Another batch of small stories that happened in July about living in rural Thailand.
July 13 – A Day in the Isaan Countryside
Another mixed day in the local countryside with friends of ours. The afternoon included monkeys and a cliffside temple, a rubber plantation, driving through the lush views of the wet season, water slides and a family Isaan buffet.
Gaun is still in her sarong from visiting the temple. Remember to keep one in your handbag (ladies only advice!) if you prefer to wear short clothing here. Temples with lots of farang visitors often have them available to hire.
Now here is one of life’s oddities. I live in a very small rural community on the edge of a minor Isaan town and I can connect to 100 mbps fiber optic broadband for A$60.00 per month, unlimited downloads.
In the national capital of Australia the best I could get was about 5 mbps for not much less in cost with download limits. Where did we go wrong?
July 17 – Cheap Housing but would you want to?
Are there still books around called Asia on $10.00 a day? Maybe you can but would you want to?
I was looking at rentals in Si Bun Ruang for two farang who contacted me on this subject and came across this gem. Priced from $40.00 standard to $80.00 for the super deluxe (with window) per MONTH this would seem to fit the $10.00 a day category.
The list of inclusions is extensive but unfortunately your new home doesn’t have any of them except parking! Enjoy.
July 16 – The Canals of Si Bun Ruang
I have based myself at the farm to complete my second eBook called “Living in Isaan – the Small Stories”. Gaun is busy weeding with Yuan helping while Lud prepares a field for vegetable planting. As you can see it is hard work being an international author.
Meanwhile the construction of the Venetian canals of Si Bun Ruang continues.
July 21 – Gaun and the Tourists
I was writing something else yesterday and came across this photo. It is one of my favourites of Gaun at Phuket because it has a story attached to it and is a great example of what I have to put up with on a daily basis!
For some unknown reason Gaun had collected a heap of small crabs from another beach and then released them on the main beach at Nai Harn, which was the most exciting thing to happen to the tourists all day.
July 21 – Buddhist Lent
Yesterday was the start of the three month Buddhist Lent period (or called the Rains Retreat) where monks are more likely to stay in their “home” wat rather than travel around.
Buddhist Lent starts the day after Asahna Bucha Day, a public holiday to mark Buddha’s first sermon over 2,500 years ago in a deer park in India. This is why you will often see statues of deer in temples here. I have also seen reindeer in wats too, which may be a slight misinterpretation of the original idea 🙂
Our village gathered at the local wat to donate food to the monks and receive a blessing in a very small and simple ceremony. That evening we went to Wat Pha Silawa. in the next village for a much more formal evening ceremony in one of my favourite temples of Isaan.
It is a much more original design than the one going up in our moo ban. Different function though. This is a Bot or Ubosoth/Ubosot, a monk ordination hall, while the big place in our village is a Viharn or sermon/assembly hall. Bots are sometimes closed to the public while a Viharn won’t be.
July 22 – A New Camera Lense
My camera spends more time with me in my travels around Isaan than my wife so I thought I would upgrade it rather than Gaun.
A friend of ours visited us recently and she had a single lense that operated both as a wide angle for landscape shots as well as a decent zoom. My research narrowed the choice down to either a Nikon 18-200mm or a Sigma 18-250mm. The Sigma had good reviews online and was $200.00 cheaper, an important factor for us pensioners!, so the Sigma is was.
For those of you in Thailand http://www.lazada.co.th/, a Thai based online store is an excellent resource. I have used them for six purchases and the whole process is easy. The payment options include credit card, bank transfer, PayPal and cash over the counter at 7/11. Their tracking system works and they deliver by courier to your door, in my case always within the specified time.
The other benefit is that if ordering from overseas all import duties are covered. You will find that if you are living here your old friend eBay will often not ship to Thailand. If they do it is very expensive and may or may not arrive (voice of experience talking here). There is also always the possibility that you get hit with import tax, which can run to 100%.
My new toy arrived this afternoon so the photos below are my first play shots with this lense. It will allow me to capture a better range of scenes for the blog and Facebook because although I have a telephoto now it is a pain to switch between the two lenses.
July 22 – A Farm Update
Life on the farm is quite central to my life here, which is why photos of it pop up regularly. Other people do food – I do rice!
The new rice, which was only planted a week ago is now greening up nicely. Tara Gardner I am keeping a special eye on the rice you planted. I think it is bigger than the others already 🙂
The fields at the back are Paed and Tham’s, Gaun’s sister and husband who run the other half of the farm. It is steamed rice. A swap will be done with the finished product at some stage. You can tell the rice at the back is newly planted as it is a lighter colour.
To Gaun these berries are good with fish. They are sour she tells me and I am sure that they are. Hot and sour are the two main flavours of Isaan food, which is NOTHING like your Thai takeaway!
July 23 – Shopping at Makro
From farm to supermarket.
Hardly world stopping news but this is another minor insight to the everyday here. Today we headed off to the next town to us a 30 minute drive to check out the new Makro supermarket that has recently opened. We are so lucky to be living a quiet rural based lifestyle but with most of the farang comforts within easy distance.
Makro’s are a Dutch owned cash and carry supermarket more aimed at small shop owners who buy in bulk. Luckily in Thailand they are open to the general public. In some other countries this isn’t the case.
We can buy most things that Makro stocks in our also newly opened Tesco Lotus supermarket in Si Bun Ruang, our home town, but Makro has greater choice. It also stocks NZ lamb, fresh salmon and cream some of the essentials of life
July 23 – What Does A$240.00 a month rent get you?
