I am getting closer to being up to date with these little living in Isaan stories. I hope you are enjoying reading them as much as I am living them!
5 Nov 2016 – A Timber House
The guy who sells us our limes has given up his government job, which he said was boring (I can totally relate) and is going to concentrate on the farm he has next to Yuan and Lud’s place. As part of this plan he is building a farmhouse on the property so he can sleep there.
His need coincided with that of the lady who owns the local noodle takeaway shop (great food for almost nothing) who wanted to sell her 40 year old wooden house and build a concrete replacement.
The end result is that 55,000 baht (A$2,200) exchanged hands and the house will be disassembled and moved about 2 km into the country and relocated on the lime farm.
It will be an interesting project to follow. I have to say that looking at the place and hearing of the minimal cost involved it did whet my appetite for a project – in theory.
I would love to transform one of these wooden houses into a modern home but leave it looking as it does now. Insulate the ceiling and walls, put in proper insect screened windows but still have the shutters and install electrical that didn’t burn the house down etc. What fun. It would be a joy to work with timber again as Thailand is mostly 100% concrete and steel these days.
My superannuation capital is sitting around earning almost nothing so maybe…………………..
Gaun’s bicycle had a puncture so we took it to the village motorbike repair place. A shout brought the owner from his house at the back and a new inner tube was installed and the brakes fixed all for 100 baht (A$4.00) as we waited.
We had the Mazda in for a service at the dealership this week. You don’t book, you just turn up. They provide you with drinks, popcorn, noodles and lunch if you’re there at the right time while you wait. Free wifi, TV and computers. A$100.00 including all parts. 2 hours labour for A$30.00!
5 Nov 2016 – Living with a Thai Woman
The most popular post on my blog (which gets 300 reads a day) is a topic titled “Living with a Thai Woman”. It is a work in progress! The introduction reads as follows:
“If like me you have spent any time on the many farang based forums and you happen to end up in the often depressing topic area called “Farang/Thai Relationships” then I hope my post will do something to add some reality and positive words to the subject.
I met Gaun my Thai wife a few years ago in 2012 when I was holidaying in Phuket. We were married in a civil ceremony early 2014, which I wrote about HERE formally married in our hometown on Si Bun Ruang (we have just had our first anniversary of this event), which you can read about HERE and have been happily living together since I moved to Thailand in June 2013.
So what’s it like living with a Thai lady? By this I don’t mean to suggest that there’s anything weird or worryingly different in having a Thai partner over say an Australian or English one. This is not a living with an alien story! What I do believe however is that each nationality has its own “flavour” and it’s those differences between cultures that make a mixed partnership both especially interesting and rewarding but also in some cases especially challenging”
If this topic sounds like a good read check it out HERE. Make sure you have a look at the many comments at the bottom like this one:
Came across your blog looking for health insurance advice and your Pacific Cross reference is exactly what i was looking for. i just read your article on living with a Thai wife.I agree 100% I married Kay 10 years ago in both Aust and Thailand and we lived in Australia until recently. We are also in a rural village 100k north west of Udon Thani. Built a farang house thai style 2 years ago but it’s only recently been occupied. Kay is living there now while i stay in Australia this year so i can get my pension early next. It’s taken a while, but now her family tell me how proud they are to have me as part of their family. i can resonate with all your experiences as mine and my responses are very much in line with yours. The biggest problem with many farang’s is their reluctance to fully understand or their desire to fully involve themselves in thai village culture. This is what i love the most about living there and can’t wait to be there full time from early next year.
i will keep an eye on your blog, it’s very interesting to get another farang’s view of living in Thailand
All the best
6 Nov 2016 – Bedside Reading
We have booked into our hotel in Khon Kaen while Peng has been settled into the hospital for her operation on Tuesday.
I have seen these lists at a couple of hotels now. It shows the cost to your credit card if you run off with items from your room. The cost of a large bed is a real discouragement to slipping one of those into your suitcase on the way out.
6 Nov 2016 – Hospital in Khon Kaen
My stepdaughter Peng is booked in for an operation on her legs Tuesday hopefully to improve her mobility. She is at the huge Srinagarind teaching hospital, which is part of Khon Kaen university. This is my first real encounter with the Thai medical system so I thought it would be of interest if I reported on the process and how she ended up.
Day 1 today as we drove the 1 1/2 hours from home to Khon Kaen. Being a Sunday the hospital was free of the massive crowds it attracts during the week so we had a clear run with bureaucracy.
