Tony in Thailand

Writing more stories about everyday expat life in rural Isan

In this unique blog You will find hundreds of stories about my life in Thailand, the good and bad. Not just a list of tourist destinations but stories about REALLY living here. I hope you enjoy sharing my experiences of settling into a new country and culture as much as I am living it. 

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You will find many expats writing blogs about life in the coastal centres and places like Chiang Mai. For the many westerners with a connection via their Thai partner to Isan, a large region in the northeast, this is not very helpful. There are some excellent resources that focus on Isan life in the bigger urban centres but almost none that describe life outside the cities. I give you a unique glimpse into what village living for an expat actually looks like day to day.

None of my stories are spectacular and will never be found in the search results of tourists looking for adventure. However, most of the readers who follow this blog, and there are some who have become ‘virtual’ friends over the years, are people who have a much more committed and personal connection to Thailand and have moved well beyond elephant riding, zip-lining and bar hopping. If you are one of those you have come to the right place.

…..these little stories will give you a connection to village life and broaden your understanding what a life in rural Thailand might look like if that ever happens for you. Even if you are not planning on moving here this blog will give you an insider’s view of Isan like no other. Dive in for a insider’s view of Thai life.

An Unexpected Life in Thailand

My name is Tony and up to mid-2013 I was living in Canberra, Australia and had been for 45 years.

Towards the end of 2012 I decided to take time out from a very stressful period in my life and have a couple of weeks holiday in Phuket, Thailand a country I had previously never visited.

After the conservatism of Canberra, Phuket by constrast was such good fun. Constant activity and new sights, bright colours, wonderful cheap food, great massage, friendly people and pretty country away from the tourist traps.

Returning to the boredom of Canberra suburbia, a government job with zero satisfaction and a future that had lost any purpose led me to totally re-think my life’s direction. The result of that assessment was a complete reboot involving selling up everything, taking 12 months leave without pay from my job and heading off for an adventure in Thailand like I have never had before.

I arrived back in Phuket 12 June 2013 to spend a few weeks ‘holiday’ there before heading off to explore some of the rest of Thailand. Not being an adventurous type I asked a Thai lady to join me on my extended trip to help smooth the way once I left the farang comfort zone of Phuket. It is something my darling wife Gaun continues to do six years later!

I rented a house in Chiang Rai where in September 2013 I was offered a voluntary redundancy from my job. After many sleepless nights I decided to accept the redundancy and also to retire permanently to Thailand, which I officially did on 1 November 2013. We moved to Chiang Mai, in December, where we lived for 12 months during which time we bought land in Isan and moved there permanently to build and live in late 2014.

Isan is not for everyone but for me it was as if I had come home. My enthusiasm for the simple lifestyle we lead, the people, events and attractions we come across is what makes this blog unique and ongoing even after six years of writing and hundreds of stories.

Enjoy.

What’s been happening recently?

NEW – THE LATEST STORY ADDED Thursday, 8 August

THE LATEST VIDEO Monday, 29 July

Site Update 15 Aug:  I have had four days without internet, so when combined with a slowdown in desire to write, things have been quiet more recently. I am reconnected again and will focus on a few new stories, if the sun isn’t shining 🙂   

My photo of the day – 15 August 2019

A photo that really captured a special moment during Mother’s Day Monday evening. The family had gathered to pay respects to mama and give her flower garlands they had made. Peng joined us via a videolink from Chiang Mai to also share her respects to both her grandma and mum. These photos show the delight mama had in seeing Peng. That’s what family is all about.

August 2019

Noob Coffee Roasters, Loei

  • Published 8 Aug 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Places and Attractions
  • LINK: HERE

I love my freshly made coffee every morning, which I brew with ground Thai beans, in this case from a roaster in a neighbouring province to us called Loei. This is an insight into this unique Isan business.

Dying in Thailand

  • Published 3 August 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Information
  • LINK: HERE

    This is a topic we would all probably prefer not to think about. However, there are some unique aspects to the subject if you are an expat in Thailand and if you care about your partner you should be aware of what happens when you die here and how you can make the process as easy as possible for those left behind. There may also be serious complications for your stay in Thailand if your partner dies before you.

