In my last post HERE , A Day in Chiang Mai, I said that my next story would be about the following day on this trip, which we spent in Chiang Rai. However I must be getting more Thai because having sat down at the computer to write that post I have ended up doing something completely different. Hang on for Chiang Rai because it will be the next thing I do – maybe.
What prompted me to write this story, my latest in the long running series of Isaan – the small stories, was a photocopy of a page out of Gaun’s English book that I had made a couple of weeks ago and I may as well make it my first “small story”:
Colouring the days of the week
If you have visited Thailand I am sure you will have noticed the various colours used to theme the flags and Royal family posters that pop up everywhere you go in Thailand. The significance of this had passed me by until Gaun pointed it out and showed me the entry in her English study book. I then copied the page to remind me to share this with you and here we are!
And the Royal colour theme in action:
I don’t know what the rest of Thailand is like but in Isaan there is a heavy weighting of displays for the princess who is a very well regarded by the “ordinary” Thai people for her tireless work. Certainly if you ever have the chance to watch the daily TV updates on what the Royals are up to much of it relates to this princess who never seems to stop.
I like her because she was born in 1955, my birth year, and also because the rather shapeless clothes she tends to wear have been modified to hold the large book she carries everywhere and constantly writes in. It sort of makes her more human and less princess-like. Stylish she ain’t but she always seems to be very engaged with whatever she’s doing.
According to Wikipedia HERE the Thai constitution was altered in 1974 to allow for a female succession, which I didn’t know. I stay away from making any comment about Thai politics in the blog especially around the Royals, which is recommended for everyone even tourists when in the country, but it will be “interesting” to see what happens when the current much loved and respected King dies.
Back to theme – what has this to do with colours you ask! Well each day of the week has a colour in Thai tradition, as you can see from Gaun’s book. and this is applied to your day of birth. In the princess’s case she was born on a Saturday and therefore “her” colour is purple, which accounts for all the purple flags and banners you see wherever she is represented.
The current King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born on Monday so his representations are all yellow.
I don’t know if you find this sort of minutia interesting. I hope so. For me I can’t understand living in a new country and not keeping an open mind to understanding some of the more hidden aspects that make it what you see. Each little aspect like this help make me feel a little more connected to my new home and if nothing else boost my ego in sounding like a complete know-it-all when visitors stay with me 🙂
A really short one on an aspect of Thai language I picked up on our last trip to Chiang Mai. It is a word you can all use on your next trip here, and also sound like a know all like me, as it is most likely the first thing you’ll see in Thailand – an airport! The Thai word is snam bin and its literal translation is “field wings”.
I have written many times, mostly in this Isaan series, about the very sensible approach taken by the Thai language, which is to join descriptive words for something rather than make up a new one as in English. An airport is a large open area (field) where things with wings live (airplanes) therefore it’s a snam bin. This is along the lines of my favourite, and another one you can remember for use here – nam keng, which literally translates to water hard or “ice”! The good news is that if you remember the “field” or snam you also know the Thai words for golf course – snam golf and football field snam football. Love it!
Life in Thailand comes to a stop twice a month and the mobile phone traffic must double – it’s lottery time. The national lottery is drawn twice a month on the 1st and 16th and participation is almost a requirement for being Thai. The selling of lottery tickets makes up a fulltime occupation for many, many people. Everywhere you go you will come across the lottery sellers usually with a shallow wooden box lined with tickets. If you go to markets, as I am sure you will, you will often see disabled people in wheelchairs selling the tickets.
Two of the favourite places to see tickets being sold is either outside a bank, as in the photo above, or around a temple. Both sensible catchment areas in my opinion. You’ve just been to the bank, popped in to make a donation to the temple to gain merit and are both cashed up and on the good side of Buddha. What better time to invest in a lottery ticket!
Apart from these more formal sellers there is also a side industry and I have to say that I don’t really understand how this works. Gaun’s family buy numbers from a local seller, a husband and wife team, who go door to door with their regulars. Numbers are selected and money is handed over but I haven’t seen any tickets exchanging hands. It seems unlikely they would carry the risk themselves so maybe there is a bulk registration made. If I find out more I will report back.
