Evening in Thailand

April 1, 2010

In the evenings, as I sit on my front porch reading, the bouquet of a sweet tropical flower washes over me.  I think it might be a night-blooming jasmine.  Each night this sweet perfume fills our house.  The aroma mixes with the food Pikun is cooking up in the kitchen.  We go down into the garden to find out which flower it is but can’t find it.  The jasmine flowers are usually very tiny.  We do find one flower that has the fragrance of a banana milkshake though.  It is the first time I think of American food since I have been here.

It is still raining as I turn in at night.  It is one of those tropical rains that may last for days.  I remember my father telling me that the thing that he missed most from his childhood was the sound of rain on the roof.  At that time we were living in a tenement on the Lower East Side of New York and had to call the weather department to see if it was raining.  I listen to that sound now and know what he meant.  I lay awake trying not to fall asleep so that I can listen to the music of this rain.

There are other sounds also.  The crickets and tree frogs sing, as does the kwaak bird, a member of the rail family, white breasted water hen to be exact,  who struts around chicken like on long stilty legs.  He calls out, “kwaaaaaak, kwak,kwak,kwak“.  Then comes the sound from outside the kitchen window of the tokey lizard, a foot long, red-spotted house gecko, the kind with suction cups on their feet so that they can walk upside down on ceilings and eat up insects.  His sound is “tok tok tok tooooookey, toooooookey“.  The ga-wow bird goes gawow, gawow.  There is also the boot bird, a large, red winged member of the cuckoo family.  Guess what sound he makes.  Yep, “booooooot, boot, boot, boot”.

The onomatopoetic names the Thais give their animals are wonderful.  But nothing beats the ung-ahng bullfrog.  They lie buried all year until the rainy season when they dig their way out and in a very loud chorus of bull frogs sing in unison, “uuuuuuuuuung aaaaaaaaahng“.  The first time I heard that sound I thought a whole heard of cows was walking by my house.

With these sounds in my head, I fall asleep.

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3 Responses to “Evening in Thailand”

  1. Catherine said

    Hugh, what a beautiful post. I too love the night sounds, with the call of the tokay being one that always brings smiles.

    I had tokays roaming free in my house in Houston. I didn’t like using poison so they were there to gobble up wood roaches. So hearing tokays in Thailand connects my life back then to now. Odd how that works.

    When I lived in a fresh jungle clearing on the island of Borneo, the cicadas were deafening. They’d start with a blanket of sound, blocking out my thoughts even.

    Cicadas: The power drills of the jungle.

    • I wish I had tokays in my apartment in New York City. They would have had a lot to eat.

      Right now is Cicada season here in Chiang Mai. The first time I heard them, usually at the base of the mountains, I thought that an air raid siren had gone off.

      • Catherine said

        I resided on the base of a smallish mountain, so I wonder if there is something to that.

        The first time I heard cicadas, I assumed that workers were clearing the rest of the jungle. I was sad at the thought because I intentionally rented in that spot.

        I wanted to be close to nature, and I was. Critters were everywhere.

        And shortly after, I experienced tropical fluid flow when the mountain shifted into my garden. Bye bye garden…

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