June 1, 2013
Normally I come up with an idea for a posting and I write about what I am thinking and what might help any prospective retirees to Thailand. Lately with the heat my attention span is about the same as my one year old grandson’s. So I’ll write some short pieces on stuff I have been thinking about with the hopes that the weather will break and the rainy season will soon be upon us.
In the last month at least 3 Expats here in Thailand have died riding large, rented motorcycles. Two died in crashes on Phuket when one lost control on a 1,000 cc motorcycle and another failed to negotiate a sharp curve on his big bike. Both were going at excessive speed and neither even made it to a hospital.
The latest was a Russian visitor in Jomtien who was weaving in and out of traffic at very high speed on a 750 cc Kawasaki. As he came around a car he hit a motorcycle taxi (the taxi driver is okay). This sent the Russian flying over his handle bars. He was going so fast that when his body struck a light pole he came away in two pieces, splitting him right in half. It was the first time I remember that a Thai newspaper story of an accident refused to show pictures as being too graphic. If you have ever seen the front pages here then you will know how bad this accident must have been.
I have often written about driving in Thailand with warnings about how dangerous it can be unless we take serious precautions, like driving slowly, being aware that those around you may do things you are not ready for, and definitely never driving under-the-influence.
But now there is one more danger we must be aware of, the big bikes that are for rent, especially in places frequented by Expat visitors. Most visitors have no idea how to drive in Thai traffic, most also have never driven a motorcycle before, and almost none have any idea how powerful and fast these big bikes are.
Please be aware of how dangerous these big bikes can be. They are much too powerful in the hands of an inexperienced driver or one who may be alcohol disabled. I know a number of big-bikers here and they are usually very responsible and handle their bikes with considerable skill. This is not always the case with newbies here who have little or no experience with the larger cc motorcycles.
I love the freedom of driving a motorcycle here and I drive one almost every day, a nicely sized Honda Dream 125 cc; a perfect bike for Thai streets. I don’t drink (my lifetime quota for alcohol was used up way back in my 30s) and I keep my highest speeds between 55 and 60 kph.
If you choose to drive, choose a bike that you can control, drive slowly, be aware of the crazy conditions here, and please do it sober. I want to keep all my readers safe.
My birthday is in a few days. Sixty-seven years old. Wow!
I have been thinking about if there is any significance in that number. Sixty is big deal here as it means that you have completed your 5th cycle (A cycle is a 12-year span coinciding with the Chinese zodiac). Sixty-two was when I first got Social Security. Sixty-four is cool since it was made special by the Beatles song “When I’m 64”, Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? And at 65 I got Medicare (fat good that will do me while I am living abroad).
But what about 67? The only thing significant about this year that I can think of is that 67 is a prime number. Coincidentally, this is also my 67th blog posting. Oh, one more thing. Sixty-seven, and I’m still here. In my eyes that is pretty significant.
I mentioned that I have tried drinking coffee for the first time. The other day I had a morning coffee and later in the day I had one of those real tasty Thai ice coffees. Big mistake.
After having two doses of caffeine in a day I went that whole night without a minute of sleep. Seriously, not one minute.
I am usually a great sleeper and normally have “instant sleep”. I once tested myself and found that I average about 30 seconds from the time my head hits the pillow until I am asleep.
So insomnia was something quite new to me. This was the first time I went a whole night without sleep when there wasn’t alcohol, drugs, or a woman involved.
No more than one caffeine dose per day after this.
Remember that snake head fish that was struggling in the few inches of water left in the canal behind my house? Well, to paraphrase Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch, “It’s demised, it’s passed on, it’s no more, it has ceased to be, it’s expired and gone to meet its maker. It is an ex-fish.” My gardener with his trusty fishing crossbow made sure he did the deed when I wasn’t around. I am sure it made for a tasty meal.
Weight loss update
A while ago I wrote about my weight loss program. I was successful – to a point. I have gained back about half the weight I lost but I feel great. I think I am at the weight my body wants to be – 80 kilos or about 176 lbs. Occasionally I gain a few extra pounds but I have found a really good way to get them off again. I stop drinking soft drinks. I am basically addicted to them, the sugary kind – not aspartame which is poisonous to me. But when I stop drinking soft drinks I almost automatically lose about 2 kilos within a few days. Boy, I wish I drank beer. I could probably lose about 10 kilos just by cutting that out.
