This is a short version of what would have been a longer post further down the track. I have a close friend in Australia who is spending time with her dad who is very ill and she asked me to send her some stories to help lighten the day. I started to compose an email and then realised that it would be more effective to use the photos I had selected for her in another Small Stories post. I hope you don’t mind Janet. As the basis for this collection of photos was originally for a personal email it includes a few family shots that probably wouldn’t normally make it to the blog.

Party Time Again

I told you in the last Small Stories post HERE that Isaan goes into party mode after Buddhist Lent finishes. We have been to three temple festivals so far with more to come. I particularly love the local celebrations that starts with a music truck and a few people at the temple, which then collects new recruits as the group moves through the village. It is all very spontaneous and great fun in the Thai tradition.

Our first festival was more formal at a local forest wat that I wrote about HERE. The forest temples are more traditional and don’t do the music and heavy drinking (outside the temple grounds) that form the basis of the local wat events. The second festival was to raise money for what will be a lovely temple at a village close to us:

This will be a beautiful building in a blue and white colour scheme.

I think this will end up being a beautiful building in a blue and white colour scheme. So nice to have a change from the red, gold and white theme.

Donating to the money tree. Your name goes into a book so that your merit is acknowledged.

Donating to the money tree. Your name goes into a book so that your act of merit is acknowledged.

Just one of those little things that you can do to look like a local. When placing money into these split bamboo sticks that go on the “tree”. Make sure the King’s head is at the top! Who would have thought?

A close-up of the same photo to illustrate the point. No king likes to be upside down.

A close-up of the same photo to illustrate the point. No king likes to be upside down.

The group starts small from the temple gates. Big music truck in the back.

The group starts small from the temple gates. Big music truck at the back.

A mini-dancer. He was right into it until he realised a farang was watching.

You are never too young to join a Thai dance party. He was right into it until he realised a farang was watching.

The first time I have seen armed security guards at one of these processions.

The first time I have seen armed security guards at one of these processions.

The mix of youngsters (like myself), Thai whisky and Isaan music can lead to some problems but I have never been around any major outbreaks of fighting. Mind you I am in bed by eight!!!! This moo baan (village) was obviously taking no chances and had called in the heavies. Normally security just have large truncheons like the second guy on the left. Maybe my reputation preceded me.

Never shy for a photo op.

Never too shy for a photo op.

The big guy had worked in Sydney.

The big guy had worked in Sydney and spoke some English.

Cool dudes.

Cool dudes.

Mates or mates now after a few lao khao's (Thai white whisky made from rice)

Mates or mates now after a few lao khao’s (Thai white whisky made from rice)

Cool drinks for the dancers.

Cool drinks for the dancers.

Coming from a western background I am always amazed at the local connections that spread across the villages that make up Si Bun Ruang and beyond. Many of these folk have lived in the area since birth and their families before them. I know nothing of these links but Gaun picks up on the various relationships. One of the interesting things to do is to walk around our moo bann in the evening and Gaun will point out all the various connections between the people you meet sitting outside at the end of the day and give you the gossip.

The people who donated these drinks are the relations of some other people we know in the village next to ours. We were invited to their daughter’s wedding and they in return came to our house warming ceremony.

A typical three on a bike scene.

A typical three on a bike scene.

 

The best part - free ice creams at the end of the procession back in the temple. All food and drink is donated.

The best bit – free ice creams at the end of the procession back in the temple. All food and drink is donated within the temple complex.

Our village festival

This happened the following week to the party above. The locals were consulted on the type of party they wanted and because all the older folk turned up to vote and the youngsters didn’t it ended up being a more subdued and traditional affair much to the disappointment of the party animals like Gaun!

The celebrations started late morning with beer and a run to get takeaway noodle soup.

Two local heros! Lud, my brother-in-law and me off for a noodle run.

Two local heros! Lud, my brother-in-law and me off for the noodle run.

My beautiful sister-in-law Yuan.

My lovely sister-in-law Yuan. She and her hubbie Lud are two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Because we are having a number of farang visitors over the next few months Yuan has planted up a small garden at the farm, something she has never done before. My garland was made especially for the day from flowers picked that morning. I am looking quite Hawaiian.

Gaun's party sunglasses.

Gaun’s party sunglasses.

The last couple of photos were taken at a neighbour’s house where the food and drinks were flowing freely. In a split of participants Australian’s will relate to all the ladies were in one corner and the blokes in another.

Six bottles of lao khao consumed by four people at this point.

The guys. Six bottles of lao khao consumed by four people at this point. I have to have a lie down after one shot!

The formal part of the day then got underway:

Our temple festival was more subdued.

