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Love Living in Isan

29 March 2019

This is a catch-up of the minor happenings that have been caught on camera since the last post I wrote a month ago. A mix of topics as always and I hope you enjoy both the photos and the stories that go with them.

Udon Thani Expo 2019

The trouble with writing commentaries well past the photo date is that events like this one are already well and truly over 🙁

It’s of no great concern because the vast majority of readers are not in a position to read a post and then jump in the car to follow up on the things I write about. As your relationship to my stories are mostly virtual you aren’t missing out on the Udon Expo because here it is in full colour 🙂

In reality this was a small display, just one large tent, but it was worth a drop-in when we were next door at Villa Mart, one of the farang supermarkets I wrote about in my post Buying Western Food in Thailand HERE.

Very well set out with lots of smal stallholders selling a range of things from food, to silk, clothes, bags, jewellry and accessories. 

Small sour mangos with essential extras – chilli salt and hot dipping sauce. Peng’s favourite.

These are the tiny mangos used.

Silk, silk and more silk.

A plumbing nightmare saved

One of the things you never want to hear is the sound of the house pressure pump working with nothing water related turned on inside. No drips or visible leaks. With all the piping either under concrete or in-between double block walls the thought of finding the problem will keep one awake at night.

That happened to us recently and reminded me of a farang who paid 20,000 baht to locate and fix a leak in his house.

With dificult access to view the space between the blocks from above (in the roof) because of the low roofline and no walkways other than the top of walls, I was online looking at snake camera with LED light options (cheap and easy BTW from Lazada).

Gaun phoned our go-to guy Tam, the boss of the A-Team, the sub-contractors who built a lot of our house back in 2015. If anyone could solve this problem it was Tam, one of the most competent Thai’s I have met.

Luckily Gaun had already spotted a single drip of water underneath a tap we originally installed on the back wall for a washing machine, which we have since moved to an internal laundry.

Tam chiselled the wall out to reveal the pipes and one of the joins was spurting water under pressure. Phew in a BIG way. Repairs were made and the wall sealed using a few red bricks we had, to be rendered over later.

The cost for this exercise? 200 baht or A$9.00! Needless to say I paid more plus a beer. It would have been several hundred dollars in Australia.

Durian to the front gate

Peng is a keen enjoyer of durian, that very specialised tropical fruit that people either love or hate. The other day a pick-up came around advertising durian and Peng was in earshot so we waved it over.

A husband and wife team, him inside in the air con and her out the back! Buying things like this is never a quick affair. It requires a chat with Gaun and when I make an appearance the usual ‘how old’ and ‘where are you from’ questions.

We have since bought three durian trees and they are out at the farm next to the pond. It’s a five year wait for fruit, which may account for why they are more expensive than other fruit in the markets. Durian plants are more expensive to buy too. We paid 400 baht for the three trees.

P.S. To Jim Davis a regular reader. There is a snake story ahead so skip the next bit!

I think Peng was happy with the purchase. Hard to say 🙂 Needless to say she was banished to eat it outside!


One of the things Thais who visit the garden most comment on as a negative is the potential for lots of snakes. In reality we don’t get many, that I have seen anyway, and almost all of them are green tree snakes of different varieties. Mostly these are very shy and just want to get out of your way so I personally tend to leave them alone. Gaun is more Thai in her attitude and very non-Buddhist!

She tells me this type in the photo can bite you, which is painful but there’s no poisen involved (so I believe). She took care of it before I arrived, which is a shame because it is such a beautiful creature. I am not a snake fan but I can appreciate nature’s efforts (from a distance).

More Gaun garden photos

We had some friends visit from Australia and while Greg bought a beautiful bottle of Aussie red wine for me his partner gave Gaun a lovely silk sarong. Yuri is from Surin area, which is close to Cambodia, so the pattern of this sarong reflects that tradition rather than Isan/Lao designs. 

Fon Coffee Si Bun Ruang

Our local town of Si Bun Ruang is slowly becoming more sophisticated, in a mild Isan sort of way. More shopfronts are being renovated and some now have windows rather than being open to the street. A few more western type cafe are opening too although the roadside alternatives offering mostly chilled drinks, are still located every 20 meters Isan-wide!

