Isan Village Living

Edition 22

 

This is the third of my way overdue catch-up series with some stories from last year extracted from my Facebook page. I have not included stories that were only relevant at the time they were written but you may find some items here where updated posts have been made in the meantime, but I don’t think that’s a problem. Enjoy.

Building in Thailand eBook

When my wife and I bought some land in Isaan, which is a region in the north east of Thailand, and then started to build our house I wanted to record the daily events of construction life. For twenty six weeks I wrote a weekly blog update about all the aspects of the build and included as much detail as possible for others who might be thinking of going down the same path. I was surprised by the number of readers I attracted as a result of writing on this subject, many of whom followed the entire build from beginning to end. 

Based on this continued interest I thought I would revisit my original words and bring them all together under the one heading in the form of an eBook. Included in this process has been some extensive updating and expansion of many of the original posts and the addition of the many comments, which are designed to expand your knowledge and save you time or money or both!

Read more HERE and find out how to obtain the eBook.

I am loving your book – just on my second read at the moment, to make sure that I didn’t miss anything first time around (which actually it turns out I did!).  

Just a note of thanks at this point ……. I am a fairly methodical sort of bloke, but there are many issues which your book highlights which I just wouldn’t have thought about – or if I had, I may well have assumed they were “standard” building practice [U-bends, drain positioning, barge-board alignment] – if it hadn’t been for your excellent descriptions!!  I will probably still “miss” something – that’s the nature of building/design – but thanks to you, it shouldn’t be anything too mission-critical.

The income from my eBook pays for the upkeep of this blog, which is otherwise commercially free unlike so many others.

Introduction – Skip if you are a regular reader

You will find many expats writing blogs about life in the coastal centres and places like Chiang Mai, which for the many westerners with connection via their Thai partner to Esan is not very helpful. There are some excellent Facebook resources as well as blogs I am sure that focus on Esan life in the bigger centres and focus more on answering questions and exchanging tops and tricks, but not so many writing as regularly as I do on what village life actually looks like from the inside.

None of my stories are spectacular and will never be found in the search results of tourists looking for adventure. However, most of the readers who follow this blog, and there are some who have become “virtual ” friends over the years, are people who have a much more committed and personal connection to Thailand and have moved well beyond elephant riding, zip-lining and bar hopping. For them, these little insights help maintain that connection to village life if they are living elsewhere, and for those who are newer to the scene maybe help with understanding what a life in rural Thailand might look like if that ever happens for them.

This edition covers a period in early September 2108. These stories are extracted from my Facebook page HERE, which I use as a mini-blog to give me an everyday outlet for my enjoyment of words, photography and of course the wonderful lifestyle I am privileged to enjoy. They are very day by day accounts as a result. I am making these posts shorter than previous editions keeping the photos to around 50 -60. I hope you enjoy them.

TIPS & TRICKS. More insights into the everyday that make you a Thai expert from the comfort of your living room

TIP 1: One of the things that will surprise you when purchasing long things 😁 like hose pipe and rope from your village hardware shop is that it is sold based on weight not length.

This is a weird double handling because when was the last time you went and ordered 10 kilos of garden hose? I order by length, they measure it out and then weigh it to come up with the price! This makes a decision based on cost difficult because you unless you know how much what you want weighs you also don’t know how much it will cost you.

In the photo is some natural rope I wanted for the timber crosspiece I told you about in a recent post. The cost for this rope is 150 baht a kilo and I wanted 3 metres, which is what I ordered. I only found out the price when they told me after weighing it! I can now share that 3 meters = 1 kilo = 150 baht 🙂 You heard it here first.

TIP 2: You might also find that some clothes are sold with larger sizes costing more! A small shirt will be 180 baht while a large or XL will be 200 baht or more.

Remember that sizes in Thailand for clothes might have little reference to what you buy back home. I buy underwear (we are getting quite personal here!) that are so large they multiply the XL sizing to XL-X5, which translates to a 36 in Australia. I used to buy medium sized shirts back ‘home’ but here either a large or XL works for me and despite a totally lazy lifestyle I am still 76 kilos as I was before.

You will find that it is usually impossible to try on clothes here. Changing rooms are a mystery and even if you are allowed to try clothes you have to put them on over your existing shirt etc. Luck of the draw sometimes.

