This is a specialised post aimed mainly at locals (the two of us!) but hopefully it will also be of interest to other readers as well because it offers an insight into what living a “real” life here in the slightly backwaters of our bit of Isaan looks like.

The purpose of this story is to detail the various business we have discovered and would recommend in our home town of Si Bun Ruang. Finding where to source things can be a real challenge as often the supplier is hidden away and any signage that may be provided is mostly in Thai, not surprisingly. However this is not just a “where is” entry to the blog. The businesses I include have all provided us with consistent service, never tried to extract a “farang price” and are pleasant to deal with. I will provide comments on each one and advise where the owner or staff have some English, although usually at a very basic level. I will add this post to the menu bar of the blog so that it can be used as an ongoing resource as I update it with new finds.

A Google Earth image not mine. Pretty basic ugly. The main street of Si Bun Ruang.

This post is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the businesses in town. There will be lots of other examples of business categories not shown that will also fit the criteria. It just is that we have never tried them or wouldn’t recommend them if we have. For example we tend to use one place to exchange our LPG gas bottles used for cooking but there are heaps of them scattered around. I found one that did the job and we have stuck with them. The same applies to other categories too. It is a set of very personal observations as a result and not intended as a “must follow” list.

And finally a couple of warnings 1. I don’t know the business names of most of these places. I just use descriptive labels and 2. Google Earth is out of date for some of my entries so I may have a business that on the map is sitting in a empty field. Trust me things have moved on 🙂

The owner of a shop we use with Gaun. Details to follow.

If you live in the area and have recommendations you would like to include then please add them via the comments section. I have also opened a separate Si Bun Ruang group on Facebook, which I will keep up to date with any local happenings, tips and recommendations I come across. Search for “Si Bun Ruang” on Facebook.

Si Bun Ruang is a small but busy rural town situated in the province of Nong Bua Lamphu. If you look at a map of Thailand we are up in the top right.

Si Bun Ruang is just to the left of that large lake directly underneath “Nong Bua Lamphu”.

The provincial capital, also called Nong Bua Lamphu, is about 25 km down the road, the city of Udon Thani 80 km to the north east and Khon Khan, another decent sized city, about 120 km to the south east. This map explains all:

Si Bun Ruang is halfway down on the far left.

Highway 228 runs through the centre of the town in a zig zag.

228 in the top right corner is coming from the town of Nong Bua Lamphu. Just past the police station it takes a sharp turn to the left (on the map) and this road, up to where it takes another sharp turn to the left, is what is classed as the main street with many small businesses. So let’s get started. We will “drive” in from Nong Bua Lamphu and follow the 228 through town and out the other side. We will then return and explore some of the backstreets to see what they have to offer.

INDEX – click on link to read:


MAP 1:

  • Aluminium Roofing
  • Maxxis Tyres
  • Bulk Supply shop

Aluminium Roofing

As you come to the outskirts of SBR there is a gentle curve in the road to the left (you can’t miss it as there aren’t too many curves on this bit of the 228) and on the right you’ll see the brightly coloured roofing shop. We didn’t use them for the roof of the house we built here but did for a carport extension. They have an efficient front office and usually have stock on hand and will deliver. They have cutting and bending machines out the back so can cut to size or produce those bullnose shapes (maybe that’s an Australian expression) such as this:

An example of a Bullnose Verandah

They can also attached foil/foam insulation to the roofing they sell if you want to be different and build a cool house in this mostly hot country! They only sell Thai standard roofing, which is a maximum of 3mm thick. Some is so thin you can tear it with your hands. Most of the colours are Thai extreme but they do a light cream, almost white roof too, which is what we used. No English spoken so take a Thai.

Maxxis Tyre Shop

A few shops down on the left. A big franchise chain in Thailand. I have only used them to repair a couple of punctures and for an oil change in the car. They did the work straight away without an appointment, which is often a standard practice here. Don’t bother trying to book just turn up. I only add them because they got the job done for a reasonable price. I can’t comment on their tyres service.

Bulk Supply Shop

This shop is opposite Maxxis. These guys supply smaller shops and stalls with alcohol and basic household and personal goods but anyone can buy from them.

