Happy Days in Isan

24 February 2019

My stepdaughter Peng has been sitting one of her university entrance exams (two more to go) both days over this weekend. They were being held at school in Nong Bua Lamphu, which is a 30 minute drive from our home. Today after we dropped off Peng we headed to Udon Thani, a major city to the northeast of us, to do some specialised shopping for things we can’t get locally. 

I started out with a pretty simple list but we got a bit distracted and a trip to the ATM was required halfway through. I only had three things to find initially. First was a small wooden table for the farm rice hut. This has been a priority ever since one of my favourite readers (pre-comment) wrote: 

………but for the rice hut, you need to reconsider the plastic table and green stool for your blogs. I think a more appropriate wood/wicker for your surroundings will do your writings justice. 

Since then every time I use the said table and stool I lock into that comment and life doesn’t seem as perfect as I thought. Not really Jim! I always had an upgrade in mind and the timber shop that provided our home dining table and chairs (see below) was our destination today. I also wanted some non-slip pavers to create a path from the rice hut into the water, for myself and others who want to swim in the farm pond. And finally I wanted some coffee beans from Bon Cafe, but being a Sunday I didn’t hold out much hope on ticking that one off the list.

Timber Time

Just a reminder for regular readers – not that you need one Jim 🙂 This is the table to be replaced. It is actually a nice red tin under that cloth but the stool is definitely plastic! This to upgrade. Funnily I said to Gaun that there is NO WAY an Isan person would change this arrangement. “It does the job” is the only criteria. The concept of spending money to have something look good can be a bit of a mystery and one of the many reasons why us farang are seen to be slightly weird.

This table and chairs was delivered a few days after we moved in (April 2015). I stained the table so here it is in its raw form.

I’m not going to show you the table I bought today just yet because that would spoil the surprise for when I show it in place at the farm for Jim’s benefit. There is a clue in this photo however.

A solid timber handmade entertainment unit. 14,500 baht or A$650.00. I don’t know how that compares with what you could find back ‘home’ – I am so out of touch with Australian prices. I find that these days I convert dollars to baht to understand how expensive things are 🙂 – A$12.00, that’s not bad….250 baht…………NO WAY am I paying that 🙂

A solid timber coffee table for 3,500 baht.

A bit of negotiation in the asking price so don’t pay on the first offer. This place is opposite the big Thai Watsadu on the 216 (the Udon ringroad). I can provide GPS coords in the unlikely case someone wants them.

Concrete Time

Keeping on the ringroad when you go through the major intersections for highway 2 to Khon Kaen and 22 to Sakon Nakhon, maybe 1 km after the latter intersection you will see a concrete paving shop on the left.

They have a wide range of pavers, most of which I think they make out the back. Want a particular design? I am sure they can make it for you.

They stock a small selection of pots, garden ornaments and fountains too. It’s a bit hit and miss as I don’t think this is their main business.

This place is good for a stop-off if passing because it’s the sort of shop where you might find something you won’t see elsewhere.

I liked this water feature, although it is more Italian garden theme than a tropical design. I mainly took the photo because my brother has one that looks like this that has followed him around a number of homes in Australia. I didn’t get the price of this one as it would only upset him.

I also came across this beautiful Buddha head in a corner. I just loved it. 

More Concrete

I was interested to know where the shop got some of their concrete figures because I wanted to see what else was available other than the pretty limited range they had to view. Buying corny Disney-type garden ornaments is easy in Isan but finding the sort of grown-up statues I prefer is a real challenge here. 

Gaun spoke to one of the ladies in the shop and she gave us directions to a place on highway 22 about 10km on the right from the intersection with the 216, that made Buddha type heads and other designs. You can see that we are beginning to get off track here can’t you as garden statues wasn’t on my Udon list!

Having visited Bon Cafe, which was closed, we had time to spare before returning to Nong Bua Lamphu for a noon lunch appointment with friends, so highway 22 it was – heading east to Sakhon Nakhon for locals.