And when I need a little incentive to keep the weight off I just Google “People of Wal-Mart” and see what I am missing not living back in the Good ol’ U.S. of A.
Long sleeves update
Last time I mentioned that I have taken to wearing long sleeves when out in the sun. Well, as I have found out once again, there is a very good Thai solution to a Thai problem. I was walking through my favorite outdoor market yesterday, the huge Saturday market at Sanpatong, a little south of Chiang Mai, when I came across an interesting article of clothing. Sleeves. They were selling sleeves, in all colors and patterns, 15 baht.
They are sort of like the arm equivalent of those leg warmers that were made so popular from my favorite bad movie Flashdance.
Then I realized, lots of the people I saw wearing t-shirts with long sleeve shirts underneath (which I thought must be quite hot) were really just wearing a t-shirt and these sleeves. Cleaver these Thais. So I bought a couple of pairs and I am hooked. I can wear my cool Seattle Seahawks t-shirt and slip on these sleeves and with my floppy hat I can protect myself from the sun shooting those death rays at me all day.
It is my belief that since I started covering up from the sun, the skin problems I have had for years (an itch so bad that it makes the thought of blowing ones brains out a logical solution the problem) have all but gone away. Itch free for the first time in memory.
It is probably true that we are a large contributor to most of our own problems, social, emotional, environmental, and health ones included. That means a simple lifestyle change (sleeves blocking out the sun’s UV rays in my case, drinking fewer soft drinks is another) might be all we need to do to make things lots better.
If we are doing something the same way over and over again and it isn’t working out for us, maybe the solution is to do it differently. Anyone want to talk about the solutions to global climate change?
Electric bill update
I said in an earlier post that I would get back to you and let you know what my electric bill was after using my air conditioner almost every night, and lots of times during the day, for the month of April. I was quite apprehensive about what it would be and if I would have to take a part-time job to pay the bill.
Well, we just got the bill, 3,100 baht. The month before, the bill was 1,700 baht. The difference after running the air conditioner was 1,400 baht or about $35.00. Looks like I will be able to survive the hot season and I won’t have to look for that part-time job after all.
Excuse me while I go turn on the air conditioner again.
Note: Since I have planted well over 200 trees on my property (lovingly named The Shire) I think I probably still have a negative carbon footprint even if I use the air conditioner.
May 3, 2013
It has been so hot here this season that I am sure that my brain has begun to fry. Everyone is saying that this is the hottest hot season they have ever experienced. It is also so dry that the little canal behind my house has only about 3 inches of water left in it. I saw a snake head fish limping around the bottom today. I wonder what will happen to it when there is no water left. My gardener stared at the fish for a long, long time. I have a feeling I know what’s in store for him.
With this heat, I have been having a number of random fried-brain-cell thoughts lately that I thought I would share with you.
On Ultra Violet Radiation and Going Native
I just undertook a scientific study of how many Thais wear long sleeves when they ride their motorcycles.
A little background info is needed at this point. I developed a lump on my elbow and it was bothering me so I went down to Chiang Mai Ram Hospital’s Specialty Clinic. From the looks of it I think that “Specialty Clinic” is a euphemism for “Cosmetic Surgery Clinic”. At least it was air conditioned.
The cosmetic surgeon took a look at my elbow and told me I had a “keratocanthoma” . Whoa! With that many syllables that must be either really cool or really bad. The doctor said that it wasn’t so bad, but I should have it removed anyway since a small percentage of the Big K tumors turn into skin cancer. The cause of my elbow bump? Probably too much ultraviolet radiation.
Our family has one car and one motorcycle. My wife is the car, I am the motorcycle. I love the motorcycle and it is the best way to get around Chiang Mai; the best way except maybe in April that is. Thus, my interest in Thais, motorcycles, and long sleeves.
Like most Expat and tourist riders I have always ridden around with as few clothes as possible; shorts, tee shirt, sandals. But after hearing about my sun induced elbow tumor I started observing my Thai counterparts on their cycles. So I undertook my scientific study.
Of the first 20 riders I encountered, 19 were wearing jackets, shirts, and hoodies with long sleeves. One person out of the first 20 was in a tee shirt. The next 20 I counted had exactly the same percentages. Results of the scientific study: 95% of all Thai motorcyclists wear long sleeves. I am sure that keeping a light, un-suntanned darkened skin is probably one of the reasons for covering up. Another is probably to keep the UV monster away.
