This is a particularly mixed bunch of stories that I am sure you’ll enjoy because of the variety. They include a market day, Happy Birthday Gaun, a turtle lottery, building a boat jetty, thanking the spirits, two newly discovered wats (temples), stocking the farm pond with fish, Elenna Pizzeria, pots, pots and more pots, some mixed photos with small stories attached and a mushroom farm.
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 I am on a mission to catch up so although the timeline is a bit out of date the material is still relevant sharing what life looks like here.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 the end of May 2108. 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.
11 May 2018 – Market Day
Every Friday afternoon big street markets set up in Si Bun Ruang. It is a mix of retail, cooked food and fresh produce stalls. Yuan goes every week and what’s on her table is an indication of what’s happening at the farm. Not much currently as we have had early rains, which has delayed preparing soil for the next batch of crops – coriander, lettuce and celery. It is a problem for all the local farmers and if you have any coriander it will now get 200 baht a kilo compared to 20 – 50 baht not that long ago.
12 May 2018 – Happy Birthday Gaun
A little while back a girl was born into a farming family living in a small rural Isaan village and the world became a better, brighter and more lively place as a result. It’s your birthday today Gaun but I get the presents every day. Happy Birthday my love.
14 May 2018 – A Birthday Party
Gaun’s birthday party in Udon Thani yesterday evening was good fun enjoyed by Gaun of course plus Yuan, Lud and Peng, and friends from Udon.
We started with a shopping spree at UD evening markets, which are the best in the area followed by dinner and drinks at very decent farang restaurant/bar for the evening. Yuan and Peng tried pool and darts for the first time but Lud showed evidence of a misspent youth and was surprisingly good. Our thanks to Terry, Mai Polsena, Daryl Newman, Tik and Daniel for helping make the evening memorable.
The following day we dropped in to see friends one of whom is coming to the end of a very challenging new house construction. Congratulations Terry and Mai for sticking with it and making what will end up being a comfortable and impressive home.
The camera wasn’t mine so the nighttime photos are a bit rough but you get the idea.
I am not a Thai bar enthusiast but I have to say that The Brick House Inn HERE would be a very acceptable drinking spot anywhere. The presentation is first class, the owner Max, from Holland, is there to welcome you and make sure you are looked after and the meals are huge and reasonable. Max allocated a waitress just to take care of our group and in one of the most impressive displays of training I have seen in Thailand, with nine meals ordered the staff knew who ordered what! You are lucky to find that in Australia and I have never seen it in Thailand.
15 May 2018 – A Turtle Lottery
There is so much simple fun to be had as Isaan life presents the unexpected. Follow the photos for the story.
He has now been relocated to the other small farm pond but I suspect he/she is on a mission and will be on the move again by now. Do females return to the place they were hatched like sea turtles or maybe it is a male looking for a mate. We see a lot of them as the wet season progresses and usually to take them to a temple pond where they are less likely to end up in the cooking pot.
17 May 2018 – An Optimistic Jetty
Gaun decided that while the lake at the farm was dry it was a good time to build an extension to the dock area for my floating sala (hut). I was just going to make a slight modification to the existing area to support the deeper walls leading up to the dock but there is no stopping Gaun when she is on a mission. She has endless energy.
Yuan and Lud were roped in and as always gave of their time freely and with good humour even though they have other demands on their time. Building a dock for a farang’s boat would not probably rate too highly on their list of things to do normally
Trees were cut, holes dug and a new jetty built in the hope we get decent rain to fill the lake and refloat the boat. Thank you Gaun, Yuan and Lud.
18 May 2018 – A Spirit Thank You
Next month is the first anniversary of Peng’s major operation in Khon Kaen’s Srinagarind Hospital aimed at improving her mobility. At the time Gaun made a promise to the spirits at our village’s shrine that if all went well with Peng she would make an offering to them. Today was that day.
Yesterday she, Yuan and Thare, a niece, worked at the farm on making garlands from fresh flowers picked there and at home. Today in the evening we made our way to the small moo ban shrine with Gaun’s mama and another village elder to present the flowers and thank the spirits for Peng’s recovery. Lovely.
For those of you who might be interested to read what a stay in a Thai public hospital looks like you can go HERE.
There’s a bit of a jump in dates here as this period over Bun Bang Fai, an Isaan rocket festival, has already been covered in separate blog posts. We take up the story again here:
25 May 2018 – Wat Chong Khao Khat
I decided to karmically balance up yesterday’s whisky drinking/phallic symbol production, which you can read about HERE, with a visit to a local big Buddha temple called Wat Chong Khao Khat. We have been there a couple of times before but not recently. I was hoping that as it was only semi-completed last time, more donations had been made resulting in progress, but that wasn’t the case.
However, it was a great day for photos as it was a typical wet season morning, mostly sunny with huge fluffy clouds that build into storms late afternoon. Previous visits were in very overcast conditions so although the scene was much the same the photos are more interesting. GPS coords HERE
28 May 2018 – Wat Sok Sombun
I will give you a break from Bun Bang Fai photos although I do have one more batch to publish after a party we went to yesterday.
