And the hyperactivity on the blog front continues. More everyday stories that makes you part of my Isaan life, like it or not 🙂
14 Oct 2016 – The Driveway Upgrade Continues
As the final building project we are having the driveway pebblecreted to cover up the rather ugly concrete entrance to the garden and house. All the internal gravel paths, about 50 metres of them, are being concreted as well with an inlay of stone to make them more interesting and a lot more comfortable to walk on for this farang without Isaan farmer’s feet.
When the pebblecrete guy told me he could take up to a month to cover 95 sq mtrs of concrete I was at a loss to know how it could take this long. I now know why.
The existing concrete was carefully cleaned some of it using a weak acid wash. Several cracks were drilled out and filled. A pattern of blue plastic strips is set out sitting on concrete to set the levels. The plastic is eventually removed and these form channels to help water flow off the driveway. They also pattern the driveway, which will be a mix of a red and yellow colour. The pebbles are the same but the backing concrete is coloured differently. We are also getting three star designs, which the guy offered to do free, which will make it all look pretty classy. Outside the gate a scallop design will make a really smart introduction to the house.
All hand done with a lot of care and time. I have actually found a real Thai tradesman who takes pride in what he does. Not a lot of them around in any country.
The bags on the left are mostly pebbles delivered from Udon. They are sourced locally or for more money you can get coloured pebbles from the coast. You can see that the driveway doesn’t present that well in its present form.
That yellow hasn’t been cleaned yet so it won’t end up anything like that colour. It will however contrast with the red to add interest. All of it gets cleaned and sealed which will make the pebbles stand out.
The path to the gate will be in pebblecrete while the path inside will be concrete and stone. It will really finish off a pretty wonderful home. Gaun has been hedge trimming as you can tell. Almost a fulltime job.
15 Oct 2016 – Fire in the Village
Sometimes the worst of times brings out the best in people and today was an example of that. Early evening yesterday the sound of sirens in the moo ban (village) got everyone up and about and a phone call from Yuan, Gaun’s younger sister who is always up to date, informed us that a house in the village was on fire.
We joined lots of others to see what was going on. Two fire engines turned up, but I don’t know how long after the alert went out. The house was doomed whatever as it was a traditional Isaan wooden place and nothing would stop that once it got going. The other problem is that there is no water pressure in the village. The water is gravity fed from a tower and there is no ability to run a hose unless you have your own pressure pump.
The good side of local people was on display this morning as a marquee had been quickly set up and people were arriving with donations of household things and money. We arrived to make a donation just as the head of Nong Bua Lamphu, our provincial capital and a big-wig by local standards, arrived with more supplies and to meet the lady whose house had burned.
All the electricity had been turned off for obvious reasons and it was actually almost pitch black. You get the idea though. A timber second story with a tin roof would have burnt in minutes I would have thought.
I wanted to contribute whatever because it was such a devastating event for the lady but it is also so important to be seen as part of the community as far as we can be. Everyone notices when you involve yourself in situations like this and it is repaid many times over with smiles in the street from people you haven’t even met.
Can you spot the young girl who has spotted a farang? Kids have that wonderful honesty and are openly interested in these large pale coloured creatures wandering the streets of their village.
I am sure that some form of a rebuild will occur with the help of the community and I will report on that as it happens.
15 Oct 2016 – Farang Pricing
A quick post more aimed at any expats reading who haven’t much experience in the area of Thai building and contractors.
I am expanding our existing garden lighting with five new lights. I also want the wiring of a couple of pond lights and pumps changed so they can be turned on and off with switches rather than plugging and unplugging. Basically the job involves two wall lights and three LED spotlights plus two new outdoor switch boxes with associated wiring for the pond equipment.
We were recommended a contractor and he gave me an all inclusive price of 2,500 baht or A$100.00. Now this is a great if small example of the decisions you need to make here about spending money. By Australian standards $100 for this amount of work is super cheap. You’d pay that for a callout fee for an electrician before he even started doing anything! However by Thai standards it is a farang price. So do you just go with the flow, do what’s easy and accept the cheap home country price or do you hold out for a “Thai” price?
Half the trick is knowing what the Thai price is and then you need to find a contractor who is happy to quote you on that basis. If you have bought my eBook “Building a House in Thailand” the spreadsheets will show you what the base price should be for just about anything. I didn’t pay a farang premium for any part of the job that I am aware of. A second electrician is working as I type and his costs will be half the cost of the first quote. If you set yourself up to be easy game on prices then be prepared for the word to get out and you’ll pay more for your build.