Let’s compare the Thais motorcycle riding attire with that of foreign riders. A friend of mine just took a bike trip to Pai from here in Chiang Mai. It is a fairly tough road with, count them, 762 switchbacks. On the way back my friend encountered many foreign motorcyclists, the majority of whom weren’t even wearing shirts. That is not unusual. I once saw a foreign rider with only shorts on. Didn’t even wear shoes. Can anyone spell “broken toes”?
Besides the fact that not wearing a shirt in public (male or female) is considerd quite rude in Thailand, I am wondering what all that ultraviolet radiation is doing to these poor white people. A Thai friend and I were sitting in a roadside coffee shop one early afternoon as we watched two very overweight, potbellied, shirtless, tattooed, westerners walk by holding open bottles of beer. My Thai friend just shook his head and said, “Boy that is really ugly.” Hearing a Thai say that in English really put the point across.
But more importantly, I am wondering what these two guys felt like after waking from their beer and sun induced stupor later that day and discovering their skin covered with second degree sunburns. Can anyone spell “future skin cancer”?
So now before getting on my motorcycle I don a long sleeve shirt, socks, a pair of gloves and a helmet with a heavily tinted face mask (I’m holding off on the white surgical mask for now.) Instead of feeling hotter with all the extra clothing I seem to feel a bit cooler. Or it could be just psychological and I just feel better because no more Big K tumors are starting to grow on my skin.
Sometimes it is just best to do things the native way.
For those who want to know: The cost of my Big K procedure, 2,000 baht specialist’s fee (tumor removal, 2 levels of stitching), 1,100 baht hospital fee, 200 baht follow up (stitches removal) or about $115.
On Air Conditioning
I used to take pride in being able to get through a hot season without air conditioning. I’m not alone in that. I just ran into an old friend who told me how he is so acclimatized to Thailand he just never needs to turn his air conditioner on. Well, whoopee for him. I bet he wouldn’t pass up having lunch at a nice air conditioned hotel buffet.
I’m dying here (my bedroom is usually 90+ degrees at night). So now the air conditioner is on all night and quite often during the day too. Since this is the first time I have used the air conditioner this extensively I am currently terrified at what April’s electricity bill is going to be. I guess I’ll just have to chalk that up to the “price of doing business”.
As soon as I get the bill I’ll let you know, that is, once I wake up from passing out after looking at the amount.
On Coffee, The Enervation Cure
I have never been a coffee drinker. Don’t drink much tea either. I’m a Pepsi guy (although with the demise of the Pepsi distributorship here in Thailand and its replacement with the ersatz ”Est Cola” I feel a huge loss). But with this hot season and the weather being over 100 F every day for the last couple of months I have been hit with a serious enervating feeling. (I always look for a way to use the word “enervating” in a posting since it is one of the fun words in English which means exactly the opposite of what you think it means.)
Enervating – Causing one to feel drained of energy or vitality, exhausting
So I decided to try a cup of coffee in the morning to see if I could get a little boost. I stir one of those packets of instant cappuccino into hot water, and add more sugar and milk, sometimes chocolate milk. I have also tried their instant iced coffee. I don’t feel much of a difference though with either of them. But at least I don’t think I am addicted yet (to the coffee, the sugar maybe) since I only drink 2 or 3 cups a week, but I can feel the beginnings of the urge some mornings.
Back in the ’70s I had a boss who drank 10 cups of coffee before lunch. She was a chain smoker also. I have been trying to Google her and the latest thing I came up with was a professional article she wrote back in 1980. Nothing since then. Until I find out if she is still with us it might be well to eschew the coffee/cigarettes diet for now.
Last night we had lots of thunder, big wind, and a few drops of rain. I turned the air conditioning on for about an hour, then turned it off and used the fan. First time in over a month I got a good nights sleep without air conditioning. Tonight looks to be about the same, maybe a little cooler, 85 F (29 C) in my bedroom. Could it be that we have made it through the hot season? I’ll let you know.
April 16, 2013
For the last few years I have been writing about retiring; specifically retiring to Thailand. But recently I have been thinking more about just “retirement” on its own, whether here or anywhere. And for me it is turning out to be a really good time.
But read any recent financial magazine or website or watch the news on TV and you’re sure to come across stories about how so many people are not at all prepared to retire. They have no savings, they are “under water” with their houses, both they and their children are weighed down with unmanageable debt, and with the economy and inflation the way it is, they see themselves working until they die (I talk about this in “How the He!! Am I Going To Retire Now?” ). Some of these things we have control over, and some we can’t be blamed for as they are just part of the cosmic joke that the gods like to play on us.
