I am going to be including the following standard introduction to these posts for those people who come across them for the first time as it gives some background as to why they read the way they do. For regular readers (a huge thank you to you all) you can skip this bit and get stuck into the new happenings. Well actually they are a bit of a catch-up so not that new but as of this week with three months off doing anything physical after some minor surgery they will become newer the more bored I get with being inside 🙂

Introduction

My posts “Living in Isaan” are a series of  small stories I have recorded that make up my everyday life in a small rural village in the north east of Thailand, a region called Isaan/Isan/Esan. You will find many expats writing blogs about life in the coastal centres and places like Chiang Mai but fewer make the effort to record what living out this way looks like.

None of my stories are spectacular and will never be found in the search results of tourists looking for adventure. However, most of the readers who follow 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, zip-lining and bar hopping. 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.

24 Oct 2017 – A Big Day for Peng

A post only for those of you following my stepdaughter Peng’s progress since her operation in June, which you can read about HERE. A VERY happy girl as she was cleared to return to school today for the start of a new term (only two terms a year). This achievement is a testament to the dedication and hard work of team Gaun/Peng, which has been pleasure to observe. Peng’s teacher feels that she has the ability to catch up on missed work and still get the required marks to get into university in 2019 – a first for the family. As us Aussies would say “good on ya Peng”. A proud step-dad indeed 

Thai school kids are SO neat in their standard uniform. Peng was up at 5:00 am to get ready – a sleepless night maybe

I have only included this photo because I came here to measure those steps behind Peng to construct a mini-replica she could exercise on at home to make sure she could get to her third floor classroom. Peng was only able to do 20 or thirty to start but ended up hitting 400 a day.

Back in the day – Peng’s “school” steps at home.

And here is the result of all her exercise. No problems going up the stairs – yay.

A group of Peng’s friends in a group selfie.

Only a few kids around this early but you can tell this must be a Thai classroom!

An early coffee at the farm on a sunny and relatively cool (low 20’s) morning. A pleasure to see this field all planted up with broccoli and cauliflowers and everything looking so happy (that’s a non-farmer technical expression). Future income in the making.

25 Oct 2017 – Helping out the Locals

I spent some of the morning helping the villagers clear the 3 kms of road from the main highway to Wat Pa Sup Anun, the small forest temple that is having its end of Buddhist Lent celebration on the 28th. Thai national and the yellow Buddhist flags will then be set out along the entire length.

A quick learning curve for a novice farang in the dangers of Thai vegetation (1) watch out for ants in the foliage because they will drop on you and get in your clothes to bite (2) have a good look at what you are grabbing before cutting because some have small thorns that really grab you and (3) keep an eye out for bee hives in the bushes you’re cutting because they don’t appreciate the attention. So apart from the ant bites, scratches and one bee sting I thought I coped pretty well!!! My very modest efforts were noted and appreciated by the locals.

A huge effort happening at the wat itself with soil being brought in to create new roads, the building being decorated with vegetation and fruit, grass mown and a big push to get the toilet block functioning if not complete.

Yuan and a neighbour cutting bananas at Paed’s half of the family farm (Gaun’s older sister) to decorate the wat.

I was off with the blokes clearing the road into the moo ban and then from the village to the temple past the family farm.

A big turnout from the village and beyond to help out. This is Yah, the guy who originally did all the tiling for our house (300 sq mtrs of it) and more recently completely repainted the house inside and out.

Spot the farang.

Lud one of my brother-in-laws.

Coconuts at the farm being harvested the traditional way.

It is higher than it looks. What a crop.

Yuan and friend with the outcome.

You will see these sidecars all over Thailand. In Isaan they are called salings and you can have one added to your bike for between 4 – 6,000 baht. Yuan’s coconuts on the bottom and then sugar cane on top. Lud, a couple of neighbours, Yuan, Paed and Gaun.

They were such a happy group I had to include one more photo.

Cutting grass at the wat Thai-style. All mowing is done by hand held slashers.