    July 2019

    Thailand Tropical Garden Update – 18 months on.

    • Published 31 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Tropical Gardens
    • LINK: HERE

    We bought a bare block of land in November 2017 and in January 2018 started work to turn it into one of Isan’s most beautiful private tropical gardens. This is a photo record of how we are going towards achieving that target after 18 months.

    Video of the Day: Gutters – are they needed in Thailand?

    I have problems with my left and right due to advanced age and as a result early in the video I make reference to right when it should be left. You’ll get the idea when you see that section  The rainfall increases dramatically as the video progresses as you’ll see around the 3 minute mark.

    Tree Park Coffee, Den Chai

    • Published 27 July 2019
    • Place: Den Chai
    • Topic: Places of interest
    • LINK: HERE

    This is another must do if you are heading to or from Chiang Mai on highway 11. On the outskirts of Den Chai is a Doi Chaang cafe called Tea Park Cafe and it is probably my favourite cafe in Thailand. Quirky, beautifully presented in a lovely shady, tropical gardened area. The coffee is OK too! It is about three hours from CM so perfect for that first driving a long way coffee if you are heading south as we were.

    Baan Tawai, Chiang Mai

    • Published 27 July 2019
    • Place: Chiang Mai
    • Topic: Places of interest
    • LINK: HERE

    Ban Tawai in the Hang Dong area of Chiang Mai is one of my favourites and should be on most people’s must do list when visiting. The centrepiece is the handicraft village, but for me the highlights are all the surrounding shops and factories manufacturing or selling just the best Chiang Mai has to offer in timber products, furniture, pottery and more. You will need your Gold Card or higher however, but there are some outstanding items for sale.

    Roadside Timber – mini-post

    • Published 27 July 2019
    • Place: Den Chai
    • Topic: Wat/temple
    • LINK: HERE

    The road between Den Chai and Lampung (highway 11) heading into or out of Chiang Mai has a number of good quality woodworking shops and they are worth a visit even if you don’t have the space in your luggage for what they have to sell 🤣 

    If money is not a problem they will ship to wherever you are.

    Wat Phra That Suthon Mongkhon Khiri

    • Published 27 July 2019
    • Place: Den Chai
    • Topic: Wat/temple
    • LINK: HERE

    If you are heading into Chiang Mai from the south and are on highway 11 then shortly after the turn at Den Chai you will come across this spectacular wat on the left. I have driven this road many times but have never spotted this temple for some reason.

    The Frustrations of Thailand

    • Published 19 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Information
    • LINK: HERE

    I mostly write blog stories that revolve around my personal day to day life in Thailand, which has now been a six year journey. Because I have found it to be a mostly positive experience I don’t get caught up in the aspects that can frustratingly intrude if your reality isn’t as friendly and free-flowing as mine has been. This post is to balance up my never-ending cheerfulness with some of the issues that can make your stay here less than perfect.

    Isan Live Music – Option 2

    • Published 18 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Information
    • LINK: HERE

    This is the second of three posts I will be publishing on this subject. Today you will join us for a stage based band, being the second option for live music in Isan. In this case this entertainment was provided as the culmination of a funeral, so not the event you might have had in mind.

    TM30 Reporting Online

    • Published 18 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Information
    • LINK: HERE

    For some reason my original post on the TM30 reporting requirements has generated a lot of interest, being one of the most viewed posts I have published more recently. 

    Since then I have come across more information that I thought was worth sharing with you to assist readers stay on top of the ever changing visa related requirements. If you are an expat living in Thailand this is essential reading.

    Thailand University Entrance

    • Published 16 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Information
    • LINK: HERE

    A major new post on this topic. My stepdaughter Peng finshed school this year and set about applying for university entrance to graduate with a degree in teaching. This is our combined story of how that process works in Thailand. 

    I have written this post to share the specific observations I made in Peng’s situation plus a few more general assumptions. I am not an expert on this process and don’t set myself up to be however, I am sure that when you read my words you will have a far better understanding of how this sometimes confusing process works than I did at the beginning. 

