Our 6 Million Thai Baht Home in Thailand

Thai traditional wooden house.
I’d be willing to bet, a traditional Thai wooden house is built better than our $200K home we live in now.

We rent. Let me make that perfectly clear. There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell we’d ever buy a home here. I honestly think, after a little internet study, I could BUILD a home better than any I’ve ever seen here.

Here’s the house we currently rent – a real problem, considering it’s expensive, and they have it on the market for 6 million baht. See what kind of housing you can get for 6 million Thai Baht in Thailand:

Ok, I haven’t seen it all, but we must have lived in about 20 homes in Thailand over the last 12 years.

I’d estimate the quality of home building in the country to be around 20% of what it is in America.

I was a real estate agent with Century 21 in Tampa for a short while. During that time I also got certified as a Home Inspector. I’ve seen lots of houses. I’ve inspected many houses in the US. So, I know a little bit about what goes into a decent home construction.

If I could say ONE good thing about Thai home construction (and that’s literally ALL I could say), it’s that they sure know how to put tile floors in.

That’s it. I haven’t seen anything else impressive in 12 yrs. Sure, we haven’t lived in million dollar homes. I’m not comparing that level of construction. But, if I were, I suspect that the same issues would apply with our $200,000 USD home here in Thailand.

Where should I start?

Water leakage. There isn’t a roof in the COUNTRY that repels water 100%. I just haven’t seen it. Sure there’s wind here. Sure there’s heavy rains. Still, come on. Roofs here are like my 30 THB plastic raincoat that leaks water from four places. We have had leaks in every house we rented. If you have a home here, your roof leaks too. I just couldn’t imagine it being any other way. It’s the norm here, and Thais don’t even get too upset about it. In fact, we told our landlord about a year ago that her roof leaked. She came, had a look, judged it to be no big deal, and we haven’t had the maintenance guys here yet. We literally had water dripping out of our recessed light over the kitchen sink. Water dripped straight OUT OF IT, and it wasn’t a big enough problem to fix right away. Just gives you some idea.

Electricity… Every single light switch in this house, and our last twenty, had issues eventually. This house was brand new when we moved in. The switches worked for a while. Now, after just 18 months, they are deteriorating quickly. What happens, at least in some of them, because I saw an electrician clean some out at one of our old places, is that termites get in and chew through the concrete, dropping tiny bits into the electronic switches, and this fouls them up. It’s like someone dropping sand into your engine… eventually it seizes up, right? Same with light switches. Within a couple of years, most won’t work and they all need cleaning or replacing. Why they haven’t made termite proof switch receptacles, I can’t guess.

Light Bulbs Dying. Constantly. We have 32 recessed light bulbs in our ceiling downstairs and 12 outside. A quick check shows just 28 out of 44 lights working. There is no way in the world these lights have seen 10,000 hours of use, so I suspect something wrong with the electrical grid or the wiring here, or something. Is it possible that power fluctuations would pop lights? I think so. So far, my computer has been OK. Probably something to do with that bulbous rectangular doo-dad on the cord that plugs into the wall. Need to ask my electrician buddy Wayne that one. Noted.

Slippery Tiles. Not really a construction issue, but jesus god, when wet, the tiles on any part of your floor will send your feet sliding out from under you and a cracked-tailbone is waiting for you. I used to slip regularly, but now I just walk in my house like I’m on ice-skates, never knowing when exactly I’m going to hit a wet or even damp part of tile that sends me on my ass. To my credit, it has probably been a couple months since I had a good slip. Do be careful.

Structural Integrity? I have no idea. Everything is concrete, so it isn’t likely that could all be dorked up – could it? I haven’t had a house fall in on us yet. I have seen big cracks in concrete on the second floor of our last place, which didn’t seem to grow at all during our two year stay, so I think that’s typical of concrete construction.

Finishing. There isn’t any. It’s just as if kids had a go at it. Really. From far away, it looks OK. If you get close, you’ll be horrified. I’ve seen paint, varnish, putty, silicone gel, concrete, grouting, and everything else (is there anything else?) left sloppily on floors and walls, furniture, windows, etc. It’s an absolute horrorshow.

Anybody have any success stories?

Did I just choose twenty places to live which all sucked, by accident?

Anyone want to redeem Thai home builders?

Buddhist Yant Tattoos in Thailand

Yant (Yantra) tattoos in Thailand
I’ve never had the urge to get a tattoo. I’m 51 now and the possibility to get a cool tattoo came up recently when I stumbled on this website that I borrowed this photo from. Buddhist YANT tattoos are tattoos that are done by venerable monks with some artistic aptitude. Some people travel from all over the world to get these tattoos. They are quite unique and pretty cool looking compared to the usual generic stuff that most people have.

