I have a couple of other topics to publish shortly to break the monotony of Isaan – the Small Stories posts 🙂 but in the meantime here is another in the popular series of little moments in everyday Isaan life. These are extracted from my Facebook timeline and covers a couple of weeks in June.
June 2 – The Front Pergola
The final improvements we made to the house late last year included a pergola across the front of the house. It had several tasks including helping protect the large front windows from early morning sunshine, provide a lovely shady spot to sit and view the garden as well as add interest to the front aspect of the house.
New climbing plants were planted shortly after the construction and they are now fully established and making quick progress in covering the structure. Give it another few months and a bit of rain and this will be a cave of greenery and colour.
We are going to build (well probably Gaun is going to build) a new pergola heading the other way so the grapes don’t get mixed up with the other climbers. I didn’t know how the grape would do here but it is looking very happy so far. Very tasty grapes are 80 baht or $2.20 a kilo in season at the local markets.
I wanted to share the next couple of photos because I am still enjoying seeing sunshine after months of smoky haze.
We needed a place to store the outside brooms and Gaun just buried a length of pipe left over from the house build and job done. I will paint it to match the column and drill a couple of holes to let rainwater out and it will outlast me.
June 2 – Bags and More Bags
A post strictly for the ladies. My sister -in-law Sam chose herself a bag as a result of a previous post I put on Facebook so we headed back to the shop today to pick it up for her.
I also had an expression of interest from a good friend in Australia that we are seeing in Bali shortly to celebrate her wedding. I thought I would share a few more photos of one life’s essentials for women along with shoes and jewelry! Sas – see anything you like? My previous estimate on prices were a bit optimistic. They range from $12.00 – $20.00.
June 2 – Various Observations made on a day out in Si Bun Ruang
Si Bun Ruang is growing up with improvements such as a medium sized Tesco Lotus supermarket shown under construction here. At the moment we travel 30 minutes to the next town to do a major supermarket shop but will in future be able to do this locally. The time saved will help with my busy retired schedule (not).
This is the canal next to the new supermarket. You can see by the size of the walls that they do expect some serious rain here sometimes although I haven’t seen much evidence of it in my time here.
June 5 – Wat Pha Sorn Kaew
I have been meaning to visit Wat Pha Sorn Kaew ever since it was recommended by a couple of friends and I saw the photos. Now I have some to add of my own. This is a very brief taste of a longer post I have published HERE.
We made the trip yesterday so that my stepdaughter Peng could come along on a non-school day and Yuan and Lud also wanted a holiday from the farm so we had a full car. The wat is a three hour 200 km drive from where we live but Thailand is blessed with pretty decent roads unless you really get into the backwaters.
We arrived to rain as the area around the temple is mountainous and wetter than where we are on the plains of Isaan. The wat is spectacular as you can tell from the photos and will be a definite addition to my favourite wats of Isaan.
The road you see in the far distance is Route 12 one of the major roads running through Thailand. Follow it south and you will end up in Bangkok 600 km away.
June 7 – A Mix of Small Happenings
Dit, the main monk at the small temple up the road from the farm, passed as Gaun was working and noticed what she was doing. Buddhist merit points there I am sure.
It would be hard to find anything here over $10.00. Three bougainvilleas on the left for $4.00. Needless to say that even at these cheap prices we have spent quite a lot of money here.
I love it out at the farm and I know our many visitors do too. Yuna and Lud recently extended the farmhouse and as it is all dirt flooring I am providing the materials to build a concrete replacement. Everything is clay here and it will be wonderful to have a firm and clean base especially during the wet season. Here 2 cubic metres of sand and gravel are being delivered ($20.00 a metre with a $4.00 delivery fee).
The guy on the right is a brother-in-law to Gaun’s brother number 3! Everybody is connected here if you look hard enough. I think the 100 baht I gave them for a couple bottles of beer or a bottle of lao kao (Thai rice whisky) was appreciated.
I am also going to be buying a small sala (bamboo hut) to be placed right next to the pond with its six hundred fish inhabitants. You will be able to fish for your own lunch late this year.
June 9 – A Little Nipper
A reminder that it isn’t just Australia that has lots of animals that aren’t too human friendly. This is only a small scorpion but it would still give you a jab to remember.
