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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 adventerous 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?

THE LATEST STORIES x2 ADDED Tuesday, 18 June

THE LATEST VIDEOs Monday, 17 June

Site Update 17 June: We have been very busy after we heard that my stepdaughter Peng had been accepted into Rajabhat university in Chiang Mai. The blog has been quiet as a result but I have a heap of new stories ready to go once we stop travelling. Two return trips to Chiang Mai this week 700km each way to get Peng registered and then settled into campus on Friday the 14th. The first of these has just been published with more to come.

My photo of the day – 21 June 2019

I share these photos not so much for the garden views, although they are lovely, but as an example of the type of weather we are having in what’s supposed to be Si Bun Ruang’s wet season.

Beautiful bright, sunny and cloudless morning, clouds building in the afternoon and then nothing. We haven’t had rain in two weeks. This has been the pattern the last four years I have lived here. It’s great for me and we cope with watering using a large sprinkler system, but for the farmers who rely on rain to flood paddy fields it is yet another potential drought year.

I have heard from other expats who are having a terrific wet season and farmers are happy. When we went to Chiang Mai every day was cloudy and we had some rain happening on several of them. Back home – totally dry. I have friends in Udon Thani, which is only 80 km away and they complain about the amount of rain they get and we get not a drop. Weird.

June 2019

Love Living in Isan – June 2019

  • Published 18 June 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Living in Isan
  • LINK: HERE

After the excitement of a week on the road backward and forward to Chiang Mai, getting my stepdaughter Peng settled into university and a few posts related to that trip, it is a pleasure to return to everyday Isan life. These are a few local stories I hope you enjoy.

Fun Shopping on Highway 11

  • Published 18 June 2019
  • Place: Chiang Mai
  • Topic: Attractions and Places
  • LINK: HERE

A brief post for once. If you are heading out of Chiang Mai to a destination in the south, or the southeast in our case, you will start off on highway 11 (which in Chiang Mai city is called the super highway and forms the inner ringroad starting at the well known Nimmanheimin road) before either continuing on the 11 or turning onto highway 1. Here are a few places closer to Chiang Mai on highways 11 & 1 that I think are worth stopping for a look-see.

Wat Ban Den – the post

  • Published 17 June 2019
  • Place: Chiang Mai
  • Topic: Wats
  • LINK: HERE

This is the story backing up the video linked below. Wat Ban Den is a spectacular temple situated an hour’s drive from the centre of Chiang Mai on in the Mae Rim area north on highway 107. If you don’t have transport the location is a minus. If you do or make the effort to get there then maybe you’ll miss some of the tourist rush that other temples closer in experience. I have seen plenty of wats in Thailand and I would rate this up with the best of them. Well worth the time to see it. Allow several hours.

Wat Ban Den – the video

  • Published 17 June 2019
  • Place: Chiang Mai
  • Topic: Wats
  • LINK: HERE

A spectacular temple situated about an hour’s drive from Chaing Mai centre in the Mae Rim area (north on highway 107). A wonderful range of buildings and everything in immacualte condition. This video gives you a taste of what will be a full post to be published soon. 

Secondhand Heaven

  • Published 17 June 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Attractions and Places
  • LINK: HERE

One of the disappointments of Thailand is that there is very little history left, both in architecture and in the everyday items such as art, sculpture and other decorative items. There are a few second hand shops around but the ones I have seen tend to only have ‘junk’ modern era things. I have no wish to add an old typewriter or CRT TV to my garden or house artwork! It then came as a total surprise, and a pleasant one at that, to come across a place that stocked much more interesting collectables on two trip we did recently to Chiang Mai. 

A Tribute to a Rice Hut

  • Published 3 June 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Living in Isan
  • LINK: HERE

We had friends visit the farm last week and comment was made at how impressive the ‘resort’ area surrounding the rice hut is in real life, as opposed to just seeing the images on the blog. That made me think about what we started with and I found it unbelieveable that it was six months almost to the day that we started this project. I thought that having recently updated the blog on our tropical garden that it was appropriate to give you a six month review of one of our other gardens

Dancing with Friends

  • Published 3 June 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Festivals
  • LINK: HERE

A rare paparazzi glimpse of Thailand’s favourite Isan author dancing at a Bun Bang Fai party yesterday. My message to anyone retired and based in Thailand is that I totally recommend working hard at enjoying yourself, which may mean leaving behind some concepts as to what to can and can’t do. Dancing is not my strong point but what the……..I had enjoyed a couple of beers, I liked the music (I linked this song on my timeline recently) and was surrounded by friends so why sit on the sidelines? You don’t have to do much, just join in and sway around a bit! The locals love seeing a farang having as good a time as they are. 