Anyway the idea, like most lotteries, is all about selecting numbers. The outcome is a six number result and I believe you can pre-select anything from two to six numbers. You can also hedge your bet by changing the order of your selection, at a cost. Therefore 273 could also be a winner at 372 or 732. The more numbers you get right the larger the payout of course. I have seen some big money being gambled by Thai standards. Ming, my house builder, placed a 6,000 THB bet one month, which when unskilled workers are earning 300 THB a day is a lot (he didn’t win).
The largest win I know of was my Thai massage lady (nicknamed nit noy – which means a little bit and I am here to tell you that she has grown well out of that description since naming!) She won 70,000 THB or A$2,800 one time. Bad news for me because she closed shop for a month afterwards 🙂
The hidden part to all of this betting is the symbolism that surrounds the selection of numbers. Dreams is one of the big ones as you’d expect. You can buy books that will translate your dreams into lottery numbers. The funniest example of this was Gaun, my wife, who dreamt of two snakes having “boom boom” (sex) and passed this helpful information onto Yuan, her younger sister. Well, the book says that snakes are represented by the number 7 so two snakes would be 77 or because there are two of them maybe 277 or 772!!!!
Tickets were bought and Yuan, plus a couple of neighbours who picked up on the insight, won (the numbers 77 came in as part of the six). Yuan got the good news as we drove back from our trip to Udon Ratchathani to see the wonderful candle festival that you can read about HERE. 5,000 THB added to the family coffers.
As a special offer open only to readers of this blog looking for ways to select winning lottery numbers in your home country I can point you in the direction of a mango tree in the Thai province of Kamphaeng Phet. Especially lucky as it is shaped like a guy with a large penis the tree is also a sure thing in selecting lottery numbers.
Just between you and me OK? The story HERE.
A Monkey Surprise
I had just come out of my favourite massage shop in Nong Bua Lamphu all relaxed, which you can find in this post HERE, and was unlocking the car when Gaun shouted “monkey” and this is what was just behind me:
According to Gaun he was trying to bite me but that could be Thai caution around these rather temperamental animals. This one was chained by his neck and this was the limit of his reach so my life wasn’t in too much danger. I am sure he’d prefer to be climbing a tree somewhere so his maybe bad temper is justified.
This is the first “pet” monkey I have seen in Thailand although I have photographed them in the “wild” a couple of times. This is one of my favourite photos of Thailand:
What does the combination of cooler weather, rain and Isaan mean? Mushrooms and lots of them. The pursuit of mushrooms seems to take over life here when the season is right. The nights become alive with people out and about with small miner’s lights strapped to their heads in the countryside looking for mushrooms.
This occupation has a twofold benefit. Firstly the mushrooms are free, and that really appeals to thrifty Isaaners, plus certainly early in the season they fetch a good price in the local markets or on the many roadside stalls that spring up just for this purpose.
To me as a supermarket type of guy the range and colours of these mushrooms is very unusual. In Woolworths or Coles back in Australia the choice used to be white or white.
The mixed vegetable farm that Gaun’s younger sister and her husband run produce bundles of produce, which are sold to the people who sit in the local markets for 5 THB or A$0.20. They then on-sell them for 10 THB. To spend a couple of hours and make 1,100 THB was very exciting for the family. Once supplies increased the price dropped from 100 THB a tray to 20 THB so it is a once only windfall.
I wrote about the Isaan Cowboy Ranch HERE, but driving home the other day I came across the real thing just down the road.
These days happen once a month but this was the biggest I have yet seen for whatever reason. It was a reminder that we are living in the middle of a very rural area and that a lot of the local business revolves around farming in all its variations.
This is a sight that will be very familiar to rural Australian readers. The “utes” pulled up and lots of farmers with hats chatting and checking out the offerings.
Isaan is full of bugs many of which end up in someone’s dinner bowl (not Gaun thank goodness. She doesn’t do frogs or snakes either!). They range from the annoying flying ants, in fact ants in general and all sorts of caterpillars that attack everything from flowers, plants and even lotus leaves in the water. Scorpions are my greatest worry because they are around and care needs to be taken when moving things in the garden.
To balance up the nasties Gaun discovered this beautiful beetle in the garden, which at first I thought was someone’s broach.
I have to share one quick story of the garden because it is such a wonderful reflection on both Guan’s hard work and the Thai climate, which is so supportive of quickly establishing a new garden. I will update the garden progress in more detail separately for those of you following this aspect of our build later in the year.