You can either buy a case or often just a single item if that’s what you want. They can be a little cheaper than the retail shops. Gaun buys clothes washing liquids and I buy all my basic alcohol here – beer, Sang Som (a decent Thai rum) and soft drinks. The owner and his wife are very friendly if a little overworked. He has a little English. Their staff will load up and deliver to your car. Always busy so they must be doing something right.

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MAP 2:

  • Amphur Office
  • SBR Hospital
  • E20 Petrol Station
  • Eat Me Pizza

Amphur Office

There are two local government entities in Si Bun Ruang with different functions one called called the Amphur (Amphoe) and the other the Thesaban.

An Amphur is mostly similar to a registry office in a western sense. Its range of tasks include keeping a record of marriages, divorces, births, deaths, the recording of prenuptial agreements and in some circumstances the recording of Thai wills. In Si Bun Ruang they also register Title deeds for property or Real Estate and provide Thai household registration – the blue book for Thais and and yellow for farang. You can read Wikipedia’s take on the Amphur HERE or a good alternative and more readable summary HERE.

The Amphur office is set on the edge of a large grassed area that is used for various community events during the year.

These huge floats start their street procession form this Amphur office for a festival called Bun Bang Fai.\ later in the year. You can read about this colourful day HERE or HERE.

We have used this office for the following:

  • To transfer land ownership after we purchased our house block in 2013 and to register a Usufruct, essential for farang buying land. Read more HERE;
  • To formally register our marriage after getting all the correct documentation from Bangkok, which you can read about HERE; and
  • Getting a farang Yellow House book, an official confirmation of residential address, which you can read about HERE.

Please note that driving tests, licences and a car “passport”, the latter required for taking a car into Laos, are processed in Nong Bua Lamphu at the motor registry on highway 210 heading toward Loei. The building is on the left.

Hospital

Next door to the Amphur office is the Si Bun Ruang hospital. This is a typical small town facility. It is tidy, clean and has two ambulances. I would recommend a GPS in Thailand just because in the case of an emergency trying to find an address would be a nightmare. Better to give GPS coords I would have thought.

The hospital has a 24 hour emergency department, which we had to use once from my stepdaughter, and they were efficient and caring. Anything more major would be sent up the line, if you survived that long, to the big public hospital in Nong Bua Lamphu or to Udon Thani. I recommend private health insurance if you can afford it. More information HERE.

E20 Petrol Station

I added this one because it is the the only place to get E20 (the cheaper ethanol mix) this side of town The big PT service station on the other side has it – covered later. I also like to support a smaller operation rather than the huge PT business, Thailand’s largest fuel supplier, but that’s a very personal choice.

Eat Me Pizza and Burgers

In case you didn’t know the small pizza/burger place that was located in Nong Bua Lamphu owned by an Aussie called Chris has reopened here in downtown SBR as of yesterday.

We tried them out tonight and both burger and pizza was pretty good. I think this increases the farang type eating in SBR by 50%. Anyway, it’s an option that wasn’t around before. There’s also a new(ish) pizza place close to the day food markets run by a farang and his ladyboy partner. I haven’t tried that one yet.

Eat Me is on the road to the hospital on the north side of town next door to the dentist about 100 metres after you turn on the left (opposite the Amphur).

Nothing flash but a lot bigger than the previous shop in Nong Bua Lamphu. Well worth making your choice for farang food in Si Bun Ruang (no alternative option really!)

Homemade thin crust with a decent topping. Good value. Thanks Peng.

An Aussie burger with the lot. Yum.

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MAP 3:

  • Evening Food Markets
  • Post Office and coffee stall
  • Photo print shop
  • Photocopy shop
  • 7/11

Map 3 covers a few entries as you take the right turn into the main street coming from Nong Bua Lamphu (the north).

Thesaban

Back on the 228 and immediately past the sharp turn to the right into the main street you will see the Thesaban building on your left.

Thesaban.

There is practically no information about Thesaban online, the main page being Wikipedia HERE. I believe it is like a town council in a western sense and looks after the administration of all services within the town boundaries. Things like garbage collection, town roads, drainage as well as planning, building approvals etc. We had our house plans drawn up by the head of the planning department in this Thesaban. Had we needed approval, which we didn’t because we are outside the Thesaban coverage, I am sure that this guy would have signed off on his own plans 🙂

Evening Food Markets

Next to the Thesaban on the left are some mostly food markets. A few stalls do operate during the day but mostly they kick off late afternoon. I can’t offer any advice on these as I rarely eat out in Si Bun Ruang in the evenings and never here. I am sure there are all the usual suspects on offer. As it isn’t a recommendation I didn’t take a photo.