We arranged some rental accommodation for an American reader of my blog yesterday. Well, I did the driving and Gaun did the talking. I thought I would show you what a basic Thai style house looked like if you did decide to move here on a budget! A$240.00 a month gets you this:
You would have to make your own Thai kitchen, probably outside at the back. It could be turned into a small but workable home. Great location and at $60 a week – not bad. You can see why people retire here.
July 24 – A Homework Story
This is a story about kids and homework that would fit with any country in the world.
Peng my stepdaughter had an assignment to describe and photograph the making of fried banana, a yummy desert nibblie you can find in season at every market in Thailand. From the first photo you would think that Peng was hard at work making it all happen wouldn’t you? Well the real story will never appear in the school version. Read on.
Photos being taken by Gaun in the background for the project. It was lovely to see the whole family swing into action to help out taking time out of their busy schedules.
Mind you everyone will help eat the end result so it isn’t all hard work.
July 24 – Another Rental Opportunity – be quick
Just a quickie with another example of what you can rent here. I am looking for a house for another American reader of the blog, having already found a place for a guy from the US a couple of days ago. This one has been offered and I have sent him the details.
At 3,000 baht a month or about A$35.00 a week it is looking pretty good. A beautiful location set in farming land but only a couple minutes’ drive to Si Bun Ruang town. Spend a little bit of money on it to smarten it up and you’d have a bargain.
July 24 – Back on the Farm again!
I am only posting yet more photos from the farm because I want to show you how quickly plants get established here. Gaun is busy weeding and then planting up the entire length of the farm as it borders the road.
July 25 – A New Driveway
We spent most of today out at the farm. I am not sure why I built a house in the village!
I am spending a little money each month to improve the farm with enthusiastic support from Gaun, Yuan and Lud. Today I decided to gravel the driveway from the front road to the farmhouse. Two truckloads totalling 9 cubic metres at a cost of 4,950 baht or around A$200.00 and the place was transformed.
July 28 – A Buddhist Holy Day
The three months of Buddhist Lent is a time when people become more enthusiastic about their obligations to the temple. This is particularly true on Buddhist holy days, which relate to the phases on the moon and are marked on any Thai calendar with a small red Buddha.
Yesterday was such a day and in the evening we joined many other locals at our chosen wat, which is a forest temple (all these temple will have a Pha or Pa in front of their name e.g. Wat Pha Silawa) about 10 minutes down the road from us.
An Unusual Isaan Wedding
I had a reader of the blog write to me recently with some questions about the protocol of an Isaan wedding. The question came through a post I had written called “A Thai Shotgun Marriage” HERE. It reminded my what an unusual day it was for me as it challenged many of my concepts of marriage as a westerner.
The young bride Thoy, a neighbour of ours and a friend of Peng, was 14 when she went to her mum to ask why it felt like something was kicking inside her stomach. You know the answer to that question. The father was a 19 year old local with a bad reputation who wouldn’t take responsibility even if the family accepted him.
A friend of Thoy then stepped in to say that he loved her and was willing to marry her and take on the baby. He was also 14! The two families got together and it was all agreed and a wedding day set (quickly). Because we are known to the family we were invited and the photos give a glimpse into the ceremony.
Now before anyone goes all farang have a look at the outcome for all concerned. Thoy has husband, the baby has father and more importantly has two families who now take responsibility for him. Raising kids here is a family group affair. Although hardly perfect it is a workable solution.
What would be the alternative in Australia? Maybe one or all of the following: police involvement, ostracisation by the family, counselling for mum, a child with no family connections and community outrage at the whole situation.
I can tell you that in Thoy’s case mum and dad seem to be getting along fine. The baby is now walking and is loved and included by both families and will grow up with the same opportunities and no hang-ups from his start in life.
Rather than react with shock and horror I think this is a lovely good news story with a positive ending to a shaky beginning.
UPDATE September 2016: Today Gaun was able to get some photos of mum and a very bouncing baby son. How delightful to be able to share a happy outcome to a far from ideal original situation. They don’t look too traumatised by their experience do they?
Funnily we are visiting Chaiyaphum this weekend to take part in the house blessing ceremony of an English guy Terry and his wife Ning, who are blog readers.
Update 4 Mar 2017: Didn’t last 🙁 Probably not that surprising.
July 28 – A Present for the Birds
Well as far as small stories go this rates up there. We had a couple of friends visit us recently and they kindly donated a birdbath to the garden from the one and only good quality garden centre in Udon Thani. We collected it using the family pick-up on Tuesday and the big installation happened this afternoon.
Thank you Gina and Tara. A wonderful addition to the garden. The birds of Isaan thank you too.
July 31 – The New Patio
Another very small story rating up there with the birdbath, which actually generated some interest on Facebook. I have been wanting to make a new patio under pergola we had built as part of our extensions last year. This area will turn into a green cavern once the climbers cover it, something that should become a reality in the next six months.
It has lovely views over the garden and I can see it being another popular spot for a cold drink in the evenings.
Gaun seems to perspire equally all over her body while I just pour from my head. A small towel wrapped around with plastic bands at the back is a very unattractive but effective solution. Here I am working to take up the grass. It was only a small area but in the heat it almost killed me.
Gaun who treats me like the most fragile object she has ever come across has here moved an umbrella to give me shade, brought out a chair and table, an ice bucket and cold drinks. She did offer to move a fan as well. Thanks to her efforts I survived the day.
For a country that has such massive rainfall in season the Thais are absolutely useless at directing the flow of water. Roads get waterlogged and concrete is either poured so it is dead flat or so that the water pools in exactly the place you didn’t want it. Peng in the background providing the same level of assistance as any teenager worldwide
Having caught up my Small Stories of Isaan to be only a month and a bit behind I will give it a rest for a couple of posts and come back with those posts about our trip to Nan that I promised in Isaan – the Small Stories 17 HERE.
Thanks for reading.