This post initially follows on from my previous post HERE before moving into new territory.
Well we have been to the local land office and found out that we only need to get a house book once we have a house 🙂 which seems to make perfect sense in retrospect. When the time come the process requires taking a photo of said house, which unless I Photoshop one, is a little difficult at this stage of the build!
I will fully record the correct steps involved to building in Isaan once we get going and publish them under the “Building My House” menu tag. I doubt many of my Australian friends will be building here but I know other expats browse Thai blogs looking for building tips, as I have myself, so this might be of assistance.
Today being very hot I have set up in the lower level of the two story part of the house and will fill in the afternoon by writing another final Isaan post.
The trouble with blogs like mine is that they can end up being very selective in their view of the Thai world. I have read blogs from people who generally only seem to be looking for the negative aspects, and finding them, or those that only paint a rosy picture of life here. Generally I find my life here is full of positive experiences so I don’t need to filter out the negatives. In my summaries of living in Thailand at six months HERE and 12 months HERE I have included all the negatives I could think of to try and give a balanced view of what it is really like to live here.
I know my posts from Isaan have all revolved around the interesting and positive things we have been doing and there have been plenty of those. Just today I took some photos of a couple of our neighbours making their own rattan floor mats. Many homes, including Gaun’s mamas, have these rug machines. I want to make my own mats for the sala I will buy for our land, which will be cool. Tie-dyeing will be next and basket weaving after that – or not! I saw a guy and his wife making these the other day so it isn’t just a female occupation and I won’t ruin my male standing in the local Moo Baan!
As I have said so often it is these little sights of real local happenings that make my time in Thailand so interesting:
A very short video I took demonstrating the technique can be found below:
So back to the topic. Living in Si Bun Ruang in a local Moo Baan, or suburb/village, for around a month has allowed me to experience the good and bad of village life. I have written about the good so it is time to be realistic about the more negative aspects. Let me say that these are negatives from MY point of view and some of them may be seen as totally positive by Thais or more likely don’t register at all. I have made a complete list and some of them are a bit picky. However the fact that they have registered with me means that at whatever level of annoyance I regard them as a negative.
Thais have a thing about dogs but I am not quite sure what that thing is.
There are three classes of dogs in Thailand that I have observed. The first are the mongrels that form the majority and the Moo Baan is full of them. During the day they are mostly in hiding but come out in the evening to lie around on the streets soaking up the heat getting up slowly if at all for passing cars.
Every house seems to have at least one and often several of these mongrels. They don’t seem to be especially well looked after as many have mange and ticks and sometimes only three operating legs, which may have something to do with the lack of interest getting out of the way of passing cars! They form part of the scenery of the village rather than being an integral part of the family unit as we generally treat dogs in Australia. I am sure there are exceptions but I can only give you my overall impressions.
I presume they are used for security as Thai houses have many personal belongings outside the house, which is where villagers spend much of their spare time. The dogs are not neutered so there is no planning for the number of animals attached to the community.
Gaun’s family dog Boong is one of the better cared examples. She is an older dog and queen of the local area. The family feed her all the dinner leftovers every days and are more demonstrative towards her than the norm I suspect.
As there are few fences in the Moo Baan the dogs are loose so they are a more visible presence than in an Australian suburb. Walking around the village brings one under the scrutiny of many dogs and although most of them have seen it all before and do nothing I am always aware they are there and watching. Rabies is around in Thailand but you’d have to be pretty unlucky to get attacked by a rabid dog but it has happened. If a dog takes too much interest Gaun raises her hand as if to thrown a stone and they take off in a hurry. A statement of their standing in the village maybe.
In August and the first half of September the dog population gears up for the mating season, which Gaun tells me is to allows pups to be born in the cooler weather towards the end of the year. Does that sound right – doggie family planning in action? All active males are on the prowl and hanging around houses that have females. Several times during the night the whole dog community decides to have a sing-along, which is delightful for them but not so much for light farang sleepers. The monks also sound a gong nine times early morning, which is another excuse for a howling session.
You thought I had forgotten about the second type of dog didn’t you – not so. Thais also have a thing for small dog fashion accessories. These are usually small rat looking things, sorry chihuahua lovers, and are super looked after. The following photos tells the whole story:
I know there are “normal” family dogs here in the third category. Jan, our neighbour has one of these, a mid-sized poodle that gets washed and clipped at the local pet boutique for 300 THB, about $10.00 and stays in the house except for daily walks on her lead. However from a visual point of view these are in the minority.
Loud speakers and more
The village can be a noisy place especially in the early morning, just when a retired farang doesn’t want it. The monks are awake early and bang a gong nine times to let everyone know. I have no idea what time this is because it is dark and I can’t be bothered to turn the light on to look at my watch! The gong thing is either to summon people to an early morning mediation or more likely to let the village know the monks will be round to collect their daily food supplies, which are donated streetside by the villagers every morning – another photo opportunity I have missed because I need all the beauty sleep I can get. P.S. I did get some photos and a video of the monks which can be viewed HERE.
Our local area is split into two Moo Baans. Each head person – a sort of mini mayor who is an elected official, gets on the community loud speaker system at 5.30 am to read out all the happenings for the upcoming day and who knows what else. Now this is all good for the local Thais who are up and about at that time getting ready for work anyway. It is a bit like us listening to the news over breakfast. However this farang just wants to study the inside of his eyelids at 5.30 am. Each mayor has their own theme song they play before their announcements, which is such a nice idea if broadcast at say mid-morning 🙂
The Moo Baan also has various vehicles passing through from time to time loaded up with loud speakers selling all sorts of stuff. I have been verbally offered chicken, fish, salt, garden implements, electrical items, plumbing supplies and more. These vans occasionally come through just after the morning announcements to catch the early trade but mostly late afternoon and weekends.
