Thai House or Farang, 1 story or 2 ???

Am I wrong or are the only people building Thai Houses these days, Farangs? Do they know something we don’t? Thais seem to prefer the “modern” look and as beautiful as Thai houses can be, you are at the mercy of the elements, heat, wind, rain, bugs and dirt. The sun, rain and bugs are also a constant threat to the wood. On a beautiful winter day they would be great though. They are also more expensive to build and maintain since the forests have been pretty much denuded and lumber needs to be acquired from the rapidly diminishing forests of Burma.

 Most people seem to opt for two story houses as well. They do have a smaller footprint, less roofing material and provide more privacy and separation of areas. They make a lot of sense. So why didn’t my wife and I go for a two story house? (In fact my wife pushed hard for a slightly elevated one story house.)

Since it is just the two of us separation and privacy are not the issue. We prefer a large open floor-plan and an easy flow from room to room. We like to see and feel the other’s presence even when we are doing our own things. If everything is on the same level it just feels like it is bigger and that there is more usable space.

We also expect to have some friends come to visit and we want enough space to be together comfortably. Besides in a few years, who knows, maybe I won’t be able to make it up the stairs anymore. I figured with good insulation on the roof and a high lofted ceiling in the living area I could get by with only having A/C in the bedrooms. Tried to get a mix of living areas for the different kinds of weather, like indoor, indoor-outdoor and outdoor.

We get the occasional hail storm in these parts so a good strong roof is also a must. In addition to our pilings, we have a monster foundation with lots of re-bar to support the weight of the house and raise it off the ground one more meter. They just finished pouring the concrete today. The first half they did with the aid of big cement trucks but to my surprise they did the last part by hand. Just imagine near 100 degree weather, a hot wind, mixing, hauling, lifting and pouring all day long for two days.

 I discovered they were worried about having leftover cement bags during the Songkran break. Apparently the bags can go hard on you if they sit around too long. They sill have a week to pour the pillars and that should just about finish off the remaining cement bags. After the holiday they should get to pouring the floor and putting on the roof. By the time that is done, if it rains it won’t be a big deal, as they will be able to do much of their work under cover.

The speculation as to what we are up to is still rife and some of the stories are quite entertaining to hear second hand. We have decided to save our breath and just let them watch what unfolds with amazement. It gives them something new to talk about and keeps them entertained part of the time.

Some of you might be wondering how much all this is going to cost. I know the locals are very interested because they keep asking everyone involved for an answer. Well I’m not going to tell you either. It just doesn’t feel right to talk about it and I am painfully aware that almost none of my cost could ever be recover.

In a very real sense this is not an investment but an extravagance. But it is also not something I was tricked into by raging hormones or conniving relatives. I take full responsibility for this move. The way I justify it is by saying that it doesn’t cost that much more than my condo in Bangkok and I’m getting six or seven times the space, with views and lots of outdoor activities.

The condo is only a thirty-five year lease, so eventually I would loose it too, or have to re-negotiate, if I live that long. This property will at least stay in the family. If I don’t wait too long I’ll still have the option of selling the condo for a good price.

 I have seen other people move from the city to find they miss their city friends and lifestyle. (One case was a couple I know. The farang was OK with living up North but his big-city, high-so wife missed all her gay party friends with their loud, extravagant and witty repartee.) I think we have thought this out pretty well but I always have a way out and a backup plan.

In part I think that comes from all those early years when they had a half-dozen coups and kept changing the visa rules every few months. In those days I was young and unencumbered and could have easily put everything in a suitcase and headed for the airport. Anything that tied me down, back then, eventually was shown the door. Now I seem to be looking for some roots or a homestead. Guess I’m just entering another faze of my life. (Old-age?)