Our Story: A Potato in a Rice Field

I wont lie to you. I have never once read a book about living in Thailand, and given my squirrel-like attention span, I am near certain I never will. But against all odds, I have written a book, and for the purpose of this post (and SEO) it is by far the ‘Best book on living in Thailand’. Where for me it will always be the ‘best book on living in Thailand’. So this is partly because I don’t read books, but also that I find a rather miserable selection of sexpat stories, and the ‘Best Sellers’ at Thailand’s airports with recurring themes of drugs, prostitution, jail time and ‘Hell’. Which reflect on the authors’ lifestyles, rather than Thailand itself. But I am otherwise fortunate to have seen Thailand in a positive light, meaning I can only share life in Thailand in a brighter and less jaded light. Although I can be a touch grouchy in parts, with my usual cynicism and neglect for sugar-coating life in foreign lands. So my book is called a Potato in a Rice Field and through 129 images (some included here) and 112 chapters I do my best to depict life in Thailand. And it’s now available on Amazon as here.

Family Ceremony, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field Temple Holy Day, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field Rural Wedding, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field

Welcome to Broken Road

In 2015 my wife Fanfan and I moved to live in the small rural village of ‘Broken Road’ in Thailand’s rural northeast region, known for its seemingly endless landscapes of rice fields after rice fields. The village is found soon after the larger town of Nang Rong towards the city of Buriram, by taking a right at ‘Baan Khanom’ or ‘Snack House’ as it translates in English, as landmarks are otherwise few and far between in these parts of the world. So Broken Road has always reminded me of ‘The Shire’, as a fruitful place cut off from the modern world, where lots of small people live, and at five-foot-ten, I’m almost certain to be the tallest person in the village. We are otherwise located in the northeast region of Thailand, better known as ‘Isaan’, which is often misunderstood as being the ‘Poor Part of Thailand’ as I otherwise find the opposite when it comes to quality of life. And I think ‘low-income’ would be the better term, given people here live rich lives with the low-cost of living, and ability to live off the land. And our family compound is no different, where almost everything we eat through the week is sourced from the family’s gardens and farms, and even the streets out front are lined with lemongrass and kaffir lime trees, so the smells of citrus breeze through the village every time they’re trimmed. We do live in somewhat of a foodie’s paradise, and of course I make the most of this throughout the year.

Dam Na Rice Fields, Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field Rice Harvester, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field Drying Rice, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field

A Year in Rural Thailand

The reason for this move is however more bitter-sweet, where Fanfan’s Granny Yai took ill and we volunteered to help the family, as traditionally Thai people don’t just dump their old folk into the nearest nursing home. So we volunteered to leave our previous lives behind in big city Bangkok, to refurbish Fanfan’s old childhood home, and we inevitably moved there for the coming year. And ‘A Potato in a Rice Field’ follows from this time, where images and snippets of daily life chronicle my integration into the close-knit family circle, the local temple, and the wider village community. It’s basically just me bumbling through awkward social and cultural etiquette. Although our experiences do feel somewhat anthropological in parts, given our unique position in this rustic rural setting, and through the year I find myself involved in intimate ceremonies, from wearing puffy shorts as a ‘Bridesmaid’ at a wedding, to the more sombre tones of family funerals. And of course experiences do centre around local Buddhist traditions, where at one point I was almost convinced to join a mass monk ordination at the local temple to become a monk. However I am not just plopped into these situations as the token tourist, as I am pretty much bound to these roles as a family member and the only able male of the near family, given grandpa Ta is now in his seventies. But I will otherwise always be a novelty in the wider community, given I am the only foreigner found within many miles.

Songkran Monks, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field Monk Ordination, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field Asahna Bucha Day, Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field

A Lifestyle of Travel

Meanwhile I must juggle with the complications of life in foreign lands, such as visa issues, passport problems, and my unlikely profession as a location independent travel blogger. Which inevitably takes us to various nearby borders, as well as further-flung Asian destinations like the karst landscapes of southern China, ‘extreme sightseeing’ through sakura and snow in Japan, and we’re even caught in one of the world’s most intense typhoons in Taiwan. But I’m not one to count countries like some glorified stamp collection, as I would forever return to Japan or China before ever considering a visit to Chad. No offence Chad. As my fascination with travel will always be in the traditions and cultures of Asia, and I include behind the scenes scribblings from destinations, which can easily be dipped into or ignored through the 112 chapters (129 images) of the book. Where otherwise the sole focus is on life in the rice fields, as it follows the seasons, festivals and events celebrated throughout the year in the old-world setting of rural Isaan. And of course we do delve into our past lives in Bangkok as well as past travels in Southeast Asia, where the book sums up many of my own learnings through the years, from when I originally bought our condo in Bangkok, to our wedding in Bali, but these are again snippets and reflections through our new life in the rural rice fields. Anyway for those interested in the book it should be found over there on the sidebar (or just click here) >

Ryokan at Fuji, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field Typhoon Soudelor, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field Zhangjiajie China, Best Book Living in Thailand Isaan: Potato in a Rice Field

2 thoughts on “Our Story: A Potato in a Rice Field”

  1. Hi Allan,
    Your decision to live in the Kingdom of…was a good one. I lived there myself for 9 years and also married a Lao-Isaan girl. As our children got older we felt it necessary to bring them to the U.S.of A. for formal education. It was the right thing for them but the wrong thing for us. Since neither of us have ever felt exactly ‘right’ here (USA). I still feel like a farang in my country of birth.
    We’ve been married for 47 years now and will never return to live in our Shangra-La. But our memories are as vivid today as when we wrote those chapters in our Book of Life so many years ago.
    Chook-Dee to you and your bride
    Mike & Tieng

  2. Hello Mr. Wilson,

    I haven’t read your book, but I know a thing or two about the Issan region, too. I got married out here and am currently living in a village on a rice farm.

    Best wishes!

    Eric Gauger

Leave a Reply