The Rainy Season Has Arrived

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.

Update

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.

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15 Responses to “The Rainy Season Has Arrived”

  1. L.Charles said

    how is the flood now in CM? Im visiting CM on 26 August. Do u think that it will be fine by then?? Email me. Thanks for your help.

  2. Frank said

    I do enjoy reading your blog. Unlike some blogs you seem to post enough to keep me coming back for more and of course more post would even be better but I know how hard it can be to write at times, but remember what may be routine to you is interesting to many others.

    I’m glad to old man to wrote about was able to find peace in his final days

  3. Mike Schmicker said

    Hugh:
    Nice piece about the rainy season, something I always will remember, along with the flooded bangkok streets. We had a great time at the Thai 27 reunion. I’m sure Ernie has sent you some photos.We missed you, but Peter coombs kept us laughing the whole weekend.
    Cheers,
    Mike Schmicker

  4. I was out playing my Monday round of golf today when, on the fifth hole. my caddie said, “This is the last hole.” As soon as I three- putted, the skies opened up, thunder and lightening surrounded us, and the rain came down in buckets. We just made it back to the club house as the Bangkok Post headline editor was preparing this, “Expat Golfer and caddie struck by lightening on the fifth hole.”

    And it’s still raining.

    The moral of the story: Always listen to your caddie.

  5. L.Charles said

    How is the raining season now? Rain whole day or just for a few hours in the morning? is the train from Chiang mai to BKK still running due to the rain? im coming in 10 days and hope can go to chiang rai and golden triangle…

    • It rains every day but not all day. One or two hours, mostly at night. That’s the rainy season. Trains seem to be okay but check before coming up. Haven’t heard anything about Chiang Rai. I’m going to Prae tomorrow where there is flooding but only in some outlying districts. You should be okay. Bu things can change quickly and best to check with someone who lives near to where you are going.

  6. Snap said

    Hugh, please be careful out there on the golf course, you know those clubs make excellent conductors 😉 joking aside, those humongous claps of thunder the other morning nearly jolted us out of bed. I do like the cool that comes with the rain, but not the rain, because travelling on our beast becomes a bit of a pain!

    We’re off to Sukhothai next week, but I’ve been slack and haven’t checked out the weather forecast for between here and there…hopefully it will be fine and we won’t have to borrow your dingy.

  7. L.Charles said

    Hi, i read from the internet regarding the coming flood in northern Thailand. Is there any flood now? I’m coming this Thursday. do you think that i can come and go to Chiang Rai as well. Is the train running from Chiang Mai to Bangkok? Thanks.

    • Rain every day. No floods in Chiang Mai and trains are running. But there are lots of flooding around (Sukhothai, Prae, Nan, Pitsunoloke). Check with the Bangkok papers. Here is a story on the present flooding (http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/252703/pm-orders-new-relief-as-crisis-deepens)

      If you plan on coming to Thailand for a visit I hope that your schedule allows for a visit in Nov – Feb. Now is probably the worst time to come. I love the rainy season but do not do much traveling at this time. I just hunker down at home. I have a friend visiting from Seattle (he’s a teacher so this is the only time he can come). He said yesterday that he feels like he is living in a Seattle winter. He hasn’t seen the sun since he got here.

      Good luck and travel safely.

  8. L.Charles said

    sir, thank you for the info. is the rain now rain in the morning too, and the sky is grey the whole day? Is the night market still open during the raining season? i have booked my flights from Malaysia to Hatyai, den to chiang mai, still have to go Chiang mai den to bangkok. I hope i can go Golden Triangle and visit the Karren Tribe.

  9. Lani said

    Loved this post. Perhaps because it is raining and even though I whinge about it, the rain can be a very nice excuse to stay at home and do some reading and writing.

    You described it perfectly. At least I can relate from my little place in the woods.

    Although I wrote a poem about how I hated the rain. It’s a bipolar relationship 😉 Can’t you tell??? I love the sun!

    • Many years ago, while I was sitting out a rain shower back home and hating the rain and feeling miserable about the sun not shining I thought to myself, “It rains a considerable percentage of the time in a person’s life. If I am miserable when it rains then my percentage of happy days goes down during this time.” I wondered what to do about that. Couldn’t stop the rain, right? Kind of stupid being bummed out about something we don’t have any control over, I thought. So I decided to stop hating the rain and began to love it. My percentage of happy days shot right up. Since then I have loved sunny days and rainy days equally. And I am mostly happy.

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