I have to say that I am very impressed so far. Gaun has a booking card from when we saw the surgeon a couple of months ago. On it there was a barcode, which was scanned into the reception computer and five minutes later we were booked in with Peng’s medical records in our hands.
The ward knew we were coming and had a bed ready. A full electric lift bed too. It’s a public ward with about 30 beds in. Very clean and orderly. Each bed has an overhead fan but I am pleased that it is the start of the cool season as it would get pretty hot in summer. I have a private room booked postoperative. They are all full at the moment.
So far Peng has had a basic medical check, lunch and a very early dinner, a long consultation with two doctors, an x-ray and a blood test. Everything totally free.
Visiting hours are pretty flexible. Space is provided for a family member to sleep on the floor next to the patient’s. Thais are never alone very often and hospitals aren’t an exception. Hopefully our positive start continues.
Update 1 Dec 2016 – This planned operation was cancelled at the last moment and we are waiting to hear from doctors at a meeting we have on 14 Dec about new options.
I am continuing the medical theme of our visit and am having a full health check at another hospital close to the hotel. My words at the time read:
I recently had a health check up at a hospital in Khon Kaen and thought I would share how that went – the process not the results you’ll be pleased to hear (which were all fine BTW).
Researching the best place to get a medical check had me first calling into a hospital called Ratchaphruek (their options can be found HERE. I don’t know how you feel about the provider of a medical service but where they have to push hospital beds with patients in out of the way for you to get to reception it has me less than convinced that this is quite the right place for me.
Back to the internet and this time to Khon Kaen Ram hospital and not one bed or patient in sight. The lady at information spoke English and took me to reception where they quickly booked me in for the next day (bring passport). Turn up anytime from 7:00 am.
The Ram have a separate health check section and they efficiently went through the procedures as listed in the “Chief Executive” package I had selected. Once the blood test has been done they produced a breakfast menu and the meal followed soon after that.
At the end of each test a nurse takes you to the next section and the actual procedural part of the process takes very little time. All your results are listed in a booklet and a doctor runs through everything at the end and lets you know if you need to be booking a Buddhist cremation or not. Not in my case (yet). Maybe this is a hospital provided option on page two of the booklet.
I don’t know how this package compares cost-wise with a similar health check in Australia or elsewhere but I suspect quite a bit cheaper. All the private hospitals do them so if in Thailand why not book yourself in and take advantage of the service.
11 Nov 2016 – Flooding in the Village
The big excitement in the village after our arrival back from Khon Kaen yesterday was the local “flooding” after heavy rains while we were away. The family wanted to show me so we took three motorbikes and headed off. I don’t think you will see these scenes on too many international news broadcasts so I thought I had better cover the local disaster here 🙂
This is just an overflow from a small local river on a backstreet from our village into the town of Si Bun Ruang. People had arrived to watch motorbikes navigate the “flood”, which was only a couple of feet deep at its worst. The ice cream man was there. Thais can make even the smallest thing into a day out!
It’s the home of a guy who owns a popular local car accessory shop. I have been inside while the house was being built and it uses a lot of timber. At 8 million baht (A$320,000) this is an expensive build by Si Bun Ruang standards.
12 Nov 2016 – Feeding the Monks
Up early this morning for a ceremony where the students from Peng’s school plus others were feeding 89 monks at the main temple in Si Bun Ruang. It was another cool, by Thai standards, sunny morning with mist in the streets first thing.
I always enjoy these small gatherings because I spot familiar faces and Peng’s friends know who I am now. Everyone is always pretty lighthearted about it all and these events provide the Thais plus one farang the opportunity to take lots of photos.
I didn’t count the monks and wondered how accurate the number had to be. You can imagine the head monk working the phones early “John mate, we’re three monks down have you got any spare?”, or even worse what if they were over? “OK, you four sit over there and we’ll get some food to you at the end”.
In the photos you will note that a lot of black is being worn in respect for the king. There are stalls in the markets that are selling nothing but black gear and many shops have all their mannequins dressed in fashionable black. Black and white is very popular too.
Do you see the black ribbon on the girl’s uniform arm? There are lots of these around too worn on everyday clothes. We got given a couple when buying petrol.
He has personally given money to Peng on a couple of occasions in recognition of her schoolwork in an interesting statement about the close connection between Buddhism and everyday life here.
12 Nov 2016 – Tasteful
14 Nov 2016 – The Rice Harvest Starts
There was a parking lot of motorbikes at the farm this morning, which at this time of year can only mean one thing – rice harvest.
