These stories happened over three weeks early to mid April 2018. Songkran, Thai New Year, happened in the middle of this period and as I have written about this festival already I excluded it here so that you only got new happenings and not a repeat of older stuff. A broad mix of small events as always starting with three maybe more aimed at locals but still giving ‘outsiders’ an insight into life here – farang comfort food shopping in Udon Thani, tips for driving in Thailand and car insurance. Parties, a wedding, extending the farm pond, building a small Thai-style house, visiting a local eating place plus a few surprises gives you plenty of other material to read in this edition.
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 I am on a mission to catch up so although the timeline is a bit out of date the material is still relevant sharing what life looks like here.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 early to mid April 2018. 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.
4 April 2018 – Villa Mart, Udon Thani
A post for locals and of passing interest to outsiders! The Udon Thani expat supermarket everyone knows about is Tops in Central Plaza, a place I avoid as much as possible. Pointless consumerism at its worst. If you are hooked on getting a shirt with a polo player on it just pick one up in the local markets for 200 baht – they probably come out of the same factory in China with the logo added later Tops is fine as a farang food resource, it is just a pain to get to.
A much easier farang supermarket heaven, if you have the budget, is Villa Mart next to UD Town (adjacent to the railway station) off highway 22. No painful searching for a parking spot like in Central’s multi-story, just park outside the front door at Villa.
If you are not on a pensioner’s budget then Villa Mart has the best wine selection I have seen outside Bangkok. Not much under A$30.00. I really hate seeing cheap Aussie party bubbly, which you’d get for $8.00 back “home” selling for $30.00 here.
5 April 2018 – Essential reading if Driving in Thailand
I rarely share other people’s posts, preferring to do something original myself, but the quality of this driving in Thailand article is outstanding. I one hundred percent recommend it as essential reading for all locals and those of you visiting Thailand and tackling the roads either on a motorbike or by car. Leave your fixed western ideas of how driving should be behind and apply the reality of driving here and you will be a lot safer. I never understood why bikes pull into the road without looking. Now I do. Excellent stuff:
This re-post was originally made on a Facebook page called Nong Bua Lamphu – We Love You, so Ken Coates thank you.
5 April 2018 – A Double Birthday
Another specialised post for locals.
My Nissan pickup had its first birthday recently (we bought it on Peng’s birthday 29 March 2017 so they are almost twins). With my Australian new car owner’s hat on I went in to renew my registration and learnt a couple of small tips that could be useful to others.
Firstly I had not realised that my rego renewal date was the day I came off red plates (the temporary plates given to you while the real ones are lovingly handmade by one bloke working only on Tuesdays in the hills of Chiang Rai resulting in a two-month delay), not the day I bought the car. The Thai rego sticker is helpfully in Thai so an ignorant farang like me has no idea of the month it is due.
Also, the compulsory third party insurance is issued on the day you buy your car, the 29 March for us, so at the end of year one, you may have a mismatch between the compulsory third party and the registration dates as I did. If in my case I had focussed only on the registration renewal date (had I known it) I wouldn’t have had insurance for two months, which would have been a problem if stopped by traffic police for a paper check (unusual but you never know).
When I renewed my rego, which I did early because I thought they were both due on the 29th forgetting about the red plate issue, you can then ask to have the third party and rego dates brought into line for future years.
I wrote a full post about buying a car in Thailand and you can find that HERE.
7 April 2018 – Dress Up Time
Party day today and we are waiting for friends to arrive before lunch and then a street dance party at the village next to ours. We are heading into Songkran or Thai New Year and bright clothes is the theme. Dress up time.
8 April 2018 – An unusual Photo
I rarely take photos of food so today is an exception, not because of the food in itself, but because after weeks of cloud and smoke this morning broke into a warm, sunny piece of perfection. Bacon, eggs and a fresh mango shake just added to a little moment of Thai happiness.
8 April 2018 – Socialising
A great day yesterday with friends both from Kalasin way, a three hour drive south of us and Udon Thani, plus Yuan and Lud. The temple party I had told people would be special with a big lum dance band turned out to be not so special but the opportunity to chat with delightful, positive farang, have lunch and a few drinks made up for that slight disappointment.
There’s a monk ordination party happening in the village today and I am told that a different lum group has been booked for that, so I am hopeful of getting some video of them in action later.
19 April 2018 – Extending the Farm Pond
Sometimes things get worse before better and that’s certainly the case with the new pond project at the family farm.
Yesterday the digger moved in and proceeded to make a huge and increasing mess of what was a serene and lovely area! Such is the price we pay for progress It will all end up better than before of course, once Gaun gets going with a replanting project, and Isaan Grace, my floating raft is relaunched on a much larger pond.
In the meantime coffee overlooking the pond is less scenically attractive than it used to be but watching boys toys at play makes up for it.
Once this hole is filled the soil will be sold by the contractor for 220 baht (A$7.00) a truckload and this offsets her cost of the project. The small forest wat down the road is buying 50 trucks and a neighbour some as well. Yuan is paying an additional 28,000 baht on top of this recovery income. The new pond will extend from where the digger is across to the sugar cane on the right hand side.
P.S. 26 Aug 2018: After some initial rains the wet season has been mostly dry for us and the pond has a long way to go to fill. I suspect we won;t refloat the boat this year but will have to wait until maybe another chance for a wet wet season in 2019.
