Good things come in threes and this is my third Small Stories post in the last couple of days. I am always amazed at how much can be extracted from everyday living in Isaan if you keep your camera handy and your eyes open.
24 Sept 2016 – A Secret Cave Wat
Wat Pha Thum Praphukao: 16°58’37.3″N 102°25’29.7″E
The other day my brother-in-law Tham, who is married to Gaun’s older sister Paed (number four of the seven children – Gaun is number six), told us of a cave wat in his village of Ban Don Han. As this wasn’t far from our home and I don’t need much of an excuse for an explore we hit the road today to check it out.
This is a story with a twist so make sure you read the ending about the secret cave. I have also just completed a much more detailed post on this afternoon outing on the blog HERE.
Not so. There’s a large hidden cave behind that entrance and you’d never know it was there. You will also find a hidden monk (an alive one), pond and view up this way. I didn’t!
This was a trip where the journey was just as interesting as the destination and I find that this is so often the case in Thailand. If you are totally fixated on the place you have picked out to see you will often be disappointed as the big “wow” experiences are a little thin on the ground here. But if you keep your eyes open and are prepared to stop to explore you will be rewarded in many small ways that makes the trip worthwhile whatever the rating of the original destination.
Update 29 Nov 2016: With the cooler weather I am planning a return visit to discover the hidden cave and also meet the monk who lives up the top. I will report back.
26 Sept 2016 – A Local Drive
I must be feeling a bit restless because this is the second outing we have had in the last few days.
This afternoon’s road trip was another example of setting a destination and then being open to stopping or heading off track to see what else was around. As I have said before the big “wow” sights are few and far between in Thailand but I find the little photo opportunities just as rewarding and a lot more personal in some ways.
With the rain falling I have been very productive and have published a full post of the day with heaps more information and photos HERE. This entry in Small Stories 22 is more of a teaser for the full post.
That’s either Isaan whisky or water. They both cost about the same 🙂 Only one will kill you though! Another great time getting involved with the local sights. Always very rewarding.
30 Sept 2016 – Express Growth
It is easy to forget how quickly things grow here. The days slip by and next thing you know you are sitting in the shade of something that it seems you only planted yesterday! Two examples in the following photos – rice at the farm and our hedge at home.
30 Sept 2016 – Ban Mai Khao Restaurant
We had a day in Udon Thani on Wednesday and it gave us the opportunity to try out a restaurant that had been recommended to us called Baan Mai Khao. This is another definite to add to your eating places next time you are in the area!
Hidden away off a small soi (street) the place is restful, well maintained, pleasant inside and a decent if small mixed farang and Thai menu. Inexpensive and the food was tasty and presented nicely. A real find in an area that is severely limited in non-street stall locations.
1 Oct 2016 – A School Holiday Feast
Peng’s last day of school yesterday for the October break of two weeks. Unlike Australia Thai school kids only get two holidays a year. A six week equivalent to our Christmas break in April starting with Thai New Year (Songkran) and this one sometime in October. Mind you between teacher’s retirement days, public and Buddhist holidays they get plenty of other shorter breaks during the course of a year.
Peng’s foodie request to celebrate this happy occasion was an Isaan buffet. Both Peng and Gaun managed to consume their own body weight so a good time was had.
3 Oct 2016 – Farang Food
Two associated topics in this story. Firstly I cooked our first NZ leg of lamb last night using the small benchtop oven we bought from Makro for A$140.00. It worked a treat. Roast potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, broccoli and homemade mint jelly and gravy. One very happy farang and two well fed Thais, who demolished more of the leg than me 🙁
This leads into a related topic – the cost of food shopping here. I am probably stating the obvious but if you move here and eat like a Thai then it is very cheap. However if you still want to enjoy some farang comfort food then you will be paying as much as you will back home in many instances (not all).
I thought I would give you a very limited example by sharing our Makro shopping bill from yesterday. You can see that the majority of more pricey items are farang related only. Now none of it is a major cost but if planning on retirement in Thailand you do need to realise that the old living on $10.00 a day books require a complete change in your eating habits. I enjoy Thai food but I would prefer not to have give up the occasional roast either. BTW that leg of lamb cost around A$11.00 a kilo.