The main temple building (still under construction) being decorated.

I see this “car” regularly around the village. It still has a few hundred thousand kms in it. One of those small multi-purpose tractor engines in the engine bay.

Cutting grass can unexpectedly reveal local wildlife. A decent sized snake. Lud isn’t about to use his machete on it even though it looks that way.

Mowing complete. This is a forest wat so a lot of new planting has taken place. It has a way to go before the “forest” takes over from its previous life as rice paddies.

Woof.

Supplies being brought in from other forest temples. It’s a huge organisational event but somehow everything just seems to happen organically. There aren’t people wandering around with a list telling other what to do. Thai do the best spontaneous parties.

 25 Oct 2017 – A Floating Sala

I was on a roll today after helping out at the wat this morning. The afternoon was taken up by working on an upgrade to Isaan Grace, our “boat” on the family farm pond. In a nod to those friends who have problems being Thai and sitting on the floor (deck!) I built raised seating area that I am sure will be appreciated by our knee challenged visitors.

I have to say that this project started over a year ago has become one of my favourite places to just sit with a book and a coffee in the morning or a beer in the afternoon. It easily rivals the house garden as a place to be.

The new bench seating on the left.

A choice of seating now available.

A test run and so far so good.

Hard to be stressed with a view like that.

29 Oct 2017 – The Farm Naming

The family farm is finally named. I did question Gaun about using English on the sign but she said no problem. If it was in Thai then locals passing by would understand what it said and the “welcome to” bit isn’t an invitation for drop-ins to sit, chat, drink Yuan’s coffee and interrupt the serious business of making money! All good then 

Lud of course.

29 Oct 2017 – The Last Buddhist Lent ceremony – promise (this year)

The final day in the ceremony Wat Pa Sup Anun, our local forest temple just past the family farm. This is a very new construction being built in paddies but the popularity of the head monk was shown when a thousand people or more showed up today to support his efforts. Vast amounts of food and farm produce for everyone and a huge financial contribution back to the temple to ensure building work will continue for the next year.

I have already covered a couple of these events so won’t repeat the feeding monks part in detail but as always I was lucky to capture some unique photos that I hope give you a taste of the fun atmosphere of the morning.

Beautifully decorated. Everything donated by locals.

All lined up to give food to the monks.

The monks making their round of the line to collect food.

I love these very personal moments of youngsters with the monks.

A family ready to put sticky rice into the monk’s bowl.

A transfer of rice.

Mini-monks emptying their food collection into a larger basket for sorting later.

Love it 🙂

Villagers in the main temple building, which is only 1/3rd finished. The row of monks in the far distance waiting for breakfast to be served.

Finally food. This is their main meal of the day.

I don’t know what she was thinking but I love seeing and being able to snap these sort of characterful moments. This was at a pancake cart so the expression may only be one of choosing the topping!

This is Apple, a cousin of Gaun’s. She has scored a pancake. All food and drink is free at these events.

However the balloons aren’t free – sorry to disappoint.

All of these food stalls are set up by villagers and a thousand or more people effortlessly fed.

A monkette sharing food with a mate.

A donation of money. These are mostly 20 baht notes folded in a way to display the king’s face. I haven’t seen this done before.

The main building with a huge tarpaulin providing protection in case of rain.

This is Dit the boss monk weaving a good luck wrist band for someone.

The pancake stall was popular with the kids.

Feeding the rabbits.

Grandad “entertaining” grandson!

After the final blessings it is open season on all the fresh produce hanging up. A series of photos showing Lud and Yuan claiming their share 🙂

Gaun gets this for Peng.

Mayhem in a friendly way as everyone grabs their choice.

Villagers with me and Yuan.