Tattoos to me are supposed to be unique. If your design looks like everyone else’s I think it’s the opposite of unique, it makes you a clone that is doing what everyone else is doing.

Take a look at this guy’s back – he’s completely done his whole back. I’d have stopped at one, but he wanted to cover his entire back – and he really did. I have to admit, that while I don’t usually like tattoos at all, this guy’s back looks like a piece of art! I’m starting to think Thai Sak YANT tattoos are cool. Somehow. Maybe.

Unlike other tattoos – these tattoos actually have a purpose other than shocking your students (if you teach). The Buddhist YANT tattoos are unique for each type of spirit they are warding away – or for the type of good luck that you will have. Some are for protection from certain evil spirits. They are said to stop the penetration of weapons through the skin… They are said to make the skin slippery in battle…

Some old Sak Yak masters make the black ink from the sap of a rare tree found in the northeast of Thailand – Isaan, near Cambodia and Laos. Some may even mix SNAKE VENOM into the ink!

Here is a link to the site where I first learned about Sak Yant Tattoos
Here is a gallery of Yant designs

Here is a page of youtube videos to look through if you’re interested in seeing it done: Yant videos

There are 108 sacred Yant designs at this site and an explanation of each. The idea comes from “Animism” which was here in Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia before Buddhism started. Animism has something to do with animals as gods… that’ s as far as I’ve read.

I think a tattoo should be for ME… not for others to see or care about or ask me about. If I get a tattoo it will be for one reason – to keep me mindful of something. What would I want to be mindful of? That’s the question and that would need to be answered before I get a tattoo! I’m not sure what I need to be mindful of though… my son – yes. Giving rather than getting? – yes. seeing reactions before I let them happen – yes.

Maybe one tattoo to remind me of all this? Tough call – and it’s been for a quite a while – hence, no tattoo yet.

Anybody already HAVE one of these Sakyant tattoos? Send in a photo if you have so I can post it here.

7 Things I STILL Don’t Understand About Thailand

After 12 years, I’ve pretty well got this place dialed. But I still have some problems that I just cannot get over. Here are some of them.

PROBLEMS I HAVE IN THAILAND

  1. Tailgaters. It is probably never going to change, but I keep hoping. I really don’t like driving the car, the motorbike is so much easier in many respects.
  2. Waitresses that don’t listen. If you go tot he same restaurant over and over, and get the same thing most of the time, the waitress will see you and know what you want before you open your mouth. She won’t listen to your order, she’ll just give you what you’ve always ordered before.
  3. Buses Keep Flipping Over. Overnight buses, white vans, and taxis all drive too fast to be safe for conditions. Some make no adjustment when it’s raining. So, we have buses crashing all the time – flipping. Burning. You couldn’t pay me to take an overnight bus in this country.
  4. Wildlife Exploitation. Thais just don’t seem concerned about this on any level. It takes foreigners moving here to accomplish anything. Edwin Wiek is really doing an incredible job for elephants, slow loris, bears, gibbons, tigers, and many other species who have gone neglected for decades.
  5. Bad Coffee. Come on man… Starbucks should be Starbucks and taste exactly the same wherever I order a Grande Latte with two extra shots. Starbucks is the only coffee I can stand, so when it’s bad, it is a very bad day indeed.
  6. Random Restaurant – Store Hours. Small restaurants, which is what we eat at most often, are closed on a whim. It can be a Monday one week, and Thursday the next. Friday? Yep. Any day I want to eat at a particular restaurant, it can be closed. I used to try to remember which restaurants closed on which day. The days change all the time! Stores are the same, but for the most part the convenience stores owned by a family, are open all the time because they must not be making much money at all.
  7. Why Is the Beer So Bad? I have yet to find a beer I like in the country. Beerlao is damn good if you can get it within a month or two of bottling, and without having sat in the blazing sun on an airconditionless truck.
  8. Enter Yours Here – add to comments.

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If you send in yours, I’ll post them below.


From Alex Sanders –  Alex Sanders

Thanks for the article.
Well, here are my major gripes:
#1 Dual pricing (i know, falangs must pay more, but, come on, still a bitter aftertaste, i’m not feeling that at all);
#2 Still don’t know what’s better: saving your/other ppl’s face or telling the truth (i always speak my mind, but the face dilemma kills me all the time);
#3 Safety standards suck big time (everywhere in the country; for instance, elec. cables + running water.. etc… yeah, the buses, bikes… you name it…);
#4 Driving in Thailand, yes, unbelievable (red lights shouldn’t be confined to the red light districts only, better see more working red traffic lights and drivers playing by the rules rather than those sleazy areas;
#5 Sewers jammed with trash and garbage hence flooding in towns (get it fixed already);
#6 Lots of yaba/cocaine/marijuana dealers in the evening time and onward asking you if you need ‘one’;
#7 Good old scams for any taste and budget (this one i do understand, though… but, come on, do something already)…

Provided that i have more time to think about it, i could go a bit deeper and come up with more of what I’m just not feeling, if you want me to :)

Granted, there’s way more of what i do like about Thailand, so hopefully that ‘good part’ outweighs the bad one.

