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Love Living in Isan

22 March 2019

Since returning home from our trip to Loei, see last post HERE, our days have filled with two solid days in the garden, a few social occasions, a trip to Udon Thani for my visa extension and shopping and the usual variety of everyday photo moments, all of which I hope you’ll enjoy in this post.

วัดราษฎร์สงเคราะห์ (วัดป่าหนองแซง)

For the one or two of you who can’t read Thai 🙂 I am going to be absolutely NO help as I don’t what name of this wat (!) is. You can find it just off highway 210 between Nong Bua Lamphu and Udon Thani HERE on Google Maps. It is another of those wonderful examples of completely over the top temple construction that will pull in yet more money but contribute zero to Buddha’s teachings in my opinion.

Visa Extension in Udon Thani

The reason I took the photos above was because we were making the trip to Udon Thani Immigration for my annual visa extension. I was planning on changing from ‘retirement’ to ‘marriage’ but in the end I couldn’t be bothered to complete the extra paperwork for the ‘marriage’ version and renewed my ‘retirement’ using money in the bank as the supporting financial requirement.

Dead easy as always if you make the effort to put the required paperwork together (more is better) and present it neatly and logically. In and out in 30 minutes.

For locals I provided the following items for the ‘retirement’ extension based on money held in the bank. I know it is more complex for income verification or a mixed bank/income:

I got a statement from Bangkok Bank that morning. They were very helpful at the Nong Bua Lamphu branch – ask for Taeng (her nickname, which means cucumber in Thai, who speaks good English). 20 minutes later at a cost of 200 baht plus 10 baht for parking in the temple 🙂 we were on our way.

Also provided to Immigration were copies of all relevant pages in my passport, a copy of my yellow house book and Guna’s blue book, my pink farang ID card and Gaun’s ID card – sign all copies, and a TM7 form (Application for Extension of Temporary Stay in Kingdom) with photo.

I also completed my 90 day report. Normally that’s done inside Immigration in Udon but this time we were sent around the back where we met Ken, who will be the Immigration boss opening the Nong Bua Lamphu office sometime in the next couple of months. He seemed like a friendly guy.

Now and Then

For those of you who still use Facebook you will know the popups that occur sometimes as a reminder of events that you posted one or two years ago. Even though I have stopped publishing on Facebook I still have notifications like this and yesterday one arrived with a few of our new tropical garden photos from one year ago. I thought I would take the camera out today to replicate those photos and see what the transformation has been over the last 12 months. Pretty staggering. The before photos are on the left and the ones taken today on the right.

A Wedding Next door

We don’t know this lady very well but because we were neighbours we were invited to her daughter’s wedding last weekend. It was a big couple of days for weddings with two others happening in our moo ban. These events follow a standard format so to some extent if you’ve been to one you’ve seen it all. However, everyone has its own distinct ‘flavour’ and I always enjoy capturing the colour and characters in each one we go to.

This was a young couple and the groom’s family didn’t have much money. I believe the bride’s mum paid for everything and in return the groom’s family were transferring some 4 rai (a rai is 1.600 mtr2) to her to compensate for the costs and for sid sod, which is like a dowery..  

Motorbikes and marques – either a wedding or funeral! Happy days this time.

This is a vacant block of land next to ours where some of the overflow was happening. You can see where our land is from Gaun’s Bougainvilleas!

The groom. Just a baby!

As always the groom and his party walks to the bride’s house. Entry has to be ‘paid’ for by envelopes handed over to those holding silver and gold ‘barriers’. 

The bride on the left and two bridesmaids. The first is a neighbour and friend of Peng called Pan, and that’s Puk on the right, Gaun’s niece. I literally didn’t recognise her, as she isn’t a dressing up sort of girl and would prefer to avoid getting involved in this sort of affair. 

The bride looking thoughtful.

And Puk wondering when she can get out of all that gear 🙂

The formal ceremony inside the home conducted by a ‘spiritman’. These aren’t Buddhist events although some of the chants are Pali verses you will hear at most formal Buddhist occasions.

There’s usually a core family group that sits inside for the formal bit and everyone else sits outside eating and drinking.

The bridal party. I have been to heaps of weddings and have noticed that mostly the couple and bridesmaids always look like it is a funeral! The bride and groom seem to mostly ignore each other too even when he first arrives. Maybe everyone is on best behaviour being the centre of attention. You won’t see any advertisements for Thailand Land of Smiles at some weddings that’s for sure.

