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A Typical Isaan Town

First published 26 February 2022

This is a very typical streetscape in limited experience. Totally functional (except for footpaths lack of) and devoid of any effort to beautify. Absolutely no trees and minimal shade. A place to avoid in the hot season. Masses of passing traffic but almost noone on the footpaths or in shops. I have no idea how business keep going. Maybe they have a rush in the evening when I am not around to see it.

I am going to publish several posts showing the variety of business we have available in our smallish rural town of Si Bun Rueang. You can take my photos, and they will replicate just about any urban scene in Thailand. For many of you this is nothing new, but I know we have members who aren't as familiar with this aspect of life here, and the post is aimed more at you.

My in-laws Yuan and Lud were couriering food to their son Game in Bangkok via Kerry. A cheap and efficient service.

Despite being a pretty small place, Si Bun Rueang has just about everything an Isaan person would want. Where it falls down, when compared to bigger places, especially those in (ex) tourist locations, are businesses catering specifically for our tastes in food and entertainment. The farang basics are covered by Tesco Lotus, and to a lesser extent 7/11, but if you want something more specialised you will need to travel; to Udon Thani, which is only an hour and a bit away. Entertainment like western eating places, bars, pool tables, are just not available here.

One of the builder's merchants we use. They have this main street shop and then not far away a yard where they store sand, gravel and the bigger construction materials. You can order cement to be delivered from here.

The main challenge for a westerner is finding where things are, Most shops have Thai signage only, for obvious reasons, and you rely on what they have piled outside to give you a clue as to their function.

I had a few minutes free time this morning, so I just snapped a few of the shops on the main street. I have some favourites here (for local readers) so keep an eye out for them.

Another example across the road. A bit classy, this one. They give you a small bottle of chilled water if you're buying.

A brand-new building at the back housing a children's medical clinic at the bottom, accommodation on top. The small shop on the right sells school uniforms and accessories (shoes etc).

There are many versions of this shop on the main street. A variety of stock aimed mainly at the farming community. Fishing nets, seeds, tools, hose pipes and just about anything else you can think of.

It has been interesting to watch the modernising of Si Bun Rueang in the seven years I have lived here. When I arrived, most shops were open to the street with roller shutters. Now there have been upgrades to install windows and a few even have air conditioning.

This is the only fishing shop I know of in town, but as I don't fish it's not something I go looking for.

A new gold shop. Thais buy gold both for the social 'look at me' plus they can trade it in anytime at current market rates, less a bit. It's like having emergency money around your neck.

The main electronics shop in town. A narrow front, but very deep. A new alternative has just opened as you head south, and I will check it out in another post. We have bought a number of major appliances there, including all the air conditioning for our house. Get prices elsewhere, and they will price match or get close.

For kids big and small.

See what I mean.

Several clothes shops of course.

Across the road owned by family. You find that with multiple shops selling the same thing, they are often owned by different family members. Mum has one and daughter the one almost next door.

XXL is a challenge.

A medical clinic on the left and pharmacy on the right (the husband is doctor and wife pharmacist). The clinic has better hours than some, and he speaks some English.

You wouldn't pick it, but this is the main florist shop in town that I know of. It's where I buy flowers for Gaun on special occasions. They will make up bunches for you based on price.

Masses of these small stalls on the footpath where you can buy cold drinks for not much.

A shop specialising in selling merchandise you give to monks at a temple. The colourful items outside on the left are in effect headstones. They have a place where you can insert ashes and bones from a cremation. Usually based at temples because Thais are worried about spirits (Gaun calls them ghosts) associated with them.

A big optical franchise you'll find all over Thailand. Expensive unless you get them on a special, in which case they’re about the same price as the opposition.

Another view of the bleakness of main street.

Another mixed shop. Rat traps on the left, fishing baskets that make great light shades (180 baht), fishing nets etc.

One of those fishing baskets used in my garden rice hut retreat.

One of the better shops for more technical farming supplies. Pumps, machinery, plumbing, and lots more. A good place to start if in the market for something the smaller places don't have.

A good range of stock.

The wonderfully versatile diesel engines you see in farm trucks, powering iron buffalos and pumping water.

And across the road this shop that has gas related equipment and bottle replacement.

We have a small Tescos, this one, a larger supermarket version and four 7/11s.

Lots of new building happen on the main street. Usually shops on the ground floor and accommodation above.

A motorbike repair shop right on the road.

An electrical shop across the street.

An example of some development and upscaling that’s happening. Land is hugely expensive in this location and why you'd want to live in such a busy, noisy, dusty location is a mystery.

Another place selling packages for monks. The buckets have a mix of personal (shampoo, toothpaste etc) items or food. I took the photo because they were obviously selling something they had growing in the garden or farm. No special licence required, permission from some government authority, just display and sell. It's that versatile freedom of Thailand that rocks my boat and others as well, I know.

I hope you've enjoyed this wander through the main street of my hometown. More to come when I get around to it.

Thanks for reading.



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