Post Office and Coffee Stall

The recently expanded post office building and the coffee stall in the far distance next to Thesaban.

The coffee stall is inside the post office grounds (not the coffee grounds – nice catch Tony), which is why they are combined in the one entry here.

I have always found Thai post to be reliable and pretty efficient. I have used this office to send things overseas, I have regular deliveries of coffee beans from Chiang Mai and get the occasional paperwork from Australia. I have never had anything go missing that I know of. The main guy here, the postmaster I guess, is helpful and knows his stuff. The postman knows who Tony is and if we’re not home he just delivers everything to Gaun’s mama rather than leave it in the letterbox. Small village personal.

The coffee stall.

There are heaps if these little places scattered everywhere you go in Thailand. However this one does offer “real” coffee from a small machine if you want – hot or for an iced coffee. I sometimes buy an iced coffee when out and about but never hot coffee because modestly I make a far better version on my machine at home. They are busy so that’s an indication that they make OK drinks.

Photo Shop

Photo printing and more.

The next shop after the post office is this one. The young guy who runs it is keen and looks after his customers. We use him for printing our wedding photos from the digital camera memory and various other occasions. Read about our wedding HERE. Just drop in your memory stick/card and you can select what you want to print and he will have it ready the same day. The photos come already inserted into flip folders at no extra cost. A good service. He has a small range of frames as well.

Photocopying Service

Next door. Some stationery supplies but what we have used them for is the photocopying. I pay the same price as Thais, a few baht a sheet (A3 = 4 baht) and if it’s a small job they will do it while you wait.

7/11

Opposite the photocopy shop.

Not much I can say about 7/11. They seem to be 90% full of junk food and drinks but they are useful for the farang essentials such as milk, butter, breakfast cereal (small boxes), bread and a limited range of spirits, beers and wines.

PLEASE NOTE for Thai newbies that you can only buy alcohol at 7/11, Tesco Lotus and other “named” supermarkets between the hours of 11.00 am – 2.00 pm and 5.00 pm and midnight. Everywhere else sells alcohol so it’s a weird hangover from a political decision made ages ago. Unfortunately “everywhere else” only sells the basic range of beers and spirits. If you want something more exotic (gin, vodka) or a wine you probably won’t find it at your local moo ban corner shop so it will be one of the few times you’ll be aware of the time so you can drop into 7/11 or Tesco.

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MAP 4:

  • Bangkok Bank ATM
  • Pharmacy and clinic
  • Electrical store
  • Hardware shop
  • Furniture/homewares shop

Continuing to focus on the main street Map 4 looks at the central section.

Bangkok ATM

The ATM is hidden away at the end of this supermarket on the corner.

I only include this one because Bangkok is my main bank and generally recommended for farang with the best exchange rates. There is no Bangkok branch in SBR yet but there are two of their ATMs. This one is a few shops down the road from 7/11 on the corner at the next street to the right and the second one is outside the 7/11 in the big PT service station to be covered in a later entry.

For more on banking in Thailand read my section in Essential Advice HERE (click on the “Banking” link in the menu) or this article published on another blog HERE.

Good Clothes Shop

There are heaps of clothes shops in SBR but this one is a larger place although it doesn’t look it from the road. The stock is displayed so that you can actually see what they have. A lot of the non-label clothes are under 300 baht (A$12.00). They have a huge range of both western style clothes and traditional Thai. Mostly female but a reasonable selection of basic male things too, T shirts, jeans. If you fail here the owner’s daughter runs the shop almost directly across the road. Much smaller but a different choice not just a replica of mum’s place.

Chemist/pharmacy and clinic

Across the road from the clothes shop you will find this combined business.

Clinic on the left and pharmacy on the right.