I have taken this rope apart because it was too thick for what I needs. My 3 metres has ended up giving me 12 metres of thinner rope plus the core string that is at the centre. A great smell from natural rope unlike the characterless plastic alternative.

Here you can see the rope used to secure the crosspiece to the uprights. Also for the buffalo bell, which I ring to let Gaun know morning coffee is ready. The garden is a maze and short Isaan ladies often disappear into it. We are still looking for a couple of them.

Some mixed photos. It has been several weeks since we have been out to the farm for our normally regular morning coffee. The family have been based at home looking after Gaun’s mama (for non-regulars Gaun’s mama had a mild stroke and the family have been watching her 24/7 ever since) and farming has taken second place.

Today things returned more to normal and Gaun was straight into cleaning up her third garden after a period of neglect. Bougainvillea being trimmed here. Sister-in-law number 3 has been brought onboard for the day to help out because Gaun was slightly overwhelmed with what was needed to bring things back to her level of neatness.

This field will be planted up with cool season crops like broccoli and cauliflower.

The rice is starting to hide the farmhouse. A very scenic time to be in Isaan.

An almost total lack of decent rain means the farm pond doesn’t have much more water from when I last saw it two weeks ago. Very sad. My floating sala (hut) will remain on dry land until next year I suspect.

The platform on the right is where my boat is supposed to be tied up! This is a big puddle not a pond and we are coming to the end of the ‘wet’ season.

I said to Gaun recently that we have very few photos of us together. She had got dressed up to see the monk yesterday that I wrote about and I was my normal snappy self so I dug out the tripod and these are the results.

Gaun is such a large character that I never realise how petite she is until I see a photo like this one.

We were in the 20 baht shop yesterday and now our garden chickens are happy. Eggs for no effort. Also some weird glass orbs that Gaun took a fancy to. Those must have the chickens worried.

A beautiful butterfly at work.

Having written earlier today that if you wait long enough everything passes your front gate, this afternoon was another example. I was riding back from the farm and came up behind this truck loaded with large water pots on its way to deliver them to a moo ban (village) close to us.

We stopped them to get details. For locals these pots are made the other side of Nong Bua Lamphu on the 210 heading to Loei. 700 baht each and I presume delivery extra. I have a contact number if you want it. A couple of lilies at 50 baht each and a few small fish and these would make a nice feature.

I went out to the farm to collect Gaun this afternoon and it was all go. She and Pit, a sister-in-law, had been working all day preparing new flower beds and cleaning up, Lud was ploughing new fields getting ready for cool season crops, Game his son was cutting grass and Yuan had created new seed beds, which will be planted with cauliflower and broccoli. I was working in our home garden in case you were thinking I was taking it easy somewhere.

Gaun and Pit’s hats!

This was a weed bed this morning but has now been cleared and new flowers planted.

Game, Yuan and Lud’s son, on grass cutting duty.

Yuan’s new seed beds. The broccoli and cauliflower will be replanted once they have sprouted and reached a decent size.

Lud ploughing. Gaun has trimmed the hedges and bougainvillea shrubs that line the driveway to the farm. These will be a wall of colour in two months.

We headed to the Si Bun Ruang Friday markets this evening and I picked up half a kilo of fresh mushrooms from this yai (grandmother) at 70 baht ($2.80) a kilo Gary Emms. Nice looking mushrooms, which will be used to make an classic Isaan dish – a creamy chicken, mushroom and garlic casserole 🙂

This is a Bronzeback tree snake and harmless, unless you happen to be reborn as a frog! I also spotted a green tree snake just now, which are also harmless. I have never seen two snakes in the same day. Despite the amount of greenery we don’t get/see that many

The second snake. I didn’t get the focus right otherwise it would have been a good photo. The snake took off quickly after this one shot. Don’t they blend in well.

A busy day at the farm yesterday. Mama was driven out there for the first time, which then allowed everyone who would normally be based at home looking after her to return to farming work. Gaun and sister-in-law spent the day cleaning up the gardens while Yuan, Lud and their son Game focussed on the crops. Peng looked after mama.

Mama settled in for the day.

