I haven’t been very active with the blog in recent months apart from a burst with three new posts in the last few weeks. I thought I would try to catch up with some of the small stories that make up everyday life here. None of them are spectacular and will never be found on the search results of tourists looking for adventure. However, most of the readers who have followed this blog, and there are some who have become “virtual ” friends over the years, are people who have a much more committed and personal connection to Thailand and have moved well beyond elephant riding and ziplining. For them these little insights help maintain that connection to village life, if they are living elsewhere, and for those who are newer to the scene maybe help with understanding what a life in rural Thailand might look like if that ever happens for them.
I used to call these updates of life in Thailand “Isaan – the Small Stories”. I felt it was time for a change in name although the scope of content is the same. This edition covers only part of September 2017. These stories are extracted from my Facebook page, which I use as a mini-blog to give me an everyday outlet for my enjoyment of words, photography and of course the wonderful lifestyle I am privileged to enjoy. They are very day by day accounts as a result. I hope you enjoy them.
2 Sept 2017 – Upgrading Isaan Grace Docking
With a real wet season this year and high water levels in the farm pond the banks around the docking area for our “boat” Isaan Grace were collapsing threatening the concrete steps and landscaping. Major engineering works were required urgently!
Step 1 – we bought 50 bags and sand to shore up the sides plus erected a fence to keep the fish from eating the bags.
Step 2 – 1,000 small fired bricks were bought and delivered to cover the bags, which were ugly.
Step 3 – terracotta pots were filled with cuttings to sit on top of the bricks to cascade greenery to the waterline.
The end result – beautiful. Needless to say most of the hard work was done by the family who treat me as if I am well past my use-by date, and they could be right 🙂
2 Sept 2017 – Driveway Upgrade
In a burst of activity on the farm we have also upgraded the entrance with new gardens, a gateway under construction and a refresh to the gravel driveway. The Bougainvillea is on the edge of flowering, which will be a stunning wall of colour to the farmhouse.
And here is a sneak preview of the entrance early 2018 when all the bougainvillea are flowering:
2 Sept 2017
Gaun had a day off working today, which for her meant jumping in the farm pond to get some fish for dinner. She also started to learn to drive again after a long time of not being comfortable with the new Nissan pick-up, which is a lot bigger and more expensive (!) than the Mazda it replaced.
3 Sept 2017
We spent a day on the farm today. Beautiful mid-30’s with sunshine and ever changing massive clouds a reminder that the rainy season is still happening.
5 Sept 2017 – Feeding Ghosts
There are two occasions this time of year in Thailand when people gather at the temples to honour deceased relatives and give them food. The second of these happened today. Yuan has been busy at the farm for three days preparing packages of food and cigarettes to sell at the markets, which happened yesterday, for those too busy/lazy to do it themselves. Today there was a very early ceremony to feed the monks and donate money and then at 10:00 am another less Buddhist orientated event leading up to giving food to the spirits (Gaun calls them ghosts, a name I much prefer).
Left to right in the photo above – lemongrass, plates of tobacco items, cowslip flowers, sweet coconut and sticky rice desserts wrapped in banana leaves. Paed (Gaun’s elder sister) on the right.
They made 1,500 baht, which for four days work isn’t a lot but there’s not much ready for harvesting on the farm and this was Yuan’s idea to make a little income in the downtime. Other Thai farmers would probably just sleep but Yuan, Paed and their partners rarely stop.
Gaun is pouring water previously blessed by the monks. When opening the food packages the sisters call out the names of relatives. As Gaun say if you don’t do that how will they know that the food has arrived! Good point. She tells me that even if the relatives don’t hear other ghosts will pass on the message 🙂
These aren’t opened here but after the ceremony are taken back to houses and out to the farms to make sure that any spirits who haven’t made it to the temple get a feed. I now have a few scattered in our garden.
