buriram, ban koksanuan, Isaan, northeastern Thailand

Buriram – chilling out in Ban Koksanuan

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Buriram – chilling out in Ban Koksanuan, Isaan, northeastern Thailand

At the start of July I spent eleven days in Koksanuan village, Buriram Province, northeastern Thailand. Ban (village) Koksanuan is where my wife of sixteen years – Sunan, was born and brought up. It is a small rice-farming community about 20km from the town of Nang Rong, and about 40km from the provincial capital of Buriram City.

There are some notable sightseeing attractions in Buriram, two of which are Prasat Phanom Rung – a 1000 year old Khmer Hindu temple complex atop Phanom Rung mount (an extinct volcano not far from Nang Rong), and the large, golden Buddha statue atop Mount Khao Kradong. Even with attractions such as these, Buriram is still well off the tourist trail and it’s a good place to spend some time trying to capture a glimpse of the ‘real’ Thailand.

Prasat Phanom Rung, Buriram Province, northeastern Thailand
Prasat Phanom Rung, Buriram Province, northeastern Thailand

After having spent a busy week in the over-crowded and bustling capital city of Bangkok (400+ km away), Ban Koksanuan was a welcome retreat. Don’t get me wrong, I think Bangkok is an amazing city. But the noise and the pollution and the heat in the capital is relentless in July; and although it is hot in Buriram, at least it is quiet and the air is clean.

We arrived on the Friday evening and were welcomed into my wife’s parent’s house with genuine, heartfelt smiles and warm hugs. It had been a few years since I had last seen the in-laws and they hadn’t changed much with the passage of time, a little greyer maybe. They were ‘over the moon’ to see our two kids, especially my 16 year old daughter who lived in Buriram for the first 13 months of her life.  Yai Rian & Dahling (the mother and father) spoiled our two kids with sweets and drinks and fussed over them all night.
for Buriram hotels see here

The next morning we awoke early to the soothing sound of the Ban Koksanuan, countryside choir: a dog barking in the distance, a cock crowing, a brood of hens clucking out in their bamboo pen. Not before long, the sound of children laughing and playing began to drift up from the gardens, so we got up and got organised. We had a big day ahead of us; the extended family were all heading out (in a convoy) to visit a sick auntie – Nin, who lived about 70km away in her husband’s village.

Auntie Nin had a mysterious illness. A few months ago she had been preparing dinner for herself and her husband when her legs gave way and she collapsed on the kitchen floor. Ever since then she has been unable to move. Auntie Nin is only 47 years old.

When we arrive at Nin’s house, she is sitting in the shade in a reclining chair with a glass of water beside her but she is alone. All the women in the group kick off their sandals and flip-flops and sit down on a straw mat on the porch where Nin is seated; the men stay out of the way, preferring to sit in the shade of a large papaya tree and talk about ‘Man’ things.

Yai Rian holds up the glass for Nin to take a drink; Nin leans forward and takes a small sip and then rests her head back on the headrest of the chair.

‘Sabai dee mai, nong Nin?’ Asks Yai Rian. (‘How are you?’)

‘Mai sabia…’ (no good), replies Nin.

Yai Rian smiles tenderly at Nin and squeezes her shoulder reassuringly. ‘Where is your husband, Nin?’ Yai Rian asks.

Her husband has gone to work, Nin tells Yai Rian. He has no choice; they need the money. Nin has no children. And when the husband goes to work Nin is left on her own. I can see the family don’t really like the sound of this arrangement but they keep to themselves any unsubstantiated assumptions they may have, at least until they speak to the husband.

As we wait, the females take turns to comfort and fuss over Nin; the men come in and say hello, and then go back outside to smoke in the shade. About half an hour later or so, the husband returns from the rice-fields and looks surprised but happy to see all the visitors.

I can’t speak Thai well and neither can my two children so we decide to go for a walk with Fan (8) and Men (4) – my two nephews; they can’t speak English but that doesn’t stop them trying, kids are great communicators, and this pair are a couple of comedians.

After our walk, when we get back to auntie Nin’s house, my wife tells me that the husband has agreed to let Nin go back to Ban Koksanuan with them. Nin needs round the clock care and the husband has to work; if he can’t give her the care that she needs then the family will – simple.

