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.

Day one. All the materials arrive. 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.

Day one. All the materials arrive.

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.

The driveway is cleaned and cracks drilled out ready to be filled.

The driveway is cleaned and cracks drilled out ready to be filled.

They are actually using an additive to help with bonding the old and new cement. It's unusual to find this sort of detail here.

They are actually using an additive to help with bonding the old and new cement. It’s unusual to find this sort of detail here.

The small path to our front entry gate was pretty rough so it's getting a new coverage of concrete prior to the pebblecrete.

The small path to our front entry gate was pretty rough so it’s getting a new coverage of concrete prior to the pebblecrete.

Any excuse for a drink.

Any excuse for a drink.

You can see the plastic strips, which both define the design as well as set the height of the concrete/pebble mix when it's laid. The first star pattern being worked on here too. These strips are removed to form a shallow channel and the coloured concrete they are sitting on then shows through.

You can see the plastic strips, which both define the design as well as set the height of the concrete/pebble mix when it’s laid. The first star pattern being worked on here too. These strips are removed to form a shallow channel and the coloured concrete they are sitting on then shows through.

Unbelievable in Thailand. Plastic put around the walls to minimise splash-back on the paintwork. This area behind the carport has a gym,/storage room, laundry, shower and toilet.

Unbelievable in Thailand. Plastic put around the walls to minimise splash-back on the paintwork. This area behind the carport has a gym,/storage room, laundry, shower and toilet.

The design finished and the first area ready for the pebblecrete.

The design finished and the first area ready for the pebblecrete.

The pebbles are mixed in with the coloured concrete and it is only when they clean the surface layer that the pebbles show through.

The pebbles are mixed in with the coloured concrete and it is only when they clean the surface layer that the pebbles show through.

Cleaning. This is a slow and laborious process with Noy making sure it is spot on.

Cleaning. This is a slow and laborious process with Noy making sure it is spot on.

The star will sit in a yellow coloured concrete surround for contrast.

The star will sit in a yellow coloured concrete surround for contrast.

I have handed the supervising over to Gaun and prefer to take an overarching management role from my office.

I have handed the supervising over to Gaun and prefer to take an overarching management role from my office.

How it looks at the beginning of today. 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.

How it looks at the beginning of today.

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.

Looking from the road through our side gate to the house. 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.

Looking from the road through our side gate to the house.

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.

The second fire engine arrives. Far too late to do anything as the house was already just a shell at this stage.

The second fire engine arrives. Far too late to do anything as the house was already just a shell at this stage.

Sorry about the photo quality. 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.

Sorry about the photo quality.

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.

The head of our moo ban on the left. The first to arrive fire engine behind her. Police, ambulance and emergency services all in attendance.

The head of our moo ban on the left. The first to arrive fire engine behind her. Police, ambulance and emergency services all in attendance.

The village observing events.

The village observing events.

The street blocked off today and a loudspeaker truck set up letting people know who has donated what.

The street blocked off today and a loudspeaker truck set up letting people know who has donated what.

Those columns look OK but not much else.

Those columns look OK but not much else.

Surely this was put on the column after the fire!

Surely this was put on the column after the fire!

The lady on the left owns the house. Some of the donations piled around her.

The lady on the left owns the house. Some of the donations piled around her.

The yai (grandmother - a term of respect for older ladies) with family meeting the group from Nong Bua Lamphu. She was a little teary at this stage poor thing.

The yai (grandmother – a term of respect for older ladies) with family meeting the group from Nong Bua Lamphu. She was a little teary at this stage poor thing.

Making my donation, which is recorded by that lady in black on the right. One of Peng's schoolteachers on the left. 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.

Making my donation, which is recorded by that lady in black on the right. One of Peng’s schoolteachers on the left.

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.

The official motorcade of the Nong Bua Lamphu boss. I thought it was pretty impressive for someone of his level in government to make an appearance the next day at a house fire in a small local village.

The official motorcade of the Nong Bua Lamphu boss. I thought it was pretty impressive for someone of his level in government to make an appearance the next day at a house fire in a small local village.

That's him in the front talking to the head of our orbotor, a sort of regional administrator.

That’s him in the front talking to the head of our orbotor, a sort of regional administrator.

The police and army are always very much involved in situations like this. Mind you it is also a photo opportunity!

The police and army are always very much involved in situations like this. Mind you it is also a photo opportunity!

Government supplies from Nong Bua Lamphu.

Government supplies from Nong Bua Lamphu.