Our temple festival was more restrained.

A mix of older ladies and younger dancers.

A mix of older ladies and younger dancers.

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Teachers in the purple tops keep an eye on their students.

Great faces.

Great faces.

Maybe not my best look but who cares . Face powder applied by Lud for good luck.

Maybe not my best look but who cares . Face powder applied by Lud for good luck.

Sisters.

Sisters.

A traditional musical instrument. The guy could play it very well too.

A traditional musical instrument. The guy could play it very well too.

Visitors

A big hello to Bob and Soun who called into see us on the way to their wedding in Isaan a few days later. An online congratulations to you both. Bob was kind enough to contribute to the blog with his story of a visa border run HERE.

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Me and Bob in the temple grounds of Wat Pha Silawa.

They were unlucky to stay at Sunam Resort, mentioned in Small Stories 8, as the resort has gone downhill a lot since we stayed there in 2013. No longer recommended. “My bad” as I would say if I were forty years younger.

Although Bob and Soun were only with us for a few days we were able to cover a few of the sights I had written up in Visiting Isaan – Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE and Part 3 HERE. I will only add a few photos as we have covered all this before:

Soun and Gaun.

Soun and Gaun. Gaun is modesty wrapped to visit a temple. Ladies – keep one of these in the car when in Thailand.

One of the small outside temples in this forest wat. Very low key.

One of the small outside temples in this forest wat. Very low key.

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The ordination temple.

This is Wat

This is Wat Tham (cave) Klong Pane originally covered HERE. Well worth a visit if in the Nong Bua Lamphu region.

My favourite Buddha cave.

My favourite Buddha cave. A place of worship for Thais not just a tourist snapshot destination.

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Soun pays her respect to one of those very lifelike wax statues.

Soun pays her respect to one of those very lifelike wax statues. The founder of the temple in this instance.

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The main temple.

Gaun and many Buddhas.

Gaun and many Buddhas.

A Royal Visit

We may be out in the sticks but that doesn’t stop royalty from dropping in. We have has a couple of royals visit in the last few weeks. The Queen’s sister arrived to open a new Buddha statue at a forest temple close to us that I covered in Small Stories 8 (the wat not the visit as we had a dentist appointment for Peng booked that morning).

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The Queen on the right and the royal who “launched” this Buddha on the left.

The eldest daughter of the king and queen was the second royal to pass through Si Bun Ruang to open a new building at a small school a few kilometers down the road.

Wikipedia tells me the following in case you were interested:

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya (Thai: อุบลรัตนราชกัญญา; rtgs: Ubonrat Ratchakanya; Thai pronunciation: [ʔù.bon.rát râːt.tɕʰa.kan.jāː]; born 5 April 1951 in Lausanne, Switzerland), or full name Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi (Thai: อุบลรัตนราชกัญญา สิริวัฒนาพรรณวดี; rtgs: Ubonrat Ratchakanya Siriwatthana Phannawadi), is a princess of Thailand and the eldest child of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. She relinquished her royal title and settled in the United States with her husband, Peter Ladd Jensen, but returned to Thailand after divorcing in 1998.

Since her return to Thailand, she has increasingly taken part in royal ceremonies, though not to the extent of her royal siblings. In 2008, she began a film career, playing the main role in the Thai film Where the Miracle Happens.

Now I have learnt something here as the lake I wrote about HERE is called Ubol Ratana presumably after the princess and not the other way around! You can see that she is a little different and more westernised than the other royals from this photo. Still obviously Thai because of the phone photo moment:

She also has the Thai ability to look young. She's 64 in this photo.

She also has the Thai ability to look young. She’s 64 in this photo.

The arrival of a royal is a pretty big event in any situation but especially for a very small town like Si Bun Ruang. The logistics of setting up the venue is huge and it took all week. It included a full sound stage and pop band in this case (she joined the group on stage and sang with them – see video), plus the road had to be closed the 90 km from Udon airport to Si Bun Ruang. This was an evening affair with her arriving about 9 pm.

Once again a movie star rather than royal emphasis.

Once again a movie star rather than royal emphasis. These large posters were on display at the school.

And more.

And more.

This is my hairdresser who was getting an award that night. It is a small world here.

This is my hairdresser all dressed up as she was getting an award that night. It is a small world here.

Heaps of school kids all in their uniforms.

Heaps of school kids all in their uniforms.

The school hall ready for her arrival.

The school hall ready for her arrival.

Government employees have uniforms that have to be worn of nominated days of the week. These guys could be anything from teachers to hospital workers.

Government employees have uniforms that have to be worn on nominated days of the week. These guys could be anything from teachers to hospital workers.

