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Love Living in Isan

Week 1 – May 2019

The latest stories were added on: 5 May

A Facebook type update of the daily happenings as they happen rather than waiting to post a longer version, by which time they are out of date. So what I will do is add new stories to each week, if I spot any, so you will find this post expands over time. The latest posts will be found at the top.

A mix of topics as always and I hope you enjoy both the photos and the stories that go with them.

Stories for 5 May 2019

We made good progress this morning on the new paving despite temperatures that eventually hit 40 degrees. 2,000 handmade bricks were delivered around 8:00 am at a cost of 3,000 baht (A$130.00) and then while I focussed on laying them Gaun was on the wheelbarrow keeping me supplied with bricks.

The basic shape was finished late morning, which I will refine a bit tomorrow. We will also pour the concrete edging and then I will turn it over to Gaun to work her landscaping magic. I hope to have it finished tomorrow and will update you with the final photos. Even now the before and after is pretty impressive.

No photos but after a couple of half days on my knees laying bricks a massage was the best solution to an aching back so we headed into Nong Bua Lamphu this afternoon for that plus some garden shopping for the new area. Sunan Massage HERE on Google Maps is by far the best I have found in town. Clean, quiet, air conditioned and Nun is well trained.

Gin and tonics this evening to finish off a very rewarding day.

A repeat photo from yesterday just to give you the before and after effect.

And this evening.

In daylight.

Looking the other way towards the sala (bamboo hut).

The view as you come through the hedge walking towards the front door.

Stories for 4 May 2019

I have had my upgrade eye on half of the lawn we have in the front of the house. It was fine when it went down four years ago but since then a lovely shade tree has taken over and the lawn under it has been looking very sad for a while.

Making a feature of this area is now my project for this month. We are paving the area under the tree with the handmade bricks we buy locally. A couple of chairs would be nice as it is in shade for a lot of the day as well as some pots with ferns and succulants.

We ordered the sand yesterday, delivered an hour later, and today moved excess bricks we had stored at the farm back home. I need another 2,000 so that order went in today with delivery tomorrow. 1.5 baht a brick including delivery. I should have it finshed tomorrow and will report.

This area is the first thing you see walking through the hedge into the old garden, so I want it to present better than this.

Lots of shallow tree roots plus the shade and the grass just couldn’t cope.

Even just laying the sand is an improvement.

And the bricks start their creep across the area. Herringbone pattern, the same as everywhere else.

My project my work. In the shade but still very hot.

The gloves are not to keep my hands soft but to protect them from scorpions. There were three of the small scorpions mixed in with the bricks and Gaun tells me that even the babies punch above their weight on the pain level. I am happy to admit to being a wimp.

Stories for 3 May 2019

A tropical pond requires some tropical fish to go with it. These are 20 baht koi that we bought 4 years ago and have grown somewhat in the meantime. Beautiful vivid colours that really set off the lush green pond vegetation. 

However, I am a bit worried about this fisherman I caught a glimpse of this morning!

The master-gardener off to work at the farm early this morning.

Planting three bright yellow flowering shrubs we bought yesterday. They will be matched with three purple ones available (we hope) in Udon Thani when we go there on the 12th.

Gaun replanted the entranceway to the farm and it now looks like this.

Cuttings taken from this flower bed were today transferred into pots and then added to the small pond rock wall in Gaun’s rice hut garden.

Yesterday they were moved home and  new displays have popped up all over the place.

I am envious of Isan people’s ability to be happy with their basic accommodation. This timber house across the road from us recently had a new roof added and is now getting the area underneath enclosed. You can always tell that the sugar harvest money has arrived by the number of new pick-ups and the amount of construction work.

This space will be super cheap to build, and it will be finished in a month. Compare that to our complex and demanding requirements, which cost many times that of this structure. Does this do the job of providing shelter and security? Sure. Could I live in it? Sure but I would prefer not to and there’s the problem!

More greenery added to keep improving this area.

A corner of the garden in January 2018 just after Gaun had planted it.

The same area today. I wanted to create a tunnel of green in this area and we are fast achieving that objective. Pick mangos as you walk through!

The path through this area leads to the rice hut hidden away in the shrubbery.

These long mangos will be super sweet once they ripen – my sort of fruit.

This afternoon Gaun (in bank robber gear) and Peng were wrapping them in newspaper and storing them to ripen. Can’t wait.

And finally for today how about making one of these cheap rice basket lamp shades? 45 baht for the basket, 10 metres of wire with a plug and socket can be bought for 70 baht at Thai Watsadu and a yellow anti-insect globe for 120 baht. They look great at night.

I hope you enjoyed week 1 so far. More to come. Please leave a comment or hit the ‘like’ button to make my day 🙂

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  1. Nobby

    A fantastic read Tony, well done but do not overdo it, this heat can be a killer, take care.