20 April 2018 – More on the Pond
Regulars will already know already that there will be daily updates on the farm pond project so I won’t disappoint. It’s not like there’s a lot else happening!
I thought this was a reasonable depth but I hear that they are going lower. The idea is that enough water is held here to allow the rice paddies to be flooded in June/July without using the bore/well. This now has an electric submersible pump rather than the previous big diesel and extended use would be expensive.
I thought this was a fine depth but I hear that they are going lower. The idea is that enough water is held here to allow the rice paddies to be flooded in June/July without using the bore/well. This now has an electric submersible pump rather than the previous big diesel and extended use would be expensive.
21 April 2018 – A Local Wedding
We were invited to a wedding, which was happening this morning a few doors down from us. Gaun and family were up at 4:00 am helping out with cooking and setting up, a few hours before I joined in! I have covered a few weddings before but each one has its own theme and small stories to share and this one is no different.
He paid 300,000 baht (A$12,000) sin sod to the bride’s family, a donation made to offset the loss of potential “superannuation” income the daughter would have provided her parents in old age. The higher the class or income potential of the bride the more the sin sod paid.
21 April – Yet More Pond Photos
And of course today’s update on the pond (now a lake) project. All finished this afternoon. A blank canvas that we (Gaun) will landscape in time. I think we will wait for the wet season June – October, which is cooler and obviously wetter to plant new trees and shrubs. It’s just too hard to get things started here ATM.
24 April 2018 – Jun’s New House
I have been following Guna’s older brother Jun building his own house on his part of the family farm. He and his family still work away from Si Bun Ruang so this is a interim base, which will only be used the once or twice a year they come home. P.S. Aug 2018: They have moved in permanently.
It is a small basic Thai house but will do the job of providing shelter and storage, the main priorities of a home no matter how expensive.
Watching it go up so quickly and cheaply makes me wonder sometimes about the excessive complexity we demand in our construction. Are the building standards of this house up to our super regulated demands? No. Will it do the job? Absolutely. I think Jun will bring this in at around 400,000 baht (A$16,000) or less. Mind you he and family are doing most of the work.
If I had to build a basic place with very limited funds the only changes I would make would be insulated concrete blocks, single layer, instead of the basic ones used here, lots of insulation in the roof and ceiling, probably more electrical for maybe an extra 100,000 baht. Leave your ego behind and you’d end up with a small but comfortable home for around $20,000 – put one on your credit card rather than pay it off over the next 30 years.
You will be pleased to hear that Thai builders stuff things up for other Thais. They don’t just reserve incompetence to farang! This concrete column has been turned the wrong way. That rebar (steel) ties into the concrete blockwork used for walls and there’s no wall on this side. A 90 degree turn would have fixed the problem originally.
Laid pretty roughly because it is all covered over with a thick layer of render. Insulation properties – almost zero. On a day like today, where we are close to 40 degrees, put your hand on these and they will be hot to touch and will continue to radiate heat overnight.
This is Thare out of bricklaying clothes! For the unmarried guys reading note the reference made to Thare’s wedding above 🙂 Sorry.
26 April 2018 – Noi’s Kitchen
After a few really hot days it was cooler today so we headed out for lunch at a new eating place (for us) about 20 minutes from Si Bun Ruang called Noi’s Kitchen. We hadn’t met Noi before but her husband Greg dropped in to see us with another Facebook friend Chris Kay recently, which is how we found out about this place.
For any locals I can recommend not only Noi’s Kitchen but also the drive there, which is a very rural and scenic backroad through small moo bans and what will shortly be new rice paddies. There is also an optional return loop, which takes you up to a dam for something a little different and then back to Si Bun Ruang via a different road.
Noi’s kitchen is a small place with a very homey and welcoming feel and enough greenery around to give it a tropical atmosphere. Noi has a big range of Thai/Isaan dishes and a small menu for us farang. A good place to chill out so add it to your very short “places to eat in SBR” list
Thank you Greg and Noi for hospitality and mangos. We will see you again (and we have!)
Coming as I do from a western supermarket mango choice of one (yellow and sweet) I am amazed at the vast array available in all sorts of shapes, sizes and from sweet to sour. These are large almost round ones that I haven’t seen before.
27 April 2018 – More Bugs
I have photographed this guy before but then never seen his type again. There could be millions of them around and you’d never pick them their camouflage is so good. This fella is in wind down mode and I think will be meeting up with Buddha tonight
28 April 2018 – A Mix of Photos
Every time I don’t have my camera handy I regret it as there’s always something I see that I want to record. This morning wasn’t one of those occasions!
This white koi in the photo above was the only one that would come up to be fed by hand. All of them were bought small for around 20 baht (A$0.80) and like everything else in Thailand in three years are now big. You would pay 800 baht each for these now, which is a pretty good investment! P.S. Aug 2018: Sadly we had our pumps stop overnight and the white koi was the only one to die. None of the others has taken his place in coming up to be fed.
This is a morning routine where clothes and colour coordination are carefully selected and makeup and hair done for………her exercise routine on the treadmill we have. Peng uses this religiously twice a day for over an hour as part of her recovery process from the operation last year and also I suspect to maintain an already very slim figure! “Swy mai” is often the question asked “beautiful?”….I think so Peng 🙂
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 15 will be out shortly.