7 Sept 2017 – Nong Khai
We spent the day in Nong Khai today, a town on the banks of the Mekong River, to show Lud and Yuan, my brother and sister in law, who have never been there. One of the places we visited was a sculpture park called Sala Keoku (or Keokou), a place we have been to many times with visiting family and friends. Instead of post repeat photos of the huge statues I thought that this time I would focus on the faces, each of whom have their own character.
The photos have been heavily edited, which gives them a slightly surreal appearance, but that sort of fits the whole theme of the place! The final photo is there to show the size of some of these statues. Spot Lud’s head at the bottom.
9 Sept 2017 – Peng Update
I am only sharing this for friends who continue to follow Peng’s progress after her operation HERE.
It is a bit under 2 months since Peng had her leg casts taken off and she is walking solo (in bursts) having graduated from the walking frame and then two walking sticks. So much work has gone into what maybe looks like not much by both Peng and Gaun. Gaun describes her walking as “like a baby buffalo” but I am sure that is only a mother’s love talking There is obviously still a way to go but I think we are well on the way to achieving Peng’s goal to return to school for the next term starting in November. She will be one happy girl.
BTW the arm covering isn’t a fashion statement but to prevent her skin getting any darker! A trip to the farm involves a whole makeup routine as well. I don’t see Peng harvesting rice anytime soon.
13 Sept 2017 – Fast Growth
Even after four years living here I am blown away by the speed that plants get established. The first photo is of the driveway to the farm in July 2016. One year later what an amazing difference. These Bougainvillea shrubs are on the verge of blooming as we head into the cool season and I will post updates as this will be a wall of colour in the next month or so.
14 Sept 2017 – The Blue Temple
I have been following the construction of this temple Wat Wiset Mongkhon close to home because it promises to be both quite beautiful and unusual.
Although the traditional red, white and gold are the wat colours seen everywhere I enjoy the contrast of this temple with its pebblecrete walls and gray blue roof. There is lots of detail in the ornamentation, which you don’t see often in the village based temples. There is a big push to get as much as possible finished for 8 October, which marks the end of the three month Buddhist Lent period, when the village is throwing a two day party.
16 Sept 2017 – Best Wats
I have just published a post titled “The Best Wats in Isaan” HERE
For anyone visiting the area or expat residents I guarantee you will find some hidden temples you won’t find elsewhere. The photos below illustration some of the surprises you can find hidden away in Isaan.
18 Sept 2017 – Wat Baan Waeng
“Wat Baan Waeng (also known as Pho Chair Sri) is an absolute gem of an attraction, and one that is constantly being overlooked….” Those were the words from a local expat’s website that set us off on a 200 km trip this afternoon in the expectation of adding to my favourite wats of Isaan collection.
Well what a mess of a wat. It was everything I hate about many temples. Unkempt, disorganised, overrun with weeds and the original buildings and statues falling to pieces while money is poured into new ideas. In the expat’s defence it looks as if he hasn’t been there in a while so what might have originally looked OK has fallen apart since. However even in its prime I wouldn’t rate this temple as anything worth the trip. If I was me I would be relying on my list of “The Best Wats in Isaan” posted yesterday
The main reason I wanted to go was that they had a collection of statues designed to scare Buddhists into behaving as model citizens! I discovered a similar temple in Chiang Mai, which was far more dramatic, and I covered that wat in two blog posts HERE and HERE.
Unfortunately the statues in the wat visited today were falling apart and hadn’t been repainted since they were put in place. I have included some photos anyway, which look better than the originals. There are some beautiful wats around but it takes work to find them. This isn’t one of them.
And finally to leave you on a more positive note:
No trip in Thailand is a disappointment if you keep your eyes open. After our disappointing visit to Wat Baan Waeng (last post) we spotted a forest temple on the way home and dropped in just in case. Called something like Wat Pa Thum We Wek (Thai signage only) it was everything the other place wasn’t. Clean, lots of trees, no over the top attempts at spending money and really peaceful. Chalk and cheese. 17°38’34.1″N 102°26’26.6″E
Thanks for reading. Heaps more to come to stay in touch.