But, in this day and age, if you have gotten your act together enough to be able to retire, with all the obstacles that our current economy and the gods have thrown at you, then you’ve done something right.
For me, although it took a long while to get here, I am learning that The Retirement Stage of life is probably the best that I have encountered so far.
Why the Retirement Stage beats all the others
I am one of the lucky few who have always had a job that I loved going to. But still, every day I was at work I would have rather been at home doing something else. Now that I am retired, I am usually at home, doing something else.
Below is my incomplete list on why being retired beats all the others stages of my life. I am sure you’ll have your own list after a while. And tell me if being retired doesn’t seem like you might already be in one of the levels of Paradise?
- Wake up when I’ve had enough sleep
- Only set the alarm for golf tee times
- Get out of bed when I’m ready
- Go to bed when I am sleepy (at night, middle of the day, whenever)
- Eat when I am hungry
- Shave only when it starts to itch
- No commuting
- Never have to go to meetings
- Make my own schedule (do what I want when I want)
- Colleagues are now friends, family, and pets, not co-workers
- Live with minimal stress
- Priorities are made by me and not some boss
- Never have to go through an annual performance evaluation
- Won’t have to contemplate murder after an annual performance evaluation
- Don’t worry if my evaluation will get me that annual 2% pay raise
- Instead of “to do lists” I can work on my “bucket list”
- Live where it is always summer
- Never shovel snow
- Haven’t had a cold since retiring (lots fewer people around to catch one from)
- Take a vacation whenever
- Take a shower whenever
- Can play golf on a weekday
- Mowing the grass is a fun exercise and not a weekend chore
- Never have to go anywhere during rush hour
- Go shopping when everyone else is at work
- Comb my hair once a day and then forget about it
- Wear a pair of real leather shoes maybe once a year
- Never have to wear a tie
Hopefully you will have had the good fortune to be able to retire or at least start planning for it. But as you enter this new stage in your life, you’ll have some challenges ahead.
Will you survive retirement? Short answer, NO! Everyone who has ever retired is either dead or will be fairly soon. That is nonnegotiable. The better question is “How will you survive during retirement?”
A recently retired friend just said to me, “I have found that money won’t give you happiness. But it is sure difficult to be happy without it.” You don’t have to be rich to be retired successfully, but it will be hard to be successful unless you have “enough”. That is the number one retirement requirement.
Defining “enough” for yourself
Do we really need to generate the same income and to live at the same levels after retiring than we did before? Going by their stories on how much you will need after retirement, CNBC, Bloomberg, and Yahoo Finance think so. I don’t. I am happy that for us the definition of “enough” is to have a sufficient income to live a simple, uncomplicated lifestyle.
We don’t need to have the same income as before because now
- We don’t save for retirement anymore (been there, done that)
- We don’t need to put the kids through college (done deal)
- We don’t need a new car for those long commutes to work (my computer is less than 2’ from my bed)
- We don’t have life insurance payments (kids don’t need protection anymore)
- We rarely buy new clothes (unless you count sweat pants and flip flops from Wal-Mart)
- We rarely go out spending money at night (driving in the dark is difficult with these old eyes)
- We have no more house payments (the first thing anyone thinking of retiring should do is to pay off that house)
- We just don’t buy expensive “stuff” anymore (if we learned anything by living this long it is that “stuff” will not make you happy).
I may want to drive a Porsche, or to fly first class, or get that 72” flat screen TV, but I also would like to retain enough money to be retired for longer than just a few years. I may want the “stuff” but buying it would leave me with lots less than “enough”.
Then you have to make enough.
CNBC will tell you that you can spend 4% of your retirement savings per year (That will give you 25 years of retired life.) That, plus a pension (Not a whole lot of those people left are there?), and Social Security (Looks like we’ll have to fight to keep that going.), and any other income you will generate (With today’s interest rates it is impossible to live off of any income generated from savings.) will give you your retirement budget. Do the math and the results will show you the amount you will have to live on. BTW, you don’t have to do the math, and when ostriches get scared they stick their heads in the sand too.
The average American family has saved about $100,000 at the age of retirement (Yahoo Answers) and the average monthly Social Security benefit is $1,230 (Motley Fool). Take your own numbers and you do the math. Gee, maybe the ostrich really has a better idea.
