I keep telling you that my stories from Isaan are mostly small-time as though I am letting the side down by not finding the big “stop a tour bus” attractions and sharing those with you. The reality is that those photo opportunities are few and far between here and my blog is about my life living in Thailand not trying to be a Lonely Planet travel guide.

For me these everyday events are way more real, involving and insightful to Thai life than a lot of what you’ll find on Trip Advisor. Events like the Nong Bua Lamphu fortnightly markets will never end up on your to-do holiday in Thailand list but to wander through them will give you as many photo opportunities and smiles as the biggest wat in Bangkok.

For regular readers of the blog you you might remember a previous story where I told you that everyone living here should make sure they had a Thai Buddhist calendar in the house like the one shown below:

If living in Thailand make sure you have a Thai calendar in the house.

Useful reading

A closer view of the calendar.

A closer view of the calendar. Buddhist holy days (best to visit a temple) are marked by the little red Buddha in the left corner.

Do you see the number in the middle of the Thai script under the large date? This is extracted from the Buddhist calendar where the dates run from 1 – 15 relating (roughly!) to the waxing and waning of the moon:

Snap 2015-11-21 at 18.20.09

You can download a copy of the 2015/2558 Buddhist calendar HERE. For some more interesting information have a look HERE. Especially useful if living in Thailand.

Finally I come to the point! The Nong Bua Lamphu fortnightly markets are held on the 11th in the Buddhist calendar not our western Gregorian one. Plan your holiday around it!

We have started to make the trip to Nong Bua on a weekly basis to get my stepdaughter Peng a two hour Thai massage at an excellent place there. This helps with some mobility problems she has as a result of an operation in her childhood. Luckily today coincided with markets so Gaun and I could go for a browse while Peng had her massage session. We were on a mission to find a climbing plant Gaun had in mind to help cover the pergola/trellis we had built at the front of our home during some recent extensions. It is only available once the cool season gets going, which we are slowly moving into now.

The pergola will eventually be covered in flowing climbers and give shade to the front living room in the hot season when the sun hits the big windows in the morning.

The pergola will eventually be covered in flowering climbers……………

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……………and give shade to the front living room in the hot season when the sun hits the big windows in the morning.

For any of you who have spent time in Thailand I am sure you are aware of the local markets. They seem to spring up anywhere at any time usually in locations designed to restrict the flow of traffic as much as possible. I am not talking about the tourist markets like those in Chiang Mai, the evening markets in Chang Klan Road or the Sunday markets, but the “suburban” ones that are strictly aimed for local consumption.

Set up on the side of the road in central Nong Bua. Early morning until midday.

Set up on the side of the road in central Nong Bua. Early morning until midday.

I have been to quite a few markets across the country and I find that each one is pretty similar in the types of products for sale but they achieve a degree of local flavour through the food they have on offer. These Nong Bua markets are more oriented towards retail rather than food, which the smaller village markets revolve around. In Si Bun Ruang, our town, there are markets every Friday afternoon/evening and well over 50% of the stalls are selling either freshly cooked food to eat or farm produce.

Plenty of plants on offer but not what we were after.

Plenty of plants on offer but not what we were after.

People buy plants that produce food not for show. Photos help identify the offerings.

People buy plants that produce food not for show. Photos help identify the offerings.

A mix in this stall.

A mix in this stall. The majority of plants would be for sale at less than 100 THB or A$4.00.

Weird roots for use in DIY herbal concoctions.

Weird roots for use in DIY herbal concoctions.

Wherever there are Thais there is food and although not the main emphasis of these markets there was still a good choice of produce. Have something to sell? Set up a table. No licence required or health regulations to follow.

Some produce stalls but not the main emphasis in these markets.

Local vendors mix in with the guys who do the market circuit as a full time job.

No table - no worries.

No table – no worries.

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Mushrooms and bamboo shoots on offer here.

Onions and chillies.

Onions and garlic.

Grapes - unexpected in Thailand.

Grapes – unexpected in Thailand. We pay 80 THB a kilo at our local markets so these were a bargain!

More chillies of course.

Chillies everywhere of course.

Dried fish.

Dried fish.

Pre-cocktail nibbles.

Pre-cocktail nibbles.

Gaun buying a snake. Sort of donut balls with sweet yellow bean inside. Not bad. 20 THB for a bagfull.