The main lady in the pharmacy has a little English and has always provided good advice and treatment for the simple requests I have had. He husband is the doctor that opens the clinic. I will advise on hours later. Most clinics are operated by doctors that work elsewhere (a hospital) during the day and then have their own public practice before and after work hours. It is almost impossible to find a clinic open during the day. which may explain why the hospital system is so busy.

You will find that basic medical supplies are cheap. Pills are often bought by number rather than by the packet. Things like creams are sold in small short time tubes I guess to keep the costs down for people who don’t have the money to have cures sitting around waiting for an event to happen again.

Electrical Retail Store 

This is a franchise store you’ll see in this part of the world and maybe elsewhere in Thailand. I don’t know the name as they don’t have it written in English but phonetically it sounds something like “Saylee Ghan Fifa” (the fifa bit meaning electricity in Thai).

Another shop that’s misleading in it’s size.

If you have a look at the Google Earth image above you will see that this place has a narrow frontage and is very deep on the land. Inside you will find the full range of electrical items from phones to fridges. It is the largest electrical store in Si Bun Ruang.

We bought all four of our Mitsubishi Electric Inverter air conditioners here (highly recommended). Their starting price was high but I had researched prices from places in Udon Thani such as Home Pro and Living Index and Saylee ended up price matching. I wanted to buy local rather than have someone install from Udon. The prices normally quoted for air con in Thailand include installation, done the next day in our case.

Small Building Supply shop

No photo yet.

There are many of these mixed hardware shops everywhere you go in Isaan. I am only suggesting this one because the staff, who speak no English, seem to know their stock and can disappear and return with something approximating what you’re looking for. It is the sort of place where you buy things from larger boxes. Nails and screws for example are sold by weight as are garden hoses just out of interest. The latter you order the length and they measure, cut it and then weigh it to work out the price. Quoting by the weight makes it impossible to work out the price per meter prior to purchase of course. This is the sort of place that if you are looking for a weird sized washer they will have it in a tray at the back of the shop.

Furniture/homeware Shop.

These places appear in any line of shops and usually several of them. They are all almost identical in the stock they hold, which must come out of some massive central warehouse with good connection to China. Calling it a furniture shop is pretty optimistic but it does stock a range of cupboards, shelving, small tables most of it assembled flat pack and pretty tacky. Does the job for a while and isn’t expensive. This isn’t heirloom stuff that will be passed down to the next generation 🙂

The other half of these type of shops usually stock things like cushions, mats, violently coloured bedding and a few sarong types clothes. If you are after something in a white or neutral colour forget it!

I recommend this shop because the owner is pleasant to deal with, she’ll give you a discount if you ask and she knows her stock. The shop is a little larger than many so you have a better choice.

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MAP 5:

  • Push Bike shop
  • LPG exchange shop
  • Tesco Lotus Express
  • Love Coffee
  • Bus Station
  • Battery Shop
  • Wholesale Night markets
  • 20 baht shop
  • IT Centre

Map 5 takes us to the end of the main street taking a sharp turn to the left at traffic lights (not working) and continuing on the 228 as it heads out of town.

Push Bike shop 

Across the road from the previous entry.

We bought our bikes here. We haven’t been back so it isn’t a recommendation as such just pointing out that they are in town and offer the best range available.

LPG Exchange

Lots of gas bottle exchanges in SBR often mixed in with other offerings. This place is more of a specialised outlet and they have the full range of sizes plus some accessories. We get our bottles refilled now from a place outside of Nong Bua Lamphu but when we were exchanging the folk here always made sure we got a good quality bottle in exchange. They will unload and load the bottles for you and are good to deal with.

Tesco Lotus Express

The 7/11 sized alternative. If you are after basic household supplies in a hurry this place is the better option than 7/11. They have a wider selection of “real” food and home basics than 7/11, which is more “junk food” orientated. Tesco Lotus now have a bigger supermarket just around the corner if you are after the full range of shopping – covered shortly.

You can usually pay bills like broadband (ToT, 3BB) at Tesco and 7/11 and also some airlines use them if you book online and don’t want to pay via credit card (expensive add on cost) or bank transfer.

Love Coffee

On the far corner of the small petrol station is Love Coffee cafe.