Inside Fon Coffee is very sleek modern, air conditioned and they also have an outside area under trees in the shade, which is an original concept for Isan.

For locals and those of you driving through Si Bun Ruang CBD desperate for a coffee, Fon Coffee is in the street to the right of the main road as you head east from the traffic lights! 

At the farm

I am thinking of taking these farm update stories and adding them to a separate area in the blog, because although I know there are a few keen virtual Isan farmers out there I suspect that many aren’t that interested. The cycle of crops and events are ongoing year round, so I tend to repeat myself. For those with an interest in farming, maybe with an eye to doing something similar in the future, then this sort of more detailed information would be useful.

I still take the photos because I am still a city boy at the core and am at that stage where I am constantly amazed at the work Yuan and Lud undertake every day of the year to maximise the returns from their farm plus the joy and pride they display for the outcome.

Morning glory being harvested. 

Long beans. This is an older photo of the first crop. I thought that once this lot was picked that was it. Not so. Yuan and Lud are just finishing the second cropping and are preparing for the third batch with some deep watering today.

Yuan with a load of long beans to wash, sort into lengths and pack.

I think a touch of that pride aspect come across in this photo of Lud.

Photo from today (3 May). This is from the second burst of long beans. Each rubber band holds ten, which sell for 10 baht. People will buy them from Yuan, remove three and still sell them for 10 baht! 30 % profit margin.

Again from today. Yuan and Lud have been up working since midnight, it’s the Friday street markets where Yuan has a stall, so she won’t be finishing until around 7:00 pm. A big day. A high demand for Yuan’s vegetables ATM and she is having to reduce people’s orders to meet demand. 25 kilos of celery, 16 kilos of beans, plus the crops she has held back to sell herself at the market. Lettuce, limes and some coriander will be on her stall. 

This photo was mainly added just because I love the image. Lud in the background harvesting basil to take to market.

Although it may appear I do absolutely nothing, in fact I occasionally stop taking photos and help out. Not too much, but you already suspected that didn’t you. Here I am hand watering some new plants Gaun has placed along the side of the farm pond. 

This photo was taken more recently and shows the results of Gaun’s reloctation starategy. These flowers were originally at the front entrance to the farm but weren’t doing so well. Gaun uprooted them and replanted them here where they get more water. 

We arrived out at the farm and Lud had put together this flower arrangement. I only share it because Isan people are usually very laid back about presentation and to find a non-plastic display like this is very unusual.

Splitting up the farm

I often tell you how lucky I am with my Isan family. They accepted me from day one, have always been totally supportive, never ask for anything especially money and are just the nicest people to be around. Additional proof of how this group of people seem to get along pretty amicably was on show when it came to splitting up the farm in the last couple of weeks.

When mama had her stroke last year the family realised that it would be a good idea to legalise the arragements she had made to split the farm between the children. The urgency was that the farm is currently registered with two separate titles, one of 22 rai (a rai is 1,600 sq mtrs), which was in mama’s name, and 26 rai in the name of her mother-in-law, who along with mama’s husband had died many years ago. The main connection to ensure transfer could be processed was an uncle of Gaun’s, who is in his 80’s.

The initial paperwork was done early this year and we have been waiting for the government lawyer to organise things and for the transfer to be approved. That happened last week. The 26 rai is to be transferred to the uncle who is the only direct surviving relative on that side of the family, who will then sign it over to the grandchildren.

The final result will be that the 48 rai will be split into eight 6 rai blocks. From right to left in order of seniority a daughter Noi (who has given her land to Yurt), Yurt (the cook from Udon Thani I have written about many times), Jun (a brother), Bear (who runs the other half of the farm), Orr (a brother who has sold his land to Gaun), Gaun, Yuan and finally mama. Because Yuan is the youngest and traditionally the youngest daughter looks after the parents, she will inherit mama’s land come the time.

Now all of this was pre-agreed and no disputes or arguments happened. It was a done deal. How many families would split money that peacefully?