I was all Canberra horrified at the intrusion to my personal earspace the first few times it happened. This sort of thing shouldn’t be allowed to happen – what is the government doing to stop it? – should I invest in a shotgun? etc. I have calmed down since then. It is a reality of life here and either get used to it or ship out to my Chiang Mai Moo Baan, where nothing gets through the two sets of security. Mind you there have been times…….
On the positive front whatever you want will pass your front door if you wait long enough. The ice cream man, both Walls Cornetos and the coconut milk home made ones, are available most days and that can’t be a bad thing can it?
As well as all the above there are the usual everyday early morning noises. Motorbikes with people off to work, roosters by the dozen, although I don’t mind them so much, and neighbours popping in for a chat with the family who are up and about like everyone else who isn’t a farang.
The house we are building will have double concrete block walls with insulation in the gap, heavily insulated roof and ceilings and double glazing in the bedrooms. We are in a quieter street to where I am currently living and our house is well set back from the street. All of this will help my sleep pattern. I will also become more Thai-like and just take it in my stride and sleep through small wars.
Generally the road system in Thailand is excellent. This is a country way ahead of its neighbours in this and many other areas. However the small minor village roads and some major ones like the highway into Kong Kaen are suffering greatly from the spread of sugar cane. Compared to the labour intensive rice farm, sugar is an easy crop to grow. The land can be prepared mechanically and the cane planted by machine. Once in you mostly watch it grow and then harvest in twelve months time.
One of the differences between sugar and rice is that once processed on-farm, rice is transported in small qualities often just to household rice storage, local markets or distribution centres.
Sugar on the other hand is transported in bulk on large trucks that are on the roads in huge numbers at harvest time moving cane from farm to processing plant.
The trouble is that the little local roads were never built to take trucks of this size and weight and they disintegrate as a result. The main road to Khon Kaen from Si Bun Ruang, which is a major dual highway in parts, is deeply grooved, rippled and broken up as you head into Khon Kaen not going the other way. Why? The sugar trucks are heading in with full loads and coming out empty.
Focussed driving is always required in Thailand and the state of the minor roads helps this plus ensures a slow and relaxed journey.
This falls into the picky but I will include it anyway. It has actually been a mostly dry time in Isaan when I was expecting far more rain as we are officially in or heading into the rainy season. Living in a community so integrated with farming you have to get used to the car being constantly dirty and in the wet season mud is everywhere. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly many of the roads leading to farms are dirt and the soil here is largely clay. It sticks to tyres like glue and transfers nicely from farm to urban.
Secondly very few houses here have covered over their land in any way. A house is built and whatever the final state of the surrounding land is pretty well left alone. My family have built a concrete driveway recently but it is one of the few in the Moo Baan. Most places look like this:
The mud situation is compounded by the fact that when Thais and this farang build they import heaps of soil from surrounding rice paddies to build up their land to prevent flooding. You can see this in the house photo above where the land is well above the natural level. This not only brings in more secondary mud on truck wheels as the soil is transferred but ensures that most houses when built are an island in a sea of mud come the wet season.
Always an outcome of living in a small community anywhere in the world. Nothing is secret here and Gaun is always up to date with what is going on. The morning pep-talk by the mini-mayor for our Moo Baan didn’t happen on Saturday. I asked Gaun and she told me that lady who heads up the village had gone early to the temple with my surrogate mama and her daughter! The farang who doesn’t wash enough according to the local Thais is talked about (and it isn’t me I hasten to add) and my family won’t buy coffee from the lady in the market who gossips in a nasty way about people. I suspect having a private life would be a hard thing to achieve, if that was your intention.
On the positive side, as I have said before, no one will die alone here. If one is sick food will appear and there is never a lack of company unless you make a big effort to reject it.
Funnily like Australia Isaan has either too much or not enough water. The dry season starting around late October lasts for many months and dry means nothing, or at least that was my experience in Chiang Mai this year. In the full wet season Gaun has shown me roads where people go fishing due to the flooding.
The lack of water is a factor in day to day life. The local Moo Baan infrastructure supplies piped water to the village but it can dry up or be interrupted.
As you can see from the photo above it wouldn’t take much to break this pipe and stop water supply to this part of the village.
The result of this is that sensibly you have to provide your own backup or main water supply separate from the official supply. Some houses have installed a bore, if they can afford it. Most houses have rainwater tanks in some form for drinking water and as a secondary source for household use. We will be putting in a bore before building. Luckily ground water is shallow. 40 meters will give you good waterflow.
So there you have a warts and all take on Isaan small village life. I have found some definite challenges this time, especially with noise. I don’t believe that once we have our own home here there is anything in this list that will be a deal breaker for living in Isaan.
To balance this post the benefits pop up in unexpected ways. For example I went down to the local Moo Baan community hall to take some photos for this blog and there were a handful of ladies practising their Isaan dancing for an upcoming competition. Chairs were pulled out for the old bloke and I was able to watch a lovely display of dancing – amateur but genuine. You know my love of some Isaan music so it was a delightful way to spend half an hour.
Taking a real interest in the community and the Thai way of doing things has introduced me to so many different people and taken me into many homes and businesses. For all my occasional doubts I still feel that there is a good life to be made here. We will all see if that happens in reality as I continue to tell you stories via the blog.
We leave for Chiang Mai early tomorrow so this is DEFINITELY and ABSOLUTELY the final post from Isaan this time.
Thanks for reading.