Another Isan music favourite

  • Published 2 June 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Music
  • LINK: HERE

This is one Isan song you might hear being played this time of year, but less likely as it is a quieter more candlelight type of music. Try it with your Thai partner at your next romantic dinner of som tum – it will earn you brownie points for sure. It is a nice contrast to the last song I posted. In English it’s called Khemarat Embrace, and is the theme song to a Thai movie. I like it a lot.

May 2019

A Tropical Garden Update

  • Published 30 May 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Tropical Garden
  • LINK: HERE

I have been keeping my obsession for the garden off Facebook and the blog, but with the high temperatures of March/April over and the rains started everything is in top gear for recovery and growth so I have weakened.

You can almost see the difference day to day the plants are so happy. Our main activity is not to add more plants but to control the ones we already have. This is a purely visual post as I think that the images speak for themselves.

Party Time in our Village

  • Published 29 May 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Festivals
  • LINK: HERE

Having prepared the saling (motorbike and sidecar) yesterday ready for it’s outing in the moo ban’s Bun Bang Fai street party, see my previous post HERE, it was time to dress-up, makeup and play-up! A truly fun post helped along with a few early evening SangSoms (Thai rum) on the author’s part so jump in and enjoy.

Party Time Music

  • Published 29 May 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Festivals
  • LINK: HERE

If you are living in Isan or having been visiting us during the rocket festival Bun Bang Fai period May/June then you will have heard this song for sure. Each year there seems to be a standard new song that is picked up a played on every music truck at some stage during a street party. This is the one for this year. If you think that this video is a bit amateurish then you’d be right. It has been shot live from the top deck of a music truck playing to a crowd. These double deckers are a more recent addition to the street party scene in Isan. Previously it has been all recorded music, but if you have the money you can hire a band who will play live. The first deck is usually the diesel generators, sound centre and speakers with the band one level up.

TM30 update NOTE: this is NOT a post please read on the right.

  • Published 29 May 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Information
  • LINK: HERE

This is only a copy from a generic Facebook post that will do the expat rounds, so I thought I would add it here. Note: it looks like an Android app only.

Don’t want to go to Immigration each time you return back to your Residence. Or your Landlord doesn’t want to go to Immigration each time you return to your Room or House after 24 Hours or more away? Now you/they don’t need to…..Download and Register with this App and away you go! Application for expats accommodation can be loaded on your phone and the link is HERE

I wrote a full post about the TM30 HERE and it might be worth updating based on some new information I can now add.

A Motorbike with Accessories

  • Published 27 May 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Festivals
  • LINK: HERE

I am going to cover three days of activities for Bun Bang Fai (the Isan rocket festival) in our own moo ban (village).

This will be different from other posts I have written on the subject because it shows our personal involvement with preparing for the street party, the procession itself and then the rockets on the final day. We weren’t just observers this time but hands on. This post involves you in Day 1 at the farm preparing for the street party. 

Something a Little Different

  • Published 23 May 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Information
  • LINK: HERE

Occasionally it’s nice to have a break from Isan news and share something I have come across that doesn’t relate to monks, rice or visas. 

Yesterday we headed out to a small eating place about 20 minutes drive from our home. It’s owned by a lovely couple, Greg who’s from the UK and Noi, a local. In the course of a conversation with Greg he mentioned a side-business he has marketing quality copies of vintage prints online. He sent me a link later in the day and I was so impressed with the unusualness of the huge range of offerings that I thought it was worth passing on in case others found it equally fascinating.

Mandatory Medical Insurance for Thai expats

  • Published 21 May 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Information
  • LINK: HERE

A big scare for some in the Thai expat community generating a lot of online speculation before the full details were truly known. Those finer details are still unclear but there has been enough clarification based on current understanding for me to replicate a very worthwhile article published by ThaiVisa for any of my readers who may have missed the topic. I have also included a little bit of background to explain how this all kicked off.

Bun Bang Fai rockets from factory to skies

  • Published 21 May 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Festivals
  • LINK: HERE

We came across the rocket part of this moo ban’s (village) festival last year, and it was quite impressive, so this year we added it to our list of must do’s. The street party I reported on in my last post was enjoyable so we had high hopes for day two. Before we get to the day itself let’s drop into a rocket factory and see what that looks like. We can then take those images and apply them to the finished product exploding into the sky.

Bun Bang Fai street party at Ban Sa-At

  • Published 20 May 2019
  • Place: Si Bun Ruang
  • Topic: Festivals
  • LINK: HERE

We headed out to a street party happening in a village called Ban Sa-At close to Si Bun Ruang for Bun Bang Fai, the Isan rocket festival. Four moo bans had combined resources to put on a great dance display with four separate music trucks and dance groups. Masses of photos as always.

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Living with a Thai Woman

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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