My Nikon D5100 camera packed it in a couple of weeks ago and I have been making do with my wife Gaun’s small Canon and an old Olympus ever since. You always take good equipment for granted until you have to revert to what you were using before, which seemed fine at the time. The three essentials of Isaan life for me are Gaun, high speed internet and my camera (+ maybe beer)!

With lots to photograph during the Bun Bang Fai festival period I decided that we’d see if the camera shops in Central Plaza, Udon Thani, a 90-minute drive from us, could help. I combined this with our Nissan pickup’s 20,000 km service and a visit to my favourite garden centre in Thailand. I also discovered a wonderful timber shop that has to be included on any local farang’s list of useful places and a mini Ban Chiang (a world heritage site south of Udon). Join us for the day and we will show you a few hidden surprises, plus provide some generally helpful information for both locals and visitors.

Nissan – Udon Thani. Not my photo. I only include it so I can talk about car services here, which is different from my experience of them in Australia.

Firstly you do not book in, you just turn up! Once there I find you are treated like a VIP and the dealership waiting room is always equipped with free food, drinks, computers, wifi and TV. At Mazda in Nong Bua Lamphu we even got lunch! If you ask, they will drop you off anywhere and pick you up. Have a massage while you wait!

The photo shoot shortly after we took delivery of the new pickup. My stepdaughter Peng and Gaun.

The Nissan Sportech was due for a major service including oil change, air and oil filters, air con service, rotation of tires and all the usual checks plus the standard full wash and polish. The cost – 3,100 baht or around A $ 130.00. Next stop Central Plaza, a big shopping Plaza full of stuff retired people can’t afford (and in my case don’t want) to try and get my Nikon D5100 camera fixed.

Getting the camera fixed was one of those small Thai miracles. The solution surprisingly turned out to be this tiny camera repair shop to the left of JT Hair Salon in the Google Map image above.

We called in a couple of retail camera places in Central but as you’d expect they were staffed by non-tech types. A shop called Big Camera could have sent it away for an appraisal but it would take up to 45 days for them to look at it and get back to me with a price to fix it and then another two weeks if I gave them the go ahead. There are Nikon service centers in Chiang Mai and at this stage I was thinking that I would post the camera to one of them myself and hope for the best.

Luckily the girls in the shop gave instructions to Gaun to find a guy outside who did the camera repairs. The repair place is to the right of that black pickup – last “shop” in this row.

By the time the instructions came to me they were “outside, turn right and look around!”  He actually has a tiny “shop” a few doors down from Central, which was a total mess and the customer area was created when he opened two sliding doors and talked to us as we stood on the footpath. Having said all of that he took the camera, said he would get back in a couple of hours, which he did, and fixed it an hour later. 2,500 baht was probably top dollar but for me three hours compared to two months it was well worth it.

About ten minutes north of Udon Thani on Highway 2 is the best garden improvement centre I have seen in Thailand.

It is beautiful in itself set in a large treed area tastefully landscaped. 

The owners have spent a lot of money over twenty years to make it something special. Unfortunately these photos aren’t mine as they don’t normally allow photography. I am a regular so will ask if I can take some of my own next time. The Google Maps link is HERE.

Expensive by “normal” Thai roadside standards, but you just can’t buy this quality and variety anywhere else I have seen in this part of Isaan so at least it give an option if this is your sort of thing.

Our beautiful water pot that sits in the koi pond came from this place. We paid about A$250 at the time.

A huge range of statues, house/garden ornaments and timber items, some of which are on display only and not for sale.

Some really good quality things here. So unusual for Isaan, and Thailand in general, where most stuff is flat packed from China.
We bought a few things for the garden, which I will show you later.

Our second discovery of the day was this excellent timber workshop.

 It is nothing to look at from the road.

GPS details for the tech minded (and I don’t know how you survive in Thailand without a GPS!)

The owner looks like the star from one of those 70’s Kung Fu movies. A lovely older bloke (or a younger guy after lot of Isaan whisky) as craftspeople tend to be. Very friendly and helpful.

It was so refreshing to be around timber again. Thailand is a land of steel and concrete, most of it incredibly ugly, so to see all of this wonderful hardwood and the smell of freshly cut wood was a treat. He will create a relief carving to your design as you can see.

Solid timber doors. I so wish I knew of this place when I was building my house.

I ended up buying rubbish hardwood doors from Global House (a DIY place) for 3,900 baht while these far more solid ones can be bought for 2,500 baht (A$100.00). He will even carve individual designs into the panels if you want!