    Chris & Nong

  2. Greg Carroll

    Hi Tony,
    Thank you for another engaging and interesting post. It provides a further distraction for Yuri and I as we wait out the next 86 weeks. Each week’s passing makes our plans that much closer. And your posts paving the way (wry smile) on so many topics for expats / farangs embarking on a similar journey. Invaluable insights, advice and information that makes our plans so much easier to bring to fruition.
    Hope Peng secured her desired choice.
    Cheers…Yuri and Greg

    • Tony in Thailand

      Thanks Greg. Your first comment from back ‘home’. I am so pleased as always to keep you in touch with your future home and the life you’ll enjoy once you get here. More to come to keep the incentive topped up during the next 86 weeks!

      Hi to Yuri.


  3. Bob Francis

    Tony its such a great pleasure to read your blogs and then to read the comments of others who have also read them.
    I have now lived in Non Sung near Udon for 5 years and was lucky enough to find a lady who is in that 3% someone was talking about.
    Prior to my buying land and building a home here I fortunately came across a blog site which was written by someone who gave me the insight of how to do and how to test the waters before attempting to do anything that might help me loose money or my sanity in the house build. This was even down to finding the right builder with all the dos and donts .
    I used the Thai Government website for house plans and I found all the information there to find a suitable build for me.
    I thank you Tony for steering me in the right direction with all your earlier blogs about house building and your experiences with marriage etc etc….. Everything has been very helpful to me….

    • Tony in Thailand

      Hi Bob. You are a mutual friend with Ian aren’t you. We met up with him and Parisa recently as I think you did. What a nice couple. I wish they lived closer.

      Thank you so much for that comment, which brought a big smile to my face when I read it. I am always pleased to hear that the work I put into the blog has had a positive outcome for some of the people who read it. Comments like yours keep me inspired to keep on sharing the stories and insights, which still seem to pop up even after nearly six years of writing.

      Maybe we can meet up for a drink or lunch sometime as we head Udon way pretty regularly.

      Cheers Bob.


  4. Submariner Steve

    G’day mate,
    I have recently been reading bits and pieces of your ‘building in thailand’ weekly reports and today your May 4 report.
    I have been here in the ‘land of smiles’ for 22 years now.
    You are lucky to have the Isaan family that you have. 97% of Isaan people have exceedingly high levels of debt, as quoted by Prime Minister Phrayut when finding out about the ‘state of the nation’ and the enormous task in front of the military government after the coup. That leaves only 3% of the Isaan people that have other levels of debt, high, moderate, low or no debt at all. These 3% usually represent the decent, honest hard working Isaan families. Appears you have lucked in to one of these 3% families.
    I have been building on my Isaan ladys’ 4 rai of land, just less than 2 kms outside of her family village, in the amphur of Phra Yuen Changwat Khon Kaen for the past 4-5 years.
    I too have ‘lucked in’ with my lady and her family being honest decent hard working folks, one of those 3% previously mentioned.
    All of the trials and tribulations you have experienced and mentioned about ‘building in Isaan’, I was experiencing at approximately the same time as yourself.
    I have even been to that same ‘blue steel’ roofing shop on the main highway just south of Khon Kaen.
    I ended up building a tile roof on my small bungalow.
    You are also lucky to have found and went with your builder for your new home project.
    My building crew came from just down the road at the next village. Just like your crew, my crew took time off from the build job site for farming or harvesting their own rice and sugarcane, even time off to help mates with floods or high winds damage to their own homes from storms, also time off for deaths, births and marriages.
    When their own wives or girlfriends wanted something done at their own homes my workers would show up at my job site as early as 07:00, relax in their hammocks to turn to at 08:30 when I would show up. I would egg them on by saying “sorry dear, gotta go to work now”, getting a smile of that farang knows about us from my workers.
    I went with building a substantial perimeter fence and gates initially before we started to build my small bungalow. As you are aware if anything is not secured, locked down, bolted down or welded down it will disappear.
    We are just about into our small bungalow which will become the guest bungalow, as we plan to live onsite in the guest bungalow to then do some more building on the 4 rai.
    I have a ‘Super Fieces’ contract agreement on my Isaan ladys’ 4 rai where I have been building, basically the same as a life long lease agreement, giving me the security of the right of occupation for my life. This also has some other benefits, such as I can will this right of occupation and other benefits to my Thai born son after I pass on.
    I, like you, am a retired government employee from ‘downunder’, enjoying life here in Isaan, where our Aussie Bucks get more bang for buck here than in our homeland.

    Good luck and carry on Tony,

    Regards to you and yours,

    Submariner Steve.

    • Tony in Thailand

      Hi Steve.

      Thanks for your long comment, which did make my day 🙂 22 years…’s you who should be writing the blog not me. What changes you must have seen over that period, some for the better and some less so. Even in the six years I have lived here I have noticed the increased pace of life, more traffic and a reduction in the village community atmosphere. What was a pretty sleepy rural town of Si Bun Ruang now has a large PTT service station, a medium sized Tescos and is full of construction work. We now have traffic lights and the main street is traffic clogged much of the time. Thankfully we live a couple of km out of town and our moo ban remains much the same although some of the wooden houses are being replaced with concrete ugliness.