For my wife and me, since we decided to live abroad where the cost of living is lots less, Social Security takes care of the bulk of our living expenses. Where you live will make a big difference in whether you have “enough” to retire or not. We used to live in one of the most beautiful and livable places in America, but we would not have enough to live on if we had stayed in lovely Seattle.
Answering the questions of where you’ll live and how much house you’ll need and what kind of lifestyle will keep you happy are going to be the first of a nice long list of decisions a retiree will have to make.
Taking care of your health, like saving for retirement, should have started long ago and should now be part of your lifestyle. Just like being frugal and not buying that Porsche when you hit your mid-life crisis, you’ll also have to say no to that extra piece of chocolate cake, or that second six pack during the football game, or that frequent visit to guzzle down an order of pure grease at a fast food place like Popeye’s Chicken.
If you haven’t taken care of your health until now then you’ll have a hard retirement road ahead, just as you will if you haven’t saved enough money. But you will not have a happy retirement unless it is a healthy one.
One of Socrates’ cardinal virtues is “moderation”. When I was young I thought that was ridiculous. But now I try to use moderation to help me have a successful retirement, from buying a 4 year old Toyota instead of the Porsche I so desire, to drinking club soda on my boy’s night out instead of guzzling down beers, to limiting my trips to Popeye’s to once a year.
But eventually getting old and having your body quit on you is the natural state of things. My Toyota won’t last forever but with good maintenance it will continue running and serving me well for a good long while. And with moderation and good maintenance (eating well, getting enough exercise, yearly checkups, buying a blood pressure machine, doing an activity that will make you sweat a couple of times a day) my body should serve me well until the final recall is issued.
You’ve got to keep that muscle between your ears stimulated, challenged, and healthy. For the 40 or so years that you worked you had to deal with the trials and tribulations of your career and raising a family. Now with retirement you could sit at a bar and drink beer all day if you wanted without ever having to use your brain for anything more than finding your way to the closest urinal. But you’d probably wish you were back working if you did. The trick is to find something challenging to do so that your brain stays in good working order.
I just did a Google search on “what to do after I retire” and I got sent to a great site called ”Long list of things to do when you retire”. Check out the site and see if there is anything on the list for you. I am already doing some of them but here are a few of the wacky ones that caught my eye. I think I’ll start working on them right away.
- Attain Enlightenment
- Become a movie star
- Have a lot of sex while your body is still in full working order
- Save the world
There is one more I would like to add to the list, “Write a blog on retirement.”
To keep my brain healthy I currently have a library of more than 8,000 eBooks. I also have hundreds of .avi movie files and thousands of .mp3 music files. I think I have enough to keep my mind active until my retirement days are done. I figure that I now have a book, movie, and music library that is larger and more comprehensive than those of the richest people in the world not that many years ago. Don’t ask me how I got all these, and I won’t tell.
The End of Retirement
By the time I am ready to leave this mortal coil I am hoping that society will have advanced enough to allow me a choice in the matter. So I have been thinking about how I will know that I have had enough of this lovely gift of life I have been given and am ready for whatever is next. And I think I have found an answer.
Every day I am given on this planet I want to be able to have at least one good laugh. Belly laughs are the best, but a good giggle will probably suffice. If there comes a time when I don’t see anything to laugh about, I know it will be time to move on.
But I am a lucky boy. I live here in Thailand, the “Land of Smiles”. So since everyone around me is smiling, I am usually smiling too. And smiling is already halfway to a good laugh. If I don’t buy that Porsche, and I avoid too much fried chicken, then I think I will still have a long retired life ahead of me.
The temperature here in Chiang Mai has been over 100 degrees ever day for a while but just today we are having a cold spell and the temp at my computer is only 89. We had a nice blow a few nights ago and today the smog is cleared away and the mountain is beautifully clear. I’m thinking that the worst is over.
March 25, 2013
It is appropriate that Passover happens at this time every year. Another thing that happens in March and April, here in Chiang Mai, is the yearly smog invasion.
It’s like that scene in The Ten Commandments, you know, the one with Charlton Heston. After Moses has tried everything to make the Pharaoh let his people go, one night this smoke creeps into the town covering everything and entering all the houses, killing all the first born sons except in those houses that have lambs blood painted around its doors. It “passes over” these houses.
