Wow. Who would have thought that I would discover enough new material to keep this series going for its 30th edition. Well I have and here it is 🙂 If you are new to these posts they are extracted from the entries I write almost daily on Facebook, which is why they are in chronological order. Many people are sensible and don’t use Facebook for whatever reason, which is why I duplicate the entries here. Enjoy my February in Isaan.
7 Feb 2017 – Fun Buses
I was going through some photos when I came across this one of a bus parked outside a temple in the city of Nan, in the far north of Thailand. I have still to write about our time in Nan itself but you can read about our backroad trip to get there HERE and HERE.
I just love the artwork that many of these VIP buses are decorated with. I compared this example to one from the main bus-line in Canberra and maybe it makes a statement about the different approaches to life between Thailand and bureaucratic Australia – or is that just me?
If you do try a VIP bus you’ll find seats that recline, have individual TV screens with movies and games AND they massage you! The third photo is from 2013 so the quality isn’t great but it’s good enough to show the speaker system built into the front of this bus. Illegal I am sure back “home”.
7 Feb 2017 – A Few Old Photos
Following on from a theme in previous Small Stories these are a few “old” photos. These were taken very early after I arrived in Thailand in 2013 before I decided to retire here. I rented a place in Chiang Rai for three months and this was my first encounter with a tea plantation. Previous to this tea was what one bought at the supermarket. A stunning area.
7 Feb 2017 – More Cane Harvesting
I posted a few photos about the start of the cane harvest in our little bit of the world in the last Small Stories. The farm next to Yuan and Lud’s, owed by a relative called Apple, was burnt and cleared just after I took those photos and this evening the crop was being loaded up to be transported to the local collection point.
There are four prices for cane. On farm where the contractor arranges harvest, on farm post-harvest where the farmer organises cutting, at the local collection points delivered (you see these all over Isaan just off the side of the road sometimes with the delivered cane price paid on a sign) and at the sugar processing plant. Small quantities can’t be taken there – only the big trucks.
10 Feb 2017 – Rice at Sunset
Driving back from Khon Kaen this week, a city to the south of us, I took this photo of the sunset on new rice paddies. It is unusual in this area to see a second crop of rice being planted because of the lack of water. There’s a small river that runs through this village so maybe they are using that to maintain this crop. Nice to see the fresh green in a landscape that is very brown and dry this time of year.
13 Feb 2017 – A Few Scenic Photos
A few recently edited photos taken at the very picturesque Lake Ratana. This is a large man made lake sitting between Udon Thani and Khon Kaen in the north east of Thailand. You can’t miss it on the maps of Isaan.
14 Feb 2017 – Happy Anniversary
Today is a double celebration for us being both Valentine’s Day and the anniversary of our wedding in Isaan three years ago. The wonderful day was shared with family and the best of friends and marked the formal beginning of the happiest period of my life.
15 Feb 2017 – Orchids
I have been on the lookout for some different coloured orchids to add variety to the “standard” purple and whites we have been buying up to now that you see everywhere in the garden centres and markets here.
Today was my lucky day when we called into a nursery close to Khon Kaen, a city two hours drive south of us, and found these two beautiful examples which are now hanging from the pergola outside the lounge room at home. At 200 baht each they are expensive by Thai standards but when you convert that to A$8.00 it doesn’t look like too much of an extravagance does it?
For anyone Khon Kaen way make sure you check out the huge street market festival starting on the 17th at the main provincial government centre off highway 2.
16 Feb 2017 – A Mix of Happenings…..
………..each with their own little story. Yet another illustration of the variety of topics you can spot here if you keep your eyes open and camera handy.
A new washing up area has been constructed comprising of two large basins and a drying area to replace tubs on the ground. That’s Yuan dressed up in bank robber gear. Isaan people are very good at covering up if working outside. Far better than us. The guy doing the work did all the tiling at our house when we built. Highly recommended if you want to fly him over.
The area that was so heavily planted up for New Year is now lying fallow. Lettuce, coriander, Chinese celery and chillies are the main crops so far. Everything is burnt in Isaan. Such a brown contrast to the vivid green rice crops when they were newly planted.
Thais prefer the small ones because they are usually just a squeeze of flavour in their dishes. Mine were for pancakes, lime juice and sugar – not a big item on the Isaan breakfast menu. 3 kilos for 50 baht (A$2.00)
There are actually three levels of wai depending on the social level of the person on the receiving end. This is a middle level one. Teaches supervise the exit and manage the road crossing while real live police direct traffic at many local schools. Not something you’ll ever see police doing in Australia I am guessing.
A perfectly normal sight here. A few more kids inside of course. Like the photos of five people on a motorbike this is all good tourist fun. The number of road casualties, which is super high in Thailand, shows that this relaxed attitude to bulk people transport can have a high price.
18 Feb 2017 – Udon Once a Year Markets
We called into the huge markets that are happening in Udon Thani this week and came across the Fabric Expo in a separate pavilion within the main market area. It was a delight to spend some time wandering through not only because it was air conditioned but to enjoy the vast range of fabrics on display.
