Updated 6 July 2016:
I have just published a 750 page eBook that follows the challenges, frustrations and successes of building a house in Thailand from the very start of us buying the land through to moving in and beyond. You will be part of our building team for every day of construction and I will share many do’s and don’ts all designed to save you time, money, sleepless nights or all three. This book is a must have as part of your research on the subject of building in Thailand and you can find it HERE.
28 March – 3 April, a week of settling into the new house, another kitchen and the wall.
Only those of you who have spent time living in a basic Thai village house can appreciate what a pleasure it is to move into a western style home again. I don’t mean to imply that I have been living on the edge for the last five months because the family home provided all the basics; shelter, a comfortable bed, a western toilet and a hot shower. Not exactly doing it tough.
What it couldn’t provide was comfort, cool from the 40 degree temperatures we are getting at the moment, quiet and cleanliness. The latter only as a result of the design of the house which leaves a large gap between the top of the walls and the start of the roof. The roof beams sit on top of the walls and the space has never been filled in, a common situation here, maybe providing extra ventilation. Although it may allow the cool air in and hot air out it also gives easy access to the sugar cane residual, which floats everywhere after they burn off, gekkos and dust, and Isaan is a terribly dusty place in the dry season.
My house wonderfully sealed, so although keeping outside clean is a constant challenge, inside is everything the family house wasn’t.
And speaking of settling in I am coming across many weird selections I made to bring from Canberra:
There are four main jobs to be completed before we can say a thankful goodbye to builders and they are: (1) the Thai kitchen (2) the pond (3) the front wall and gates and (4) the granite benchtop for the kitchen. This week three of the four were being worked on.
The design of the house provided for two outside living spaces, a lounge area on the East and a dining area on the West. Breakfast and mornings to be spent on the West, the cool side before moving to the East late afternoon for drinks in the lounge area. Yes, it is a hard life.
My original drawn plans for the house didn’t have an outside kitchen included for some reason. It was always my intention to have one both for my Aussie BBQ and for when Gaun wants to cook up something especially spicy, usually incorporating a sauce which the Thais call “fish dead long time”. I rest my case for outside cooking facilities.
We had bought three good quality plastic cupboard units from Global House and they had made the move across from the family home waiting their turn to be included in the build. This was their week!
Render is a wonderful hide-all. It allows a total mess on the blockwork to be covered up and end up looking super professional.
And the end result? Everything I wished for:
This was always part of my philosophy for building a house in tropical Thailand. I didn’t want to construct an air conditioned prison with no connection to the outside world, especially once the garden gets established. There are certainly times when retreating inside is a sensible thing to do but equally there are periods where being comfortably outside is also an attractive option. An icy cold beer and a steak from the BBQ, Aussie and NZ steak can be bought from Makro for those locals reading, and all would be pretty good with the world. You can see that I have started testing the beer in the photo above.
Just as an aside for those of you who have been told to expect to be eaten alive by mosquitoes, and that’s what I thought having read forums, not so. I have lived in Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and now in Isaan for a while and although there are mosquitoes around especially at dusk, they are far less of a problem than during a Canberra summertime. Spray is a good idea as a precaution but if you forget it is not a certainty that you’ll get bitten. Now that may change in the wet season but even then it wasn’t a major problem in Chiang Mai anyway.
Because the Thai kitchen wasn’t included in the plans it was outside Ming’s original quote for labour. He ended up charging me 4,500 THB or A$150.00 to build it.
Because we don’t have an internal kitchen until the granite benchtop arrives in Week 23 Gaun has set up the Thai kitchen for everyday cooking. Pick the odd one out. Answer the microwave. I have two of them, one I bought in Chiang Mai and another that arrived with my Australian stuff. Honestly I have no idea what I will do with them. They form no part of any process involving Thai food and I can’t see them being used for when I cook Western style either. Take them off your bring to Thailand list unless you want to continue to buy TV dinners!
Kitchen finished Ming and Jack moved to the pond, which once finished will house Barney the turtle, when he/she makes an appearance on the family farm in the wet season, and some Koi to eat any mosquito eggs.
The area beyond the pond, behind the carport in this photo, will be grassed to help soften the whole area. The pond will be finished in Week 23 so I will report back on the end result then.
The major piece of work happening this week was the construction of the front wall and gateways. I had originally thought that I would just replicate the barbed wire fence we have around three sides of the land and plant a hedge to hide the ugliness in time. However I ended up ordering a full concrete wall with slatted palings. The A Team, a group of four super guys who have done a lot of the construction on my place, contracted to build it for 15,000 THB, which seemed a good deal especially as I knew I would be getting a quality result.
I mentioned last week that my main brief for the wall was that it stayed upright, an essential criteria for any wall in my opinion except in Pisa, but not necessarily a requirement for Thai walls. I also wanted it to incorporate a garden bed for some of Gaun’s flowers and have two gateways, one for the car and one for people access as the main gate would be closed most of the time.
The design was also complicated in that the wall had to work around two trees rather than cutting them down, another unfortunately quick solve in many cases here.
I have also incorporated an power point for an electronic gate opener although, because we hardly use the car here once we stop going to Global House every other day, I am not sure that I will bother putting one in.
You can see the double wall arrangement in the photo above. The front footings will support a low wall, which will form Gaun’s flower bed with the main full height wall behind. Gaun is posing at what will be the small gateway into the property.
A couple of non-wall things to happen. The inside dining setting was ordered unstained because I wanted to do that myself. The end result looks great, although colours don’t 100% match as the table and chairs are made out of different timber, but I don’t find that a problem. It sort of fits in with the general theme inside.
The curtains were installed in Week 21 and what a big difference they made to the house. They helped stop a lot of the echo feel to a place built with so much concrete. The final venetian blinds turned up this week to finish the order. All supplied by a very efficient place outside Thai Watsadu in Nong Bua Lamphu.
And finally I can so recommend this Samsung fridge, which we bought from HomePro for around 17,000 THB or A$700.00.
It has a cold water dispenser outside which access a 5 liter tank inside the fridge but more importantly also has an automatic ice making machine inside the freezer. Ice is a constant in Thailand and to have it available so easily is a huge plus.
It is a poor man’s version of those big double door fridges with the auto ice maker/cold water unit built into the door. Those fridges to me always seem like the opposite to Dr Who’s Tardis. They are huge on the outside and small on the inside 🙂 A cheque from Samsung is on its way.
Next week will see the end of builders until the next project. A BIG BLOODY hooray on that one. The wall and pond will be finished, the carport painted and the granite benchtop installed. It will be brilliant to have a fully functional inside kitchen again after so long and to have drinking water that isn’t shipped from the rainwater tanks at the family home.
I have to say that I am a very happy Thai houseowner the end of Week 22.
Thanks for reading and for all the positive comments that have been coming in.