070613 Thaiakarl - the house story


last year in 2006  i was here in thailand for 5 months, i spent most of my time here in the village at Toks house.  one day Tok mentioned that the people who lived in the house behind hers wanted to sell their house.  The house is where Gam (pronounced to sound like 'Game'), a young boy lives.  there is a mother and father, and another brother who lives there, be we always call it "Gam's house" or "Gams mothers house".  The plot of land the house is on used to be part of Toks fields, but she sold it to gams mother. they brought in dirt to raise the ground above the fields and they built a house on the land.  Tok took the money from the sale of the land and added to her existing house.

i was quite interested in this house for sale.  buying it would give me a house of my own (sorta - foreigners cannot own property or houses in thailand. but there are ways to deal with that), and it would restore the land back to what Tok inherited from her father.  we went over to talk to them about it.  they wanted 500,000 baht. flat.  and they wanted the money in december 2006, which was some six months away at the time.  500k baht, at that time was 13,500 USD.  not a lot for a house and land eh?  

refer to the overview image at the picasa gallery: overview of the land layout.

when i returned to the states, i began selling off assets.  i sold my three triumph motorcycles - which was painful, but i can't take them to thailand.  i cashed in some stock, took payouts on other things, sold more stuff, and saved money from working.  i also decided to give up my apartment to save the rent and utilities, but it worked out in trade with my room mate, that i lived there until i left for this trip, but paid basically no rent or utilities for the last 5 months before i left for thailand.  i wire-transferred over to an account Tok set up for the house a couple thousand dollars here, couple thousand there....  meanwhile, the dollar was falling against the Thai Baht.  which mean that by march 2007, the 500,000 Baht price for the house was now $15,225 USD.

Games family had re-set the sale date to march 2007.  at that time, I had only 8,000 USD in the account.  Then Tok told me that the sale was off.  i wasn't too disappointed - the only thing that would be a drag would be if they sold the house to someone else and we had new neighbors that were party people or something otherwise obnoxious.  i still had the money in the bank, i was a ton or two lighter in the possessions i carried and was that much further along to my objective of living in with Tok in thailand.

there was something funny about the deal that didn't make it thru the translation to me.  know i know what it was.  seems that the family had changed their minds about selling the house quite some time ago.  that's okay, it's their house, if they don't want to sell it, or if they do, it's up to them.  but they neglected to mention this to us, and let Tok continue to think the deal was on.  Tok heard from another person in town that they weren't going to sell the house.  why they just didn't say so a long time ago is a mystery to me.  the only real aggrivation was that  i could have come here earlier in the year, and been back in seattle for the summer when there is more work for me.  instead i was compiling money for the purchase,  and delayed coming here until the end of april.

so, Tok told them that they would have to go with the original plotting of the land when Tok sold it to them.  since the land was the back section of a long plot of land, Tok had to yield a narrow public access-way along side her property to the part she sold, so that games family would be able to get from their property out to the big road.  up until now, they have been driving along between the mango trees and Toks house, which is a straight path from the driveway by the big road, back to their property.  but, they are supposed to be using a 2.5 meter section that borders Toks land back to their place.  Tok told them they had to build a road and start using it.  the mango trees had to be cut down, and games family cut down a large tree on the corner of their property to allow for the cut in from the access road to their land.  a man on a grader pushed around the existing dirt, and trucks brought in a dirt/rock mix that doesn't turn to solid mud when it rains.  this he graded to make a track where the access road is, and we paid for our own load of dirt/rock mix to improve the area next to our house.

After talking with Tok, we decided to improve the existing house.  it is made from cinderblock, with a wood built upstairs.  Tok wanted to have stucco cement applied over the cinderblock, paint the house, and varnish the wood parts.  i kept telling her i could  do the work, and she kept telling me i was basically crazy.  she had a contractor lined up to come and do the work.   Boon and his crew of guys showed up with tools and ordered in a truckload of sand and rock...and so it began.  Once they got started, it became obvious why Tok didn't think i could do the job.  these guys start at 8 in the morning, and have the labor divided up so that someone is mixing concrete and filling buckets, and two or three guys are applying it to the walls.  amazing how they are able to get a nice flat application of concrete.  construction workers make  167 baht ($4.87 USD) PER DAY.  so, i'll work on the fountain and other detail things and let them do the big stuff.  then, it was suggested that we put a meter-wide concrete border all around the house, so that when it rains, the roof run-off doesn't splash dirt on the the newly painted house.  So they started on that.  then i decided that whilst they were here doing concrete, we should enlarge the front porch a bit, and put a concrete floor on the dirt floored section in the back of the house, beside the kitchen. so that's working also.  Tok had asked me if i could build a small waterfall pond beside the house, perhaps under the big mango tree.  but then she had a brilliant idea to put the pond alongside the porch, which developed into the pond being integrated into the expanded porch on the east side, behind which is a jasmine flower bush, and we would put a big round tank behind that to use as another pond for water lilies and fish.

I was outside looking around the front of the house one day, and suddenly had a big idea - if we can't buy another house, why not make a new one?

i was looking at all the different houses around here, from the 'shacks' up to the elegant thai traditional style mansions, and i decided that what we didn't have, but i really like, was a house on stilts.  up in the air, with dry space underneath.  up where there is something to see out the windows.  i dragged Tok outside and with much arm waving and long-stepping about, described my idea for a new bedroom for us.  I envisioned a big room, high on stilts that sat towards the back of our lot, with a wide balcony that ran across the west side towards the big road.  because there used to be an old toilet beside the existing house, they tell me that you cannot build a new room over an old toilet - your house will be 'broken' if you do - we have to offset the new room to the north, leaving a space between the existing house and the new room.  which means that they will have to build a set of stairs inside the house, that goes up thru the roof of the back part of the house, across a bridge to the balcony of the new room.  of course, Tok decided she wanted aircon in this room, which means the room will  have to be built with a ceiling and double walls to keep the cool in.  unlike the rest of the house, which is open framing under the roof an, and eves.

see my rough google sketchup picture of the new room in the picassa gallery.

Boon and his guys were now to be employed for a couple of months.  we are going through all the usual disruptions of having major remodeling and construction going on - noise, dust and debris everywhere.  but when it is all finished, we will have a much nicer house to live in.  Flat walls, painted inside and out, stained woodwork  on the upper part of the old house and a big 15 foot square new bedroom with a large balcony.  we've also re-routed the drainage pipe for grey water to run alongside the property line, west to the pond, with side drains for the big water jars, a dish washing sink, and the washing machine.  and we have a cement floor in the kitchen porch, which used to be dirt, fixed a leak in the roof, put tile in the bathroom, took the old built in water tank out of the bathroom so the room is bigger, extended the porch a bit, and we'll have a waterfall garden pond next to the front porch.  i'll be able to sit  up on the high balcony for  coffee in the mornings when the sun is on the  east side of the house, and can sit on the porch near the waterfall in the afternoons when the sun is in the west.

all in all, the whole thing has worked out better than the  original idea to buy gams mothers house.  if that had happened, i would have two houses that need fixing up, and no funds do do it.  now, we will have one house, with a nice addition, and overall improvements to the whole property.

and as an added bonus, the new room blocks off the annoying porch-light that gams family leaves on at night, so our yard is dark when we want it to be, like when we take the mat outside and lay on the  ground together and look at the stars and the sky.


Nu and Tok

I am in southeast asia April 19 - July 20 2007 ::: http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/

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