Yuan has 18 people working to cut the rice and they will clear the fields in the single day. The team will move to Paed’s farm (Guan’s older sister who runs the other half of the farm) tomorrow. Half the farm has been planted with steamed rice and the other with sticky rice, the staple food of Isaan. All of it will go into the family rice storage for personal use only. What’s left over at the end of the next year will be sold. I haven’t bought rice in Thailand for over three years!
Lunch is provided for people who harvest sugar and Gaun is helping Yuan this morning to prepare for that. Food for over 20 people cooked on a couple of wood fired pots. Many of these people will move into harvesting the sugar crop after the rice. Funnily they don’t get fed when in this role.
A super crop though this year after the rains. Note how sensible the workers are with covering up to protect themselves from the sun.
Not one of my favourites but you’ll see it everywhere in Isaan. There’s practically no meat on those bones and they have been roughly chopped so you spend more time extracting the bits of bones than eating what little meat there is 🙂 These concrete cooking pots are bought for $4.00.
If you ever get the chance to be involved with a village rice harvest do grab it. This isn’t just about work but is the get together of a group of people who have known each other all their lives. There is constant chat and laughter. Machines will take over this function one day and the social aspect of the harvest will be lost as it has in our society.
I dropped back to the farm for lunch and everyone was tucking in by the time I got there with my contribution eight bottles of soft drink. Doing my bit for the high occurrence of diabetes in Isaan. My ability to sit for long periods on the ground came in handy as my farang table was already in use. A very tasty meal and now back home for a well earned rest as I am tired watching other people working. I think a couple of cold beers for Yaun and Lud this evening might go down well.
They are for sticky rice and while steamed rice is provided for meals everyone tends to bring their own sticky rice in these lidded baskets. You will see them on buses, motorbikes and just being carried around. I don’t know why as sticky rice is sticky rice. It’s not like bringing your own homemade wine.
15 Nov 2016 – Loi Krathong
Yesterday evening was the festival of Loi Krathong a time where small rafts are floated on whatever water is nearby and in Chiang Mai in particular paper lanterns are set adrift into the sky.
Last year we went to the larger celebration in the nearest town to us but this year because everything is so muted in respect to the king’s mourning period we decided just to stay local. That meant dropping into the wat that serves our village to release krathong on their small pond along with other villagers. This is the fourth Loi Krathong I have been to in Thailand and I have to say I prefer the very low key and family orientated feel to it.
16 Nov 2016 – Glorious November
Every time November rolls around it reminds me what a wonderful time of year it is to be in the north of Thailand. As always western holiday periods don’t necessarily match the best time of year to be here. In November the rains have stopped (some very late falls this year), the mornings are in the low 20’s heading to the low 30’s by afternoon. Zero humidity. Sunny days and the landscape is still green.
Come December/January with the rice harvested everyone moves into cutting sugar, which in previous years means a lot of burning off prior to harvest. The smoke from surrounding counties affects us as well so blue skies disappear until well into next year.
The rice harvest is underway everywhere in November, which adds interest if in rural Thailand. Don’t try to get a “tradesman” to do anything this month because like Aussie coastal tradies when the surf it up, Isaan people are all on their farms cutting rice and not available! I have a builder and an electrician booked for when they finish harvesting.
I have included a few photos of the new concrete paths in the garden partly to share the completion of that job, which happened the day before we went to Khon Kaen (for those who follow these posts) and partly to show today’s beautiful morning. It is great to be able to now walk around the garden without shoes, which is my preference these days. The hedges were cut back to allow for the concreting and will grow back to soften the edges. Another great job by Noy, the guy who did our driveway.
She made a face of me including a nose that is not exactly “tong pai”, which phonetically means “straight ahead” in Thai. It is a rather unkind reference to the facial outcome of a fight I had (I would prefer to tell you it was a football injury) many, many years ago! You didn’t know Thai wives could be so hurtful did you?
That blue pipe is a upgraded water supply for the village. If you imagine the number of houses that access this you will understand why the water pressure isn’t too useful. More flowers will be planted up to cover it. Tis area is being redeveloped because it is where the gravel and sand went for the paths. A sea of flowers before.
This is me taking a call from my brother in Australia yesterday evening while Isaan workers harvest rice on the farm. I still find it slightly amazing to be have access to the best of both modern (although some would dispute the “best” tag with mobile phones) and the traditional lifestyles. I believe that Thailand offers the ideal balance of old and new these days but that will mostly likely fade over time.
Thanks for reading.