If there is a farang central place in SBR it is here. You will often see a farang in residence so if you feel the urge to have a chat with a fellow westerner this is the best bet. Luckily last time I tried Love Coffee they actually made a reasonable cuppa. They also sell ice cream and a small selection of cakes. I can’t give you an up to date review as I tend not to buy hot coffee as I make it to my taste at home.

They have a couple of tables outside if you want to get involved in the passing traffic or inside is modern comfortable and air conditioned, a big plus for a lot of the year.

Bus Station

A typical pretty run down affair. I only included it so you know where it is. I have never used their services but if you wait long enough you can get almost anywhere locally. The cross-country buses (the VIP services and longer range buses) tend to head out from Khon Kaen or Udon but the local services link up with them.

I don’t have a photo of the bus station but this is what you won’t see there:

An eye catching collection of Thai VIP buses that won’t be making an appearance at Si Bun Ruang bus station anytime soon!

Battery Replacement Shop

A very minor entry.

If time stands still come here.

If you want a watch battery replaced or anything along those lines then I can recommend this place. The guy who does the work uses brand name replacements and will clean your watch at the same time. It is actually just as cheap to buy a whole new watch for 100 baht at the local markets but I suspect the batteries supplied with these may not last as long as a replacement. I have mostly given up wearing a watch because I have nowhere I need to be at a certain time but I do have one working example for emergencies 🙂 They also stock a large range of more classical watches and a small selection of electrical items.

Wholesale Night Markets

Behind the watch shop are these undercover markets.

I also don’t have a photo of them as food shopping at midnight isn’t high on my list of things to do in Si Bun Ruang. The fact they exist is added for interest only as I suspect that, unless your Thai partner is operating a produce stall, you will be like me and never see them in operation. They are a couple of blocks over from the daytime markets, which I will include shortly.

We have diverted from the 228 so let’s head back there:

The 20 baht shop

I think this is a new construction (actually a big tin shed so the word “construction” is a little formal) and it doesn’t show on my edition of Google Earth. I suspect that updating the street view of Si Bun Ruang isn’t too high on Google’s list of priorities. Full marks that the town is covered in so much detail at all.

This place is just after the second turn into the bus station from the 228 on the opposite side of the road.

Another long narrow building that’s deceiving from the road. I like it because unlike a lot of these cheap “potluck” stores this one is clean, well laid out and things are easy to find. The owners don’t speak English but they know their stock if you have a Thai with you to ask the question. Not everything is 20 baht but it won’t tax your credit card too much!

I challenge you to go in and not come out with something you didn’t know you needed 🙂

And finally for Map 5:

Si Bun Ruang IT Centre

I didn’t take a street view for some reason so this is Google’s version. The store has halved in size since this photo and they now occupy the right hand side only with a new pharmacy being built on the left.

IT service and sales and a small range of electrical hardware items.

I can thoroughly recommend these people as I have done quite a bit of business with them. My main desktop PC that followed me out from Australia decided that it too wanted to retire and I had to buy a very nice high powered replacement from them delivered in three days on which I am writing this post. They have a tech area at the back with three guys working. The boss man speaks some English and can read enough computer screen English to make things happen.

I have had a whole range of computer issues since moving here and they have always been helpful and in most situations they will do what you want while you wait. Labour costs are very low and if it involves installing something they have sold it is often free. They also fix printers and fit and refill those ink cartridges on the side of the printer that get around the ridiculous costs of replacing ink with supplies provided by the manufacturer.

They have a small range of building electrical items – wires, power/light points etc but I have never seen anyone in that side of the business.

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MAP 6:

  • Bon Cafe
  • Tesco Lotus Supermarket

Only two businesses in this map. I have included the IT Centre so you get an idea of distance.

Bon Cafe

Another new building since Google Earth’s current edition.

A small narrow shop offering drinks and a small range of food both Thai and a few farang dishes. This is a popular hangout for schoolkids in the afternoon. I have a local friend, with young children, who recommends it but we have only been there once as we don’t eat out in SBR.

Tesco Lotus Supermarket

The shops on Google Earth view have since been demolished and a brand new supermarket built next to the river.

Hardly a very useful photo but you can’t exactly miss it.