If you are following these posts chronologically then at this stage we travelled to Bangkok to meet some Aussie friends and visited some beautiful attractions and were incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to visit the memorial site for the late king’s cremation ceremony in the Grand palace precinct. You can find that post HERE. Back in Isaan life continues:

12 Nov 2017 – Rice Harvest Starts

The family rice harvest has just been finished in a scene that is being repeated all around Thailand. A good crop this year as a result of a proper wet season, the first for several years. This rice is used only for family consumption. I haven’t bought rice since getting together with Gaun. Even when we lived in Chiang Mai we returned from an early farm visit with a sack each of sticky and steamed rice. The family only sell leftover rice from the previous year. We are always eating this year’s crop.

The farm is also being planted up with vegetables for New Year, a period of huge demand. Broccoli, cauliflower (cool season crops), spring onions, garlic, lettuce, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, coriander and more. It is a delight to see all these new crops sprouting.

The cut rice is laid out in rows and will be collected this week ready for threshing and storage.

Harvested rice looking back to the farmhouse and crops in the far left.

Workers cutting rice get a full lunch provided.

Workers cutting sugar cane don’t. Anything to do with rice is such a cultural event and so central to life here that it is to be celebrated. Sugar is a recent crop and doesn’t have the same community history attached to it. Even the hangers on get to enjoy the lunch.

New crops mulched with rice straw.

The small tractor does a rough job of breaking up the soil but the beds are formed by hand. Yuan and Lud working here.

Mostly broccoli and cauliflowers. All planted and watered by hand.

13 Nov 2017 – Chinese Cultural Centre Udon Thani

A day in Udon Thani today with some time to spare took us to the Thai/Chinese cultural centre and Chao Pu-Ya (or Sanjao Phuya) shrine situated to the right of UD Town off highway 22 (only of interest to locals).

Once again only for residents Udon Thani is having its huge Chinese festival period starting 1 December lasting 12 days. On day 1 there is a parade featuring Chinese dragons who dance their way from this location (Chao Pu-Ya) to another Chinese temple situated right in the centre of Udon next to the City Pillar Shrine. I have missed this procession on previous years so might try to see it although I believe it gets very crowded. I believe the dragons get another outing on the 5th but that’s not confirmed.

The large markets associated with this festival are definitely worth a visit if anyone is in the area at this time of year – based around the City Pillar.

The shrine is set on the shores of a lake, which is central to Chaloem Phrakiat Park. This gateway takes you to a walkway around the lake.

The start or finish of the walkway at the front. A pavilion over the water at the back although it was closed to the public.

A closer view. Interesting coloured water.

Those are tables at the front and food is laid out for the spirits come festival time. Gaun left school aged 12 and worked for a Chinese family in Udon for 14 years so she’s sort of up on all of this although she has a Thai view of Chinese customs which is funnily unflattering 🙂

The main shrine building. Pretty typical Chinese from what I have seen in Thailand.

Inside. The main “altar”.

There are a number of small shrines set out in the area – all numbered. You are supposed to do the circuit.

Chinese lanterns I believe. Who would have thought 🙂

People are practicing for the dragon procession in the evenings. These are some of the dragon body costumes (less heads) ready for this evening.

And some of the heads. I believe it is quite an honour to be a “head” guy, if you see what I mean.

This one having a rest outside.

The cultural centre part of the area has a large meeting room, a few shops and some statues and displays like this one. The wording isn’t too useful as my Chinese is as good as my Thai!

A bunch of schoolkids having lunch as part of an outing to the centre. A farang taking a photo was almost the highlight of the day 🙂

More of the cultural centre. It was quite a peaceful sort of space and worth a visit.

A great collection of koi. You can buy small bags of food for 20 baht or baby bottles, which they will suck on to get the food.

Happy fish and a happy Gaun.

Nice.

The location.

UD Town (also the railway station) runs from the “supermarket” to the “Department Store” marked on the left. Also an area well worth visiting especially in the early evenings when they have a very good street market. Huge undercover markets across the street from UD Town. If you want a Big Mac this is the place to come.

Thanks for reading and please take the time to leave a comment. I always enjoy the chance to hear from you and know there’s someone on the other end of these words!