The village looks on. Note that food has been provided as any occasion good or bad in Isaan requires people to eat. 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.

The village looks on. Note that food has been provided as any occasion good or bad in Isaan requires people to eat.

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.

This music truck would normally be blasting but with the death of the king there will be no festivities of any sort for 30 days.

This music truck would normally be blasting but with the death of the king there will be no festivities of any sort for 30 days.

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?

As always these days I just let Gaun (at the front) organise everything. It is partly me being lazy but also she is very competent, super organised, demands the best outcome and enjoys the involvement.

As always these days I just let Gaun (at the front) organise everything. It is partly me being lazy but also she is very competent, super organised, demands the best outcome and enjoys the involvement.

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.

This is inside our storage area so all the conduit/junction boxes are exposed. This would normally be hidden in the roof space.

This is inside our storage area so all the conduit/junction boxes are exposed. This would normally be hidden in the roof space.

Don't leave exposed wires. This has just been done for one of our new external wall lights and will be concreted and painted.

Don’t leave exposed wires. This has just been done for one of our new external wall lights and will be concreted and painted.

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.

Car inspection and registration.

Car inspection and registration.

The new field of crops at the farm is fully planted up and doing very well as we have been getting some rain along with the mild and sometimes sunny conditions. Broccoli and cauliflower - cool season crops here.

The new field of crops at the farm is fully planted up and doing very well as we have been getting some rain along with the mild and sometimes sunny conditions. Broccoli and cauliflower – cool season crops here.

The view from the farm "dining" table with a nice 3 in 1 coffee. 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.

The view from the farm “dining” table with a nice 3 in 1 coffee.

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.

Finally the rice makes an appearance. The end result of a lot of hard work in the early stages.

Finally the rice makes an appearance. The end result of a lot of hard work in the early stages.

If all goes well this will be harvested late November. Tara are you reading? We need you back!

If all goes well this will be harvested late November. Tara are you reading? We need you back!

Meanwhile back at home our driveway is making slow progress. 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.

Meanwhile back at home our driveway is making slow progress.

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 patterns being created for the rest of the driveway.

The patterns being created for the rest of the driveway.

There was a slightly lower area in the middle of the driveway which is here being raised with plain concrete mixed with a bonding solution. 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!

There was a slightly lower area in the middle of the driveway which is here being raised with plain concrete mixed with a bonding solution.

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!

Yuan gave us some green bananas picked on the farm this morning. This afternoon they are being fried up by Gaun and Peng. They make a great crispy nibble, which in their natural form aren't too sweet.

Yuan gave us some green bananas picked on the farm this morning. This afternoon they are being fried up by Gaun and Peng. They make a great crispy nibble, which in their natural form aren’t too sweet.

Peng has pinched the cowboy hat from our resident monk on the right. The raw bananas in the bowl.

Peng has pinched the cowboy hat from our resident monk on the right. The raw bananas in the bowl.

The end result - perfect.

The end result – perfect.

From Gaun's perspective on Peng's phone for her Facebook entry! Peng is actually doing no real cooking :-)

From Gaun’s perspective on Peng’s phone for her Facebook entry! Peng is actually doing no real cooking 🙂

Phum, my little mate from down the road, 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.

Phum, my little mate from down the road.

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.

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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.

We still have builders working on our driveway so we left Peng and Gaun's mama in charge of the house. This is Gaun bringing Peng's motor-scooter around from the family house to our place.

We still have builders working on our driveway so we left Peng and Gaun’s mama in charge of the house. This is Gaun bringing Peng’s motor-scooter around from the family house to our place.

We still have builders working on our driveway so we left Peng and Gaun's mama in charge of the house. This is Gaun bringing Peng's motor-scooter around from the family house to our place.

We still have builders working on our driveway so we left Peng and Gaun’s mama in charge of the house. This is Gaun bringing Peng’s motor-scooter around from the family house to our place.

Cooked to order. You can see the filling selection at the front. All natural flavours and colouring of course :-) The two girls are neighbours of ours.

Cooked to order. You can see the filling selection at the front. All natural flavours and colouring of course 🙂 The two girls are neighbours of ours.

I have been trying for ages to get this photo. 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.

I have been trying for ages to get this photo.

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.

A much needed beer at our hotel UDtel Boutique Hotel on highway 2. Adequate but not highly recommended.

A much needed beer at our hotel UDtel Boutique Hotel on highway 2. Adequate but not highly recommended.