This is a medium sized supermarket although a fraction the size of the big versions such as the one in Nong Bua Lamphu. It has been a great addition to the local scene however because we can get all the farang essentials here and pretty well do a full household shop. A much better range of items than the Express version of course. On the way in they have a mixture of other outlets – a phone shop, gold store, kids electronic playroom and cafe and a watch and bag stall. Very minor businesses. Some new small shops are opening to the left of the carpark.

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MAP 7:

        • Small Electrical Supply Shop

Only one small business on this map. Tesco Lotus for reference.

As you head south on the 228 after Tesco’s there’s a slight bend in the road. Just after this on the left there’s a row of shops and the last one is this small electrical supply business.

A basic range of electrical supplies.

When building our house I used Global House DIY store for most of my bulk supplies but that’s a 30 minute drive each way from us. Where this place was useful was for those things we needed quickly. There are several other places in SBR but the young lady who owns this shop is very knowledgeable and helpful. A Thai speaker only. Recommended for your basic electrical needs.

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MAP 8

  • Tyre and motor workshop
  • Building Supply Shop
  • Bat poo
  • PT Service Centre
  • Garden Centres x2

Tyre and Motor Workshop

The easiest way to spot this place is to look out for the big building supply shop with its orange roof on the right (covered in the next entry) and this place is almost opposite.

I have had tyres fitted here and new brake pads. The owners are a father and son team and mum may be there somewhere too. They look like they’ve been a lifetime in the business. It is typical small Thai affair- nothing fancy but in our case each time we have been there the work started straight away (you never book for stuff here) it was carried out efficiently and and the labour costs were very low.

Building Supply Shop

Once again referring back to our house construction we ended up giving 700,000 baht to Global House in Nong Bua Lamphu but the concrete pour for the slab and most of our emergency supplies came from this place. It is owned by a young husband and wife team and is very efficient. Most of the prices are a little higher than the big chains like Global and Thai Watsadu but you pay for the convenience. The shop itself has recently had a big makeover and it has had a lot more stock added since we were in the market for building supplies.

They also have a big area to the left hand side where they store bulk items like sand, gravel and larger building items. The boss lady speaks good English and is friendly. I see some of the same staff as when we were building so there is a depth of experience on offer.

We have used them more recently for delivering concrete (dry), sand and gravel for various projects. They usually deliver the same day for a charge of 100 baht (A$4.00).

If you are buying in big quantities as we were they have a bonus point system. They open an account for you and you get credits as you purchase. You can cash these in for electrical items. We got two fans, a rice cooker and something else – all still going strong!

Bat Poo!

You will find your bat poo behind that small pickup!

Probably not very high on your must haves but bat poo is a wonderful garden fertiliser but hard to find. This is the only shop I have ever seen it stocked at 500 baht for a sack. It has a picture of an eagle on the bag, which is slightly confusing. The shop is directly opposite to the huge PT service station so you can’t miss it. If you read my story about building a boat (well more of a raft actually but boat sounds more impressive) for the farm pond HERE, this is where we bought the blue barrels that keeps the whole structure floating (so far).

PT Service Centre

A sign you will see all over Thailand.

These large service stations are always a welcome sight if on a long trip. PT is the largest petrol operator in Thailand and you are never far from one of their outlets. The good thing about them is that they don’t just build a petrol station but a standard range of shop outlets come with the package. In the large centres you will always find a 7/11, an Amazon cafe and a few food and fashion outlets. They also provide public toilets that are clean and serviced regularly. Most of the centres are newly built and well maintained.

Amazon cafe at PT in SBR. I have found that Amazon make a decent coffee. They must actually train their baristas. Their cafes are a standard design, air conditioned, clean and often nicely landscaped like this one.

One of the shopping outlets. A shoe and bag shop where Gaun has spent a little money on two occasions. This is the classist shoe shop in SBR.

Garden Centre 1 and 2

Only garden centre 1 is shown on the map above. The other one is a few hundred meters further up the road on the left opposite a technical college.

This one is one the right just before a Toyota franchise. Look for the Toyota sign and you’ll see the plants along the roadside a hundred metres before it.

The centre is owned by this guy’s mum.

Of the two centres this one is probably the best. It has a larger range of plants, they are usually a higher standard (not always) but you will often pay a premium here over the other place. The guy pictured above is super friendly and helpful. If you buy a concrete accessory it will be washed and then carried to your car. He takes a real pride in what they sell.