72 Bottles of BeerLao on the Wall…

I used to hang out with an American expat named John, from Ubon. We used to make these monthly alcohol runs over to the Laos border to stock up on the essentials. For us both – that meant a case or more of Beerlao. Whatever we could get across the border, basically. This was back in 2005, so there wasn’t even any legal importing of Beerlao going on at the time, but there were tons of bar owners making their trips too – and grabbing 10 cases at a time – so we heard from the package store that was selling us the Beerlao in Chong Mek, Ubon Ratchathani Province.

Anyway, since I’ve lived elsewhere for the last 5 years, I haven’t been able to get my hands on much Beerlao from the motherland. I had a friend in Ubon for a while that was sending it by post in a box – a six-pack at a time! It was cans and though it wasn’t excellent, it was acceptable, because it still had the label god put there himself.

Fast forward to 2011 and I finally found some BL in the local Big C. They had bottles out for individual sale, so I bought all 72 of them. They were 39 THB each, and to me – a very nice bargain. If I flew to Laos it would take me a lot more than what I paid. Plus it’s impossible to import a case without fear of the customs guys tackling you – from what I “heard”.

I’m into my 2nd bottle here, and it’s delicious. Apparently it didn’t have any long-time in the heat of Thailand and it’s quite right.

Anybody else into the beer of the gods?

Thailand Has Zebra Gods?

Buddhism and Animism have been all blended together in Thailand and at the top of a hill next to the highway I flew by this zebra shrine at 105 kph. I asked myself for the next few seconds – “Did I just see that?”.

I turned around and found the biggest zebra shrine I’ve ever seen in Thailand before. In fact, I don’t think I remember seeing one before.

I asked the people praying at the zebra shrine altar what it was all about – and the guy told me – luck, which is just about all I caught from him. He spoke Thai fast and it was southern Thai – so, I’m always lost there. It sounds like – aaaaaeeeoooowwwweeeeeyyyyyaaaaaa and I get lost in the first sentence trying to figure out what in the world he could be saying.

I did hear – prayers and luck. Apparently he brought a zebra up there and lit some incense and was expecting some good luck for it.

When was the last time you saw someone pray to zebras for luck?

Right, me neither…

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge.

 

Words Foreigners Cannot Say in the Thai Language

Here are some tough words to learn to say in Thai language:

Ngong – it means confused

Tua Ngoh – though I usually get this one right

Ngoo – snake. This is nearly impossible to get across when I tell people I’m looking for snakes. I say it 14 different ways and they never once get it. Then I make a snake movement on the ground and say it – and they say NGGOOOO!! I say yes… ngoo.

Laeo – as in – already. If I don’t do it with a stupid smile on my face, I just cannot pronounce it. Comes from learning the country of Laos first – and I confuse them I guess.

Chang – the beer or elephant… I can say it after an hour of studying it… it’s more like Chaooang to say it correctly.

When you add any word before or after the word you have difficulty saying, Thais can get it much quicker with some context to it.

“Beeya Chang” is probably not going to be misinterpreted at a restaurant when the waiter asks you what you want to drink.

Anybody else think of a difficult word or phrase?

 

Thailand Video of the Week –

I almost forgot this – I’m sure I will by next week, as it hasn’t been a regular feature here for long.

Here is my pick for Thailand video of the week. It isn’t my video – it’s a few MMA fighters that are sucking down snake blood. Do I agree with it? Hell no. I have this idea that snakes feel pain like everything else in the world… how someone could slice the skin of it and have no qualms – I don’t know. Worse yet, how can someone cut the still beating heart out of a cobra – and let assmonkeys eat it? – (another video I saw)

When the guy handed the monocled cobra over to the fighter – to hold… with no experience… I cringed. But, such is life in Thailand. Nobody is policing this stuff. Sometimes I think that’s great… other times, not so great.

Anyway, here’s the video…

Thailand’s Northeast – Some Notes…

We’ve been on what started out as a home-hunting trip in Isaan, but it has ended and we’ll be heading out in a couple of days.

It has been about 5 years since I’ve been back to places like Khon Kaen, Nong Khai, Ubon, Sisaket, Korat… and I noticed some things that I wanted to jot down. Your experience may be different, but these are just my impressions.

DUST – it’s the dry season, and few have planted rice yet – so there are thousands of square kilometers of dirt at the farms… there is dirt everywhere. Some days it’s windy – and it’s like a dust storm.