June 9 – Bun Bang Fai
I have written about Bun Bung Fai before. It is the Isaan rocket festival held over May/June with dancing, parties and the launching of rockets all designed to encourage rains for the rice harvest. It is also part of the cultural history of Laos but as most Isaan people originated in Laos it naturally followed them here. This weekend was the two day street party and rocket display for the main town of Si Bun Ruang (called an Amphur here). Today we called into the area where the rockets are to be set off.
Rockets are graded by numbers according to size. In 2014, the fist time I saw them they were launching 100,000 rockets. Last year the military cracked down and the biggest were 10,000 and very uninteresting.
This year Si Bun Ruang is having a go at launching a couple of 1 million sized rockets, which if they don’t blow up and destroy the town, will add two more craters on the moon. In another province the governor has threatened the death penalty to anyone launching a rocket that damages a civilian aircraft! Read more HERE.
The following photos might give you an idea of the variation in sizes I am talking about.
They do also explode sometimes killing people. I have no intention of ending my retirement in Thailand with a bang 🙂 The level of the pond shows the effect of the drought here. Normally the water would be well up the legs of that jetty.
June 10 – Back on the Farm plus Following the String
A few little moments in country Isaan life to share today. We tend to head out to the farm most mornings these days, a five minute motorbike ride from home, as Gaun needs more space to use up her enormous energy for greening Thailand. Today it was great to see the new rice shoots happening both on Yuan’s farm and next door on the other half of the farm run by Gaun’s older sister Paed.
I took a couple of photos where I intend to site a sala, a bamboo hut, next to the fishing pond and there’s also a Buddhist chant happening in the village, which unites every house with white string so I’ll cover that too.
This is sticky rice in the photo above, which is different from steamed rice, in case you thought it was all to do with the way you cooked the rice. The family sugar crop extends to those tree in the background.
Update: I am also thinking about building a floating pontoon to put the sala on as something a little different like the one below. I can buy these blue plastic barrels for about A$20.00 each, so it wouldn’t be a very expensive exercise. What will be the outcome? To be advised one day. Exciting stuff.
Back in the village a ball of white string made an appearance at our house. Once a year all the houses in the village are connected by this string, which ends up at a Buddha statue. Every morning for three days a monk does a chant there, which then radiates out through these connecting strings touching every house along the way with a blessing.
It’s another example of the natural community aspect to living in a small Thai village. In Australia you’d never get agreement for something like this. You’d need twenty different strings for the different religions and made sure you skip the atheists 🙂 You’d also need to get permits from a range of government and utility authorities.
June 11 – The Bun Bang Fai Parade
Today it was the turn of Si Bun Ruang, our local town, to hold their main street procession for Bun Bang Fai and we spent the afternoon in the sun and rain to record the occasion. This is my third Bun Bang Fai since I moved to Thailand but I still enjoy the opportunity to join in a noisy, colourful and very Isaan event.
The costumes seem to change each year as I am sure I haven’t seen this range before. Spectacular makeup and that wonderful graceful and flowing Thai dancing make this aspect of the festival so worthwhile. I hope I can share some of the quality of the day with you in the selection of photos I have chosen. If you want to see many more striking photos of the costumes and other aspects of the day then I have written a post on my blog and you can find it HERE.
I won’t add many words to the photos because they speak for themselves.
Of course to have dancing you need music and as always those huge mobile speaker systems were there to keep everything swinging. Massive volumes and playing traditional Isaan dance music, which I really enjoy. If you want to party you can get one of these for the day for 6,000 – 8,000 baht (A$240 – $320).
Note the guy with the U shaped pole on the right. He’s there to lift any wires crossing the road that get in the way.
June 13 – Three Stories in photos
Repossession, farm extensions and Wat Ban Dit.
This family ordered soil to be added to their land to raise the level as is common within the village prior to starting construction work or even just to plant vegetables. The whole village is built higher than the surrounding rice paddies to minimise flooding.
The interesting bit is that this family obviously wasn’t able to pay the contractor who delivered the soil because recently the tractor and trucks arrived and removed everything that had previously been delivered. I have never seen soil repossession before but there’s many things that are “first time” for me in Thailand.
