transport. The road gives you lots of views over the Mekong and runs through small moo bans (villages). Plenty of small eating places to pull over for a meal while watching the water flow past on its way to Vietnam.

The main reason for us returning this way was so we could visit the newly opened Nong Khai Skywalk. Look at the photos and you’ll understand why this was on our list of places to see.

A last photo of Chiang Khan taken in our guesthouse. Candles on a wooden base in a totally timber house? Hmmmm.

A last photo of Chiang Khan taken in our guesthouse. Candles on a wooden base in a totally timber house? Hmmmm.

Long stretches of these walkways running alongside the Mekong have been added since my last trip here three years ago. I am not sure who is going to walk them as these are tiny villages and Thais will pick a motorbike over walking in most situations. Maybe they ride up and down :-)

Long stretches of these walkways running alongside the Mekong have been added since my last trip here three years ago. I am not sure who is going to walk them as these are tiny villages and Thais will pick a motorbike over walking in most situations. Maybe they ride up and down 🙂

Just to give you an idea of the sort of views you will get while driving the 211. Great road surface as you can see. Almost no traffic.

Just to give you an idea of the sort of views you will get while driving the 211. Great road surface as you can see. Almost no traffic.

We stopped for a late breakfast/early lunch at a small eating place that sat right on the river. Peng looking out to Laos.

We stopped for a late breakfast/early lunch at a small eating place that sat right on the river. Peng looking out to Laos.

This is Facebook so expect food photos. Gaun ordered and they came out with enough food for a small busload of tourists. Chicken fried rice in the front, which would have been a meal in itself.

This is Facebook so expect food photos. Gaun ordered and they came out with enough food for a small busload of tourists. Chicken fried rice in the front, which would have been a meal in itself.

The view from that sala looking downstream. Unfortunately it was a misty sort of day.

The view from that sala looking downstream. Unfortunately it was a misty sort of day.

Yes. More selfies for Peng. Her Facebook got a hammering the last couple of days. Telephone/internet reception is everywhere in Thailand. Not like Australia where you can lose reception in the middle of Sydney! Note the newly purchased Chiang Khan T shirts :-) Doing our bit for the local tourist trade.

Yes. More selfies for Peng. Her Facebook got a hammering the last couple of days.

Telephone/internet reception is everywhere in Thailand. Not like Australia where you can lose reception in the middle of Sydney! Note the newly purchased Chiang Khan T shirts 🙂 Doing our bit for the local tourist trade.

More of those boardwalks being constructed. A massive effort.

More of those boardwalks being constructed. A massive effort.

And this is the Skywalk. A shame about the misty day again but even so you can get an idea of height and the glass walkway.

And this is the Skywalk. A shame about the misty day again but even so you can get an idea of height and the glass walkway.

We were so lucky as this place gets a massive number of visitors especially on a weekend. Almost no one when we were there. It is actually part of a temple and as always I struggle to find the connection between Buddhism and a things like a A$650,000 skywalk. Good fun though and free. Make a donation, which is what we did.

We were so lucky as this place gets a massive number of visitors especially on a weekend.

Almost no one when we were there. It is actually part of a temple and as always I struggle to find the connection between Buddhism and a things like a A$650,000 skywalk. Good fun though and free. Make a donation, which is what we did.

8 Oct 2016 – More of Phum

I only add this post because this little bloke has won me over and I confidently predict that he’s going to cause his mum and his many girlfriends heaps of trouble later in life.

Modelling the new T shirt. He was fascinated by both our koi fish and the water.

Modelling the new T shirt. He was fascinated by both our koi fish and the water.

This is Phum and if you follow my Facebook you will have met him and his mum previously so I won’t go into the history. He spends his time between the two family homes of his mum and dad and is in our village ATM just across from Gaun’s family home.

His name Phum, which originates from Chaiyaphum the name of his dad’s province.

This afternoon his grandma brought him over because Peng had bought him a T shirt from Chiang Khan, a town on the Mekong River which I have written about just recently. We slightly overestimated the size but he will grow into it in no time.

Not quite yet mate. Those are mine so big shoes to fill :-)

Not quite yet mate. Those are mine so big shoes to fill 🙂

Phum blows a kiss to Peng. He's got the moves already. That's Bun, his grandma. She owns the land next to ours.

Phum blows a kiss to Peng. He’s got the moves already. That’s Bun, his grandma. She owns the land next to ours.

Delighted with the result.

Delighted with the result.

Heading home to mum. On the lookout for more girls to throw kisses to I'm sure.

Heading home to mum. On the lookout for more girls to throw kisses to I’m sure.

This is Phum and mum from an earlier story.

This is Phum and mum from an earlier story.

10 Oct 2016 – Tropical Colours

We are in-between seasons with the rains winding down and the days getting slightly cooler and the evenings darker earlier. The garden is lacking some of the mass colours we have been used to but once the cool season arrives in a few weeks a whole new batch of flowers make an appearance. I am especially looking forward to the bougainvillea shrubs as they are everywhere and have tripled in size from last year.