If you are living or visiting the area then the markets are happening for the next couple of weeks to the right of the main lake in Udon. They are normally connected to Chinese New Year but the death of the king postponed their arrival until now. They are a larger version of the local markets but generally with better presentation and goods and a LOT larger. Lots of food of course. Well worth dropping in. There are less crowds during a non-weekend but packed in the evenings.
I haven’t included lots of market photos because this is a subject I have done before.
20 Feb 2017 – Aussie Garlic
It may not look much but this Yuan and Gaun checking out the garlic a friend brought me from Australia. After a slow start it is now sprouting with 30 bulbs out of the ground as of this morning. We go to the farm most mornings and part of the ritual is counting the number of Aussie garlic shoots. It’s a small life as you can tell.
I have been in contact with the growers in Australia and they are delighted to hear they have now gone international. I am hoping the end result will have more taste than the Thai version, which I find to be pretty bland. Time will tell.
21 Feb 2017 – Fishing Isaan Style
We took some drinks out to the farm this evening and tested the new fishing rods constructed by Yuan and Lud for the first catches from the pond. The fiber carbon rods (bamboo) with a small float (really a float) stood up to the heavy demands of the wild perch fish and raging waters. No fish were harmed (much) in these photos and all were let go.
As you can see from the fish, which is out of focus in front of Gaun’s leg, it was being a bit ambitious in grabbing the bait, which at this stage had changed to a fish pellet. Good fun followed by cold beer on the boat at sunset.
23 Feb 2017 – Gaun’s Driving
Gaun has started to learn to drive so if the blog becomes inactive you will know why! Day four of Gaun’s driving lessons and we had enough going up and down the dirt roads so we hit the sealed backroads and headed off to see Noy, the eldest of Gaun’s sisters, at her moo ban (village) about 30 minutes away. As always I was able to capture a few photos that will give you some insights into Isaan life.
Small loads are brought in like the farmer in the previous photo. The sugar is weighed and then loaded up on these larger trucks, which will deliver to the factory. Sugar delivered here gets 200 baht more per ton than the price at the farm.
If you are in rural Isaan this time of year you will see people wandering around with long bamboo poles with a basket on the end. The ant nests are built high in trees.
24 Feb 2017 – More Orchids
Today was orchid day in the garden. Gaun found an old piece of hardwood at the farm and has since moved it here and attached orchids to it creating an interesting mini-display. These small orchids sell for A$1.40. We were lucky to pick up a yellow one the other day in Nong Bua Lamphu (thanks Mike) plus a couple of others whose colours won’t be known until later when they flower.
These are a few photo nerd photos added just because I could.
27 Feb 2017 – The Wooden Houses of Si Bun Ruang
Most of the houses around Si Bun Ruang are either the old simple wooden affairs often built on columns a reflection of the days when the buffalo slept underneath, shack-like structures or various pretty ugly modern concrete places built for function rather than looks.
However there are a few of these classical Thai lanna type wooden houses being built, which is a refreshing change. Timber is very expensive here, especially the hardwood, so these represent a substantial investment. It is great to see that there are still some people around who can work timber in a land where concrete and steel are the favourite methods of building.
28 Feb 2017 – My In-laws
Thai in-laws often get a bad rap on blogs and forums and for those of you who follow my Facebook entries you’ll know that I do my best to provide a balancing point of view.
Thai in-laws are as much a hit and miss lottery as any other nationality I suspect. It just is that Thais tend to have a closer connection and sense of obligation to family than we have in the west so they sometimes intrude into your new life here more than might be the case elsewhere. Big generalisations I know.
The trouble is that as with all news you tend only to hear the bad and less often the good, which if you solely rely on the internet for your pre-conceptions, makes you approach the subject of Thai in-laws with some trepidation.
I thought I would add this positive story to the plus side of the in-law ledger. Each year we take Yuan and Lud somewhere on a “formal” holiday because otherwise they end up working seven days a week without a break. Last year we flew to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai for a few days and next week we are off to Phuket. Neither Yuan nor Lud have seen the sea before, which combined with lots of farang behaving badly will ensure an entertaining time and lots of photo opportunities.
There’s not much money in the family and because this is my idea I pay for everything and am happy to do so. Yesterday came as a surprise then when Yuan and Lud arrived at our place and brought out 10,000 baht (A$400.00) to put towards the cost of the trip and wouldn’t accept ‘no’ as an answer.
The farm sugar crop money had just come in and they wanted to make a contribution to their holiday! Now I know how much they received from the sugar and this represents a decent chunk of that. I was very touched at their generosity and decided to share because this sort of moment can be just as much the experience of being around a Thai family as all the negative, money grabbing stories you read about.
On that positive note I will end the 30th edition of Isaan the Small Stories and keep an eye out for the next one, which will be published soon.
Thanks for reading.