Lots of "stalls" set up with images of the princess.

Lots of “stalls” set up with images of the princess.

I can’t show you any photos of her arrival as cameras weren’t allowed and obeying Thai police is high on my to-do list. I did however capture the event from the royal update program on Thai TV the next day and you can see it below. They must have cut the bit where I got my two and a half year Thai long service medal.

As always there’s some hiccup with YouTube and these videos if viewed on an iPad. Hit the video frame to the far right to get it to play not the obvious PLAY button in the middle of the screen.

A Few Other Bits and Pieces

Nong Bua Lamphu (Nong = lake, Bua = lotus and Phu = hill so a town with a lotus lake near a hill) must have got a nice little earner from the stimulus package because they are rebuilding the central park and temple. Set on the edge of the central lake this park will be quite a feature once finished. Thais are great at building stuff but useless at maintenance. I think the emphasis is getting important people to open things, have a big party and then wait for the decay to ruin it before knocking it all down and building another one in an endless cycle of openings and parties!

The area will have a outdoor sound stage, park and food hall.

The area will have a outdoor sound stage, park and food hall. There’s a walking track that goes right around the lake. If in the area make sure you come here for Loi Krathong, which I believe is on the 26th November this year. I covered this festival from a Chiang Mai perspective HERE.

The planned end result.

The planned end result. This temple is dedicated to the previous king in one of those odd Thai mixes of royalty and Buddhism.

Getting there.

Getting there.

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This is the "nong" and the "bua" bit.

This is the “nong” and the “bua” bit. The chickens are a theme of this temple for whatever reason. They have been homeless for a while now during the building process. Nobody touches them here. In Australia these would either be stolen or in the lake after the first night. I am sure your country would be the same.

My relaxed in Thailand photo.

My relaxed in Thailand photo.

I didn’t take photos of the rest of the park as it is still under construction. I will report back on the opening party as it will be a big one and we may even get royalty back. As a republican I can’t believe how much I have written about royalty in this post 🙂

I have told you before that if you wait long enough in Isaan whatever you need will pass the door. Well we needed some adjustments made to clothes and the mobile seamstress drove past us recently.

We come to you.

We come to you.

All very neatly set up in the back of a pickup.

All very neatly set up in the back of a pickup. Can you spot hubbie in the back. It’s a dual machine operation!

Do you like the way they have done this. Brillient.

Do you like the way they have done this. Brillient.

Do you need a new zip for your jeans? it will cost you 40 THB or A$1.60 and obviously done as you wait.

A young child photo shot.

A young child photo shot.

This well built young man lives across the road from us with his grandmother. In true Isaan style his mum works in Bangkok and only comes home a few times a year. He is being brought up by the extended family and will suffer no feelings of rejection when he grows up or require any counselling! There are many children in exactly the same situation here with parents earning an income in the big cities, the tourist centres on the coast or overseas especially in Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

This guy loves going somewhere with his grandma on the motorbike. He gets very upset if she gets away without him.

A great way to use up some broken tiles. The chicken likes it too.

A great way to use up some broken tiles. The chicken likes it too.

A new member of our family. This is gop (frog in Thai) and he's taken up residence in our new pond.

A new member of our family. This is gop (frog in Thai) and he’s taken up residence in our new pond.

Gop is a menu item in Isaan so he has chosen his new home with great care and may live to an old age as long as I keep my local visitors under a watchful eye.

Surprisingly many flowers come into thewir own in the cool season.

Surprisingly many flowers come into their own in the cool season, which lasts from late November until January/February. Gaun was wonderfully colour coordinated for this photo by chance.

November brings the rice harvest. The family have planted half the farm to sugar so Yuan's harvest was all over in the one day this year.

November brings the rice harvest. The family have planted half the farm to sugar so Yuan’s harvest was all over in one day this year.

Gaun demonstrating the height of the rice. This is irrigated rice so more than double the height and yield of the non watered crops.

Gaun demonstrating the height of the rice. This is irrigated rice so more than double the height and yield of the non watered crops most of which have died in the drought.

A neighbour making flower arrangements for the temple.

A neighbour making flower arrangements for the temple.

Eye straining work threading these little flowers and making this display.

Eye straining work threading these little flowers and making this display.

Peng getting use form her three wheel motorbike. Note the dog in the basket. Gaun's mama on the right.

Peng getting use form her three wheel motorbike. Note the dog in the basket. Gaun’s mama on the right. I wrote about buying Peng’s bike HERE.

The dog is rescued.

The dog is rescued.

Well having said this would be a short post it has dragged on. Janet I hope you enjoy and others too.

Thanks for reading.