We still have small splashes of colour to break up the greenery and I thought I would take the camera on a quick run through the garden to capture them this morning.

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11 Oct 2016 – A Morning Photo Session

A series of pre-breakfast photos on a number of small topics that might be of interest. We headed out to the farm first thing (well first thing by my standards). I walked, to try and get some exercise while Gaun took the motorbike.

Follow the photos to get the stories.

This photo was taken exactly two months ago showing Gaun's efforts to plant up the seating area at the farm with flowers.

This photo was taken exactly two months ago showing Gaun’s efforts to plant up the seating area at the farm with flowers.

And today. Most of these flowers originated from Chiang Mai where Gaun collected the seeds.

And today. Most of these flowers originated from Chiang Mai where Gaun collected the seeds.

Pappaya - essential Isaan food.

Pappaya – essential Isaan food.

The only farm in Isaan with a flower walkway to the paddy fields.

The only farm in Isaan with a flower walkway to the paddy fields.

The thickening of the rice stems in this photo shows that the rice is on its way. A huge crop this year with the rains. There has also been an inter-family competition between the two halves of the farm as to who could grow the tallest rice! Yuan fertilised the crop twice and has come out a winner over Paed, Gaun's older sister, who runs the other family farm.

The thickening of the rice stems in this photo shows that the rice is on its way.

A huge crop this year with the rains. There has also been an inter-family competition between the two halves of the farm as to who could grow the tallest rice! Yuan fertilised the crop twice and has come out a winner over Paed, Gaun’s older sister, who runs the other family farm. I cover the rice harvest in another post to be written but I can give you a sneak preview of the results. 70 bags of rice harvested this year compared to 30 in the drought year 2015 – roughly 2,500 kilos of rice.

More fields being prepared by Lud. There are almost no crops for harvest ATM so it is a low income period. A big investment being made in time and effort for crops later in the year.

More fields being prepared by Lud. There are almost no crops for harvest ATM so it is a low income period. A big investment being made in time and effort for crops later in the year.

Cool weather crops being planted. Grown from seed and then replanted as you see here. Broccoli and cauliflower. The low black shadecloth you see in the background are removed after three days once the new seedlings are more established from their replanting.

Cool weather crops being planted. Grown from seed and then replanted as you see here. Broccoli and cauliflower. The low black shadecloth you see in the background are removed after three days once the new seedlings are more established from their replanting.

Gaun picking these small white flower buds, which will be turned into leis one for the car and one for the temple. She loves making them as she says it is like a meditation.

Gaun picking these small white flower buds, which will be turned into leis one for the car and one for the temple. She loves making them as she says it is like a meditation.

Gaun's road planting is starting to take off. This was almost totally bare a couple of months ago.

Gaun’s road planting is starting to take off. This was almost totally bare a couple of months ago.

You will find these books everywhere in Thailand (this one is Yuan's). They are to help you select lucky lottery numbers based on dreams or anything else you observe. The last draw had numbers 887102. We actually had people stop to talk to us because our car rego is 7102!

You will find these books everywhere in Thailand (this one is Yuan’s).

They are to help you select lucky lottery numbers based on dreams or anything else you observe. The last draw had numbers 887102. We actually had people stop to talk to us because our car rego is 7102!

More striking colours from Gaun's green fingers at the farm.

More striking colours from Gaun’s green fingers at the farm.

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Gaun's collection of flowers.

Gaun’s collection of flowers.

Lud wanted some photos to show off the rice.........

Lud wanted some photos to show off the rice………

....and flowers.

….and flowers.

The family are always looking out for me as though I was especially fragile. I walk out to the farm on this road in the morning before the buffalo arrive. Yesterday Yuan got Lud to take me back on the motorbike because she was worried I might get attacked by one of them. The lady on the left was also worried about any problems with a farang because she told Yuan that she had no money for compensation :-) We had a lady in the village who died recently after hitting a bull with her motorbike who then gored her, so maybe best to be safe.

The family are always looking out for me as though I was especially fragile. I walk out to the farm on this road in the morning before the buffalo arrive.

Yesterday Yuan got Lud to take me back on the motorbike because she was worried I might get attacked by one of them. The lady on the left was also worried about any problems with a farang because she told Yuan that she had no money for compensation 🙂 We had a lady in the village who died recently after hitting a bull with her motorbike who then gored her, so maybe best to be safe.

They and the lady spend the whole day on the road. After eating the buffalo relax in a mudhole and watch the world go by. It isn't the most exciting occupation raising buffalo.

They and the lady spend the whole day on the road. After eating the buffalo relax in a mudhole and watch the world go by. It isn’t the most exciting occupation raising buffalo.

That will do for this edition of Small Stories. Lots more to come so keep an eye out for more posts soon.

Thanks for reading.