I feel a bit sorry for Nin’s husband but I can’t help admire the no-nonsense ‘she’s our blood’ approach by my wife’s family. The husband seems like a good guy and I remember meeting him years ago. He packs Nin a bag and then carries her over to one of the cars before lifting her in and strapping her up safely for the journey back to Ban Koksanuan. Everybody gives a bow and a ‘Wai’ and wishes the husband ‘chok dee’ (good luck); my mother-in-law assures him that he’s welcome to come and visit his wife anytime; the husband smiles and nods his head, acknowledging Yai Rian’s invitation. As we pull away I feel gutted for the guy but I’m sure he knows that what the family are doing is probably for the best.

Back at the mother-in-laws house I ask my wife if they have any idea what’s wrong with auntie Nin. My wife tells me that she has had loads of tests done but the doctors can’t find anything wrong with her. She glances around the room and then whispers conspiratorially in my ear: ‘…some people think she may have been cursed.’

‘Cursed,’ I repeated, a bit taken aback: ‘what do you mean?’

‘I mean’ – she paused for a moment – ‘…cursed – like a spell,’ she said: ‘…maybe someone jealous she and they put something bad on her.’

Aye, right! Pull the other one. I was open-minded but this was a bit far-out even for me. I knew that Thai people were superstitious and most of them believed in ghosts and spirits, but ‘witchcraft’ in 2016 – I wasn’t wearing that; if it was up to me I’d be wheeling her into the closest hospital for more tests.

Anyway, over the next week or so I was amazed at how devoted the whole family were to auntie Nin. The Thais have big strong family networks and they all live virtually next door to one another; directly behind Daling and Yai Rian’s house – a matter of feet, lived an auntie and an uncle, and behind that house was another uncle’s house, and behind that a cousin’s. There was constant motorbike and foot traffic up and down the little dirt track between the houses all day long, and everyone interacted with each other, from the old wisened, grey-haired owls to the cheeky-monkey children. They were all friends and they all helped each other, and although life was tough, they all seemed happy.

All in all we spent 11 full days in Ban Koksanuan; it was the most relaxing and peaceful time I have had in along time – there was no pressure to do anything from anyone; I was able to sit back with my feet up and do nothing if I wanted; if I wanted to work on my websites for a bit then I could do that too, but working wasn’t a priority. On the morning of day 12 we headed for Buriram City train station and caught a train to Bangkok before transferring onto the Surat Thani sleeper-train at Bang Sue Junction for the next destination on our itinerary: Koh Samui.

The last I heard about auntie Nin was that she wanted to go back home to live with her husband because she was missing him too much – I feel sad for Nin, and for her husband. There has been no change in her condition. Although I hear she is due more tests.

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Buriram, Thailand - chilling out in Ban Koksanuan
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22 thoughts on “Buriram – chilling out in Ban Koksanuan”

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  2. I’ve had so many bad experiences with girls from Buriram, it’s great to finally read about the place and see the pictures. The extinct volcano sounds interesting, I’ll check it out if I ever go. Don’t they have the best football team in Thailand too?

    1. Yes, James – Buriram United are one of the top teams in Thailand; everywhere you look in Buriram someone’s got a Buriram United top on. I was at a big ‘doo’ at my wife’s cousin’s house in July – I don’t drink and they were all pissed-up outside, whilst I sat inside quite happy flicking through the channels on the TV. I found a game – it was Buriram United vs Bangkok, and I thought. ‘maybe they don’t know it’s on’. They were all sitting outside with the Buriram United clobber on, and so I went out and told them: ‘btw, the game is on.’ Not one of them was the slightest bit interested in it and they all just continued battering into the booze. Talk about plastic fans ffs! It’s a good atmosphere at the ‘Home’ matches though, the fans really make it an occasion. That’s too bad about your shitty experiences with Buriram girls; my wee wife is cool – she works hard, and we’ve been together nearly 18 years now. I get on great with all her family, and they treat me as such, I think because they recognise that their blood is running through my kids veins, and I’m the kids father. It helps that I’m not fat and bald and old enough to be my wife’s grandfather as well though. Prasat Phnom Rung is well worth a visit if you are ever up that way, it looks like a small ‘Angkor Wat’. Anyway, thanks for commenting, and good luck with everything!

  3. I’ve read a lot about Bangkok, Phuket and other top tourist destinations in Thailand. But reading about smaller villages like this is an eye opener. It could be a good reason to go back and explore what other things Thailand has to offer!