The entrance to Chef's Table rated number 11 in Udon by Trip Advisor. A decent menu of both farang and Thai at very reasonable prices. A minimalist cafe interior, which is better for daytime than a "romantic" evening.

The entrance to Chef’s Table rated number 11 in Udon by Trip Advisor. A decent menu of both farang and Thai at very reasonable prices. A minimalist cafe interior, which is better for daytime than a “romantic” evening.

Chef's Table has recently moved and Google actually has it in the right location as shown below. 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.

Chef’s Table has recently moved and Google actually has it in the right location as shown below.

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 very modern and well presented shopping mall in the making. If in Udon at any time (unlikely I know) do make sure you visit the UD Town evening markets. Much better than the average.

A very modern and well presented shopping mall in the making. If in Udon at any time (unlikely I know) do make sure you visit the UD Town evening markets. Much better than the average.

Daryl and Tik's new house with catering in place.

Daryl and Tik’s new house with catering in place.

Our present to them. Daryl here on the left. Another Aussie friend Terry, who will be building down the road next year.

Our present to them. Daryl here on the left. Another Aussie friend Terry, who will be building down the road next year.

Five monks (one missing in the photo). Have to have odd numbers. The house blessing can either be a more formal occasion with monks or you can use a "spiritman" who will lead the ceremony, which is what we did.

Five monks (one missing in the photo). Have to have odd numbers. The house blessing can either be a more formal occasion with monks or you can use a “spiritman” who will lead the ceremony, which is what we did.

The abbot on the left.

The abbot on the left.

Gaun in traditional Thai for the occasion.

Gaun in traditional Thai for the occasion.

The abbot.

The abbot.

Daryl's father-in-law lighting the candles.

Daryl’s father-in-law lighting the candles.

Adding food to the monk's bowls. Terry and his wife Mai here.

Adding food to the monk’s bowls. Terry and his wife Mai here.

A broad selection of food as always for the monks. They get fed first before the guests.

A broad selection of food as always for the monks. They get fed first before the guests.

Good luck markings being placed on the window. 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!

Good luck markings being placed on the window.

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!

The part of the ceremony where water is poured into a container and then given to a plant outside afterwards. Daryl and his lovely wife Tik.

The part of the ceremony where water is poured into a container and then given to a plant outside afterwards. Daryl and his lovely wife Tik.

Food time.

Food time.

The final part is a three times walk around the house with guests carrying household items.

The final part is a three times walk around the house with guests carrying household items.

Gaun with her contribution.

Gaun with her contribution.

Wives of the three farang plus a couple of guests.

Wives of the three farang plus a couple of guests.

Gaun making a pappaya salad. Super hot and sour and the staple food of Isaan.

Gaun making a pappaya salad. Super hot and sour and the staple food of Isaan.

Yes, a few drinks were put away. This was another of those occasions where beer made an appearance for breakfast as the monks kicked off at 7:00am. A great morning and a house well blessed.

Yes, a few drinks were put away. This was another of those occasions where beer made an appearance for breakfast as the monks kicked off at 7:00am. A great morning and a house well blessed.

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.

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Formwork being put in place for our new concrete garden paths.

Formwork being put in place for our new concrete garden paths.

ncluding plywood to get curves where required.

Including plywood to get curves where required.

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.

A colourful mix of flowers and vegetables growing at the farm. Mostly lovely sunny mornings here this season with wake-up temperatures of 27 rising to maybe 32 during the days.

A colourful mix of flowers and vegetables growing at the farm. Mostly lovely sunny mornings here this season with wake-up temperatures of 27 rising to maybe 32 during the days.

Yes Bob, if you are reading, a storm came through and knocked the rice flat. 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.

Yes Bob, if you are reading, a storm came through and knocked the rice flat.

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.

Perfect.

Perfect.

Jackfruit. I only took the photo because the light was just right.

Jackfruit. I only took the photo because the light was just right.

A wall of colour.

A wall of colour.

Yuan and me all dressed up to make a donation at the temple ceremony being held at the moo ban community centre. Those small pillows are part of just about every ceremony here for some reason. The monks end up with stacks of them. Rice in the silver bowls, small flowers and money.

Yuan and me all dressed up to make a donation at the temple ceremony being held at the moo ban community centre. Those small pillows are part of just about every ceremony here for some reason. The monks end up with stacks of them. Rice in the silver bowls, small flowers and money.

Making the donation. Everything is recorded and then a guy on a microphone reads out who has given what. Rice is put in the bag on my right. You can see the money trees in the background.