Just on a related matter especially with my previous topic of the village house fire in mind. Do make sure that where appropriate your electrical wiring is inside conduit and junction boxes. There are plenty of rats and mice around and they do love a nibble on electrical wiring. I have built a western standard house and it is difficult for the little rodents to get inside the roof and walls but even so all my electrical cabling is protected. You are asking for trouble if you don’t and the extra expense in the scheme of a house build is minimal.
17 Oct 2016 – A Mixed Bag
A mix of little items that may or may not be of interest. Here they are anyway.
And one item with no photos from today but just for the record. Our car registration is due and in Thailand it is so easy to do. Cars up to six years old don’t need to be inspected. Look for any motor shop that has the yellow “cog” looking sign outside as I have shown in the first of the attached photos.
Take in your rego papers and car blue book (the ownership papers) and they will make the trip to the government rego office and do all the hard work. You just come back a few days later to collect the papers and a new rego sticker.
You need compulsory third party insurance, which they can arrange for you. Rego cost is based on size of vehicle I believe but for a Mazda 2 it was 1,500 baht (A$60.00) and 600 baht (A$24.00) for the third party! I seem to remember my last (now over three years old) rego in Canberra cost me over $1,000.
You sort of get used to 3 in 1. It tastes nothing like coffee but comes in individual packets, which makes it safe from ants and the humidity. The just add hot water instructions works well for the farm too.
You can now see the effect I wrote about in a previous post. The gravel is the same in both sections but the cement is coloured to provide the contrast and pattern. This is still quite muted and the colours will improve once it is finally cleaned and sealed. Those blue strips are removed to reveal the coloured concrete behind.
The coloured gravel mix will then go on top. The blue tarp was yesterday put up to give protection from the rain and today it is coming in useful to shade from the sun!
He so enjoyed splashing in our fishpond on a recent visit that he has now scored his own backyard pool. A little restrictive for the freestyle but good fun anyway.
19 Oct 2016 – A Police Visit
We had the police visit us this morning and I thought I would provide a balancing view to the often negative comments about Thai police in the various forums.
Today’s visit by a plainclothes guy, with gun, and one of the senior moo ban villagers was part of a regular check of all farang living in the area. A very simple form had to be filled out and a copy of my passport provided. Surprisingly no effort was made to check my visa, which is the area I would have thought most of the problems would be.
I was half expecting some form of unofficial payment to be requested but after a chat (with Gaun not me!) and the taking of several photos they headed off to the next farang (only two of us in the village) with duty done. The policeman called Csit gave me his phone number as he is the liaison officer for farang in Si Bun Ruang. Gaun told me that if she and I were “boxing” that I could phone him for backup 🙂
I have no problems with the police checking on us from time to time. It is their country and we are so lucky to be able to share it mostly with very little hassle. I go to the trouble to know what documentation is required to legally stay here and then make sure that I have it all in place. For those farang that don’t go to the effort or want to try and stay here illegally it’s your problem if you get caught. Don’t whinge about it.
Most of the police you will see in Thailand are traffic cops and if they pull you over it is to check on your driving licence and car rego – nothing wrong with that. In the three plus years I have lived in Thailand I have only ever been asked to provide my passport once. The traffic cops aren’t interested in your visa correctness nor would they know what to documentation look for.
That time I had to show my passport was just after the military coup and the guy asking, shown in the photo, was an ex-immigration policeman (Thai immigration is part of the police service). However it is a good idea to carry a copy of your passport with you and if a resident also a copy of your current 90 day extension of stay document. I had my passport copied to a credit card size and laminated so it is easily carried in my wallet.
Just a word on corruption. Obviously is does happen but in my experience it is not a regular event. I have never paid a straight bribe here and I have been through many transactions from buying land, building a house and getting married, where a handout could have easily been asked for (and would have been paid) but it has never happened.
I have been fined here several times but it was for legitimate things. I have non-standard HID globes in my Mazda, for example, which are illegal! I got picked up once and paid my 400 baht (A$16.00). Whether that money makes it to central revenue who knows but it wasn’t a pure shakedown.
Funnily the only time I almost had to pay a farang premium was when I was driving Lud’s truck that had a nudge-bar that hid part of the number-plate. The policemen pulled Gaun aside and tried to ask for 500 baht instead of the normal 200 baht fine. Gaun, who takes no nonsense from anyone, got stuck into him and told him she was going to take his photo and report him. There was a quick back down and 200 baht handed over with a receipt in return 🙂 There is no way I would have tackled the policemen like that but don’t mess with Gaun.
