Another mini-post to help keep you up to date with my life in Isaan.
One of the concerns I had about retiring to a small rural village in the northeast of Thailand 600 km plus away from the more farang orientated places like Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and Bangkok, was how would I fill my days. Visiting out of the way places like where I live might be interesting as a change in scenery for a few days on holiday but for a lifetime?????? Sometimes even a brief spell in Isaan can be too much for some. I came across this post on Facebook, and I felt for the guy being so totally out of his comfort zone:
Isaan Staying at a farm near Nakhon Phanom for an annual holiday. The wife can handle it as she lived here most of her life. 3 nights so far with 9 more nights to go. Critters found inside the home. Bugs Serious looking stinging insects flying Frogs Some large black spiders A scorpion Plenty of mosquitos Lizards with an attitude I will not be calling this a 5-star holiday. 6 cows outside my bedroom window shitting all day and night smells great. Tonight, I will be sleeping with one eye open. Just on dark tonight I wanted to go out on the road out front of the home and push my son in his stroller to sleep. Wife stops me and says don’t go past the front gate. I said it’s ok on the road. It’s not dangerous (2 cars pass a day) She says…..my father said it’s no good on the road at night as there are ghosts passing by on the road. Faark aye. 9 more days of this. Then go back to work. First and last time staying at her family home.
Almost everything he talks about it totally true if you find yourself in a traditional Isaan family/house situation and it is why I was so definite about building a home of my own to western standards giving me an oasis and refuge from what is often regarded as normal here.
The following small events are an example of why I find most days have enough to keep the interest levels engaged and boredom isn’t part of my everyday.
3 Aug 2018 – Buffalo Plough
I have had my eye on a wooden buffalo plough that has been sitting outside the rice hut next door for a while now. The owners are not in residence so we haven’t been able to ask if it was for sale. Today as we headed to the farm for coffee a truck was parked there and as a result I am very happy to add another little piece of Isaan farming history to my collection. At 200 baht or $8.00 I think it was a bargain!
There were more farming implements stored out the back at one time but they have since been burnt As is quite often the case, it’s the foreigners who have more an interest in their adopted country’s history than the locals. I am on the hunt, or more to the point one of my brother-in-laws is, for a wooden fishing boat to add to my collection. I will report on that story as it develops.
3 Aug 2018 – An unusual Street Party
I love the spontaneous festivals that kick off at any time for any reason. This one was advertised as part of the 5:30 am village loudspeaker announcements. I was asleep (there are some aspects of a rural life I am not participating in) but Gaun was up cooking breakfast for Peng and told me over coffee post-8:00 am
Money was being raised for the local hospital and as part of that effort there would be a Si Bun Ruang street party in the afternoon with a Lum band, my favourite. Lum is a percussion group with a single guitar and heaps of drums. It doesn’t sound too impressive on a video but in real life I guarantee it gets your feet tapping.
We took over the main street shop of friends of ours even though they were driving to Udon Thani! A couple of beers from the shop next door and we were ready to be entertained.
5 Aug 2018 – Lighting the New Garden
Two days of installing new garden lighting paid dividends tonight with everything coming alive once the switch was flicked. Evenings are some of the nicest times to be outside especially in the hotter seasons and this improvement makes that experience all the more enjoyable.
7 Aug 2018 – A farm Update, for you virtual Isaan farmers out there.
In the background above is sugar, which gives a cash return early 2019. Yuan and Lud have been saving to complete their house in the family compound. If this year gives a decent return they will be in a position to finish it. No bank loans for this family. Note how tidy even the rice paddies are. Lud cuts the levy banks to give easy access and to minimise the spread of weeds into the rice. This is Isaan farming at its best. The family land goes to the trees in the very far background behind the tall ones.
Yuan and Lud spend literally days hand weeding those seed beds and here Gaun is clearing around the very sad pond so she can plant new Dok Khun (Golden Shower) trees. We need another two metres to come anywhere close to filling the pond and at the current rate of rainfall that won’t happen this year. There is a thought to refloat my floating sala (hut) whatever but we will see how that works out.
These are essential pieces of equipment in Isaan. Fully exposed steel blades that I am sure would never be approved in western countries but like many things here you are expected to behave like an adult, rather than have government hold your hand.
8 Aug 2018 – Flower Garlands
It’s the Thai Queen’s birthday on the 12th and a whole new industry springs up for a few days – making the flower garlands you see everywhere in Thailand, usually being sold for 20 baht at traffic lights. Because of the demand for these flowers for birthday celebrations people who don’t usually make garlands now do and they become both more elaborate and expensive.
Out at the farm this morning we delivered a bucket load of flowers from our garden to Yaun, who is never slow to make money if she can see an opportunity, and called in to see a neighbour Nit Noy, who is an expert and produces some of the best examples I have seen. I also took a few photos of the flowers that represent some of Gaun’s farm garden, to again illustrate the delightful blend of crops and colours I mentioned in yesterday’s post. Our regular water delivery completes today’s contribution to everyday life in Isaan.
A regular replacement at 1,200 baht ($50.00) resulted me in swapping to just having water delivered at 12 baht a 20 litre container. These guys get their water from a first rate place in Nong Bua Lamphu. They phone us every three weeks, turn up at the gate, take away empty containers and replace with new ones. At about $2.50 every few weeks for all our drinking water it’s not too much of a strain on the budget.
9 Aug 2018 – A Mix of Stories
A few small happenings that might be of interest to those people who follow these almost daily updates. A mix of topics as always seems to be the case. Flowers, floating sala (hut), cooking, a snake visitor and the jackfruit girl.
As the structure was sitting on the ground I thought we could slightly raise the area I wanted to work on so I could wriggle under it. Gaun decided that this wasn’t acceptable for someone of my very advanced age and organised family and neighbours to come over and raise the whole thing up so that I could work in comfort. Totally unknown to me as I expected to give a hand I arrived out to the farm yesterday to find my boat like this
So not only did I get the boat raised but I was also invited to have lunch paid for by my in-laws. I wanted to reimburse but it wasn’t accepted. The generosity and thoughtfulness of this family is a wonder even after five years of knowing them. There are three other helpers not in this photo.
We get a few snakes passing through but this was the closest one has got to the house. There are lots of frogs around in the wet season and the snakes are hunting. As always for me it confirms what a sensible decision it is to have insect screens on all entry points to a house. If this door was unscreened, as you often see in Thai houses and some farang ones, then that snake might well have got inside. I am not too concerned with them in the garden but not in my lounge room!
All good as long as they are screened, which they mostly aren’t. It isn’t just the snakes. There’s a list of creatures big and small happy to join you inside including scorpions, mosquitoes, geckos, lizards, frogs, flying insects and those huge centipedes that are around especially this time of year.
I come from Australia, which also has a range of creatures you want to remain outside, including a range of the most deadly snakes and spiders in the world, but insect screens on doors and windows are standard. I don’t think you can buy them without screens. Why not here?
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