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Happy Days in Isan

5 February 2019


A longer than usual post because it covers the daily events for February to date, so you get several days for the price of one. A large range of topics that demonstrate that although living here maybe smalltime it doesn’t have to be repetitive and boring. There is so much to enjoy if you jump in, keep your eyes open and become involved. I think you’ll have fun reading these stories as I hope the photos and words reflect the pleasure I had living them.

Sunday was day of chores including installing a complete watering system in the old garden (the original garden we planted on the land we bought in 2013), something I should have done ages ago. We are upgrading it so I will report on that if I think it’s worthwhile. Here I am getting some help from May a grand-niece of Gaun.

In a more relaxed mode. May with Peng.

The problem with pergolas and climbers is that all the beauty is on top! I must get a drone (Chris if you’re reading – it’s still on the maybe list) 🙂

Thankfully there are some lower examples to enjoy like this one, a Flamevine or Pyrostegia Venusta as I prefer to call them 🙂 This is in the tropical garden area and still a work in progress.

These bright orange flowers that bloom in the cooler saeason early in the year help add even more colour to this seating area.

Out to the farm. Spot Gaun taking a photo of me taking a photo. I took my picture as a record of the amazing work Yuan and Lud do to produce vergetables of this quality and quantity. Mostly garlic here.

And this is the photo Gaun took from the other side of the field.

Yuan constantly works the farm to get the best income possible. Here she has planted two types of basil. The one in the front is the Thai basil you will recognise from any Thai green curry. The version at the back is what Gaun calls an Isan basil, although I am sure it has an official name. It looks much the same but a totally different flavour – quite a lemon scent if you rub the leaves together.

Yuan harvests the basil and then sits and individually sorts through every stalk picking off leaves she isn’t happy with. They are then bundled into small bunches and sold for 10 baht.

Lud washing a load of lettuce before packing them in bundles of five and delivering to stall holders at the local markets. The offcuts (mostly from broccoli in this case) are thrown into the pond for the fish. 

One of the reasons the skies are becoming more and more smokey every day (Jim B if you’re reading this you mentioned the smoke in a recent comment). Another sugar burn, this time in the daytime. which is unusual, Normally they are lit early evening when there’s no wind.

I know it is traditional to burn everything BUT………Bring back rice!

Back home it was time to clean up from an evening of sugar burns or maybe that one I showed you above. A neverending task this time of the year in our part of Isan.

A choice of tools. The traditional brooms, which are excellent for general tasks but the sugar residue is so light that the action of the broom tends to blow it around rather than get rid of it. This year I treated myself to a cordless blower and what a help that has been.

The cool season seems to be slipping away with day temperatures heading into the mid 30’s, even though the nights and early mornings are still in the high teens. My obsession with having a cool house is about to see the benefits very shortly. Even a day like today with 35 degrees in the shade outside (see photo opposite) the internal temperature was a comfortable 26 degrees. The 31 showing on this display is the outside lounge area, which is under the insulated roofline.

Walking back into the house with a 9 degree drop was like coming into aircon for free. 

The change in season is bringing some benefits like an early crop of mangos.

It is Chinese New Year today and as always Yurt, Gaun’s older sister who works for a Thai/Chinese family in Udon Thani, gets a couple of days off to return home. She would be happy to get the bus here but she always brings so much food and contributions to the family that we volunteer to pick her and her luggage up and bring her home in comfort. 

Yurt works as a housekeeper/cook and cooking is her love in life. She arrives at the family house and 30 minutes later food arrives and we work though a progression of dishes until she leaves. My fridge is stocked for weeks after. 

Even though Udon is only a bit over an hour’s drive from us Yurt only comes home for the three annual New Year celebrations – ours, Chinese and Thai (Songkran in April).

This trip we not only had Yurt’s supplies but a niece of Gaun’s also works in Udon and she had a stack of stuff to be delivered to her family (Noi – the eldest of mama’s  seven kids). 

A public holiday in Udon (grrrr – no fresh coffee beans) so Yurt’s employer’s shop was closed. The family owns a building hardware store which occupies the ground floor while they and Yurt live upstairs. She’s worked there for over 30 years and is treated as part of the family.

There are times I could live with a smaller car. Today wasn’t one of them 🙂

From city to country.

Gaun discovered something for the road!

Getting ready for three days of celebrations for Chinese New Year. A big Chinese population in Udon Thani.

This road will be closed to traffic and a huge number of stalls will offer free food over this period. Music and entertainment. Worth a visit if in the area. 

Hmmmmm. No additional information available on this guy. Photos taken while I was driving in true Isan tradition. I feel like a local! 

Should look pretty spectacular at night I would have thought.

On our arrival home Yurt always cooks me beautiful homemade spring rolls. Today I must have looked hungry because she felt that she needed to feed me before the rolls were ready so Gaun brought over this plate of rice and chicken plus a dessert to keep my strength up.

Shortly after my rolls were ready and they went down a treat. A sweet sauce and lettuce from the farm. I had moved over to the family home at this stage to be closer to the kitchen!

In yet another example of the kindness of this family, Yurt sent Lud off to buy me some beer. Shared of course 🙂 See small fishing basket behind the beer. Story below.

I stopped this mobile ‘shop’ outside the family home because I wanted some brooms – three of the type the lady is holding at 30 baht each. The guy insisted that I take a photo of him and the pickup, and I was happy to oblige. 

The three sisters joined me to buy things – Yuan, Yurt and Gaun.

Gaun took over the microphone to drum up some extra business.

I bought another small fishing basket for the rice hut at the farm. The guy wanted to demonstrate that the basket could take whatever I threw at it! Had it collapsed I would have got my money back 🙂 Now that’s confidence in your product. Yurt helping out.

Business done they headed off past the turn to our home advertising their wares on the loudspeaker.

Yurt bought a new sticky rice steaming basket. Yuan on the left. That farang with his camera!

And here it is in an action shot. You saw it here first. For Isan experts, yes a lid is placed on the basket 🙂

Some of the family’s sticky rice containers hanging up. Gaun has taken over the production of sticky rice from mama post-stroke, and she does this around 4 am every morning. It’s a bulk cook for all the family and when finished placed in these baskets. People just take a basket if they need rice during the day. A new batch is cooked daily. Duk Dik (the family dog) gets the old stuff.

Noi, the eldest, arrived with some of her family to collect the things we had brought from her daughter in Udon. They immediately started to help out with preparing some sticky rice and cocnut milk with sweet yellow bean that Yurt had started. It’s wrapped in banana leaves (cut in the garden) and steamed. No hello to mama – food takes priority!

While I was tucking into beer and sprin rolls Game, Yuan’s son, arrived on his bike from Loei, the next province over, for a few days off from the army.

I always find it amazing how many small glimpses into life can be shared if I make the effort. Of no interest to tourists but for those of you who enjoy seeing what life can look like in Isan thank you for joining us for the last few days.

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