August 9, 2011
The rainy season has finally come in full force to Chiang Mai. The canal behind our house is almost to overflowing and it has been pouring for the past 48 hours. Sometimes a hard rain like this will fall for a week. Flooding has already occurred in a few towns and lots of the country is flooded. I am sure there will be more to come. Typically during the rainy season the storm clouds begin to form in the late afternoon, the skies open up with a drenching rain for about an hour, and everything cools off. But once or twice we’ll get a rain like we are having now. (Or…can anyone spell c.l.i.m.a.t.e. c.h.a.n.g.e?)
Some Bangkok streets will become waist deep in flood waters (aka sewers) and some upcountry towns will be under water. The people here are quite used to moving to higher ground and you’ll see many traditional Thai houses built on stilts just to deal with the rainy season floods. These modern cement house that we tend to live in now don’t do so well if the floods come. But most new houses are built on land that has been raised up and good housing compounds don’t have much problems with this.
In most cases, unless you encounter a flash flood (and I have) then there is little danger for most Expats (although more than 20 people, mostly in the countryside, have died in the floods this year). Be cautious, especially while driving (and more especially if you are on a motorcycle). I usually just pull over and wait for the torrential rain to slow down a bit before driving on – and I never drive through moving water. I’m retired and in no hurry.
Anyone thinking of coming to live and/or retire in Thailand needs to experience this time of year to know if you will be able to enjoy a life here. Everything slows down. Today my satellite TV is down because of the rains, and there won’t be anything to do in the garden. I got lots of DVDs though and a couple of good books on my Android tablet so I’ll find something to do.
Excuse me now as my wife and I take off for the Central Airport Plaza Mall here and partake of some comfort food. Maybe that and the bright lights will stimulate our brains to produce a little serotonin which will lift our spirits.
…We just got back from the mall. Went at lunch time and passed on the dozens of Thai food stalls in the two food courts, and the various buffet restaurants, the McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Sizzlers, and Mister Donut, and ended up stuffing ourselves at one of the 8 Japanese restaurants scattered around the mall. We’re back home now and it is raining again. But I think we have enough serotonin now to keep us happy for a while. And the guy came to fix the TV. So it’s been a really good day.
With no sun for days now it’s beginning to feel like we’re in the middle of a gloomy Seattle winter. But there are some good things to the rainy season. I myself love the rain, and the slowing down of life during the rainy season as I describe in the essay below from a chapter in my book A Retired Life in Thailand.
Evening in Thailand
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 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, who struts around chicken-like on long stilty legs. He calls out, “kwaaaaaak, 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, “. 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 the 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.
A few months ago I wrote about helping out an older Expat here who was suffering from dementia. We were able to get him into the ER where he was treated. That gave us enough time to set up a place for him in Dok Kaew Gardens, an assisted living program here. Just this week he quietly and peacefully passed away. We were able to find his family back home and eventually found that he did have a will. Dok Kaew Gardens had a funeral/cremation packaged and we were able to give him a dignified send off. Finding the will made this a possibility. It is encouraged that we all make our wills out and let people know what we want. It will make it so much easier for those who come after us.
The website Gooverseas.com has just elevated Retire 2 Thailand as one of their favorite Thai blogs. That is a good feeling and as any writer knows, what we all want is recognition and readers. Our readership is also up and in the month of July we had more than 2,000 visits to our site. Thanks to all our readers and we will try to keep passing info about living and retiring in Thailand to you all.
P.S. I wrote the above a few days ago – and it is still raining and the scenes on TV of some upcountry floods are pretty frightening. If you are here and living in a flood plain, please stay safe.