3 Oct 2016 – A Day in Udon
The story about Baan Mai Khao, which you have just read above has now been expanded into a long post about the full day we had in Udon Thani, which included so much more than this entry, and you can find it HERE. This is another teaser to encourage you to read the full story if you haven’t already. In it we rescue a turtle from being road kill or dinner, drop into a local wat, catch a raunchy stage show for spirits, find hidden shopping treasures in Udon, feed the family and much more.
Update 29 Nov 2016 – With the death of the king all activities like this came to a stop. Live music and shows are back on the agenda now but they are required to be “tasteful” in respect to the mourning period. I am not sure if this sort of display would fall under that category 🙁
4 Oct 2016 – Usufruct and its uses in Thailand
I am publishing this information on “Usufruct in Thailand” here to pick up on any westerners in Thailand, or anyone looking to move here at some stage, that aren’t regular readers of my blog.
I have published a very specialised post HERE which is geared to the expat planning to buy land here and build. For others it might be interesting just to see how things work in Thailand compared to the process back home, wherever that might be.
The reason I have added this subject as a stand alone post on the blog is that the information contained within it is absolutely vital for any farang in a relationship with a Thai person who wants to gain security over their investment in land and a house here. In the majority of situations it is the farang that is making the major if not total financial investment in building a home and while houses are pretty secure in the long term, relationships aren’t!
The premise to a Usufruct is that FOREIGNERS CANNOT OWN LAND IN THAILAND. Almost no exception. When “you” buy land you aren’t. You are buying land for your Thai partner – period.
My thanks to Joe Lynch lawyer at [email protected] based in Chiang Mai for the article, which forms the majority of this blog entry.
Joe Lynch Specialist Australian Family Lawyer, Consultant Lawyer with Lanna Lawyers in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Lewis and Bollard Migration Lawyers in Sydney, Australia. Experienced in Thai law for expats, surrogacy law in both Australia and Thailand and property law, wills and estates, estate planning and business law in Thailand.
5 Oct 2016 – Gutters
The house we built in Isaan is basically gutter-free. I love the waterfall effect of the rain coming off the roof in the tropical downpours and as we are well above surrounding land and everything slopes away from the house there is no likelihood of flooding.
However since completing the construction I have added gutters across the front of the outdoor living space to stop splashback in that area. The entry portico also has gutters now because actually walking through a waterfall to get inside is not as appealing as looking at the cascade when dry.
Today we expanded the gutters across the front of the internal living room. We have large double sliding doors and it is nice to keep them open when the rain comes and we were getting a little splashback inside with the big downpours. The rainy season is also a warm period so there’s no reason to close up the house as you might in countries that have rain in cool/cold seasons.
If I had to build the house again I would have extended the eaves to 2 metres, leaving the paved surround at 1 metre to better protect the walls and windows from rain.
The gutters come in 2 metre lengths and three different thicknesses. The guy does the roof work and his wife builds the gutters as you watch. The joins are soldered together, which is what she is doing here.
The cost is based on thickness and you can choose between 120, 150 or 180 baht per metre (A$4.80 – $7.20) built and fitted. They also have a fourth choice, which is more industrial sized at 300 baht per metre.
5 Oct 2016 – Upgrading the Driveway
Finishing off the driveway into our home has been on my list on things to do for a while. The plain concrete was wonderful after the gravel we had covering the clay for a few months until the post-construction budget improved, but it doesn’t add much to the look of the home. I saw some pebblecrete being laid at a place close to us and decided that was what I wanted.
We got the phone number of the tradesman and today he contacted us to let us know he had finished work on a temple job and was free to start ours.
Follow the photos to get the details. I will report back on progress as it happens.
Local stones for 380 baht a sq metre laid (about $15.00) or 450 baht a metre for pebbles brought in from the coast (smaller). This is the colour we have chosen (local). The pebbles on the left are set in a red concrete base and the ones on the right a yellow base. Same pebbles.
7 Oct 2016 – Chiang Khan
Yet another teaser for the full post of this topic, which you can find HERE. The following photos give you a summary of the day if you are time-poor!
We have been on the road the last couple of days and I thought I would report back on what we’ve been up to. Day 1 has us travelling to the popular (for Thais) town of Chiang Khan on the Mekong River a three hour drive from us.
The attraction here is the main street running parallel to the Mekong and is made up of largely restored wooden houses, which are now hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and shops. Although quiet during the day things kick off from sundown when the street is closed and the night markets take over. Day 2 where we follow the Mekong east to be posted shortly.