Csit told me that he makes 700 baht a day, about A$20.00, and as far as I know the police have to pay for their own uniforms and weapons. BTW that information came about because Gaun was telling him that a cleaner in Australia would make about 700 baht an HOUR. If you do have to pay a few dollars at some stage I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it.
As with all things Thai it is best to relax, smile and move on.
21 Oct 2016 – A Udon House Blessing
We were invited to the house blessing ceremony in Udon Thani this week for a friend Daryl and his wife Tik to mark the end of a build we have been following for a while now.
In Thailand there are two blessings that need to be incorporated into the schedule whenever you build. One is for when the first steel reinforcement column is put in place, which signifies the beginning of construction and the second when the house is formally complete. You can not have any construction come out of the ground (i.e. you can dig footings but nothing can show above ground apart from the first column structure) until the spirits have been informed. You can also not move into the house to live until the spirits have given the all clear.
Plan well in advance for both ceremonies because they can only be conducted on specific “good luck” days and your building/moving in plans will have to fit around those dates not the other way around unless we want to upset your Thai partner and the builders.
We decided to make a mini holiday of Daryl and Tik’s event and drove to Udon the day before for some shopping, to try out a new restaurant in the evening and stay overnight.
For all you Aussies reading Linfox is alive and thriving in Thailand. They have the supply contract for Tesco Lotus and 7/11. It is unusual not to see one of their trucks when driving here but this is the first time I had the camera ready.
Trip Advisor is wrong. Pho Si Road as marked on the map is better known as highway 22. The restaurant is opposite to UD Town shopping centre and is on the left as you cross the railway tracks heading into Udon CBD. It is situated in a brand new and mostly unoccupied quality shopping mall. For locals keep an eye on this place as it develops.
A bit unfortunate as they are supposed to be left there until they fade! You will see these markings inside cars on the roof above the dashboard. New cars are often taken to the wat for a monk’s blessing. With Thai driving they need all the good luck they can get!
31 Oct 2016 – Driveway Completed
Our pebblecrete driveway has been finished and the result has transformed the entrance to the house. It is almost too good to drive on.
The builder Noy did an outstanding job taking three weeks to cover 95 sq mtrs. I couldn’t recommend him more highly. Not sure if he is available to travel to Australia but will certainly do jobs from here to Udon and Khon Kaen.
Today work started on concreting about 40 metres of garden paths.
31 Oct 2016 – A Day in the Life
A day in the life of a retired farang in rural Isaan! Out to the farm on the motorbike for a early morning coffee with Yaun and Lud, my favourite in-laws.
Back home to get ready for a small temple festival (not much happening with the death of the king in the way of parties) to commemorate the end of Buddhist Lent and raise money for building work.
Friends of Peng came to collect her for a “hen’s” party prior to a wedding tomorrow. The girl is only 16 and not pregnant, the reason for many marriages by young people here, just losing her freedom early 🙂 The party was being held on the weekend otherwise everyone would be at school!
Noy, our wonderful driveway guy, was working on his own to clean the finished result using a light acid wash and then a sealer.
Off to a local garden centre with Yuan and Lud to pick up a concrete table and chairs we had ordered to be made using tiles provided by us. 300 baht for the tiles and 1,200 baht for the table/chair construction a total of around A$60.00. The table and three chairs will go under the pergola outside the main bedroom and a single chair into a corner of the garden. Photos to follow.
Some of my Thai family came over for dinner. Unlike so many Thai in-laws with farang these guys never think they have access to my wallet. They even bought some food and beer! Great folks and a happy way to wind up a varied day.
The price for having tall growing rice. It doesn’t affect the output but just makes it a lot harder for the people harvesting by hand as they have to bend right down to cut.
No music, which would normally happen, due to the mourning period for the king. “Tony. Take photo” was the reason for this photo.
I do a lot of sitting in my new life! Regular readers will spot “My Dog” a handbag that is often seen in photos with Gaun. That is our front wall backing Gaun.
1 Nov 2016 – A Few Happy Snaps
You will see these all over rural Isaan. I missed the photo but today last year’s leftover rice from the farm was cleared out and taken to the markets to sell.
The family are getting ready for the new rice crop which will be harvested in a couple of weeks. We only use fresh rice from the current year’s crop grown on the farm. The income side of the business comes from sugar and mixed vegetables not rice.
