In case you were wondering Nong Bua Lamphu is the name of our province. There are 76 provinces in Thailand and Nong Bua Lamphu is the newest to be proclaimed.

I must be feeling a bit restless because this is the second outing we have had in the last few days, the last one I reported on HERE. This afternoon’s road trip was another example of setting a destination and then being open to stopping or heading off track to see what else was around. As I have said before the big “wow” sights are few and far between in Thailand but I find the little photo opportunities just as rewarding and a lot more personal in some ways.

In my last post I shared this Google image and the goal of today’s drive was to find out what was at “Who Knows”. I thought it looked like an entrance to the enclosed land within that green “island”, which are a range of low hills close to our home.

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Our home is 20 km to the left of “Who Knows”.

This arael shot gives you an idea of where we were heading.

This aerial shot gives you an idea of where we were heading – that gap in the hills. Doesn’t the inside valley look inviting?

Needless to say there were plenty of diversions on the way and I thought I would share them with you. These photos and words help give you a taste for the countryside around our home and also the sort of very simple activities and sights you will see if you are in the area. I find that there are lots of blogs that focus on the things people associate with Thailand – beaches, temples, elephants, girls (haha) and food, but not so many that provide an insight into the “normal” here. This is especially true for my part of Thailand in the north east, a region called Isaan. So here we go with not one beach or elephant in sight:

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Being closer to the hills the rivers are flowing better than our way even though we are close. Local fisherwomen in the water with nets hoping to provide for dinner.

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A curved bamboo frame with a net stretched across the bottom.

Gaun stops to talk to a yai (grandmother) who was watching the fishing. A lovely contrast in ages.

Gaun stops to talk to a yai (grandmother) who was watching the fishing. A lovely contrast in ages.

Plenty of water.

Plenty of water. It has been so dry for so long that I get quite excited seeing water on the move again.

A bottled water truck passes our car.

A bottled water truck passes our car.

Thailand runs on commercially filtered water delivered by small and large versions of this truck. We (and you as a visitor) are very lucky to have a pretty safe system for drinking water and ice too. A 20 litre bottle will cost 12 baht or A$0.48 delivered or 10 baht if collected from the supplier.

A baby delivery.

A baby delivery truck. I have seen ancient Toyota pick-ups on this water run that are literally bowed in the middle by the weight.

Big commercial filtration units providing clean water.

Big commercial filtration units providing clean water. This one in the town of Nong Bua Lamphu.

Drive in with your water bottles and they will rinse them, refill and seal for A$0.40 - 20 litres.

Drive in with your water bottles and they will be rinsed, refilled and sealed.

Back to today’s trip:

Just down the road was this rubber plantation with full cups.

Just down the road from the fishing was this rubber plantation with full cups.

My GPS guided us through small moo bans and little roads cutting through vivid green scenery. This is the tourist’s impression of how Thailand should be but you need to be quick. You will mostly only see paddies like this in the wet season July – September/early October. Some of this rice is already starting to tinge brown and these will be fields of golden brown by mid-late October.

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The harvest starts October – November and you will have missed your photo moment. In Isaan this will be a dry, brown landscape for six months until the next wet/rice season.

The GPS was happily accurate and brought us to a small village at that gap through the the hills I showed you in the first two photos. The space between is mostly filled with a small stone dam with a lake backed up behind it.

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Looking from the moo ban to the dam wall from downstream.

Gaun chatting to some locals to ask the best way to the top of the dam.

Gaun stopped to ask the best way to the top of the dam.

Being close to the hills mushrooms were on sale. Local gossip was quickly passed on. The wife of a local farang seen recently on the dam dressed only in a bikini was reported and commented on! Nothing escapes small communities here like anywhere else. Farang, and their partners, are particularly observed so be warned and be good in public. Can be bad behind closed gates though 🙂

And hubbie had a fishing boat, one of the wooden long boats you wlll often see on lakes here.

And the mushroom lady’s hubbie had a fishing boat, one of the wooden long boats you will often see on lakes here.

Climbing through road construction we got to the top of the dam and the view beyond.

The view from the top. Gaun there to give you some idea of the size.

The top of the dam wall. Gaun is there to give you some idea of the size.

Looking back to the moo ban. Typical rural Thai.

Looking back to the moo ban. This is typical rural Thai. Basic houses and lots of greenery.

The lake on the other side.

The lake on the other side.

A boat heading out from shore.

A boat heading out from shore to do some fishing maybe. You can see the hills in the background that form this “crater” of land within.

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One of those perfect (well I think so) water and cloud shots.

I had hoped that a road/track shown on Google maps would let me get into the central valley surrounded by these hills but this was not to be. There was some major construction happening and although a high riding pick-up could have made it through this section OK I wasn’t going to risk the Mazda. There are times in Thailand when I wish I had one of the large pick-ups to tackle the roads but not that often. Thailand’s roads are generally pretty good, way above what you’ll find in neighbouring countries like Laos, and the Mazda copes just fine.

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That side track may not look too bad but it was slippery and deeply rutted.

My lottery win transport.

My lottery win transport. In urban Australia I lusted after a BMW – here a pick-up. How Thailand changes you in unexpected ways 🙂

We walked down this track and on the right came across a local wat hidden away in the trees overlooking the lake. It was a large if somewhat industrial structure and one wonders where the people were going to come from to fill the massive hall.

Not your usual Thai temple . Village wats can be very basic structures - just a pretty plain concrete rectangle with a tin roof.