7 Oct 2016 – Problems with Google Maps
I have written many times on my blog and once on Facebook about the often useless information provided by Google Earth when looking for a location in Thailand, and maybe elsewhere. I wish I read my own propaganda because finding our guesthouse in Chiang Khan was a perfect example of what not to do.
For some unknown reason I had a mental blank and trusted Google to give me the correct location without checking on the street view. The GPS coordinates for the wrong location were recorded and endless frustration experienced when we tried to find our accommodation.
If you have a look at the Google Earth image I have provided you will see Google’s location is on the left (not even on the main street) , while the guesthouse is correctly shown on my version on the right. NEVER trust Google Earth/maps without more checking. It is often wrong.
P.S. I advised Google of the change required and they responded in a few hours. I will make myself a local “expert” as I don’t have a lot else on my schedule and maybe help others before they too get lost 🙂
8 Oct 2016 – From Chiang Khan to Nong Khai
Another short summary of a post you can find HERE in more detail. Day 2 of our trip to the Mekong had us following the 211, a road that travels alongside the river from Chiang Khan heading east to Nong Khai, which is a border crossing to Laos.
It has been three years since I have driven this route and the road has been improved a lot with a great surface most of the way. The Thais are also putting heaps of money into long sections of boardwalks on the edge of the river especially at the Chiang Khan end.
This is one of THE trips to put on your list if in Isaan if you have your own transport. The road gives you lots of views over the Mekong and runs through small moo bans (villages). Plenty of small eating places to pull over for a meal while watching the water flow past on its way to Vietnam.
The main reason for us returning this way was so we could visit the newly opened Nong Khai Skywalk. Look at the photos and you’ll understand why this was on our list of places to see.
Telephone/internet reception is everywhere in Thailand. Not like Australia where you can lose reception in the middle of Sydney! Note the newly purchased Chiang Khan T shirts 🙂 Doing our bit for the local tourist trade.
Almost no one when we were there. It is actually part of a temple and as always I struggle to find the connection between Buddhism and a things like a A$650,000 skywalk. Good fun though and free. Make a donation, which is what we did.
8 Oct 2016 – More of Phum
I only add this post because this little bloke has won me over and I confidently predict that he’s going to cause his mum and his many girlfriends heaps of trouble later in life.
This is Phum and if you follow my Facebook you will have met him and his mum previously so I won’t go into the history. He spends his time between the two family homes of his mum and dad and is in our village ATM just across from Gaun’s family home.
His name Phum, which originates from Chaiyaphum the name of his dad’s province.
This afternoon his grandma brought him over because Peng had bought him a T shirt from Chiang Khan, a town on the Mekong River which I have written about just recently. We slightly overestimated the size but he will grow into it in no time.
10 Oct 2016 – Tropical Colours
We are in-between seasons with the rains winding down and the days getting slightly cooler and the evenings darker earlier. The garden is lacking some of the mass colours we have been used to but once the cool season arrives in a few weeks a whole new batch of flowers make an appearance. I am especially looking forward to the bougainvillea shrubs as they are everywhere and have tripled in size from last year.
We still have small splashes of colour to break up the greenery and I thought I would take the camera on a quick run through the garden to capture them this morning.
11 Oct 2016 – A Morning Photo Session
A series of pre-breakfast photos on a number of small topics that might be of interest. We headed out to the farm first thing (well first thing by my standards). I walked, to try and get some exercise while Gaun took the motorbike.
Follow the photos to get the stories.
A huge crop this year with the rains. There has also been an inter-family competition between the two halves of the farm as to who could grow the tallest rice! Yuan fertilised the crop twice and has come out a winner over Paed, Gaun’s older sister, who runs the other family farm. I cover the rice harvest in another post to be written but I can give you a sneak preview of the results. 70 bags of rice harvested this year compared to 30 in the drought year 2015 – roughly 2,500 kilos of rice.
They are to help you select lucky lottery numbers based on dreams or anything else you observe. The last draw had numbers 887102. We actually had people stop to talk to us because our car rego is 7102!
Yesterday Yuan got Lud to take me back on the motorbike because she was worried I might get attacked by one of them. The lady on the left was also worried about any problems with a farang because she told Yuan that she had no money for compensation 🙂 We had a lady in the village who died recently after hitting a bull with her motorbike who then gored her, so maybe best to be safe.
That will do for this edition of Small Stories. Lots more to come so keep an eye out for more posts soon.
Thanks for reading.