That’s Bear, Gaun’s older sister, on the left, who was helping with the cooking and Gaun in the middle, both of them checking the ceremony from the outside.

The bride’s mum handing out more cash for supplies.

An Addition to the Garden Family

As a reward for getting another twelve months extension to my visa (not getting it is never really in question, but it’s always a slight ‘yay’ when that stamp is in the passport and signed off) we called into my new favourite garden statue shop in Udon to pick up an owl I saw there last time. I had a spot picked out for him in the garden and I have to say he looks as if he has always been there. I have a spotlight on him at night and he looks terrific day or night.

Minor Improvements to the Farm Resort!

I so enjoy spending time at the ever expanding farm ‘resort’ complex that it is a pleasure to invest in little ideas to improve the experience. The timber table in what I now call the beach hut 🙂 has got a friend in the form of a matching chair to replace the plastic version. A cushion for comfort now added as well. You can see from the esky and towels that this is an active swimming location!

Always a great way to start the day. A swim, coffee and maybe a bit of blog writing. The esky is for cold refreshments (beer) if we stay later into the day.

Who would think that this is a working Isan farm? Spot the moored aquatic entertainment platform (otherwise known as an inner tube) permanently located in the middle of the pond. Stick an esky full of ice and beer in it and enjoy being wet inside and out 🙂

A rare selfie!

This is a timber window shutter. Varnish it up and it makes a nice small table for 380 baht.

The rainy season is due in the next couple of months and the wild tropical storms we sometimes get at that time often come from the west, which is the direction the hut faces. I have been after a vinyl blind to roll down when we weren’t using the hut. Two days ago a young guy and his partner drove past the gate at home advertising blinds. As I often say, wait long enough and everything you will ever need will pass by. We got him to drive out to the farm to install a four metre one. The outcome is true Isan. It doesn’t look attractive but will do the job! 

The lotus plants in the pond have just arrived unplanned. Maybe they were in the original soil. A solitary flower today.

The doorway in the end of the hut can be sealed too using small planks of timber that slide into groves on either side of the entrance. When it was being used as a rice hut the last plank would be padlocked to prevent the others being able to be removed. 

Gaun’s mama has taken it on herself to keep the small fish in the garden pond fed. This is her this morning.

We only started with a few imports from our home garden ponds and now there are hundreds! Mama is an enthusiastic feeder.

For the Virtual Isan Farmers

The smoky season Jan – Mar has been a bad one this year. Sugar is burnt before harvesting because it is easier to cut (by hand) after a burn. Interestingly, I believe that next year the sugar processing factories will be told to reject any burnt sugar, which means we may have better air quality. We will see if that translates to reality. I have no great confidence that it will happen but live in hope.

The latest update from Air Visual at about 12:50pm today (12 & 13 March) shows Chiang Mai’s air quality index (AQI) score at a baffling 296, categorized as “unhealthy,” described as the level at which “everyone may begin to experience health effects.” 

It’s not just sugar. Paddy land is burnt like the photo below on the farm, before the soil is turned over prior to planting rice. The side of the roads go up in smoke as an easy way to clear weeds. Whole hillsides are burnt supposedly to encourage the growth of wild mushroom later in the year. That’s on top of garden rubbish etc which is burnt as well.  

Several of the farm paddies have already contributed to the smoky skies.

The replanting of the family farm continues after a quieter time post New Year january/February. Large areas of new crops are underway. So orderly and neat as you’d expect from these A grade farmers.

It’s Friday morning so Yuan and Lud are looking for anything they can sell to increase the income from their Friday market street stall. Guess what’s being harvested here. 

They are cutting Morning Glory at Bear’s (Gaun’s older sister) pond on the other half of the farm.

Hunting ant eggs as well. If there’s money in it Yuan will be taking advantage of the oportunity. 

The long beans are coming along nicely. Gaun’s contribution on the right. Her flowers are everywhere.

Looking good although what would I know 🙂

Tiny handmade bamboo ties for the long beans. Yuan never buys if she can make an alternative.

Here the ties in use to attach the long bean runners to the supports.

Rows of healthy looking tomatoes.

