Monday, 16 October 2017

ISAN FARM NE THAILAND

It should be no surprise to anybody (especially no surprise to me) that I am on my way again. In the past year and a half (since I had met Pannee here in Thailand) I have had to leave the country every 2 months to get a new Thai visa in a neighbouring country. Pannee thinks I am going on a "solo holiday", but I do go on excusions of 1 to 2 months at a time (see previous posts). Then I am happy to return to what has become my "home" here in Isan (general name for NE Thailand). Now I am off via cental and southern Thailand towards Malaysia (quite a long way, especially with a sort-of improvised bicycle).
During this time that I have been on the farm I have not done much. Mostly I just relaxed after a bike trip, but I did do a few things. I put in a kitchen sink, washbasin in bathromm, did some plumbing adjustments, and painted inside and out (see pics of before and after at back of house). Siblings and parents all have their own house here on the farm, even if some of them don't live here anymore. These pics are of Pannee's house.
I have put some pics of "before" and "after" on this post. There are only 2 seasons in the region, the DRY season and the RAINY season. This is the farm dam early this year in the dry season, and how it looks now towards the end of the rainy season. Ban Trakan village is about 1 km away, and beyond that is a big river where I have also done some fishing. The rice is growing well, and should be harvested within the next month. And next month, especially in December and January, the tourists will be flocking in to Bangkok again, and going to all the many other places where tourists flock around Thailand.
This is another before and after comparison. Pannee has 2 sons. Mark goes to his high school by motorbike and does pretty much his own thing. Patrick is 7 years old, and follows me around and tries to do whatever I do. His primary school is outside of the village, and very conveniently it is right next door to the farm. He has a ravenous appetite which seems to have led to a noticeable growth in his size since I first met him.
Initially I was not particularly impressed by Thai food, but it has grown on me. STICKY RICE is a staple here in Isan (and also in close neighbouring Laos). Another favourite here is PAPAYA SALAD, a very spicy concoction based on shavings of green papaya (I like eating it until my eyes start watering and my nose runs). The fruit in pic is referred to locally as NOYNA, has a lifespan of about 1 week on the tree, and is quite similar to another fruit which is generally known as "soursop". They also grow banana, mango, and cassava here on the farm.
Pannee's Mama and Papa are becoming old (the way all of us will become if we can keep on living). Papa has packed up the shop, and now he is relaxing even more, if that is possible. They live in the oldest "house" on the property, which is an ancient stilted wooden shack. Mama still prepares meals in the traditional way, mostly on a charcoal fire, and probably in the way she has done it all her life.
And then there is the farm, which I have come to consider as "home". They farm mainly with rice around here, as any Thai person will become rather confused if they do not have a rice-based meal 3 times per day. There are some farm animals around here. There are pigs, ducks, cows, chickens, and 3 dogs, (I call the one in the pic Brakenjan but apparently his real name is Phon).
Here on the farm the only vehicles are farming implements (big and small tractor), and old motorbike with cargo sidecar, small motorbikes, and bicycles. With the motorbike to the bus stop is 10 km of rolling gravel country lane. From there one can take a rickety bus to Ubon Ratchathani city (40 km), or a pickup truck "bus" the other way to Amphoe Trakan town (20 km). However, I prefer to cycle to town for grocery shopping.
As I have already said, I don't do much around here on the farm. I spend quite a bit of time on my computer (which I normally don't carry with me on the bike - I carry more than enough weight). We get wi-fi from Pannee's sister's house next door. I have been suffering from an ear infection for some time now, so I make myself look silly by pulling a buff over my head when I sleep.
Pannee also has to leave the farm by the end of this month, returning to her job in Bangkok. Tomorrow I hit the road with mixed feelings, unsure when/if I will be back again.
I have cycled a bit more around here in Isan, to town with bags on for shopping and so forth. Total distance cycled since March 2007 is 146 849 km. I am amazed that Old Saartjie (my bike) still has the legs to do this thing.

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