Here a lady has pulled her motorbike over because she has spotted some sort of edible leaf on this bush at a neighbours place. I see greenery and Gaun sees a multicourse meal.
2 Nov 2016 – A Crepe Recipe Worth Trying
A good recipe is always worth sharing and this one for easy French crepes and works every time. These are those really thin pancakes, not the thick American style version:
- 1 1/2 cups of flour – sifting it first seems to help
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon of salt (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)
- Blend and let sit for one hour.
Heat a nonstick pan (a specialist crepe pan makes it a lot easier) and add a small amount of butter just to add colour to the outside layer. Pour in enough mixture to cover the bottom plus a bit then and pour any excess back into the container. This gives you that really thin crepe.
As soon as the edges start to turn the slightest brown flip the crepe over. The second side only needs a short time to firm. Flip again onto the plate so that the brown side faces out. You should only need to cook each crepe for about 1 minute total, maybe a little more, if the pan if hot enough.
Fill the result with whatever turns you on. I love the lime and sugar version for breakfast. The savory ones with mince are delicious for lunch or dinner.
2 Nov 2016 – Everyday Stuff
Another mix of photos to give you a glimpse into everyday life here.
We have the best shower in Isaan so it gets a hit in the evening over the family home alternative. Peng has reduced mobility and doesn’t have the strength in her legs to hold up a motorbike. We bought this ancient but renovated scooter for her in Chiang Mai, which gives her some freedom. Note the Chiang Khan T-shirt for those of you who follow my posts.
Another obscure bit of information. You will see that Peng is on her way to having long hair. Schoolgirls have to keep their hair cut short until they move into senior school (aged around 16). They are then allowed to grow their hair long. It is something she has been dying to do for ages.
A cordless trimmer. These flowers are wonderful and can be trimmed into almost a colourful hedge. That blanket of what looks like grass Gaun is stepping on are actually self-seeded flowers growing. This will be an amazing wall of colour soon.
I think that because the garden at home is under control she has to expend excess energy somewhere. I make two coffees in the morning and have to have a little lie down 🙂
This will be hand planted with onions, garlic, bok choy, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflowers. We are heading into the dry season so the whole farm will have to be hand watered morning and evening.
This big push is for New Year when all of Isaan returns from working in other places in Thailand to be with family and party. The population doubles or more for this period. Yuan and Lud work 16 hour days plus to try and keep up with the demand for vegetables come New Year. It is THE big money earning time of year for them along with Songkran, Thai New Year in April.
4 Nov 2016 – Another Place to Enjoy Doing Nothing
In a recent post I showed us buying a new concrete table and chairs from the local garden centre. Well it is now in place, repainted in a calmer green and makes a lovely seating area outside the main bedroom.
4 Nov 2016 – Farang Limitations
I only add this entry to give anyone interested more of an insight to life here. I am not expecting readers to rush over to visit Kiwidad’s Cafe in Nong Bua Lamphu 🙂
Many farang in business here tend to be a transient lot and when you come back to revisit a place it is closed or has new ownership. Maybe this is as a result of the ever changing relationships some farang seem to have with their Thai girlfriends.
Kiwidad’s Cafe has replaced a couple of other “themed” eating places the last one (or the one before that) being Ned Kelly’s Cafe (guess what country the owner came from!). It is one of three shops on the main road through Nong Bua Lamphu (the 210 for regular readers). A sport’s bar is on the left owned by another Kiwi called Steve, now there’s Kiwidad’s Cafe in the middle and the shop on the right was run by a German as a bar serving German type food and breads. He has recently died and his Thai wife has changed it into a very simple bar just serving drinks.
You will often read articles about retiring to places like Thailand pushing the benefits of a cheaper lifestyle allowing your pension dollar to travel further. What is less emphasised, if mentioned at all, is that it can end up being a very isolating experience if you base yourself in rural areas like where I live. Firstly there aren’t that many westerners around and secondly there aren’t many meeting places where foreigners can congregate and have the option of making new contacts or friends.
In Nong Bua this little piece of farang territory is the only option other than an Italian restaurant on the other side of town. In my home town of Si Bun Ruang the farang options are exactly zero. Unless you can find interest in a lifestyle based on what the Thai side of things has to offer you could well find yourself very lonely and you wont find that in your retire to Thailand promotional material.
Update 4 Mar 2017: The Sports Bar and Kiwidads have since closed. Not much choice for westerners in Nong Bua these days.
If you want to see what Nong Bua has to offer have a read of this HERE.
Thanks for reading.