Day three of the Bun Bang Fai festival was a lot quieter with nothing major on. Gaun and I had been invited to visit brother number 5, who lives about an hour from Si Bun Ruang towards a large man-made lake South of the town called Ubol Ratana or Ubolratana. I tend to refer to Guan’s family by number because that’s how she does. They obviously have names but other than the two sisters, Yuan and Paet (pronounced Baed), who work the farm I don’t know what they are. I’m not sure Guan does either! Maybe with seven kids in the family it all got too hard.

Here you can see Si Bun Runag in relation to the lake shown in blue at the bottom of the pink section.

Here you can see Si Bun Ruang in relation to the lake shown in blue at the bottom of the pink section.

Brother number 5 and his wife live a pretty basic life and do it harder than the land based side of the family. He is a small-time fisherman in a real rural Thai Moo Baan well off the main road. Yaun, Lud, Gaun and I headed off in my car for the drive through the countryside and small villages to the brother’s house. A trip with the family always involves a running commentary on the state of other people’s crops and land. Plenty of chatter from the back seat.

We arrived at the house just as brother 5 and his wife were laying out the catch of the day for drying prior to sale. One wonders if the need to provide money and food TODAY wasn’t such a consideration whether these poor fish would be better left until they grew bigger. Gaun was horrified at the number of fish my brother Richard threw back when she was fishing off his boat in Australia because they were undersized. However his meal for the day could be steak if not fish. No such options here. Long term planning is a luxury these people don’t have.

Fish ready for sun drying.

Fish ready for sun drying.

Yuan inspecting the catch.

Yuan inspecting the catch.

A street in the Moo Baan. A lot more basic than our Moo Baan in Si Bun Ruang.

A street in the Moo Baan. A lot more basic than our Moo Baan in Si Bun Ruang.

Brother 5's house.

Brother 5’s house.

The front extension is made from whatever was handy.

The front extension is made from whatever was handy.

This water point was close to the house. I don;'t know if this is pumped or a natural flow.

This water point was close to the house. I don”t know if this is pumped or a natural flow.

A water channel heading where?

A water channel heading where?

While the fish were being finished off Gaun and I went for a wander down the road to see what else was going on. As always there were some photo opportunities and a chance to capture “real” Isaan life:

Rice being dried outside a small local house.

Rice being dried outside a small local house.

This old guy is making thatching for roofs.

This old guy is making thatching for roofs.

Completed thatching being dried.

Completed thatching being dried.

More.

More.

This is the result once being used.

This is the result once being used. Overlapped to keep out the rain.

The old guy's house. Pretty basic living.

The old guy’s house. Pretty basic living.

Mostly timber houses here on stilts for cooling and flooding.

Mostly timber houses here on stilts for cooling and flooding.

Chillies being dried.

Chillies being dried.

Essential Isaan food.

Essential Isaan food. It’s the small ones you have to watch for.

The family had talked among themselves and on our return it was suggested that brother 5’s wife took us to Ubol Ratana lake and a boat ride. We all headed off, less brother 5, through the village and down dirt backroads until we reached the Northern end of the lake.

This is a small house built by a farang, westerner, for his Isaan girlfriend. All the his essentials - a bed, provided for.

We passed this small house built by a farang, westerner, for his Isaan girlfriend. All his essentials – a bed, provided for. Anyway – room for expansion.

Ubol Ratana lake.

Ubol Ratana lake.

The lake at this point was surrounded by very flat and featureless country. However I really loved it. The scenery reminder me of something from my past. Maybe the marshes of an area of Suffolk I spent time. The flatness really emphasised the bigness of the sky and the contrast of colour from green to the blues and grays I found very pleasing. It had a certain wildness in its feel.

Yuan and umbrella.

Yuan and umbrella. This is waterside in the wet season.

The local long boats.

The local long boats.

Always interesting clouds here. No need to Photoshop the sky!

Always interesting clouds here. No need to Photoshop the sky!

These old wooden boat are being replaced by metal ones of course.

These old wooden boat are being replaced by metal ones of course.

Old and new.

A nice colour mix.

We stopped off at the local meeting point where cool drinks were available and everyone gathered around to find out about the farang and exchange gossip. Brother 5’s wife in the big white hat below is of course well known here.

Chatting with the locals.