DRY AIR – the air is extraordinarily dry. I wake up once/twice a night with cotton mouth. My breathing – asthma is affecting me sometimes – because of the cold, dry, and dust-filled air.

ALLERGIES – I have allergies here in the northeast that are nonexistent in Thailand’s other areas.

DRIVING – is a helluva lot more dangerous. There are 2 stoplights in Sisaket where people don’t stop for the lights – just blow through them at 80+ kph. If you don’t know where these two lights are – you could be killed going through your green light and thinking traffic coming from your left will stop. They won’t. Likewise, if you DO stop at the stoplight – some jackass behind you might plow right through you – thinking you KNOW – this light we don’t stop at.

Roads are very narrow – in general – in the northeast.

FOOD POISONING – happens more often. We’ve all been sick (6 of us), and baby has been on a 5 night hospital stay because of it. We’ve heard many stories from friends here of it.

SEAFOOD – is horrible in the northeast. It’s old. It’s small (shrimp), and I wouldn’t recommend it.

PEOPLE – are lovely… just like always. I love the level of respect people have for each other here. I love the simple way of life. I love the helpful attitude.  I love the smiles. People are focused more on PEOPLE here – not business, not world events.

POLITICS – they want Thaksin back REAL bad. Thaksin was their saviour, and they want him back regardless what he was said to have done negative in the country.

WAR – SISAKET and CAMBODIA – you’d never know there was artillery fire just 60km away from here with Cambodia… nobody changed the way they live… nobody is talking about it much, knowing it will blow over.

KHON KAEN is fricking HUGE. I don’t remember it like that 5 years ago. I must not have been in the main city area much.

BUDDHIST TEMPLES – are so much better here. There are many Khmer ruins.

SNAKES – there are few. I’ve found just one juvenile python here, and I’ve looked hard a few nights.

FOREIGNERS – there are MANY. Did everyone move out of Bangkok and hit the suburbs? I saw many (<50) in Ubon, about 10 in Sisaket, 100 in Nong Khai, and about 100 in Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima).

FOREIGN RESTAURANTS – there are more.

FOREST WATS – Wat Nong Pah Phong, Wat Pah Nanachat are as cool as ever. Beautiful places… both with foreign monks.

HIS MAJESTY THE KING and ROYAL FAMILY – they love them to death. They make regular visits to Bangkok to pay respects to HM.

Overall – a really nice visit to the northeast. I’d not live here. I was sure I would, having loved it the first time I came. I think I’ve been spoiled by living in the south – there are so many amazing natural wonders and opportunities for exercise and adventure that I think I see the northeast as barren and having too little to keep me happy anymore.

We thought for sure we’d move to Khon Kaen – but, after seeing it – it’s like a little Chiang Mai – it’s huge. Way too big. Too much traffic, pollution, big buildings, bad streets.

How about you – you enjoy the northeast – Isaan region – or no?

Thailand UFO

Thailand UFO going West toward the setting sun.

UFO in Thailand goes West across sky

We had just finished eating dinner at an outside restaurant and I glanced up to see a bright V in the sky. I figured it was a hello to me, “Vern” from God, and I went back to watching our daughter so she didn’t fall in with the koi fish in the pond.

Then I looked back up. WTF was that?

Here’s a pic… it was moving toward the sun… I blew it up with my 10 MP camera – which I had at full optical zoom (10x) and braced against some things to shoot it steady. The shutter was at 1/500th a second for most of the shots.

Pretty clear… either a rocket, or an asteroid. I’m guessing asteroid. Anybody else see it?

Pics copyright 2011 ThaiPulse.com taken from Sisaket at 18:07:56

Buying a Truck in Thailand

I hate to generalize – but, what I’ve learned over some years now is that Thais don’t take care of their stuff. Overall. Most Thais I guess I would even say. They don’t seem to have an appreciation for keeping their own stuff in good condition. Worse, they don’t take care of other people’s things. I don’t lend anything out anymore. Nothing. Not even ping-pong balls. Not paddles, badminton racquets, vehicles – none of it – it all goes immediately to hell when I do.

I keep my stuff nice. I hate to see it abused because I myself don’t even abuse it.

Anyway – this is about buying a truck in Thailand.

I have looked at about 35 trucks in the last few days. I have found exactly 2 that didn’t have the interior either destroyed – or looking like a troupe of 6 year olds drove the thing for 3 years.

Anybody have the same experience?

Another thing is – nearly all the trucks I looked at were from these roadside truck places that sell used vehicles. Nearly all of them had been wrecked. Some of them really badly… and fixed up.

I’m starting to wonder if we’ll find a decent truck to buy. We may just hang on to find a foreigner that wants to sell their truck.

Do you have a Toyota Higo Vigo or whatever the hell they’re called – and want to sell it? We’d like the 2 door with King Cab type. Interior – not grey. Up to 120,000 km OK.