The ‘factory’ was a bit disappointment so I won’t cover that at all, but before then I spotted a large statue place (hard to miss as you will see) so on the way back we stopped for a look-see.

See what I mean. Subtle it ain’t.

But what this place did have was a good range of more subdued items mixed in – statues big and small as well as a good range of pots. Once again it is super easy and cheap to find terracotta and simple one colour (boring) glazed pots but finding anything other than that is not easy. In fact I had planned a trip to Chiang Mai to buy a pick-up load of more interesting things for the garden. Maybe not now.

These Chinese type items can be found elsewhere.

But you won’t see a range like this too often.

Gaun knows I get overexcited and rush around taking photos so usually at some point she’ll find a spot to sit and wait for me to calm down 🙂

Tiny chairs and a table for mini-Thais (I think they call them young children). The ducks look worried don’t they. Happy sheep as always. 

Not bad in a modern sense. Water features and mushrooms.

Gaun has a thing for frogs and turtles, both which were available for not much. Will they make it in the shopping basket – all will be revealed.

I really liked these owl pots but they didn’t move house this time. They are big and each one can be yours for 2,500 baht, less with a bit of a discount.

Not my thing – more for resorts, restaurants and the like, but they sort of capture the essence of Thais, colourful, welcoming with a good pinch of childlike playfulness. 

Good fun.

I bought this statue or something very close to it from an upmarket pot and garden ornament shop on the north side of Udon (highway 2 heading to Nong Khai). I paid 2,850 baht for it while here it was 1,500!

I am not sure how the Christian angels fit in to a Buddhist country but if that’s your thing you will find a surprising number of them in garden centres.

That’s more like it. 

Or if you’d like a young lady in your garden then we can offer you this one sir.

You see these guys quite often standing guard in various locations.

In the right setting I thought this wall art was pretty striking – painted concrete.

The lady and I think her husband, who run/own this shop were very friendly and helpful. She will discount for an enthusiastic buyer and she has a book of statue designs you can chose and order from (I didn’t see it but will report back next time). Once again I can provide GPS for anyone who wants it.

Real Flowers not concrete

In the hills as you drive into Nong Bua Lamphu from Udon you will see this sort of park area being built in the middle of not much on the left. I have no idea why this spot has been picked to sink a lot of money into but there you go.

It is still under construction but the bulk of the planting and ‘park’ set-up has been finished. Some more to be done as you can tell.

A huge effort in these mass plantings. Gaun was very impressed.

As long as someone waters all of this it will turn into a pretty stopping area outside Nong Bua.

If any locals hear the story as to why this is here please let me know.

Wat Tham Klong Pen – a update

This temple is on the outskirts of Nong Bua Lamphu and it used to be a favourite of mine. Since they knocked down a more humble but probably dangerous roof over the main hall area and started to build this thing, it has lost some of its attraction for me. Industrial ugliness, but I will reserved final judgement until it is fully finished. 

The tin roof is being covered, which will help but really – did it need to be sized to hanger an A380?

I quickly called into another temple close to Klong Pen, but for a photographer it didn’t have much to offer so I will just add these two monks and leave it at that.

This is Wat Tham Mak Mang in case you wanted to double check my assessment. Nothing against the wat as a wat! It was very tidy and the monks were hard at work building something but none of the buildings were anything worth recording.

And finally…..what did we end up buying?????

I bought a matching pair of these rather nice decorative pots.

Gaun got her hit of frogs and a turtle (our house is called Ban Tao – Turtle House).

I just had to have this Buddha head. If you see something you like it is best to buy it because you may never see it again.

He is stunning. He will end up in the garden somewhere but I think we will have to design a special area to display him. Remember that if you are buying a statue of a monk or Buddha it is best to have them displayed well off the ground as a matter of respect. In formal situations you shouldn’t be at a higher level than a monk. Take it or leave it but your Thai partner will probably appreciate it if you follow local tradition. 

A smaller pot that has found a home outside the garden rice hut. 100 baht (A$4.50)

I will keep the new table and (old) chair offline plus the concrete pavers into the water until later 🙂 Can ya handle the suspense?