Designs & Architectural StylesHome & Garden

Dream It…Work For It…Own It: One Person’s Extraordinary Story Of Becoming A Homeowner

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By Randy

The world is full of interesting people — but extraordinary people are few and far between!

I recently met and befriended one of those extraordinary people through my workplace, and she’s got quite a story behind her.


Hard times, courage, determination, patience, and dreams are some of the elements that have made Sipaphay the person that she is today.

She’s also the extremely proud owner of a very nice home in her native country of Laos. But that hasn’t always been the case…


Sipaphay (pronounced Si-puh-pie) is from the southern portion of Laos (land-locked between China, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia).

Her dream of becoming a naturalized United States citizen is about to become a reality within a month or two. She moved to the U.S. back in 1979, with a sponsor’s support — after living in a camp in Thailand for many years as a refugee from the Vietnam war.

Laos is a poor nation and many of the Lao people pretty much fend for themselves without much in the way of government aid. People struggle to get by… but they do get by with much, much less than we Americans do.

(Hint: hover your cursor over the photos for a brief description and left-click to enlarge)


She currently owns a home in Pakse, Laos about 2 miles from the Mekong River as well as living in a home here in Marietta, Georgia. She (and her husband) send home whatever money they can afford to family members on a monthly basis to keep the house up and help with expenses.

She has told me a few extraordinary things about the way that she and her fellow countrymen live in Laos including how she used to live before she was able to afford to build a new home for her family in Pakse from her earnings here in the U.S.




Basically, she lived in a tree house built from scratch like many Laotian citizens do. That is extreme — but that’s the way many homes are built in that part of the country for privacy and to fend off unwanted creatures of the night. It’s a pretty nifty way to avoid floodwaters, too.

Apparently, living in a treehouse isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (Fun for  spending the night with the kids, but not on a regular basis.) Because Sipaphay’s dream of owning a [regular] home on the ground was a dream that she made a reality with the help of her husband and family — and what a house it is!

The photos I’m including here came straight out of her photo album. I feel honored and privileged to have been allowed to see them and share this with all of you, with her consent.


Sipaphay started out by purchasing approximately 15 acres and fencing in about an acre for the yard.

They farm the land out back growing leafy greens, etc. and sell them on the open farmer’s market in town.

They have sold a few acres on both sides of the house and now have some neighbors — but they have built a nice, tall wall around the inner property. They have also installed a magnificent wrought iron fence in front painted in black and gold.


The house itself seems to be under constant modification to suit their needs — which is what a lot of homeowners do.

Here are a few of the outstanding features:

  • 4 bedrooms
  • 2 interior bathrooms with dual shower stalls
  • 1 exterior bathroom (for workers or whatever)
  • kitchen with 5 wood-fueled ‘burners’ lined up side-by-side
  • several outdoor porches with mosquito netting
  • 500-gallon water tank (perched atop a water tower) supplied by an on-site water well
  • large carport

The water tower (seen in the photo above) is supplied by an on-site water well.

There are a few more rooms used for various purposes.

As you can see, it is a 2-story home with fantastic views of the countryside, and they have very high ceilings. I think the ceilings being high may keep the heat away from the occupants.

The home took approximately 1 year to build and the labor cost her $1 per day. That is NOT a misprint! Sipaphay mentioned that labor has now increased to $2 per day since the house was constructed back in 1998.

The approximate total, thus far, is $40,000 — including labor. Her brother-in-law was the general contractor on the original project.


There are exactly 75 windows in the house. (She ought to know!) There is air conditioning in only one room in the entire house — her bedroom, but there are ceiling fans throughout.

The windows and doors are my favorite features of her house. The electricity for this home runs around $10 per month, but it runs closer to $14 per month when Sipaphay stays there. (A/C in the bedroom… Hey, she’s got her priorities in order!)

They are connected to the outside world with cell phones (no land lines), and they’ve installed a satellite dish.


She is proud of all of her hard-earned possessions, but she is especially proud of her antique table and antique sofa.

She has many handmade chairs that line the walls for family gatherings — but they all (customarily) sit on the floor. I especially like the BIG chair. It’s a hoot!


She has a couple of cars in the driveway — but when she wants to get around town, it’s fun to take a taxi. An elephant taxi, that is! At $1 per mile, that’s a lot of fun to be had.

Sipaphay mentioned that the only problem with taking an elephant taxi is that sometimes they like to stop and take a snack break — finding their favorite leaves to munch on. ‘You have to sit and wait.’ she says.


I’m glad that Sipaphay and I have met because it has opened my eyes to a much different world from what I live in.

Sipaphay mentioned to me that she “never forgets where she came from!”

Forget the house for a minute…

If you met Sipaphay you would be very impressed about her consistently upbeat personality and cheerfulness. She has much to be thankful for. Who can blame her???

Life is good.