Not your usual Thai temple.

Village wats can be very basic structures – just a plain concrete rectangle with a tin roof. The money to build them is all raised within the village so it is amazing sometimes they get to construct anything.

Who will fill this?

Inside the temple building. Who will fill this I wonder?

Monk's quarters in the trees.

Monk’s quarters in the trees.

Guess. This is a freezer unit for bodies (well one at a time).

Guess what this is before you read on.

This is a cooler unit for bodies (well one at a time). Plug it in, place the coffin inside and you have the deceased on ice until the cremation. Thais are very organised with the cremations I have observed. Die one day and the party (wake) will start the same day or next and usually last three days unless the family has a lot of money. The body will be taken to the temple and cremated on day two and the third day will wind up the event. Exploding fireworks will be let off at the time of cremation so if in Isaan and you hear loud bangs it is most likely marking the conclusion of a funeral at the local wat.

Coffins at a local highway rescue unit in Si Bun Ruang.

Coffins at a local highway rescue unit in Si Bun Ruang. Not a great show of optimism!

With my plans to explore the valley behind the lake on hold we headed home on another route just to see what we might come across.

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From the top of the dam I noticed this large Buddha statue in the distance. Worth a look?

Spot Gaun to give an idea of size.

Gaun is back in her role as a size comparison object. This is one impressive Buddha. He’s looking a bit stern and don’t mess with me too.

As is so often the case this wat was a deserted builder’s yard. It is obviously work in progress on the Buddha, which is understandable as the money will come in dribs and drabs. However like so many wats the rest of the place was a shambles. Structures just thrown anywhere and not maintained. Mud and weeds the central theme. There are some wonderful and notable exceptions but a quick drive in and out is the best option for many wats.

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A parking place for heavy equipment.

I don’t say this to have a go at wats or Thailand but the reality is that a lot of the country is pretty unattractive and ramshackled. I still love the place but reality is what it is. Glowing reports from tourists sitting in their beachside resort is not reflective of Thailand as a whole.

In this case how much more money would the locals raise if this temple were set in a lovely garden and surroundings all well maintained, something that made it unique. Thais love and really appreciate gardens and flock to see and photograph them. Unfortunately they just have little concept of having one themselves. Like any attraction the wats that stand out make their own “luck” and bring in the crowds and that equals big donations, which then supports the cost of uniqueness. For example here are three spectacular Isaan wats built literally in the middle of nowhere:

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Wat Pha Nam Yoi. My post HERE.

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Wat Pha Som Kaew. My post HERE

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Wat Pa Phu Kon. My post HERE.

Off one of my hobby elephants and back on the road:

These reeds are drying prior to being coloured and then made into mats.

These reeds are drying prior to being dyed and then woven into mats. A very typical Isaan village house. Corrugated iron windows! Low mortgage 🙂

A photo I took for a previous blog. These are the reeds after they are dyed. Gaun's mama's in this case.

A photo I took for a previous blog. These are the reeds after they are dyed.

Gaun's mama working to weave new mats.

Gaun’s mama weaving new mats.

And the end result. Cost - zero.

And the finished result. Cost – pretty close to zero. Mind you they only sell for about A$4.00 in the shops.

In my last post I spoke about the large fishing net we came across and photographed on that trip as shown below:

The net is on the far left.

The net is on the far left.

I added a couple of photos from another post on the subject of Lake Ubol Ratana HERE, which showed one of the houseboats moored there that used this type of net. Well today we came across another example parked next to a bridge. The net is strung from the long bamboo poles on the left and raised using a leg powered winch in the doorway of the house.

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These structures are sitting on large bamboo bundles that have their ends sealed to trap air and keep them afloat.

You can see the winch in this photo.

You can see the winch in this photo. All that’s missing are some legs.

A quick sidetrack to look at another lake showing on the GPS.

A quick sidetrack down a small soi to look at a lake showing on the GPS. I think this is an offshoot of Lake Ratana.

And on the way we stopped at this mobile clothes store. Everything 100 baht (A$4.00).

And on the way back to the main road we stopped at this mobile clothes store.

Everything 100 baht (A$4.00). I have told you before – wait long enough and everything you ever need will pass your front door. The lady was having a break on the hammock under the tree in the background.

Another diversion down this road leading to a National Park. It headed intot he hills at the end and was too challenging for the Mazda.

Another diversion this time down a dirt road leading to a National Park. It headed into the hills at the end and after recent rain was too challenging for the Mazda. Come the lottery…………….

We passed a farm with a few cows. Now this is taking care of your animals. Hand watering.

We passed a farm with a few cows next to the track. Now this is taking care of your animals. Time for a drink Betsy. I hope that’s just water.

Ah.

Ah. A contented and well watered cow.

You rarely see cattle on the loose here. There are few fields and no fences.

You rarely see cattle on the loose or unattended here as there are few fields and no fences.

Cows tend to be hand fed and you will see farmers in Isaan out and about cutting grass from the side of the road to be transported to the cattle rather than the other way round.

Back home another thunderstorm hit us with lots of rain, which gave me an excuse to sit in front of the computer and write this post. We have had more rain in the last three weeks than I have seen since moving to Thailand over three years ago.

I hope you have enjoyed joining us for an afternoon on the roads in Isaan. I will get to that valley one day.

For any of you waiting to read the last two posts on our recent trip to the city of Nan in northern Thailand driving the backroads hang on. They are on their way.

Thanks for reading.