Living on the edge of a small rural village in Chiang Rai brings home the fact that although I am living a semi-tourist lifestyle it is based in a 100% non-tourist location. Any trip to the “outside” world involves driving through the village from one side to the other to join up with the main road running to Chiang Rai one way and eventually Chiang Mai three hours the other way.
After a while the trip down the narrow village streets has become very familiar and I don’t register the scenery the way I did when we first arrived here. I thought it was time to capture the village in photos to re-focus on our local environment.
The other day I felt like a walk so we took cameras and did a round trip through the village. The following photos give you an idea of what real Thai rural suburbia looks like and the variety of house styles there are from basic to semi-grand.
I have pointed this out several times before but Thai development of any sort is often extremely ugly. When applied to housing, incomes are mostly very limited so a house often tends to be basic shelter without much thought or interest in visual impact. Gardens are mostly non-existent, which for someone coming from Canberra the garden city, seems such a wasted opportunity. Here you have a wonderful climate that will grow lush tropical plants in no time and the Thais have houses sitting in the middle of the dirt bowl left when the house was originally built.
I asked Gaun about this and she said that people are often putting in a twelve hour day, six and sometimes seven days a week. Houses are a place to sleep and eat and the centre of family life. There is no time, money or energy for the aesthetic aspects that are so important in our society. I also think that there is a general unawareness or non-seeing of what is around them. Thais don’t place the same importance on general tidiness and presentation that we would do. Not good, not bad, it’s just reality. It is an aspect of living here that you either get used to or will frustrate you on a daily basis.
The entrance to the village, as is so often around Thailand, is marked with a formal statement of connection to and respect of the Thai Royal Family:
The other side of this entrance has a sala, a covered seating area, where I often see old guys sitting and watching the world go by. My time will come! One of the four village stores is located behind the sala. How these places all make a living is beyond me but they are often an addition to the front of the house so if you are at home you may as well try and sell something I guess.
The village or Muban (Ban or Mu Ban also used) is a structured entity and forms the lowest administered entity in Thailand. According to a fairly old census a village will have on average around 145 households and 800 people, just to give you a feel for size. We’re not talking big here. There are approximately 75,000 Mubans in Thailand.
Wikipedia tells me ” Each such mu or group is led by a headman, usually called village headman or village chief who is elected by the population of the village and then appointed by the Ministry of the Interior. The headman has two assistants, one for Government affairs and one for Security Affairs. There also may be a Village Committee with elected members from the village, serving as an advisory body of a village. Originally the village headman once elected was in office until reaching retirement age. They now only serve for a five-year term but can then apply for re-election.”
Our village sits in the middle of mostly rice fields but as discussed previously there is corn, tea and some sugar being grown here too.
The road through the village is narrow and mostly built with concrete although some dirt tracks remain at the back of the village. Most houses open directly onto the road although there are some smaller sois (streets) with a few houses on them.
Where vegetation is encouraged it tends to be those plants producing things that can be eaten.
Modern houses are being built on remaining free blocks of land, or maybe where an older house has been demolished
A couple examples of the modern ugly concrete version of the traditional wooden house design.
The village bridge. Subtract 543 to get the English year from the Thai.
Every house seems to have a dog who mostly roam the streets. They particularly enjoy lying in the middle of the road to soak up the warmth from the concrete. They do move for cars but very slowly. You do have to slow down in Thailand as you might meet the unexpected around the next corner.
Thais are very tolerant of all religions.
Came across this guy working in a hut on the side of the road hand making individual concrete roof tiles. Not quite how Monier does it back home.
So we ended up our village photo tour waking down our own track to the house with its wonderful views to the corn, tea plantings and the hills.
Thanks for reading.