  4. I love learning about small Thai villages especially when they’re not too far from Bangkok. I was shocked when I read that Auntie Nin was only 47, I somehow expected her to be much older. I’m 46 so it’s scary to think that she’s so young and is already unable to function properly. I really do hope they find a cure for whatever it is she has! As for curses, my boyfriend is from Togo (West Africa) and he’s told me a few stories about mysterious deaths which many people believe to be caused by curses.

    1. Hi Lydia, it is scary – I’m 46 too. When I saw Nin in July, I was almost sure it would be the last time I saw her. She was so gaunt and thin and (it seemed) had so little life left in her. She could talk (in a whisper) but she couldn’t walk or move any of her limbs, and was hardly able to move even a finger.Happy to report, however, that auntie Nin is apparently, and miraculously, on the mend. I’m not sure what the details are as my wife has just recently found out, but it has been reported to me that she is able to move her arms, eat and drink on her own, and has been chattering away like a budgie, although she still can’t walk. I intend to update the post / story once I have more information. Thanks for commenting, Lydia…

  5. I personally haven’t heard of this place before, admittedly, I haven’t been off the tourist track too much while in Thailand (something I regret).

    Speaking of curses and magic, my grandma is a very superstitious Indonesian lady (from a small village in East Kalimantan) and believes in those types of things too… She used to tell me all sorts of stories growing up. I’m not sure about you, but I always find it quite interesting listening to the reasoning behind why they think it’s black magic or superstitions in general.

    1. Yes, totally agree – I find it very interesting. And also think that people in the East are closer to the Earth and are much more open minded about the supernatural than us (in the West) with our logic and reason. Thanks for commenting!

  6. What an interesting experience! I’ve never been to Thailand and don’t know much about its culture either, so was crazy to hear about being “cursed”. Loved hearing about a city besides Bangkok too!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Leah. You should visit Thailand – it’s a great country to explore. And auntie Nin, by the way, is miraculously on the mend too. Not sure of all the details but word is ‘her condition is improving’. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Oh my goodness…when I read “Ban Koksanuan, countryside choir” in the morning, I thought wow sounds interesting. And then I read on, and I had a small chuckle to myself. What a fantastic way to describe the morning in Ban Koksanuan! Life here sounds so chilled our and relaxing – it’s nice to hear that you have such a pleasant time without the pressure or need to do too much. I hope Auntie Nin is doing better!

    1. Glad you liked it, Soraya. And yes, it was a nice place to put your feet up and chill out. I recently found out that Nin is doing better – the Docs still don’t know what’s wrong but she’s miraculously (it seems) on the mend…

  8. So sad about Auntie Nin. I wish her a fast recovery and hope that her husband and her get to live together again and all is well.
    It sounds like you had an amazing experience. It must be nice to be part of the family as I doubt an outsider can every experience that feeling as you did.
    on a side note; I really dislike Bangkok. It is too big, busy and polluted.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I understand your feelings about Bangkok, it can be a bit overwhelming for some people. And yes, its always nice to feel ‘part of the family’. In regards to auntie Nin – I have recently heard that she has improved somewhat; she still can’t walk and the doctors still don’t know what’s wrong with her but she can use her arms and feed herself now, and hopefully things keep on improving. Thanks for commenting! Safe travels…

  9. I really enjoyed your style of writing for this piece. It felt like I was reading something out of a novel, and reminded me of some similar travels I’ve been on, particularly for my recent visit to Cambodia. I’m sorry to hear about Auntie Nin and hope she has a better diagnosis in the future.

    1. Thank you – glad you enjoyed it. Happy to report that Auntie Nin is a bit better than before; the doctors are still not sure what is wrong with her but she can move her arms now and feed herself – may her recovery continue! Thanks for commenting.

  10. Looks like you had an incredible experience 🙂 We are moving to Bangkok this year and want to explore those small Thai villages around the beautiful country!

    1. You will love it, Katie – Bangkok is an amazing city. And Prasat Phnom Rung (the Khmer Hindu Temple complex) in Buriram, is a good ‘off-the-beaten-track’ destination. Good luck and safe travels!

  11. A very fun read. My wife is also from Issan. We live in Krabi and visit family there a couple times each year. They farm in Nakhom Phanom province. In fact we were just out there last week. We’ve been planning to see Prasat Phanom Rung on one of our trips but ran out of time once again. Perhaps next season.

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