Gaun buying a snack. Sort of donut balls with sweet yellow bean inside. Not bad. 20 THB for a bagfull.

Unripe mangos, despite the colour, served with a sugar and dried chilli dipping mixture.

Unripe crunchy mangos, despite the colour, served with a sugar and dried chilli dipping mixture (in the bag).

Hot take away food.

Hot take away food. Around A$1.00 for a meal.

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Another stall – end of day specials. Note the Isaan tuk tuks in the background. Very different from those in Bangkok or Chiang Mai.

I would prefer refrigeration but I guess most people survive.

I would prefer refrigeration as it was around 32 degrees but I guess most people survive.

Clothes are a big part of these markets and there were heaps of stalls spreading out in every direction. There is a lot of work involved to set up these stalls for a few hours and then pack them away into covered utilities to move onto the next market maybe an afternoon or evening market somewhere nearby.

A more conservative although still colourful selection here.

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Thais seem to love Disney type characters on their clothes. I am sure Disney appreciates the royalties (ha).

Hmmmm. Not my style or size :-)

Hmmmm. Not my size unfortunately 🙁

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Soccer clothes. Be part of any team in the world.

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Children’s clothes iin the front. Bras and night clothes at the back.

Baby clothes.

Baby items mostly.

Ahhh.

Trendy booties for the small person in your life. A$4.00.

A sea of shoes.

A sea of new shoes.

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Everything under A$10.00.

Or buy them second hand.

Or buy them second hand……maybe not. This is a permanent shop so someone is buying them.

As well as food, clothes and shoes there was plenty of other options to part Thais and their money:

I checked out his selection and it wasn't Buddhist chanting music!

CD’s and DVD’s. I checked out his selection and it wasn’t Buddhist chanting music!

Great colours again. Plastic is every shape and size.

Great colours. Plastic is every shape and size.

Baskets for sticky rice THE basis for every meal in Isaan.

Baskets for sticky rice THE foundation of every meal in Isaan.

Cookware. Cheap but lightweight. Does the job.

Cookware. Cheap but lightweight. Does the job.

Also lightweight are Thai curtains. I guess because most of them are up at sunrise blackout drapes aren't a requirement.

Also lightweight are Thai curtains. I guess because most people are up at sunrise blackout drapes aren’t a requirement. You can see why trying to furnish a house in plain colours is a challenge.

Why?

Why? A present for a butcher’s kids?

Thais are more likely to buy a book on lottery number tips. Buddhist titles and books with a connection to royalty are popular.

Thais are more likely to buy a book on lottery number tips. Buddhist titles and books with a connection to royalty are popular. A few cooking books in the front here.

Reflecting the farming community.

Reflecting the farming nature of the community. Home made handles.

And here reflecting the rice harvest currently underway. These are used to tie the bundles of rice to move them to the threshing machine on farm.

A sign that the rice harvest is currently underway. These are used to tie the bundles of rice to move them to the threshing machine on farm.

Lud, one of my brother-in-laws with some of his rice post cutting. You can see the ties holding this together.

Lud, one of my brother-in-laws, on the family farm with some of his rice post cutting. You can see the ties holding the bundles together.

We ended up finding the climbing plant Gaun wanted (Phuang Chom Phu or something that sounds roughly like that) so mission accomplished. I will record its growth, which in this climate will have it all over that pergola in 12 months, and report back on the house update posts.

The previous day we had found a lemon tree in Nong Bua at an offshoot market. Lemons are a rarity in Thailand so it was quite a find. Only two trees available and at the exorbitant price of 250 THB each compared to the 50 THB you’d pay for an equivalent lime (manaw) tree.

Market time over we returned to see how Peng was going with her massage. I have provided details of this massage shop in my post “The Treasures of Nong Bua” HERE. By far the best place to go to relax after a hard morning shopping. Well a good Thai massage is anything but relaxing but you know what I mean.

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A basic Thai massage set-up but clean and with great treatments. If you want an oil massage it’s done in a separate area behind that wall at the back of me. Nan (pronounced more like Nun) in the middle is working on Peng.

Monkey bars for Thai massage.

Monkey bars for Thai massage. Poor Peng.

I hope you’ve enjoyed joining us on a trip through our local markets. If you were one of the two other farang I met my condolences on the death in your family! Maybe you could take a lesson from your host country and lighten up.

Smile. The cheapest health insurance you'll ever buy.

Thanks for reading.