Day three of the Bun Bang Fai festival was a lot quieter with nothing major on. Gaun and I had been invited to visit brother number 5, who lives about an hour from Si Bun Ruang towards a large man-made lake South of the town called Ubol Ratana or Ubolratana. I tend to refer to Guan’s family by number because that’s how she does. They obviously have names but other than the two sisters, Yuan and Paet (pronounced Baed), who work the farm I don’t know what they are. I’m not sure Guan does either! Maybe with seven kids in the family it all got too hard.
Brother number 5 and his wife live a pretty basic life and do it harder than the land based side of the family. He is a small-time fisherman in a real rural Thai Moo Baan well off the main road. Yaun, Lud, Gaun and I headed off in my car for the drive through the countryside and small villages to the brother’s house. A trip with the family always involves a running commentary on the state of other people’s crops and land. Plenty of chatter from the back seat.
We arrived at the house just as brother 5 and his wife were laying out the catch of the day for drying prior to sale. One wonders if the need to provide money and food TODAY wasn’t such a consideration whether these poor fish would be better left until they grew bigger. Gaun was horrified at the number of fish my brother Richard threw back when she was fishing off his boat in Australia because they were undersized. However his meal for the day could be steak if not fish. No such options here. Long term planning is a luxury these people don’t have.
While the fish were being finished off Gaun and I went for a wander down the road to see what else was going on. As always there were some photo opportunities and a chance to capture “real” Isaan life:
The family had talked among themselves and on our return it was suggested that brother 5’s wife took us to Ubol Ratana lake and a boat ride. We all headed off, less brother 5, through the village and down dirt backroads until we reached the Northern end of the lake.
The lake at this point was surrounded by very flat and featureless country. However I really loved it. The scenery reminder me of something from my past. Maybe the marshes of an area of Suffolk I spent time. The flatness really emphasised the bigness of the sky and the contrast of colour from green to the blues and grays I found very pleasing. It had a certain wildness in its feel.
We stopped off at the local meeting point where cool drinks were available and everyone gathered around to find out about the farang and exchange gossip. Brother 5’s wife in the big white hat below is of course well known here.
A boat was organised at 500 THB or $18.00, local rates, and we walked down to the water to start the trip.
The first thing that struck me was the number of these houseboats that you can see such as the one in the photo above. Brother 5 had one once but sold it. They are very basic tin structures built on a bundle of bamboo poles lashed together. From it the family conducts their fishing business. The high poles are used to lay the net and there is a pulley system to bring the nets in. All supplies are shipped in. Electricity to power a fan and TV of course is provided by battery. Many of these boats were not being used when we went by either due to the season, being dry the lake is very low, or maybe they were at the festival having a good time.
Everywhere I go I love capturing the people I see in different environments. Here are some I saw as we motored around the end of the lake.
Our trip on the water was cut short because a big storm was building and the boat guy didn’t want us to get caught in it. The wind can get pretty wild here evidently. Still time to capture a few photos on the way back:
The trip finished we headed back to brother 5’s house for a well earned feed. Papaya salad with just a touch of chilli for the family. I just had the fish. I was touched that brother 5 really wanted to make me welcome and provide a chair but they don’t have one! I was quite happy on the mats. Nothing special required as far as I’m concerned. Gaun tells me that evidently his “standing” in the village will go up because he has shown that he has a farang in the family. I feel quite important.
Once again another side of Thailand that I am privileged to see as part of a Thai family willing to share their lives with me.
The day was finished with a visit to the family farm where I captured these end of day photos, which reflect the rural and gentle nature of Isaan countryside as night falls and the family winds up work.
If you want more information about Ubol Ratana dam you can find it HERE.
Thanks for reading.