Chatting with the locals.

A boat was organised at 500 THB or $18.00, local rates, and we walked down to the water to start the trip.

A fisherman carrying his net to the water.

A fisherman carrying his net to the water.

Yuan on the phone running the family farm business while Gaun acts up.

Yuan on the phone running the family farm business while Gaun acts up.

Another hot day so umbrellas are in demand.

Another hot day so umbrellas are in demand. Sister-in-law 5 leading the way.

Our boat, a metal one.

Our boat, a metal one.

Man with dog. Small dogs are a fashion accessory here and appear in the oddest of places.

Man with dog. Small dogs are a fashion accessory here and appear in the oddest of places.

On the water and these are the local fishing houseboats.

On the water and these are the local fishing houseboats.

The first thing that struck me was the number of these houseboats that you can see such as the one in the photo above. Brother 5 had one once but sold it. They are very basic tin structures built on a bundle of bamboo poles lashed together. From it the family conducts their fishing business. The high poles are used to lay the net and there is a pulley system to bring the nets in. All supplies are shipped in. Electricity to power a fan and TV of course is provided by battery. Many of these boats were not being used when we went by either due to the season, being dry the lake is very low, or maybe they were at the festival having a good time.

I think they are quite striking with the tall fishing poles.

I think they are quite striking with the tall fishing poles.

A sculpture on the water.

A sculpture on the water. Almost Dutch windmill in feel.

No luxuries here. Can you spot the teddy bear?

No luxuries here. Can you spot the teddy bear?

Essential plants in the "garden".

Essential plants in the “garden”.

The winch to bring up the nets.

The winch to bring up the nets.

Another garden.

Another garden. More for show than eating this time.

Not all fishing here.

Not all fishing here.

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Gaun and sister-in-law.

Gaun and sister-in-law.

A postcard moment.

A postcard moment.

Me

Yes. I had to get in the action. Yuan and Lud behind me. There’s that hat again.

Everywhere I go I love capturing the people I see in different environments. Here are some I saw as we motored around the end of the lake.

Fishing from the shore.

Fishing from the shore.

A huge Thai smile.

A huge Thai smile.

Manual work bringing the nets in.

Manual work bringing the nets in.

A dude.

A dude.

Waiting. Thais do a lot of that.

Waiting. Thais do a lot of that.

Ready to cast.

Ready to cast.

Why not in school?

Why not in school?

Casting.

Casting.

Our trip on the water was cut short because a big storm was building and the boat guy didn’t want us to get caught in it. The wind can get pretty wild here evidently. Still time to capture a few photos on the way back:

They seem very balanced don't they.

They seem very balanced don’t they. The net poles are quite a feat in geometry.

A very long boat blends into the backdrop of hills and sky.

A very long boat blends into the backdrop of hills and sky.

Someone loves their chickens.

Someone loves their chickens.

Another net system being used.

Another net system being used.

Buddha always surveys everything.

Buddha always surveys everything.

The trip finished we headed back to brother 5’s house for a well earned feed. Papaya salad with just a touch of chilli for the family. I just had the fish. I was touched that brother 5 really wanted to make me welcome and provide a chair but they don’t have one! I was quite happy on the mats. Nothing special required as far as I’m concerned. Gaun tells me that evidently his “standing” in the village will go up because he has shown that he has a farang in the family. I feel quite important.

Papaya and a small fish.

Papaya and a small fish.

Yuna and Lud with brother 5's contribution to dinner.

Yuan and Lud with brother 5’s contribution to dinner. These little fish are ground into something like a Papaya salad to give extra flavour. 50 THB or $1.60 for the “bunch”.

Once again another side of Thailand that I am privileged to see as part of a Thai family willing to share their lives with me.

The day was finished with a visit to the family farm where I captured these end of day photos, which reflect the rural and gentle nature of Isaan countryside as night falls and the family winds up work.

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Paet and the crop

Paet and a crop of long beans planted out.

This is

This is corn.

Paet and her husband Tham's farm house in the background. They have a living house in the family compound.

Paet and her husband Tham’s farm house in the background. They have a living house in the family compound.

This is

This is a short bean crop.

Another great day ends.

Another great day ends.

 

If you want more information about Ubol Ratana dam you can find it HERE.

Thanks for reading.