The final paperwork will arrive sometime and then the land will be officially measured and registered as separate lots by the Si Bun Ruang Amphur lands office.

From a farming point of view it won’t make any difference. The farm is roughly split in two for the purposes of cultivation and Bear and Tham run half while Yuan and Lud the other. The family get benefit of the rice (we never buy rice) and maybe a bit of money from the sugar crop but that’s it.

This is the family measuring up each portion to make sure it all matched the paperwork. Jun wanted to dig a bore/well so was keen to ensure that his land was where he thought it was! A bit late because he has built a house on it 🙂

The guy on the right is a neighbour called Nop, who has worked for the Amphur (council) so he was in charge of the tape measure.

Not very clear but to the right of that tree stump is a concreter marker for one corner with a number on it, which matches the official paperwork.

Local traffic on the way to their farm!

It’s a family affair with uncle there too. Lots of chat and laughter.

Jun’s house, the one he hope’s he doesn’t have to move 🙂

I love this photo. It’s Yuan sitting in the only available shade waiting for some measurements to happen! So sensible. I wish that tree were a little taller for her 🙂

From back to the front. You can just make out Yuan and Lud’s farmhouse in the far distance.

This is what an Isan pond in the dry season looks like. Rural Australians will understand.

Looking for another of those markers.

Before I woke up the next day Yuan, Lud and Gaun had bought and dug in these concrete posts to show each plot of land. That chicken house on the right had to be moved because it belongs to Jun and it’s on Yurt’s land! Done already.


With lots of visitors dropping in to see us and the king’s wedding and coronation happening in May I thought I would update the flags on our front wall, which were looking a bit past their useby date.

I am not Australian nationalistic at all so am quite happy to have Thai flags only on public display. At 30 baht each it’s no big thing to keep them looking nice.

Plastic watering pipes painted white. A cheap and easy flagpole.

The end result.

Looking at the photo top right……..two Thai flags, then the royal flags. These are based on the colour of the day of the week a royal person was born on. The previous king and the current one were both born on a Monday so they have a yellow flag. The crest on the flag is different though for the two kings. You can still buy both flags but I don’t know how long that will last.

Next is the blue (Friday) for the queen (the current king’s mother) and purple (Saturday) for Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the second daughter of the previous king and a super hard worker for Thai people. Born the same year as me and that’s where any similarity ends 🙂

Although not nationalistic I do have two Boxing Kangaroo flags inside for my own enjoyment in case I need reminding where I spent 45 years.

Added just because it is such a nice photo of Peng.

Digging Jun’s bore/well

With land ownership settled Jun got a contractor in to dig his bore. As always the equipment used is well used but amazingly still operational. At 1.6 million for a replacement rig you can understand why these ones are kept going for as long as possible. This is the compressor unit.

Looking across the new garden to the house in the distance. You can just see the roof. The photo isn’t for the garden but…….

And here Gaun and Nop keep an eye on the actually boring operation. 50 metres for 14,000 abht (A$570.00). Results are usually guaranteed otherwise another one is dug at no cost.

I hope you enjoyed this edition. Please leave a comment or hit the ‘like’ button to make my day 🙂

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  1. Greg Carroll

    Hi Tony,
    It’s Friday night and life is good, albeit it would be better in Surin. A glass (or two) of good red and we’re easing into the weekend.
    Yuri and i just spent an enjoyable 15 minutes reading and discussing this very enjoyable post. As has become the norm, insights were provided by Yuri. She has a keen eye and adds details from her “local” knowledge. Suffice to say her tongue was watering over the Mango and Durian sections (so was mine if I’m perfectly honest).
    The section on dividing up the two parcels of land really resonated. It says so much about Thai culture. Thank you for sharing this very personal part of Guan’s and your families’ life Tony.
    Please keep up your posts on “every day life” in Isan Tony. The words on their own always paint different and fresh perspectives that make a world of difference to those of us who are about to embark on a similar journey. The photos an added bonus.
    BTW, You’re right. Peng’s photo is special. She looks lovely.
    Cheers mate…Greg

    • Tony in Thailand

      If you were in Surin you wouldn’t be having a good red Greg so it’s not all bad news 🙂

      I am pleased the post passed the Greg and Yuri reading test. I have two new stories for you to enjoy Sunday. A post with two videos on what plants work well here, based on our garden, and a photo collection from our first Bun Bang Fai party of the year. Enjoy.