Like the Angel of Death, every year at this time Chiang Mai and the northern parts of Thailand (as well as Burma and Laos) are covered with a lethal smog. The word smog in English is a combination of smoke and fog. In Thai, smog is “kwan pit”, quite appropriately this literally means “the poisonous smoke”.
The test each year to tell if the poisonous smoke has gotten bad is to look to the west and see if we can see the Doi Suthep Temple on the top of the mountain. When the temple can’t be seen then we know it is getting dangerous. When the whole mountain itself can’t be seen because of the smoke then we know that Chiang Mai is in trouble. Right now, as I look out my window, the temple has disappeared. The mountain is invisible. And there is a line of trees just about 200 meters away that can just be made out. The Angel of Death has arrived.
And that is not hyperbole. When the smoke gets this bad people get sick and some do die. They say that those with respiratory problems, the young and the elderly are most at risk. I have been doing Google searches to find out what “the elderly” means. I am 67. Am I there yet?
Wikipedia says that “the elderly” (aka old age, senior citizens, older adults, elders) is anyone over 65. Oh crud! I guess I’ll just have to have to go out and find some lambs blood.
A few years ago, when the skies were just about this bad, a friend who had some breathing problems ended up in the hospital ICU when his lungs collapsed. He had to be resuscitated twice. He likes to say that he died twice. I just saw him a few days ago and he looks to be in bad shape, coughing and having breathing problems again. I hope this isn’t his third time.
When it gets like this we usually think it is time to, as they say in New York, “dump this pop stand” and take off for the southern parts of the county. This year we have some obligations so here we sit. All the windows and doors are closed. Luckily the hot season is not that hot this year so staying indoors is survivable. We might not be so lucky next time.
I always think it is a funny sight when I see people walking around with those surgical masks on their faces. My dentist wears one all the time he is in his office. The last time I had a checkup I finally asked him to take off his mask for a second so that if I run into him at the mall or somewhere I could recognize him. I’m glad I never saw him before this. He looks like he is 16 years old. There are some market ladies that I have been buying from for years whose faces I have never seen.
Well, now I am one of those people too and when I leave the house, even to water the lawn, I wear a mask. I don’t know if it helps any because when the smoke is this bad the particles in the air are tiny and they probably just pass through the mask and play round deep inside my lungs. I definitely do not go out jogging or even play golf (from which I am going through a very painful withdrawal right now) and as much a I want a whole lung full of clean air, I do not take deep breaths.
Where does all this air pollution come from? Unlike in Beijing where cars and coal burning contribute to the smog almost all this poisonous smoke is caused by burning; burning fields and garbage, purposefully setting the forest undergrowth on fire, and the slash and burn agricultural techniques of many of the tribal peoples. I was once traveling in the mountains during this time of year and the forest was burning on both sides of the road. It was so dry up there. I don’t know if anyone deliberately started that fire. It just as well could have started on its own, by a lightning strike or even when the wind blew two stick together causing enough friction to start a flame.
There are burning bans throughout the north in Thailand but that doesn’t stop the smoke from coming over the Burmese and Laotian borders. Also there are cultural traditions of burning that are difficult to break. Many years ago we used to look up at the mountain at night and see small brush fires blazing all over to rid the forest of undergrowth (There is a certain expensive mushroom that only grows on the forest floor after a fire.) Just this week a group of Karin complained to the U.N. that the ban on burning was a crime against their people as it deprived them of their time-honored method of agriculture.
I read a lot in the local English speaking press blaming the Thai government and corruption for these problems. If that is the case then I wonder exactly what they would suggest to make things better. Besides running away, I don’t have an answer.
It is not this bad every year. Last year the smog was much lighter and only lasted a week or two. The year before the rains came really early. That year we hardly had a hot season at all and there was no smog to speak of. Three years ago it got bad enough that we took off in the car for parts south. It wasn’t until we got near to Korat before we could see the sky again. So it’s not just here in Chiang Mai. They say that Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai, both closer to the Burmese border, are even worse.
So now we wait for the Songkran Rains. Every year (and who knows why) the weeks just before and after the Thai New Year’s celebration of Songkran, storms hit this part of the country. Winds whip around and heavy rains fall and the skies are cleaned. They only last for a few days and then the hot season returns with a vengeance for another month or two. Everyone in Chiang Mai is looking towards the sky and hoping for the Songkran Rains. And then the Angel of Death will pass over us once more.
Wish us luck.