Making the donation. Everything is recorded and then a guy on a microphone reads out who has given what. Rice is put in the bag on my right. You can see the money trees in the background.

These are neighbours of ours adding to the collection. Villagers on hard times can buy the rice and pillows from the monks at a reduced price, the money going to the temple.

These are neighbours of ours adding to the collection. Villagers on hard times can buy the rice and pillows from the monks at a reduced price, the money going to the temple.

See a gong. Give it three bangs for good luck.

See a gong. Give it three bangs for good luck.

The local wat monks doing their bit in the community centre.

The local wat monks doing their bit in the community centre.

The money trees.

The money trees.

This man did all the tiling in our house. Highly recommended next time you are building in Si Bun Ruang! Those are fireworks he's displaying.

This man did all the tiling in our house. Highly recommended next time you are building in Si Bun Ruang! Those are fireworks he’s displaying.

Gaun all dressed up.

Gaun all dressed up.

The participants made a circuit around the village. No music, which would normally happen, due to the mourning period for the king. "Tony. Take photo" was the reason for this photo.

The participants made a circuit around the village.

No music, which would normally happen, due to the mourning period for the king. “Tony. Take photo” was the reason for this photo.

Always colourful. You can see the money trees leading the way.

Always colourful. You can see the money trees leading the way.

Peng's friends in our outdoor living area. The bride to be is the one facing Peng on the right.

Peng’s friends in our outdoor living area. The bride to be is the one facing Peng on the right.

Peng and friends.

Peng and friends.

Bridal transport!

Bridal transport!

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Noy, which means “small” in Thai, doing an acid wash with all the safety gear.

Just to show you some of the detail. This is the stainless steel runner for the front gate. Noy has enclosed the gate track length separately and used a different pebble to achieve a lower profile.

Just to show you some of the detail. This is the stainless steel runner for the front gate. Noy has enclosed the gate track length separately and used a different pebble to achieve a lower profile.

Our local garden centre.

Our local garden centre.

And our pre-ordered table really for collection using Lud's pick-up. I am going to soften that green with a new coat of colour.

And our pre-ordered table really for collection using Lud’s pick-up. I am going to soften that green with a new coat of colour.

One chair and a new sitting spot is created. 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.

One chair and a new sitting spot is created.

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.

When we went on a recent trip to a Mekong River town called Chiang Khan we took pictures of some irrigation happening on the way. Here Yuan and Paed, the two sisters who run the family farm, chat about the photos.

When we went on a recent trip to a Mekong River town called Chiang Khan we took pictures of some irrigation happening on the way. Here Yuan and Paed, the two sisters who run the family farm, chat about the photos.

Isaan people doing what they do best - consume food.

Isaan people doing what they do best – consume food.

Happy days.

Happy days.

1 Nov 2016 – A Few Happy Snaps

Peng and Gaun walk the main street of Chiang Khan in the quiet of the afternoon before the evening markets kick off.

Peng and Gaun walk the main street of Chiang Khan in the quiet of the afternoon before the evening markets kick off.

This is rice storage hut at the family house. 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.

This is rice storage hut at the family house.

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.

The family dog Dook Dik. One of life's scruffiest dogs but he has a good temperament and doesn't bark, which makes him one in a million for a Thai moo ban.

The family dog Dook Dik. One of life’s scruffiest dogs but he has a good temperament and doesn’t bark, which makes him one in a million for a Thai moo ban.

My little mate Phum following one of the village elders as she makes her way to feed the monks at the local temple. something she does every day.

My little mate Phum following one of the village elders as she makes her way to feed the monks at the local temple. something she does every day.

Isaan people are constantly foraging. 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.

Isaan people are constantly foraging.

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.

We are having some new concrete paths laid in our garden. This is a Thai way of adding more weight to the roller - have someone sit on it!

We are having some new concrete paths laid in our garden. This is a Thai way of adding more weight to the roller – have someone sit on it!

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:

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  • 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.

Limes were required so when we were at the farm Yuan asked the guy who owns a lime plantation next door to pick us some. It doesn't come fresher than that.

We had run out of limes and this morning when we went out to the farm for coffee the man who grows them was visiting Yuan and Lud. An order was placed and he hopped on his motorbike returning ten minutes later as shown in this photo with 2 kilos picked from his trees.

And ready to use.

These are beautiful juicy limes and he has trees that produce them with hardly any seeds. 50 baht or A$2.00 for the 2 kilos.