These are the cherry tomatoes and are picked well before us westerners would harvest. They are mostly crushed and added to papaya salad, to add sourness and a bit of colour. The tomatoes themselves aren’t usually eaten.

An iPad photo so not the best. This is Noi on the left, the eldest of the seven children, who owns a farm about 30 minutes north of us. She and her daughter and granddaughter have brought over some chillies for Yuan to sell. Money is exchanged and Yuan puts a margin on top. 

In a western supermarket this collection would be worth heaps. Here just a few dollars. 

All the produce packed up ready to take to the stall early afternoon. I love the genuineness of this process, watching the crops harvested in the morning, then taken to market and money in the pocket by the evening. 

Peng the worker

Gaun and Peng headed out to the farm yesterday afternoon. Peng wanted some photos taken of her working (for Facebook only) and got into the gear and into (brief) action mode. Peng is even less of a farmer than I am!

This is as far as she was prepared to get up the ladder. 

Gaun was in real non-Facebook mode and this is her ladder-work. We have a two metre ladder and she stands on the top of that too.

For those of you who follow family events you will be pleased to hear that Peng was offered a place at Loei university a couple of days ago. I wrote about our trip to Loei for her entrance exams HEREPeng was one HAPPY girl. She is still hanging out for a place at Khon Kaen, which we will hear about next month, but even now she has achieved a family first. Well done sweetheart.

Community market gardens

I have shown photos of the village market gardens previously, which are situated on the way to the farm. One of the attractions of this newly improved area (thanks to a 300,000 baht government grant) was this pink wooden fishing boat, the same design as the one in our garden. Originally it was floating on the small waterway you see in the background, where it sank shortly after being launched! A solution has been found to display it minus water, which I think is very sensible 🙂

Another improvement was this quite sharp arched bridge over the water into the gardens on the other side. The problem was that the oldies found it difficult to make it up the slope! Another less attractive but more practical solution has been built on the side allowing level access 🙂 

A house blessing ceremony

A blog reader was kind enough to invite us to his house blessing ceremony happening just outside Nong Bua Lamphu. Like weddings these events follow a pattern but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. It was a super hot day but thankfully they had the electricity connected so the fans were working overtime. The cold beer helped too. Thank you Guy and Nim.

These super thick AAC (highly insulated) blocks are being used here. The best way to achieve a cool house along with sensible roof/ceiling insulation and window positioning.

A quality, architect deigned house. The white and grey theme is very smart.

What will be a plunge pool off the lounge room and main bedroom.

The accommodation ‘village’ for the workers. Wow, wouldn’t that be hot in 40 degrees plus, which it was this day.

Gaun all dressed up chatting to one of the workers.

The ceremony kicks off. Usually everyone walks three times clockwise around the house but I guess because of the heat we only did one circuit, which everyone was grateful for I am sure.

Tile boxes being used for shade!

Stairs at the back to a roof terrace.

This will end up a light, modern and comfortable house. Well done Guy and Nim.

The cermony continued inside. The ‘spiritman’ on the left.

Villagers and family from Nim’s moo ban.

Ending with food – of course!

Lunch from the village noodle shop

We are so lucky to have such a clean, well presented moo ban noodle shop, and the lady is an excellent cook. A very limited menu but cooked while you wait and we are usually in and out in 5 minutes. A large dish will cost 35 baht, enough for two people.

Gaun waiting for lunch. I just bought a cold beer. We hit 41 degrees today and riding there on the bike the reflected heat coming off the road was fierce. 

Fresh honey.

A Few miscellaneous photos to finish

How about that as a seed pod! Would make a nice glasses case. Isn’t nature versitle and creative.

41 degrees (105 F) in the shade at 2:00 pm today. Read my recent post Thailand is Hot HERE for more details about why you should take the heat here seriously.

Aussie pumkin seeds kindly donated by Rodney sprouting nicely. 

Gaun’s older brother Orr visited the farm to say hello. He makes the rounds selling fish as he is based close to a local lake (Ubol Ratana) . The large ice box sits on the back of the seat for the fish and there are two baskets for other things he sells.

Gaun’s farm garden behind the beach hut is a colourful joy.

And a third row of greenery has been added to the area surrounding the pond. These are small shrubby trees with bright yellow flowers all year. Grown from seed at home and transported to the farm.

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