Living in the Thai Countryside
Since moving into our new house, I have been thinking of writing this about our little slice of Thailand. Spurred on by the recent writing of Bangkok Barry, I finally decided to pen my feelings on how rewarding I think it is to be living in the rural areas of Thailand.
When I came to Thailand 6.5 years ago I lived in Bangkok with my girlfriend and soon to be wife. After 10 months we moved to Hua Hin and lived there for over 4 years. Rapid development in Hua Hin along with some incidents and threat by a local builder motivated me to consider moving far south to a much more rural environment where we would not encounter the problems that rapid development had caused in Hua Hin. We sold our second house in Hua Hin and moved 500km south to the rural beach side community of Khanom. Ah yes I said Khanom. Mention Khanom to most Thai’s and they look at you with a blank stare. Finally I have to give them a hint and ask them if they know where Koh Samui is then tell them that Khanom is on the mainland directly south of Koh Samui.
My wife is from Khanom so that was our main motivation for selecting Khanom as our new base. We decided to take our money from the sale of our house and build a new house in Khanom with all the features we liked in our former house plus several others I had always wished I had. First hurdle was finding land to build our new house on. Land near the beach was 1.5 million a rai or greater but as you worked your way inland the prices were better. We made several trips to Khanom searching for and checking out property. We have learned how things happen in rural Thailand. The way to find out what is really available is to broadcast to all your friends and acquaintances that we were in the market for land to build on. One of the wife’s friends discovered a 4+ rai plot not too far from her home which is about 5km from (what we call-will explain later) South Khanom. Someone wanted to sell the plot because they could not make the mortgage payments on the land. The sale had to be all cash and quick with no banks involved due to the default and impending repossession. This was an ideal situation for us. 1.4million baht for over 4rai of oil palm land sounded good to us. Acting quickly, we drew up the sale agreement with the tambon chief and gave the owners enough deposit so they could pay off the loan. Wife’s friend checked with the bank to make sure the money was used to pay off the loan. A month later we returned to “seal the deal” with the Land Office. Having come from Hua Hin and dealing with the land office there (probably the most corrupt land office in Thailand) we knew how to work the system though it did not take nearly as much baht to maneuver through the office in Sichon as it does in Hua Hin. Only 2,000 baht (would have been over 5,000 baht in Hua Hin) took us twice to the front of the queue and we were out of the office by 11pm. The sellers could not believe we did it so quickly. Sellers were paid off, commission paid to wife’s friend and the property was in wife’s name.
This is what we bought:
We had some of the Oil Palms removed and some of the front filled in with dirt back about 45 meters and it looked like this when construction was started in early March of 2013.
Our Contractor had some pull with the Land Office and they sent a crew out to officially measure and identify and measure the markers on the corners of the property. We ended up with nice surprise. The front of our property was 44 meters across and not the 40 meters we had thought. Our land increased from 4+ rai to 4.4 rai thus lowering our cost from 350 baht to 325 baht/rai.
Just after we purchased our property, someone down the street put their 7 rai Coconut Palm property on the market at 700 baht/rai. Don’t know if it ever sold or not but sign is no longer there.
We found a nice three bedroom + large den house near town with lots of landscaping around it to live in. Cost 10,000 baht/month. House was larger than the one we were building and located next door to the BIG Wednesday morning outdoor market. Wife loved walking out the back gate and doing her shopping for the next few days every Wednesday.
We moved in to a completed house 9 months later with no landscaping or pool completed. Every time it rained we were walking in mud and tracking it everywhere. You can’t imagine how good it felt when the landscaping and sod were finally in place. The Pool was also completed at the same time so everything finally came together.
For a detailed progress of the construction process it is posted on CoolThaiHouse.com in the Building a House section and Titled: Building in Khanom: If that links correctly you will be near the start of construction. You can read of all of the interesting steps along the way to constructing a house in Thailand. A true test of patience and a real project in itself.
Our plot is located about 6km from what we call South Khanom and is in the Thai countryside. You can tell from the dirt road in front of our house that we are not on a main street.
Further evidence of our location in Rural Thailand is the house of our next door neighbor here. It’s a small one room house that two adults and two children live in plus relatives at times. They have been our watchdogs during our construction, keeping track of anything unusual happening on our property. We have rewarded them in many ways by us giving them access to our water (direct line from our tanks and pump), excess concrete given them for a small patio at entrance and a medium size refrigerator (promotion gift from Home Pro) to replace their defunct one. To this day we also employ them when needed for jobs we need help on. Yes, we take care of them and they take care of us. Despite what you may have heard about all the stealing and thievery in Thailand, we have had absolutely no problems with any theft or damage of any kind on the site. I attribute that to some very good neighbors and our location off the main roads of travel where the people are very good.
During Construction the road in front of our house was finally being cast in concrete as we had been told it would before we purchased the property.
Then all of a sudden we noticed that it appeared that the road construction would stop directly in front of our property. We had to do some negotiating with the man in charge to see how far we could get it extended past our house. Price started at 25,000 baht and over time kept increasing to finally 35,000 baht of which we suspect that 10,000 baht went into his and the pouyai’s and foreman’s pockets. You can see the partial palm leaf marking in the road where we had it extended to.
At least now we would not have a dirt plum kicked up in front of our house. See our paid for extension of the road at the top end of it.