These shrubs on the right will quickly grow to full height and give us even more privacy from the land next door, although it is unused, and protection from the morning sun.
One of the real pleasures of writing this blog has been the number of contacts I have made both here in Thailand and around the world. Many are “virtual only” and we might exchange an email from time to time. Others have made a visit to see us and I enjoy the chance to put faces to email addresses and to chat about our shared experiences of Thailand. Most have Thai partners and it gives Gaun the opportunity to meet new people, some of whom have turned into friends.
Anyone reading this blog, if for any reason you are in the area around Udon Thani, you are always most welcome to drop in for a meal and chat.
I will cover this topic in more detail separately under my Building my House series HERE, but I thought I would give you a taste of what is new on the building front.
Having lived in the house for five months now I can say that it is a wonderful, peaceful retreat from Isaan village life and the design has worked out really well. I always knew that there were some shortfalls when designing the house and others have become apparent since moving in. An addition to the overall accommodation available was always on the cards once the finances had settled down after the main build.
The aspects we are missing that I want to rectify are:
- The only choice of toilets for visitors are those in the two ensuite bedrooms. Not ideal even though one bedroom is mostly unused;
- There is a lack of storage for all the stuff that would normally go into a garden shed plus things like luggage and left over building materials. A lot of this is currently stored in the family home and some of it in a large wooden container used to ship some of my things from Australia sitting at the back of the carport;
- The current laundry is built Thai style, that is under the eves at the back of the house. I bought a good quality washing machine and it would be better to have a more western traditional internal laundry;
- At some point there may be a need to have an extra bedroom available as the house only has two. I think this is unlikely but if we are extending then I wanted to have this as an option;
- The carport is open and Gaun’s motorbike can get wet during heavy storms;
- The outside living area at the front of the house has ended up being the place we spend most of our time. At 6 x 7 mtrs it is a good size but it feels a little cluttered with the large chairs we have there;
- The Easterly morning sun floods this living area in the morning and makes it very hot. A larger roof overhang would solve this problem; and
- My stepdaughter Peng, who has a three wheel motorbike because of some mobility issues, can’t get it safely up the gravel driveway. I want to concrete it both for her and also I always was going to do it when the time was right.
For points 1 – 5 above the cheapest solution is to enclose a 5 x 4 meter section of the carport and extend the car cover four meters to maintain its current 6 meters.
The rear area in the plan above is 5 meters wide and 4 deep. The car coverage will be made from 2 meters of the existing carport and an additional 4 meters to be added. The extension is split into two separate areas. The open space on the right will be storage and also a place to put my gym equipment. It is this area that could be converted into a bedroom if required. This is accessed by a door in the right hand wall, which leads to the front door of the house. A 2 mtr sliding glass door (not DeKu for regular readers) will give a wider opening to store pushbikes etc inside and provide light if being used as a living area.
The space on the left is made up of a toilet at the back, a potential shower (it will have the floor waste done now but nothing else) and a laundry at the front. This area is accessed either via a door facing into the carport, which gives separate access to the laundry/bathroom space if the area on the right is being used as a bedroom or from the storage/bedroom area.
The wall on the left side will be extended 2 mtrs beyond the end of the laundry to give protection to the motorbike.
Points 6 and 7 will be solved by extending the roofline.
This will give us a much more useable living area undercover and also a lot more shade from the morning sun. Three spotlights will be installed in the garden to light the coconut and mango trees at night.
If funds allow a full length pergola will be added to the front of the house to allow Gaun to cover it with flowering climbers and provide shade to the large front windows, which also catch the early morning sun.
The four person “A Team” (refer to Building my House) are doing the work of course. Labour costs for the entire thing, which is expected to take 16 days is set at 37,500 THB or around A$1,500. This includes the carport structure with all electrical, plumbing etc, the outside living area extension with the under eves matching the current house, concreting the driveway and garden lighting. All up I expect to bring it in at around 150,000 THB or A$6,000.
I may be living a small life here in rural Isaan but there always seems to be enough to fill out these posts. I hope you have enjoyed reading about things that have absolutely NO impact on world affairs. How restful.
A Chiang Rai post tomorrow hopefully so keep an eye on the blog for that. A busy and very enjoyable time was had by all.
Thanks for reading.