Garden Centre 2

We bought a lot of our bulk plants from here for massed colours and hedging. It is owned by a husband and wife combo. He’s a schoolteacher at my stepdaughter’s school and she runs the shop mostly.

She’s lovely and friendly.

They grow a lot of their own stock so it is cheaper than the alternatives but sometimes you get a smaller plant. In Thailand things grow so fast that size isn’t the same consideration as in other non-tropical places. We will usually get a discount for buying quality and even with smaller numbers she will thrown in an extra plant. Choose what you want and they will bag it and put in your car.

A limited range of pots and garden accessories available.

OK. Let’s do a U turn and head back into town.

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MAP 9

  • Duck Egg shop
  • Filtered Water shop
  • Temple Gift shop
  • Haircut
  • Farm shop
  • Coconut milk
  • Pharmacy
  • Daytime markets

Map 9 has us back in the area behind the bus station. Just to give you a sense of location the road that starts at the battery shop running from the bus station and includes the temple gift shop, duck eggs and filtered water is one street in from highway 228, the main street, and runs parallel to the 228.

So from top to bottom:

Duck Eggs

I do recommend duck eggs as a replacement for chicken eggs. They are full of yolk and seem like a better alternative to me. Try them if you haven’t before. They are generally available if you know where to look but this shop stock eggs grown locally on the farm of a friend of ours (his mum runs this shop) so I know they’re fresh. 120 baht (A$4.80) for 30 large eggs. You can read about our visit to the duck farm towards the end of this edition of Isaan – the Small Stories HERE.

Filtered Water 

Next to the duck egg shop. That tin shed on the right.

I can’t recommend this place as we buy our water from a place in Nong Bua Lamphu, which is large and modern. This outlet in SBR isn’t up to the other shop’s standards in presentation but I presume their water is OK as it is one of the main suppliers here. Anyway you now know where they are. Filtered water usually costs 10 baht for 20 litres from the shop or 12 baht delivered. You can buy the refillable bottles in any of the plastic shops and if you look around also the metal frame that allow you to easily tip water from the bottle into smaller containers. Essential equipment. Not expensive – under 400 baht.

The LPG exchange shop covered previously has them – the four silver frames at the front. This is a close up of my photo for that entry.

Temple (Wat) Gift shop

Another often seen retail business in Thailand. A visit to a wat requires taking gifts and money. The gift side of things is easily provided at shops like this one, which is owned by the aunt of the guy who has the duck farm!

I have only bought a few things here but the owner is a lovely lady and very friendly. She only speaks Thai but her son Mark is an English tutor and has excellent English (degree from Khon Kaen university) if he’s around.

Haircut

I had a couple of awful haircuts in SBR until I found this place and the attractive owner who can actually use scissors as well as the electric trimmer. I think she does a good job and at 60 baht you can go as often as you like.

Farm/agricultural Shop

This places sells mainly farm supplies like seed, fertilisers and pesticides as well as a few miscellaneous things like fish and dog food. Joe is the man who owns it and he has a little English. A nice guy to deal with. The family buy most of their farm supplies here. I rated a free t-shirt this year for New Year. Did I feel special!

Note the filtered water bottles on the table. That’s the size you get for your 10 baht. Anything bought is loaded into your car/pickup for you. Standard Thai practice where labour is cheap and mostly willing.

 Coconut Milk shop

Opposite the day markets are a small pharmacy on the left and the coconut milk outlet on the right. Mobile food in the middle!

Just around the corner from the farm shop is the coconut milk place. Essential for Thai cooking but rarely used in Isaan food. You buy the coconut by weight at 80 baht a kilo and it is crushed for you as you wait to extract the milk. If you want coconut cream (thicker) tell them not to add water. That’s the only difference between cream and milk. Please note that the milk doesn’t keep for long even in the fridge and is best used straight away in your cooking or a cocktail of course – see HERE.

Market Pharmacy

This is another good pharmacy. I don’t know if Thais are hypochondriacs but there must be a dozen or more pharmacies in this very small town. How they all keep going is beyond me. I like this one as well as the one I mentioned before. There are two pharmacist ladies here and they both speak enough English to help you out. Their recommendations for the very simple requests I have made (thank goodness) have worked fine.

