I am going to be including the following standard introduction to these posts for those people who come across them for the first time as it gives some background as to why they read the way they do. For regular readers (a huge thank you to you all) you can skip this bit and get stuck into the new happenings. Well actually they are a bit of a catch-up so not that new but as of this week with three months off doing anything physical after some minor surgery they will become newer the more bored I get with being inside
My posts “Living in Isaan” are a series of small stories I have recorded that make up my everyday life in a small rural village in the north east of Thailand, a region called Isaan/Isan/Esan. 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 out this way looks like.
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.
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 only part of September 2017. 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.
24 Oct 2017 – A Big Day for Peng
A post only for those of you following my stepdaughter Peng’s progress since her operation in June, which you can read about HERE. A VERY happy girl as she was cleared to return to school today for the start of a new term (only two terms a year). This achievement is a testament to the dedication and hard work of team Gaun/Peng, which has been pleasure to observe. Peng’s teacher feels that she has the ability to catch up on missed work and still get the required marks to get into university in 2019 – a first for the family. As us Aussies would say “good on ya Peng”. A proud step-dad indeed
25 Oct 2017 – Helping out the Locals
I spent some of the morning helping the villagers clear the 3 kms of road from the main highway to Wat Pa Sup Anun, the small forest temple that is having its end of Buddhist Lent celebration on the 28th. Thai national and the yellow Buddhist flags will then be set out along the entire length.
A quick learning curve for a novice farang in the dangers of Thai vegetation (1) watch out for ants in the foliage because they will drop on you and get in your clothes to bite (2) have a good look at what you are grabbing before cutting because some have small thorns that really grab you and (3) keep an eye out for bee hives in the bushes you’re cutting because they don’t appreciate the attention. So apart from the ant bites, scratches and one bee sting I thought I coped pretty well!!! My very modest efforts were noted and appreciated by the locals.
A huge effort happening at the wat itself with soil being brought in to create new roads, the building being decorated with vegetation and fruit, grass mown and a big push to get the toilet block functioning if not complete.
25 Oct 2017 – A Floating Sala
I was on a roll today after helping out at the wat this morning. The afternoon was taken up by working on an upgrade to Isaan Grace, our “boat” on the family farm pond. In a nod to those friends who have problems being Thai and sitting on the floor (deck!) I built raised seating area that I am sure will be appreciated by our knee challenged visitors.
I have to say that this project started over a year ago has become one of my favourite places to just sit with a book and a coffee in the morning or a beer in the afternoon. It easily rivals the house garden as a place to be.
29 Oct 2017 – The Farm Naming
The family farm is finally named. I did question Gaun about using English on the sign but she said no problem. If it was in Thai then locals passing by would understand what it said and the “welcome to” bit isn’t an invitation for drop-ins to sit, chat, drink Yuan’s coffee and interrupt the serious business of making money! All good then
29 Oct 2017 – The Last Buddhist Lent ceremony – promise (this year)
The final day in the ceremony Wat Pa Sup Anun, our local forest temple just past the family farm. This is a very new construction being built in paddies but the popularity of the head monk was shown when a thousand people or more showed up today to support his efforts. Vast amounts of food and farm produce for everyone and a huge financial contribution back to the temple to ensure building work will continue for the next year.
I have already covered a couple of these events so won’t repeat the feeding monks part in detail but as always I was lucky to capture some unique photos that I hope give you a taste of the fun atmosphere of the morning.
If you are following these posts chronologically then at this stage we travelled to Bangkok to meet some Aussie friends and visited some beautiful attractions and were incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to visit the memorial site for the late king’s cremation ceremony in the Grand palace precinct. You can find that post HERE. Back in Isaan life continues:
12 Nov 2017 – Rice Harvest Starts
The family rice harvest has just been finished in a scene that is being repeated all around Thailand. A good crop this year as a result of a proper wet season, the first for several years. This rice is used only for family consumption. I haven’t bought rice since getting together with Gaun. Even when we lived in Chiang Mai we returned from an early farm visit with a sack each of sticky and steamed rice. The family only sell leftover rice from the previous year. We are always eating this year’s crop.
The farm is also being planted up with vegetables for New Year, a period of huge demand. Broccoli, cauliflower (cool season crops), spring onions, garlic, lettuce, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, coriander and more. It is a delight to see all these new crops sprouting.
Workers cutting sugar cane don’t. Anything to do with rice is such a cultural event and so central to life here that it is to be celebrated. Sugar is a recent crop and doesn’t have the same community history attached to it. Even the hangers on get to enjoy the lunch.
13 Nov 2017 – Chinese Cultural Centre Udon Thani
A day in Udon Thani today with some time to spare took us to the Thai/Chinese cultural centre and Chao Pu-Ya (or Sanjao Phuya) shrine situated to the right of UD Town off highway 22 (only of interest to locals).
Once again only for residents Udon Thani is having its huge Chinese festival period starting 1 December lasting 12 days. On day 1 there is a parade featuring Chinese dragons who dance their way from this location (Chao Pu-Ya) to another Chinese temple situated right in the centre of Udon next to the City Pillar Shrine. I have missed this procession on previous years so might try to see it although I believe it gets very crowded. I believe the dragons get another outing on the 5th but that’s not confirmed.
The large markets associated with this festival are definitely worth a visit if anyone is in the area at this time of year – based around the City Pillar.
UD Town (also the railway station) runs from the “supermarket” to the “Department Store” marked on the left. Also an area well worth visiting especially in the early evenings when they have a very good street market. Huge undercover markets across the street from UD Town. If you want a Big Mac this is the place to come.
Thanks for reading and please take the time to leave a comment. I always enjoy the chance to hear from you and know there’s someone on the other end of these words!