Lud at work turning over the soil and what beautiful soil it is. I am no farmer but doesn’t this look ideal. The family’s second farmhouse, home for Bear and Tham, is the one with a rusting roof. The other house is Pit’s home built by her husband, Gaun’s elder brother Jun.

What a rich colour.

Gaun and Pit had pruned all the bougainvillea and hedges that line the driveway. Next week I will get some gravel delivered to refresh the road and the areas around the farmhouse. This is a uniquely neat Isan farm.

This was the driveway two years ago as when Gaun first started on her third garden. New gravel just down.

Yes, I do occasionally do a bit of hands on work.

And at the end of that new gravel day a couple of years ago, this is Isan’s best gardener taking a balanced approach to life.

A reasonably new road has been built running past the farm and soil has washed down at the entrance. New gravel will make this look smart again. You can set how neat all the borders are after two days’ work by Gaun and Pit.

They spent a lot of yesterday completely weeding the roadside. Gaun has 100 metres of flowers that runs the length of Yuan’s half of the farm disappearing around that corner. All cuttings. They will flower in the upcoming cool season.

This flower bed has been completely replanted and will become a sea of colour.

The farm at sunset.

Peng on mama duty.

Pit, her granddaughter May and mama.

May had picked some flowers for her mother who is away working in Chonburi with her husband.

Pit with jackfruit heading home, which is just down the road from this farmhouse.

My boat is looking more landlocked every day. Gaun has planted flowers in front of it from seeds. I believe the plan is to wait until the end of the ‘wet’ season and then fill the pond from the bore/well. Isan Grace, my floating sala, may get back on water this year after all.

Storm-clouds in the distance. No rain for us of course.

Mama on her way home.

More clouds that were worth a photo over a village pond on the way home.

All show and no go. Rain somewhere but luck of the draw.

I have been wanting to photograph this house for some time and was able to remind myself this in the morning. I just like the ad hoc look of it and the varied colours. Very Isan rural village house. Originally built high to allow buffalo to live underneath. The new-age buffalo on the left!

Today activity has moved to our place. Pit, Gaun’s sister-in-law, who is a painter by trade has swapped working on Gaun’s farm garden to doing some actual painting. We had a shed and undercover clothes drying area built earlier this year and painting them has been on my to-do list ever since. You know me well enough by now to know that when I say ‘to-do’ that doesn’t necessarily mean ME doing it. Pit is in-between jobs and needs the work so it’s win-win.

The garden shed and drying area is situated behind the rice hut.

A nice entranceway to the shed. Rice hut on the right.

A blank canvas. Once painted I am going to build a workbench on the right and lots of shelves to store all my man-stuff (junk).

Even in six months I have managed to fill the shed. Time for a clear-out before it goes back in.

Pit in action. This is the clothes drying area, when it’s not full of junk!

Mama has been moved here for the day as Yuan and Lud are at the farm and we are based here. Duk Dik has followed his mistress to keep an eye on things.

Gaun has just been in to tell me mama has disappeared from here and she found her wandering the garden! It is the first time she has taken off under her own steam since the stroke so wonderful news.

 

Thanks for reading.

Tony

2 Comments

  1. Jim Busby

    Gaun knows that hard work is followed by good libations. My philosophy too! You’ve had May in a number of your photos, and she is adorable in all of them. You are complaining about six months plus of accumulated junk. I am trying to get ready to sell my house of nineteen years and get rid of a lot more junk than that! Duk Dik’s got things covered I see.

    Cheers,

    Jim

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      I haven’t seen May in a while. She tends not to come to the farm even though it is only a short walk (Thais don’t walk on the whole – Gaun takes the motorbike to mama’s house, which is only 50 metres away). May is the daughter of a niece called Tear and her dad Jun, Gaun’s older brother (number 3 on the list of old to young) can be a difficult character. She and her husband packed up one day without telling parents and headed to Chon Buri, where they both have jobs. May was left behind in that very common expectation that grandparents pick up on the childminding if needed. May seems to take it all in her stride because it is such an accepted way of things in the village. There are so many kids being raised separate from their parents, mostly due to work commitments. Of all the nieces and sisters, Tear is closest to Gaun in character in that she is less constrained by her upbringing. Good fun at a party.

      I can totally relate to the vast chore of sorting through accumulated stuff. Keep a good supply of Three Weavers on hand.

      Reply

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