In case you were wondering Nong Bua Lamphu is the name of our province. There are 76 provinces in Thailand and Nong Bua Lamphu is the newest to be proclaimed.
I must be feeling a bit restless because this is the second outing we have had in the last few days, the last one I reported on HERE. This afternoon’s road trip was another example of setting a destination and then being open to stopping or heading off track to see what else was around. As I have said before the big “wow” sights are few and far between in Thailand but I find the little photo opportunities just as rewarding and a lot more personal in some ways.
In my last post I shared this Google image and the goal of today’s drive was to find out what was at “Who Knows”. I thought it looked like an entrance to the enclosed land within that green “island”, which are a range of low hills close to our home.
Needless to say there were plenty of diversions on the way and I thought I would share them with you. These photos and words help give you a taste for the countryside around our home and also the sort of very simple activities and sights you will see if you are in the area. I find that there are lots of blogs that focus on the things people associate with Thailand – beaches, temples, elephants, girls (haha) and food, but not so many that provide an insight into the “normal” here. This is especially true for my part of Thailand in the north east, a region called Isaan. So here we go with not one beach or elephant in sight:
Thailand runs on commercially filtered water delivered by small and large versions of this truck. We (and you as a visitor) are very lucky to have a pretty safe system for drinking water and ice too. A 20 litre bottle will cost 12 baht or A$0.48 delivered or 10 baht if collected from the supplier.
Back to today’s trip:
My GPS guided us through small moo bans and little roads cutting through vivid green scenery. This is the tourist’s impression of how Thailand should be but you need to be quick. You will mostly only see paddies like this in the wet season July – September/early October. Some of this rice is already starting to tinge brown and these will be fields of golden brown by mid-late October.
The GPS was happily accurate and brought us to a small village at that gap through the the hills I showed you in the first two photos. The space between is mostly filled with a small stone dam with a lake backed up behind it.
Being close to the hills mushrooms were on sale. Local gossip was quickly passed on. The wife of a local farang seen recently on the dam dressed only in a bikini was reported and commented on! Nothing escapes small communities here like anywhere else. Farang, and their partners, are particularly observed so be warned and be good in public. Can be bad behind closed gates though 🙂
Climbing through road construction we got to the top of the dam and the view beyond.
I had hoped that a road/track shown on Google maps would let me get into the central valley surrounded by these hills but this was not to be. There was some major construction happening and although a high riding pick-up could have made it through this section OK I wasn’t going to risk the Mazda. There are times in Thailand when I wish I had one of the large pick-ups to tackle the roads but not that often. Thailand’s roads are generally pretty good, way above what you’ll find in neighbouring countries like Laos, and the Mazda copes just fine.
We walked down this track and on the right came across a local wat hidden away in the trees overlooking the lake. It was a large if somewhat industrial structure and one wonders where the people were going to come from to fill the massive hall.
Village wats can be very basic structures – just a plain concrete rectangle with a tin roof. The money to build them is all raised within the village so it is amazing sometimes they get to construct anything.
This is a cooler unit for bodies (well one at a time). Plug it in, place the coffin inside and you have the deceased on ice until the cremation. Thais are very organised with the cremations I have observed. Die one day and the party (wake) will start the same day or next and usually last three days unless the family has a lot of money. The body will be taken to the temple and cremated on day two and the third day will wind up the event. Exploding fireworks will be let off at the time of cremation so if in Isaan and you hear loud bangs it is most likely marking the conclusion of a funeral at the local wat.
With my plans to explore the valley behind the lake on hold we headed home on another route just to see what we might come across.
As is so often the case this wat was a deserted builder’s yard. It is obviously work in progress on the Buddha, which is understandable as the money will come in dribs and drabs. However like so many wats the rest of the place was a shambles. Structures just thrown anywhere and not maintained. Mud and weeds the central theme. There are some wonderful and notable exceptions but a quick drive in and out is the best option for many wats.
I don’t say this to have a go at wats or Thailand but the reality is that a lot of the country is pretty unattractive and ramshackled. I still love the place but reality is what it is. Glowing reports from tourists sitting in their beachside resort is not reflective of Thailand as a whole.
In this case how much more money would the locals raise if this temple were set in a lovely garden and surroundings all well maintained, something that made it unique. Thais love and really appreciate gardens and flock to see and photograph them. Unfortunately they just have little concept of having one themselves. Like any attraction the wats that stand out make their own “luck” and bring in the crowds and that equals big donations, which then supports the cost of uniqueness. For example here are three spectacular Isaan wats built literally in the middle of nowhere:
Off one of my hobby elephants and back on the road:
In my last post I spoke about the large fishing net we came across and photographed on that trip as shown below:
I added a couple of photos from another post on the subject of Lake Ubol Ratana HERE, which showed one of the houseboats moored there that used this type of net. Well today we came across another example parked next to a bridge. The net is strung from the long bamboo poles on the left and raised using a leg powered winch in the doorway of the house.
Everything 100 baht (A$4.00). I have told you before – wait long enough and everything you ever need will pass your front door. The lady was having a break on the hammock under the tree in the background.
Cows tend to be hand fed and you will see farmers in Isaan out and about cutting grass from the side of the road to be transported to the cattle rather than the other way round.
Back home another thunderstorm hit us with lots of rain, which gave me an excuse to sit in front of the computer and write this post. We have had more rain in the last three weeks than I have seen since moving to Thailand over three years ago.
I hope you have enjoyed joining us for an afternoon on the roads in Isaan. I will get to that valley one day.
For any of you waiting to read the last two posts on our recent trip to the city of Nan in northern Thailand driving the backroads hang on. They are on their way.
Thanks for reading.