A horse theme in progress.

Some beautiful hardwood on display.

I have probably added too many photos, which is an indication of how happy I was. Mr Kung Fu on the phone in the background.

The lathe obviously gets a workout too.

This is Gaun demonstrating the size of some of the timber available to be made into whatever you want. For a timber lover like me it made my mouth water. Think of a dining suite made from this!

Our last stop for the day in Udon was this hidden pottery place at the intersection of highway 22 and the 216 ring-road on the southern side of town (just down from Makro and opposite Big C) .

For locals. The shop is just above the small 22 sign next to the Big C label and the entrance is right before that merging lane.

How helpful can I get?

The pottery sold here originates from a World Heritage site called Ban Chiang, about an hour’s drive south of Udon. Information HERE.

I have been to the village itself and it is full of these distinctive pots copied from originals (I hope). If you don’t want to make that trip then this little shop in Udon has a few examples you can purchase for not much. They also have some very small items that would make great gifts for visitors, so if in the area…………….We also dropped into our favourite garden centre on the way home, so the pickup was full inside and out.

Our Day in Udon Thani – part 2. 

As always even with a very limited budget I couldn’t resist buying some items for our new garden from the places I told you about in the last post. I want it to be not just a showcase of tropical lushness but also include statues and pots to add extra interest, in the same way the Jim Thompson garden (my inspiration HERE) does in Bangkok.

The following photos show you what we bought yesterday and also some older purchases in their garden settings.

A water feature but in our case now a garden ornament. A bit kitsch but I liked her. 1,370 baht.

I bought this pot from the Ban Chiang place. You can find them roadside anywhere but this one had a deeper colour than most, which I liked. 200 baht for the pot and the base was 60 baht (bought elsewhere).

I have moved my lovely pot, bought from the garden centre last visit, and although you can’t see it clearly I got a pottery base for it yesterday. 190 baht.

Three small ornaments that really liven up this spot. The pot on the left is 20 years old (85 baht), the concrete tile is chipped but I liked the design, (150 baht) and the statue is old as they don’t make this design any more (450 baht).

The full effect all now floodlit at night. A great spot for an evening drink in the cooler part of the day.

A pot donated to us by my brother in law Tham.

This is the Ban Chiang pot we bought yesterday. I wouldn’t want a lot of them but one makes a striking feature against the green background. 400 baht. As always a reminder that most of the plants you are seeing have only been in the ground a bit over four months.

You can start to see my passageway design happening as the tall palms grow to create the “walls”. These have vivid orange flowers that last for months. I will share photos once they bloom. I can’t wait to put the brick paving down, which will finish it off and transform the look (and hide the lighting conduit).

This is Jim Thompson’s garden and is an example of the effect I am after with my paths. I want the garden to be a voyage of discovery.

Another older purchase looking very settled as the greenery takes over the world. 2,750 baht. Spot the baby jackfruit hanging down directly above her head and to the right.

Three characterful hardwood trucks bought from the timber place. 

I have pots to go on top of these with white cascading flowers, which will look stunning (I think). I will leave them natural colour. Each one is a heavy two person lift – like concrete. 200 baht each. If you can find these with hollow centres I have seen them with the flowers or succulents planted directly into the truck, which look really good.

Not Thai! My two lamas made the trip over from my garden in Australia to take residence here (don’t tell Immigration as they don’t have visas).

We stopped a passing gutter salesman a couple of days ago and bought two lids for our water pots. They look very new now but will rust in time and soften. 180 baht each. Gaun’s rose garden is a sea of colour.

We have just moved those tree trunks into place. The ugly sprinkler pipes will be hidden by ground cover and paving in time. The plants at the back of the pots (cuttings taken from the plant to the right of the statue in the next photo) will grow to three metres this year, which will create another “walled” path….see next photo.

The plant to the left of the statue is one of the varieties I showed you last photo and you can see that they grow tall. The wall statue is another older purchase.

I love the way the moss has grown on her. She look a thousand years old now.

Fun.

This water pot was another purchase from the garden centre in Udon. We paid 3,500 baht but they are now 5,500 baht. Is the garden enjoying the wet season? Maybe 🙂

I hope that locals and visitors to the area have found this post useful and interesting. As always Isaan hides its small treasures and it is only through blogs like this that you have the opportunity to discover them.

Thanks for reading and if you have enjoyed the stories why not leave a comment. It’s the only “payment” I ask for this providing blog.