Day Markets

These mainly food markets are essential shopping for any resident serious about fresh food. A huge range of produce including meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits and things I have no idea what they are with general kitchen food supplies mixed in and a few clothes and toy shops.

A few thoughts for new players:

Firstly pesticides are widely used in growing things here. This is not an organically biased farming culture. Make sure you wash everything really well before using. The fact it is fresh doesn’t mean that it is healthy in its current state.

Secondly a lot of the vegetables on sale in the local markets are transported in bulk from Udon Thani wholesale suppliers. It doesn’t mean that the produce isn’t OK but if you thought you were buying direct from the grower you might not be. Obviously the more people involved in the supply chain the less likely you are getting the freshest available (if that’s your thing).

Thirdly, as a carryon from point two, what is on the produce stall may be the same produce as was on display yesterday. It is why the vegetables grown by my Isaan family sells so quickly. Locals know that what is on sale today was in the ground that morning without exception. The family never sell the same vegetables the next day.

And finally especially with farang vegetables what you are buying may not even originate in Thailand. I bought some carrots the other day and Gaun asked where they were grown and the guy produced a box showing they came from China. Now China would be on my “never buy vegetables from” list so lesson learnt. Anything that Isaan people don’t have in their everyday diet is unlikely to be grown locally. Potatoes would be another example of a crop that wouldn’t be local so the produce may be well travelled before arriving in the Si Bun Ruang fresh food markets.

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MAP 10:

  • Car repair shop
  • Car/bike inspection and registration

Last one for this series.

We have driven back through SBR now heading to Nong Bua Lamphu (north or up on a map) and the final two entries are off the same road we turned into in Map 2 to visit the Amphur (remember them?) the hospital and the E20 petrol station. This time while we would turn right to Map 2 locations (you can see the Amphur marked above) we now turn left and then second right.

Car Repair shop

Look for that yellow star sign in a blue surround you can see in this photo for car registration.

I have used this place twice for very minor repairs. The first was a super glue fix on a rented car (don’t tell them) and the second a paint job from a gentle nudge by a large truck at some traffic lights who wasn’t used to looking for small cars like a Mazda 2. In both instances the work was done efficiently and wasn’t expansive. The paintwork cost 2,000 baht (A$80.00) for a job that in Australia would be many times that. I suspect it isn’t to world class standards but it looks fine to me.

Car/Bike registration

Next door to the repair shop.

My car is under seven years old so hasn’t needed an inspection yet (this year) so I can’t comment on that side. However the registration is super easy at this place. The main lady in the office (a mum and daughter combo this time) is very efficient. You give her the registration papers and the money and she goes to the motor registry in Nong Bua Lamphu and does it all for you. You come back in a few days and collect the new papers and sticker.

Thailand has a third party insurance system so unless you have a certificate from another insurer you will need to purchase this cover at the same time as your registration renewal. It is very cheap as is the registration.

Added 23 Apr 2017: Ole Pharmacy

Ole Pharmacy at the bottom left next to the IT Centre.

This shop has recently opened in the space vacated by the SBR IT Centre who halved their floor area last year. The owners are a couple who live opposite us and both are very pleasant to deal with. Tom, the wife, is a nurse at SBR hospital and he is the pharmacist setting up shop here after time in a place in Central Plaza, Udon Thani. He speaks some English. The shop is very modern and well designed with a closed front and it will be air conditioned shortly.

The pharmacy on the left.

Added 23 Apr 2017: Phu’s Lingerie Shop

On the main street almost directly opposite the Top Charoen Optical shop.

This is another newly opened shop. It is unusual in that it is neatly set out and very clean. Good lighting and layout give it a better appearance than the average SBR effort. Phu is very friendly, has some English and she has a good range of lingerie some of it sourced from Bangkok at a price lower than the local markets.

The shop on the right.

I think this is the only specialist shop of its kind in SBR but am not an expert in this field unfortunately 🙂

Good to see some more professional presentation happening locally thanks to Doug, Phu’s partner.

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I think I have covered all the main items in this post. Si Bun Ruang has been demystified for you. I hope you enjoyed the trip. I will keep an eye out for new entries and update this post from time to time.

Thanks for reading.