This story follows on from the delivery of sand and gravel I reported on earlier in this post. Gaun had excess energy today because she suddenly decided to started the process to concrete the floor to Yuan and Lud’s farmhouse. We had a friend from Australia drop into the farm to say hello and next thing he was in a set of Lud’s clothes and mixing concrete. His girlfriend knew her way around pouring concrete too so she was roped in as well.
After finishing concreting for the day we dropped into the wat at the end of the road that passes the farm. We call it Wat Pha Ban Dit, which means the forest temple home of Dit (the head monk – a friend of Yuan). The wat actually has a real name but I am not sure what (!) it is.
June 13 – My Third Anniversary in Thailand
Yesterday was my third anniversary of arriving in Thailand from Canberra. I never intended to stay. I was supposed to be here on a seven month reconnaissance to see if the country offered the potential for me to retire earlier than if I stayed in Australia. Evidently it did. Today is my third anniversary of meeting up with Gaun again having originally spent time with her in 2012. This three years has incorporated rented homes in Phuket, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and now our own place Si Bun Ruang, Isaan.
My dear Gaun has gone from friend and travelling companion to best friend and wife, a combination that is rare to achieve.
My blog has allowed me to record this adventure from my times as a semi-tourist to now living the everyday in a small rural village. 300 readers a day share that journey with me through the blog and we have enjoyed meeting so many people who have made the effort to visit us to introduce themselves and tell their stories.
If the next three years is as interesting and involving as the last I will be a blessed man indeed.
June 14 – Rockets
The second day of Bun Bang Fai was mostly about the rockets being launched. A huge turnout this year when compared to the post-coup shutdown last year when not much happened.
I have told you before that there are a number of different sized rockets built ranging from 10,000 to 1 million in whatever units those measurements relate to. There were two 1 million rockets this year and I managed to miss the launch of both of them. However I did get photos and they weren’t all that bigger than the 100,000 ones. I was expecting 10 times the size.
Much of the interest in the launches revolves around the betting that happens – unofficially of course. The idea is that you bet how long in seconds you think the rocket will stay up. Say you think it will exceed 280 seconds. You then have to find a punter who thinks it won’t achieve that and you lay the bet. As there is no paperwork I have no idea how it all comes together in the end but it seemed to work.
There was also a Motocross competition happening, which my brother-in-law Lud loves so us blokes spent a bit of time there (which is how I missed one of the 1 million launches).
June 16 – More Farm Concreting
We spent the weekend concreting the floor at the farm by hand. It took the full two days to mix and spread about 34 square metres of concrete. I now know why I used trucks to deliver the 260 sq mtrs for our home floor slab. The new floor is characterful with lots of gentle undulations which fits in nicely with the whole “rustic” structure. Concrete chairs and a table were bought today as part of my effort to make it all more farang friendly and help out Yuan and Lud at the same time.
June 16 – Skywalk
My stepdaughter Peng told me about this lookout that has been built attached to a temple called Wat Pha Tak Suea. It is located in the Sangkhom district, which is to the left of Nong Khai in the far northeast of Thailand and about 1 1/2 hour’s drive from us. None of these photos are mine.
I think we’ll be adding this to the list of places to visit this year. That is the Mekong river, which is best to see this time of the year as there is plenty of water running. I will report back.
Google Nong Khai Skywalk if you want to get there before me.
June 17 – Yaun’s Birthday
This post is more designed for people who have been following the blog for a while and know my Thai family as well as I do!.
It was Yuan’s birthday yesterday and the family gathered at our place in the evening for an Isaan buffet. This is masses of meat, prawns, squid and raw vegetables cooked on an aluminium bowl over a charcoal fire with a broth “moat” creating the most amazing soup afterwards.
Thais never kiss and quite often never touch in public. Lud and Yuan have been married for 23 years so it’s not like they don’t know each other.
The heat is provided by charcoal and the meats are cooked on the raised area in the middle. The juices run into the soup around the outside, which is where the prawns, squid and vegetables are cooked. The base is concrete and costs $2.00.
And yes, you can buy birthday cakes in Si Bun Ruang. Thais have no concept of meal courses so you are just as likely to start with cake, although in this case we are working through the normal sequence. Peng, my stepdaughter, Gaun and Yaun of course.
Enough for this post. I hope you have enjoyed being part of my life over a few days in June and I hope you’ll join me again for the next few week’s activities when I publish Isaan – the Small Stories 17 shortly.
Thanks for reading.