Today was supposed to be a day off but we ended up spending most of it on the road chasing new fish to stock the farm pond, lunch at Noi’s Kitchen and then a visit a great small forest wat, thanks to a chance meeting with a Norwegian expat, before returning home to release 2,000 new fish. Potential BBQ’s at the farm in a couple of years. I will cover Wat Sok Sombun here and then the fish in another post.
If you want to find this wat on Google Maps I have added a review and you can see it HERE. I have told Google they have their marker in the wrong place and that should be fixed by them soon.
We know him as he has visited our local forest wat HERE and he recognised us and told Gaun that he loved her flowers at the farm. A super friendly monk, the only one in residence, who spent 45 minutes with us walking around the large grounds and then raided the fridge to give us refreshing cold soft drinks.
28 May 2018 – Stocking the Farm Pond
With some good recent rains plus a bit of extra water from the bore the pond at the farm has filled up enough to restock it with fish. There is a long way to go to achieve a full pond but it is bucketing down as I type so we might get there by the end of the wet season, which has only just started.
Yuan and Lud wanted to look for fish at a place just outside Nong Bua Lamphu, but they didn’t have the ones we were after (the easy for a farang to eat type with large bones!)
We then decided to make a day of it and headed south towards Lake Ratana where Lud knew there were a selection of fish stalls. We called into Noi’s Kitchen for lunch, and to introduce Yuan and Lud to Greg and Noi. We then visited the temple I covered last post and after that had a bit of a search to find someone stocking the fish we wanted. All good and the pond now has ripples in it a sign of fish settling in.
Gaun is going fishing tomorrow in the small pond on her land to transfer the original fish moved when the big pond was emptied, back to their original home.
29 May 2018 – A Few Photos
A few catchup photos of the everyday each with a small story attached.
These will be harvested and then replanted by hand, which gives the highest quality of crop and the greatest yield. I have seen some machine planted rice recently and will try to get a photo of it actually happening. You can tell machine planting because the rows are very regular and straight. Isaan is looking terrific now as new rice paddies are sprouting everywhere.
Thais NEVER eat alone and whatever is on the “table” is available to share with whoever is around. Have you seen westerners sitting alone eating food with a book or iPad/phone in front of them for company? The phone situation often applies to Thais as well but it will be in a group! This photo shows breakfast at the farm with Gaun, Yuan, Lud and a niece Thare. Her hubbie is also there. Yuan cooks or buys food (they have been up since dawn or earlier so this is lunch for them) and anyone who is in the area shares. None of the older generation are phone crazy so a get together like this is all about chat. Families eating together and TALKING is one of the many aspects we have let slip in western society.
I didn’t get to build a double rice hut renovation but was lucky enough to move a single version from a field to our garden and you can read about this terrific project HERE.
30 May 2018 – Elena Pizzeria
We had a day in Udon Thani having lunch with friends at a new (for us) pizza place that I thought I would share in the incredibly unlikely chance that you find yourself both in that area and hungry!
Elena Pizzeria is on the outskirts of Udon just off highway 2 on the southern Khon Kaen side. It is owned by a very friendly German, called Georg (pronounced George), who is also the server and cook. He says he runs the place as a hobby, but it is spotless, the drinks arrive quickly and cold while the pizzas, if that’s what you order, are slower but Georg makes them totally fresh. He even grows his own herbs.
The place is pretty basic, you won’t find much in the way of characterful eating places in Isaan, but the food and Georg make it an eating spot that we will return to as it’s close to our friends.
There’s an external review of Elena (Georg’s daughter’s name) Pizzeria HERE.
On the way home from Udon we stopped off to do some garden shopping, which included two large clay pots made locally. Pots are plentiful and cheap here but not very adventurous in style. There are some lovely shapes though and the ones we bought were a bit different from the normal and they fitted into two spots I had picked out the day I did the original plans for the garden.
31 May 2018 – More Mushrooms
We were on the road with Yuan and Lud again today to buy more fish and on the way back we stopped off at a mushroom farm.
I have a friend in Australia who is in the process of changing jobs to setting up a mushroom farm on his land using coffee grinds as the basis, a fascinating new business that you can read about HERE. and his Facebook page HERE. I have therefore started to take more interest in local mushrooms and how they are sourced. Many are collected at night in season, which it is now, and you’ll see people heading out with miner light helmets late at night (used for hunting frogs too!). There are also ad-hoc “farms” that spring up like the one I show you here, which produce the white mushrooms rather than the multi-coloured ones you buy in the markets or on the side of the road.
Alvin Sumedha Lee Interestingly, its name “saling” is very close to its Chinese colloquial name 三轮 (Teochew pronunciation: “sa lieng”, literally meaning 3-wheeled).
Alvin Sumedha Lee ปลานิล (pla nin) literally means “Nile Fish”… an apparent reference to the red-hybrid Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), more correctly known in Thai as ปลาทับทิม (pla thab thim), meaning pomegranate fish or ruby fish. However, most of the Pla Nin found in Thailand are actually a different subspecies that is commonly referred as Black-and-White Striped Tilapia.
Rod Young I found an organic weed killer on my last visit back to Brisbane. A product called Slasher. I bought some to try it out, its a really fast kill the next day anything that hot coated in spray is brown. I believe it also kills the seeds that’s something glyphosate can’t do.
Thanks for reading and if you have enjoyed the stories why not leave a comment. It’s the only ‘payment’ I ask for this providing blog.