      Thanks as always.

  2. Nobby

    Another great article Tony, It seems an average price to pay for a borehole as ours was about the same cost, we have had quite some success in our vegetable patch this year, plenty of tomatoes, long beans, egg plants and chillies which have produced some revenue for Nong, unfortunately storms last week have flattened everything so we have to start again, never mind it keeps us both busy.

    Regards to you both

    Chris and Nong

    • Tony in Thailand

      Thank you for this comment too Chris. Gaun has some edible things scattered around in the garden but we are lucky to have the farm supplying whatever is in season so there’s less need to grow our own. Yuan was packing spring onions, basil, long beans, coriander and celery for the Si Bun Ruang Friday street markets this morning.

  3. Jim Busby

    Just getting a plumber to talk to you in US will ring up a $65 bill! I wish there was a way to convince Gaun that killing snakes is not good for nature’s balance. I don’t even kill some spiders that have webs in corners of my house, since they eat the bugs that would eat my food. Si Bun Ruang seems to be upscaling for the increase in farang in the area. I raise my glass to Yuan and Lud. Two of the hardest working people that take so much pride in what they do. If all people, teachers, doctors, anyone, would make that sort of effort in their lives, what a more wonderful place the world would be. I celebrate my B’day next week and my color, fortunately, is Blue (always wondered why I like the color Blue, hmm). Peng looks lovely as always, and hope she’s gearing up for college. Does anyone ever do a water chemical analysis of well water there?


    • Tony in Thailand

      The same in Australia Jim and you’d often have to wait for a response. Gaun phones Tam and if he’s in the area he will pop in within the hour! I agree with your attitude about killing things. In Gaun’s defense she is the one knee deep in shrubbery most of the time so for those creatures that might bite her I leave the decision to her. She normally leaves the small green tree snakes alone. Thankfully snakes are very keen to stay out of our way on the whole and I don’t think we have any living fulltime in the garden, but who can tell.

      I have watched Yuan and Lud’s business grown during the time I have been here and it has been a delight. They are getting more orders than they can fulfill and they have days more recently, which is off-season, where they will sell 4,000 baht or more in the day. When a farm worker’s wages are 300 baht that’s a pretty good result for their hard work.

      Happy birthday for next week Jim. You might be like me in that birthdays are a bit ho hum, not another one 🙂 It’s Gaun’s birthday on Sunday so Taurus it is: People born on May 12 are generous, practical and always getting involved in all kinds of things with the best of intentions in mind. They seek for security and stability and as they are very attached to material things, this makes them crave for their own comfortable space.

      Peng is still waiting to hear if she gets a place on the degree she wants. The big day is this Thursday when we will either be partying or in slight crisis.

      There is a Dutchman in Buriram who owns a water filtration business called H2O and he does water testing. I have high levels of calcium (hard water), which would clog up everything if I didn’t run it through a water softening system to remove most of it.

      Cheers Jim.

  4. John Tryon

    Wonderful stories, Tony. I enjoy your insight on the different aspects about Thai living. I think most of us look for similar situations in our quests for utopia in Thailand

  5. Anonymous

    The water boring interests me how do they know where the water is

    • JohnTryon

      On my property, dowsing rods were used. A well was drilled but would not accommodate my submersible pump, so a second well was drilled for free at a larger diameter which worked

    • Tony in Thailand

      In our case they did water divining beforehand. It was all a bit academic because we have a small block of land and with the house taking up a lot of it there wasn’t a lot of alternatives. The reality in this part of Thailand is that there is water pretty well everywhere. It is just a case of how far down. Most of it is quite close to the surface. I know of wells/bores in the village that are 19 metres deep. Ours was 29 metres I think. That one you might be referring to which Gaun’s brother dug recently was 50 metres but they had water before they got that deep. There are more wells/bores being installed and I wonder if we will have to go deeper at some stage.


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