    Candles to a Village Wat – mini post

    • Published 15 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Festivals
    • LINK: HERE

    With the start of Buddhist Lent happening tomorrow there are lots of small celebrations happening over the next few days. This was one we joined unplanned as it passed our home. 

    One of the pleasures of living in a village is that I have the opportunity to join in wit whatever the locals are doing in the cycle of festivals over the course of a year. This morning we heard music in the street and walked out to find a group of our moo ban school kids, teachers and some villagers off to deliver candles to our wat.

    Isan Game of Thrones

    • Published 14 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Wat/temple
    • LINK: HERE

    Temples and dragons, that was my day so find your beast Daenerys Targaryen and join us for some Isan insights.

    This morning we were invited to a ceremony to deliver a naga, actually more of a mythical serpent than a dragon, that had been made by Nit Noy, a massage lady and neighbouring farmer, to her family’s wat in a moo ban opposite ours.

    Buddhist Temple Music – Video

    • Published 13 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Living in Isan
    • LINK: HERE

    Now for most people picking up on this it will be of NO interest but there will be a few, so this is for you.

    At the ceremony we went to this morning at a local wat the abbot was playing this song over the speakers and I really enjoyed it. Buddhist, temple music but for me it hits the spot. I recorded it on a video, sent it to Peng in Chiang Mai, who sourced it on YouTube and sent the link back to me. Family teamwork.

    Isan – Making an Impression – mini post

    • Published 12 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Living in Isan
    • LINK: HERE

    This story really doesn’t warrant a full post to itself because it relates to an incident back in 2013 and is very brief with no photos, but……….it is one of my favourite recollections of my very first visit to Isan and meeting the family so I wanted to share hoping that you enjoy it as much as I have recalling it.

    Wat Pa Silawa – mini post

    • Published 12 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Wats/temples
    • LINK: HERE

    I occasionally have the urge to have some alone time and one of my favourite places, that gets me out of the many home/farm based options, is a forest wat (temple) a ten minute drive from us called Pha Silawa.

    It is not visually spectacular in it doesn’t have lots of large photographic buildings but makes up in other ways. The wat is set in large, treed studded grounds, is serene, peaceful and immaculately maintained. 

    Isan Street party faces

    • Published 10 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Festivals
    • LINK: HERE

    I am constantly amazed at the number of people who come up to me when I am involved in a street party to have their photo taken. Often it starts with a couple of kids and next things you’ve got half the crowd involved. This post is a pictorial one only to showcase some of the shots I have captured.

    Dividing the Family Farm

    • Published 10 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Rural Isan
    • LINK: HERE

    When Gaun’s mama had a mild stroke last year it made the family focus on formally splitting the farm between the seven kids. How does that work in a Thailand environment? This post covers the final administrative part of that process on the ground, with some bonus rural insights to add a little extra flavour to the day. This isn’t a dry bureaucratic story in any way so put on farming footware and let’s get going.

    Isan Live Music – Option 1

    • Published 10 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Living in Isan
    • LINK: HERE

    If you are living in Isan you will have the option to join in many street parties and there are four live music options you will be dancing to. I am going to be covering three of them in a series of posts starting with this one. The missing one is a lum or mainly percussion band, which I have covered before. In this and the following two related posts you will join us as we party through three very different event themes, which in itself examples the variety of ways Isan people find an excuse to enjoy themselves. In the three posts I will share I won’t just focus on the music aspect but give you insights into what event each occasion is based around.

    Two Days in Rural Isan

    • Published 9 July 2019
    • Place: Si Bun Ruang
    • Topic: Living in Isan
    • LINK: HERE

    I hope to make this post as interesting as I can to show you what a well run Isan farm looks like and the cycle of activities and crops that make up the life of fulltime professional farmers like my wife’s younger sister and brother-in-law, Yuan and Lud. 

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    Buying Western Food

    Mandatory Health Insurance for Thai expats

    A tropical garden in Thailand

    How to get a yellow house book

    Historical Photos of Thailand

    Building a House in Thailand eBook

    Driving in Thailand

    Isan Music - Update 27 May

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