We are heading back into the archives with this update to the Living in Isaan series based on stories published in late March. Here I cover dancing girls, temples, my stepdaughter’s 18th birthday, an update on the farm in March as well as our developing tropical garden. Lots to enjoy so jump into Isaan life.
Introduction – Skip if you are a regular reader
I have got SO behind in these posts I call “Living in Isaan”, which are a series of small stories I have recorded that make up my everyday life in a small rural village in the northeast of Thailand, a region called Isaan/Isan/Esan. It has been a busy year establishing a new tropical garden, writing a book and filling in time with far more than I ever thought would happen day to day as a result of retiring to “boring” Isaan. I am on a mission to catch up so although the timeline is a bit out of date the material is still relevant sharing what life looks like here. I will now give you my standard introduction for these posts, so skip if you are a regular and head straight to the stories:
You will find many expats writing blogs about life in the coastal centres and places like Chiang Mai but fewer make the effort to record what living in the northeast (Isaan) out this way looks like.
None of my stories is 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.
I used to call these updates of life in Thailand “Isaan – the Small Stories”. I felt it was time for a change in name although the scope of content is the same. This edition covers late March 2018 and early April. These stories are extracted from my Facebook page, 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 hope you enjoy them.
28 March 2018 – On the Road Again
A half-day on the road locally can bring its own rewards if you keep your eyes open and explore, which is what we did today. A mix of photos from Thai dancing girls to temples and more. I know there are a lot of photos but I do make sure there are stories to each one so it isn’t just a lazy post of multiple shots of the same thing.
They bloom around Thai New Year (April). Yellow is the birth-day colour of the king, past and present so very appropriate. We have planted a dozen of these trees in our new garden so in three years we should be getting displays like this.
As one band finishes another starts. The idea is that the spirits will be so pleased with the entertainment provided that they will bring you good luck. A set-up like this will cost you around 20,000 baht or $800.00 so it’s a real commitment. Do you see the boy sleeping? If you have ever heard an Isaan music group they register on the Richter scale so it is quite an achievement to nod off during a performance.
The Buddhist construction economy is vast and funded by endless donations of money from people who want to easily gain “merit” points. The money has to be spent so popular temples such as this are a constant building site. I am not sure this is what Buddha intended but it’s not my problem and I enjoy the outcome.
This naga or mythical serpent is being built on both sides of the road leading to a large Buddha statue on the hill. It would be at least a kilometre from top to bottom so quite a feat. A new dual lane road is also being constructed as well as a whole range of buildings and pedestrian bridges off the main highway at the bottom.
29 March 2018 – Peng’s Birthday
It is my stepdaughter Peng’s 18th birthday today so we were up early to feed the monks. It’s not something I do often but always get a buzz when I do. It is such a lovely Thai ceremony and one I hope will last as the society here becomes less traditional.
There are two groups of monks. One from the local village wat and one from the forest wat that is located just past the farm so both have to be catered for. As always the early light (not something I see too often) and the orange robes of the monks make for some vivid memories. A birthday party is planned for later so there may be more photos then. Happy Birthday, Peng.
29 March 2018 – Peng’s Party
A good turnout for Peng’s birthday lunch. A fun time is being had by all, which is exactly as it should be. Thais have a natural way of looking like they’re enjoying themselves. They never seem to lose that slightly childlike enthusiasm for life and it shows in these photos.
30 March 2018 – Lud Nearly Shot
I try to share actual insights into life in Thailand rather than just posting photos more aimed at family and friends (nothing wrong with that so I am not having a go). This story is a fascinating look at how a situation is treated completely differently in our society and here. You judge which produces the best outcome.
Two days ago Lud was walking across the farm and was nearly hit by a bullet fired by someone on the road shooting birds. It was a very close miss evidently. When Yuan arrived back Lud was just sitting at the farmhouse and wouldn’t talk. The story came out later but that night Lud didn’t sleep and yesterday was unable to have a conversation with anyone.
Now Lud is the most outgoing and friendly guy you can imagine. Yuan is always having a loving (and sometimes not so loving) go at him when she sends him off to do something and he arrives back ages later because he’s been chatting So to have a silent Lud is a world first and it had the whole family very worried.
In our language, we’d put this down to the after-effects of shock and if it continued we’d seek medical treatment in some form. This incident may not seem super stressful to some but Lud is such a gentle, kind-hearted man that it must have really shaken him to his core.
The Isaan interpretation of what was happening is that Lud’s spirit had taken fright and left his body, leaving him without his “soul”. The solution was a ceremony held at the farm last night conducted by a villager who can do this sort of thing to find his spirit and re-connect Lud to it.
The spirit was located under a huge tamarind tree on Gaun’s land at the farm and it and Lud were reunited. Today Lud is still a bit quiet but is talking again (we haven’t seen him yet to check on progress).
I know this all seems very primitive but if you look at it logically I think it makes perfect sense and the solution might be a whole lot for effective than our medically based answers. You know yourself that if you have a bad shock it can feel there is part of you that has shut down. That’s like your “spirit” running away and leaving “you” without a central part of your normal personality. If you believed that, then a process to re-attach the spirit would be entirely reasonable to make you whole again.
My contribution also fits the local culture in that I am going to offer to take the family out for an Isaan buffet tonight. There’s nothing like a big dose of food and a few beers to cheer up an Isaan man.
I think Lud’s personality shines through these photos:
P.S. Lud took a while to get back to normal but got there in the end. The return of a happy smiling Lud was a great relief.
31 March 2018 – A Tropical Garden Update
A good friend sent me some photos of a part of her lovely garden with new flowers blooming as Australia heads into cooler Autumn weather. It motivated me to record our garden as it too is starting to burst with colour, although we are going from what passes as winter almost immediately into summer. We lose the brilliant displays of the bougainvillaea but pick up on so much else that is enjoying fresh soil and lots of watering.
The photos speak for themselves so not many words added.
1 April 2018 – A Farm Update
A farm update for you city rural types out there. As a lounge based farmer myself I still find it interesting to get a better understanding of the challenges of earning an income from the land in Isaan. The concept of buying super fresh vegetables is one of the top attractions of Thailand but it does come at a price for those growing the produce.
The problem is that with seasonal cropping everyone is growing the same things to sell at the same time, which means oversupply and low prices. Good for us but bad for farmers. If Yuan and Lud could come up with a crop of cauliflowers or broccoli now they would make a killing. We achieve that in the western world by either importing or storing produce to sell in the off-season.
If you followed the various photos I shared showing the stages Yuan and Lud went through to produce these beans then it is a lot of work for a small return. Everywhere you go people are growing long beans so you have to go with a price that sells. Long beans, BTW, often end up as a replacement for papaya in that super hot salad so loved by Isaan people, and a few weird farangs:-)
3 April 2018 – Bugs
Who’s a handsome boy then? I haven’t seen these insects before. Gaun tells me that you don’t eat them, which they would be pretty happy about. We also have a few mangos this year along with everyone else in Thailand.
The comments from regulars give me the incentive to keep on keeping on (thank you ) They are so much enjoyed at this end of the typewriter! As always I am amazed at the number of opportunities that pop up to share photos and their associated stories. Edition 14 will be out shortly.