2 Nov 2016 – Everyday Stuff

Another mix of photos to give you a glimpse into everyday life here.

My lovely stepdaughter Peng making the trip from the family house, where she sleeps during the week and our home, where she does homework (broadband access) and has dinner. 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.

My lovely stepdaughter Peng making the trip from the family house, where she sleeps during the week and our home, where she does homework (broadband access) and has dinner.

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.

I wrote about this Aussie phenomenon in Thailand recently. Isn't it funny the things you come across when travelling that link you back to "home". This LinFox truck supplying the new Tesco Lotus supermarket in Si Bun Ruang.

I wrote about this Aussie phenomenon in Thailand recently. Isn’t it funny the things you come across when travelling that link you back to “home”. This LinFox truck supplying the new Tesco Lotus supermarket in Si Bun Ruang.

Gaun using her favourite timesaver tool at the farm this morning. 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.

Gaun using her favourite timesaver tool at the farm this morning.

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.

These cauliflower plants were tiny just a couple of weeks ago and now are looking super healthy. The family's other farmhouse in the background. It's a lovely tropical rural scene isn't it.

These cauliflower plants were tiny just a couple of weeks ago and now are looking super healthy. The family’s other farmhouse in the background. It’s a lovely tropical rural scene isn’t it.

Gaun has decided to completely replant this entry section to the farm. 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 :-)

Gaun has decided to completely replant this entry section to the farm.

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 🙂

Gaun stopped a motorbike taking freshly caught fish and clams to the market. Everything passes by if you wait long enough.

Gaun stopped a motorbike taking freshly caught fish and clams to the market. Everything passes by if you wait long enough.

And the fish head off for someone's dinner plate.

And the fish head off for someone’s dinner plate.

Garlic waiting to be planted out at the farm.

Garlic waiting to be planted out at the farm.

Lud is preparing all of this land with his small tractor. 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.

Lud is preparing all of this land with his small tractor.

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.

What a magnificent colour. Newly flowing at the farm. Grown from seed collected by Gaun from a neighbour's garden.

What a magnificent colour. Newly flowing at the farm. Grown from seed collected by Gaun from a neighbour’s garden.

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.

The original table setting.

The original table setting.

That is a pure Pepsi iced drink as Gaun is working in the garden - true!

That is a pure Pepsi iced drink as Gaun is working in the garden – true!

I know I keep repeating myself but this has all happened in 18 months...see next photo.

I know I keep repeating myself but this has all happened in 18 months…see next photo.

The same area 22 March 2015.

The same area 22 March 2015.

On the east side of the house so gets early morning sun filtered by the greenery.

On the east side of the house so gets early morning sun filtered by the greenery.

From front to back now.

From front to back now.

And the same view 13 March 2015.

And the same view 13 March 2015.

I love the colours of these fresh leaves. They dull over time but are stunning now.

I love the colours of these fresh leaves. They dull over time but are stunning now.

Gaun is building bamboo enclosures to keep the Bougainvillea under control. Bamboo cut at the farm.

Gaun is building bamboo enclosures to keep the Bougainvillea under control. Bamboo cut at the farm.

Guys. If you have a Thai lady partner and live in Isaan do keep in mind that they were almost born with a machete in their hand and know how to use them. BE GOOD :-) Gaun sharpening one here - for the bamboo I hope!

Guys. If you have a Thai lady partner and live in Isaan do keep in mind that they were almost born with a machete in their hand and know how to use them. BE GOOD 🙂 Gaun sharpening one here – for the bamboo I hope!

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.

A beer making an appearance from Kiwidad's. The food can wait.

A beer making an appearance from Kiwidad’s. The food can wait.

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.

The Sports Bar on the left. If you are into watching sport this is a decent place with several monitors covering different activities.

The Sports Bar on the left. If you are into watching sport this is a decent place with several monitors covering different activities.

The bread is baked on the premises.

The bread is baked on the premises.

Very simple but immaculate, which is unusual. The guy's wife was actually polishing the knives and forks when we were there.

Very simple but immaculate, which is unusual. The guy’s wife was actually polishing the knives and forks when we were there.

Inside the sport's bar.

Inside the sport’s bar.

A very simple menu but if you want a westerner food hit it will do the job. We had burgers and they were OK, not outstanding.

A very simple menu but if you want a westerner food hit it will do the job. We had burgers and they were OK, not outstanding.

I write more about this topic and retirement in general in a couple of posts on my blog HERE and HERE.

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.