      I see the number of red plated new cars and new building work and it points to that indebtedness you talk about. One of the ladies who buys produce from Yuan to sell at the local markets pays 25,000 a month for two cars! I would struggle to do that. Yes, we are lucky in that none of the family owe money as far as I know. Yuan and Lud have an older pickup, which they were paying off at 6,000 baht a month, but that was finished two years ago and there’s no talk of replacing it. Yuan’s house has been at roof only stage for two years because the cash hasn’t yet been available to finish it. A refreshing change from the modern acceptance of sleepless nights because of the debt level!

      Again I was lucky with the building crew we had. Hard workers. They arrived, worked, had a beer or Lao Khao and left at the end of the day. We lost a few days over New Year and a ratting trip I think plus the occasional funeral but that was about it. The same crew (mostly) has since built another house for a farang friend close to town and he was very happy with the outcome. He was actually overseas when they did the work, which was a brave move but with this crew I was confident that they wouldn’t let him down and they didn’t.

      We didn’t have any problems with materials being stolen thank goodness. The builder spent a couple of nights on-site when we had a big delivery of steel (I think) but apart from that the place was unsupervised overnight.

      Good to hear you are another of the lucky farang with a solid partner and family. There are plenty of them around. I get to meet many couples as a result of the blog and the majority have been in longer term relationships and there is an absence of the horror stories you read about online. It’s not as unusual as some people think.

      Thanks again for getting in touch. All the very best.


  5. Jim Busby

    Oh so that’s what happen to the Aussie band “Men at Work”, they retired to Thailand to be Men at Work on pavers. I personally don’t like the reflected heat of my pavers in the hot summer, or bare feet, but oh well they look nice. Your jungle, uh, I mean your tropical garden, is doing great. I have to laugh at Gaun and Peng wrapping their mangos to ripen, and sweeten from the ethylene gas they give off. I thought you said Isan food was all bitter and sour. I see the green mesh topping over the sitting area has been removed, but there doesn’t seem to be much shade yet from the vines and plants. We are in Star Wars mode here today “May the Fourth be with You’’. Yeah right, but tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, so Shrimp (on the Barbie) Tacos, Yum!


    P.S. Thanks for the video, which accompanies your wonderful photos of Wat Pa See Vichi.

    • Tony in Thailand

      Exactly right. I don’t mind the bricks because each one is individual and laying the herringbone pattern, while hardly a challenge, does require you to stay slightly focussed. The bigger paving slabs are more boring and require greater attention to levels. I have a life that doesn’t include a lot of things I can point to and say ‘I did that with my own hands’ so it is nice to finish the day with that sort of result. The handmade earth bricks are a lot less harsh than concrete pavers and don’t seem to retain the heat as much.

      Those mangos were ‘mine’ in that they turn into the softer, yellow and super sweet variety. Gaun has made sure that we have a few farang mango trees in the garden. Those mangos came from an older tree, one of the few that cater to my tastes. Gaun and Peng enjoy them but equally like the green ones that can be like a slightly sour apple.

      We had to take the green mesh off the pergola area because the vine that is growing over it has lots of small suckers that were attaching themselves to the mesh, which would have made it almost impossible to remove later. The climber is deciduous so it has only recently got its leaves back and has made good progress in the last couple of months. Once the rainy season starts, and we have been getting some decent evening rain, it will quickly take over that area. I am hopeful we will have total coverage for the next hot season.

      Shrimp tacos! That’s one I have never tried. We get farmed shrimp (Aussies call them prawns) in the local markets. I make a garlic sauce for them, which gives them a flavour they can’t manage themselves.

      I’m pleased you enjoyed the video. I don’t know if you managed all of it as it was a long show. There is so much to see that I get carried away. In a time of Facebook and Twitter and goodness knows what else I suspect many people can only manage a few minutes.

      Thanks for the comments Jim.

  6. Jon Rogers

    We are getting our land ready to build our house in Isaan. Looks like we’re going to be building during the rainy season. You are giving me some good ideas. We have one very large tree and rest of the land is completely bare.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with your home! Looking forward to the rest of the story!

    • Tony in Thailand

      Building in the rainy season can be an extra challenge, but the Thais are used to it. In my mind it is why they are quick to get a roof on the house even before walls. It provides protection either from the rain or the heat. Their standard practice of building the footings above ground also makes sense to the extent that I can remember pumping out the submerged footings we have in Australia after rain, which only appeared once they were dug of course 🙂

      Good luck.

  7. james bruce pledge

    What can I say , from one aussie to another bloody spot cobber and a good job done ,wonderful people you are .
    And so say all of us, your family are just so great and caring ,no wonder you have a smile as long as the golden mile.

    As always
    Love and best wishes.

    P.S. Im just a jealous guy ( Brian Ferry )

    • Tony in Thailand

      That rates as one of my favourite comments mate. I really appreciate the positive feedback. I don’t try to make things here seem better than they are. The blog is a reflection of my life and I have been incredibly lucky with where I live and the quality of the people around me. I am just coming up to six years in Thailand (12 June) and without a doubt it has been the highlight of my life. I hope you are experiencing the same.

      Thanks again James.



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