Water is a valuable commodity almost anywhere in the world. We had an old shallow well in the middle of our property and pumped water from it for our construction. It did not take too many months and we had used up all the water in it and it was not replenishing quick enough for us to depend on it for use. Our yellow pump was mounted on a stand and another pump to the left that was installed (years ago) by our neighbor on the other side and used to pump water for their use. Of course the whole problem was that the city water supply in our area that had been put in a few years ago no longer delivered water due to lack of maintenance. That is a common problem in many areas of Khanom. The Tambon chief gets money for water system, installs it and within a year it stops functioning because of lack of maintenance.
Now we have to get a deep well drilled for water. Another unexpected big expense but at least we would now have a reliable source of water. They drilled down through rock for 50 meters and we now have a well that will pump at least 2,000 liters of water per hour. Enough to fill our 6,000 liters of water tanks for use on our housing site.
We get towards the end of construction and the place is starting to look good from the street.
Were finally done and very pleased with the result. The only problem is that your never really done. Always have little projects to improve the place like; installing water sprinklers and their water pipes, remove the Bermuda Grass because of a bug that almost killed it off and replacing with Malaysian Broad Leaf grass, (always tweaking with the landscaping,) and by far the most important, installing a back-up generator to eliminate all the headaches of the power outages that hit the hinterlands so often. In the past week we have had several outages of from a few minutes to several hours. A month ago it was for 17 hours and had to sleep with no fan at night. Yesterday we received the generator and soon the electrician will install the necessary hardware to hook it up to our house. Today when it went out I used extension cords so we could at least keep our water pumps on and refrigerator going. Hallelujah!!!!
This is what it looks like today, five months after we moved in. Wife just had to have that spirit house built. Was told it would not be very large and cost very much. It’s “Thai planning”, or total lack of it. No plans and no dimensions! Something small turned out to be much larger because absolutely no details were given to the builders other than “I want it here and (pointing to the ground) about this size”. Don’t pay any attention to builders and retreat to the house until a foundation and a few rows of bricks are up then complain that it’s too big. I should have given her a budget for the project and that would have forced her to plan.
Khanom is located on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand so there are many beaches and coves all around that have few if any people on them. The beach shown here is at the end of a road built to it by a Canadian owner whom I have met. Absolutely gorgeous beach plus 6 rai of land that he has eventual plans to build a few houses on and live in one or two and sell or rent the others. When he shuts the road off it will be a very private beach. There are many other coves and beaches like this in the Khanom area. The longest beach in Khanom is a 26km long bay that is barely used but is developing slowly.
In addition to the beaches, Khanom is also known for the Pink Dolphins that hang out in the water between Khanom and Don Sak (ferry terminal to Koh Samui). There are numerous places you can rent a boat and driver for a two hours cruise of the beautiful coastline and hopefully be able to see the Pink Dolphins. This picture below is proof that they do exist.
The actual town of Khanom is quite unusual. We call it North Khanom and South Khanom. Our house is nearest South Khanom which has several businesses there along with three major bank branches. The south end of Khanom is where the main road from the N/S highway from Surat Thani to Nakhon Si Thammarat (a “T” and 20km)connects to the business district. Only one 7-11 in South Khanom.
Going north from South Town, it becomes more rural crossing by the Post Office, Police Station, Hospital and scattered businesses along the way. About 4km up the road you enter another business district which seems to be a bit larger and goes on for a while. There you have the Tesco Express and two 7-11’s plus a multitude of hardware stores further north and located around the A-1 Department “Super Store”. There is even a electrical appliance store there that we purchased our TV at. There are a surprising number of stores in both North and South Khanom that carry many items farangs would want. The trick is to know where they are. A friend who had to have his car AC charged up found a place in South Khanom that did that work. Our car is now in a body shop, we just found out about, located on the way out of town. Quite a neat and clean workplace too which was impressive to me, the “old” one time auto shop teacher.
North Khanom is also known as little Myanmar. There is a river and a large commercial fish harbor a few 100 meters further up with most of the workers on the boats from Myanmar and their women are all around town up there with kids and face paintings.
Whatever we cannot find here we travel the 70km to Surat Thani where we have a Big C, Thai Watsadu, Tesco Lotus, Central Plaza (with Tops market) and Home Pro among the major destinations. When we first moved here we made the trek to Surat Thani weekly but now only about once a month. Have learned to plan ahead as best possible and live with the surprising variety of items we have available to us here in Khanom when we can find out where they are. For those occasional trips to BKK, Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile, and Thai Lion Air from Surat Thani are the way to go. Much less costly and easier than making the 9 hour trip in the car. We haven’t driven that distance since we moved here.
It’s a relaxed life here. Probably my biggest like is the rural location, lack of traffic and driving around with few if any cars on the road. North and South Khanom get somewhat busy on holiday weekends but not too bad that we would avoid it. We know all the back roads now. The rural atmosphere of our housing location is quite relaxing and when the clouds are out in the afternoon a great view westward from our patio to the coconut palms and green mountains to the left. Khanom is gradually gaining a reputation as a nice quiet destination with lots of ocean beach to relax around. One can see the building going on around town and especially in the beach area. Someday, hopefully, far in the future, it will be a much different beach area. Just don’t want to let it get like that tourist island of Koh Samui about 20km north of Khanom.
What I like about where you are is proximity to the beach. A lot of Westerners have retired or semi-retired in the north or northeast, each of which have their merits, but I'd moss being near the sea – and you have that!