Hot Season in Thailand – Colors, Tastes, and Sounds

May 1, 2015

I’ve blogged about the hot season in Thailand before (You Can’t Beat the Heat) and how enervating and life sucking the 40 degree C (104 F) can be. This year hasn’t been that bad, even with the 6 weeks of smog. But if every hot season is going to be this hot (and smoggy) then I’ll have to go to somewhere cooler and clearer during March, April and May to escape this scorching Chiang Mai retirement.

But this year we had family visiting and other guests (I keep telling them not to come in April but no one listens to me.) so we needed to stay around.

Before we retired to Thailand we lived in Seattle Washington; a wonderful place which we miss greatly. One thing we don’t miss though is the long winter season when the sun rises (rarely since it is almost always cloudy and rainy) at about 10am and sets about 3pm. Each year we would suffer depressions caused by the lack of sunlight called Seasonally Affective Disorders, or SAD for short.

There is also a different kind of SAD.  Here in Thailand, SAD is caused by too much sunlight (and the heat that comes with it). Next year maybe we will just go and rent a place for a month or so down in Krabi or Trang, somewhere near the water and a cool sea breeze. I hope to be writing about it, so stay tuned next April.

But there are a few things that have helped me get through this SAD season here in Chiang Mai. These include the colors, tastes, and sounds that all come to us during this hottest part of the year. And since I am completely SADdened right now and too enervated to write much this month, I thought I would share some of the wonders of the Thai hot season, in picture form, that help me make it through the day.

(All the pictures of flowers were taken today in and around our garden. The pictures of fruits are from the end of last year’s hot season. Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

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Colors (the flowers in our garden)

Summer in Thailand is the time for trees to flower. We have planted lots of flowering trees in our garden, along with fruit trees and flowering plants. We have tried to have something blooming at all times of the year, but the hot season is the most colorful..

The Intonin Tree (not sure of the English name) with Doi Suthep in the background.

The Intonin Tree (not sure of the English name) with Doi Suthep in the background.

 

The Golden Showers trees, blooming all over Chiang Mai at this time. In Thai it is called Rajapreuk (The Royal Flora Tree).

The Golden Showers trees, blooming all over Chiang Mai at this time. In Thai it is called Rajapreuk (The Royal Flora Tree).

 

A Flame Tree, called Peacock Tail tree in Thai.

A Flame Tree, called Peacock Tail tree in Thai.

A rare Golden Flame Tree.

A rare Golden Flame Tree.

.

Hibiscus grow to great size in Thailand. This one is 6 ins across.

Hibiscus grow to great size in Thailand. This one is 6 ins across.

A Giant Lotus bloom.

A Giant Lotus bloom.

 

A Lotus flower. We grow them in pots. Tried planting them in the stream near our house but the Apple Snails (Cheery Snails in Thai) ate them all.

A Lotus flower. We grow them in pots. Tried planting them in the stream near our house but the Apple Snails (Cheery Snails in Thai) ate them all.

Heliconia, of which we have a half dozen varieties.

Heliconia, of which we have a half dozen varieties. Thais call them Bird Flowers.

Our blooming Bougainvilleas.

Our blooming Bougainvilleas.

 

Plumeria, or Frangipani. In Thai it has the lyrical sounding name of Lilawadee. All the flowers and leaves fall off and then at this season they come back in all their glory.

Plumeria, or Frangipani. In Thai it has the lyrical sounding name of Lilawadee. All the flowers and leaves fall off and then at this season they come back in all their glory.

 

Frangipani come in many colors, from white, to yellow, to pink, to bright red like this one. To transplant on just cut off a branch and stick it in the ground, and you'll have a new tree.

Frangipani come in many colors, from white, to yellow, to pink, to bright red like this one. To transplant one just cut off a branch and stick it in the ground, and you’ll have a new tree.

 

My son Darin is visiting and took these flower pictures. The heat here doesn't bother him as much as it does us since it is still cold back home.

My son Darin is visiting and took these flower pictures in our garden. The heat here doesn’t bother him as much as it does us since he is here running away from the cold back home.

 

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Tastes (the hot season fruits)

Luckily for fruit lovers, Thai fruits ripen at all different times throughout the year. Summer has lots of Mangoes, and then come the fragrant Durian and the heavenly Mangosteens. We don’t have the last two in our garden since they don’t grow well here in the north, but we have lots of Mangoes.

There are at least 50 varieties of Mangoes in Thailand. We have over 15 growing in our garden.

There are at least 50 varieties of Mangoes in Thailand. We have over 15 growing in our garden.

 

More Mangoes.

More Mangoes.

 

The increasingly popular  R2 E2 Mango, each weighing about 1 kilo.and delicious.

The increasingly popular R2 E2 Mango, each weighing about 1 kilo, and delicious.

 

Lots of Papayas in our garden.

Lots of Papayas in our garden.

 

Jack Fruit, Bananas, and one Cashew fruit (with the nut still hanging off the end. Our largest Jack Fruit was 14 kilos. This one about 5 kilos.

The sweet and fragrant Jackfruit (we have planted 18 of these fast-growing trees), Bananas, and one Cashew fruit (with the nut still hanging off the end). Our largest Jack Fruit was 14 kilos. This is a small one weighing only about 5 kilos, but still bigger than my head.

 

These are platanes which need to be cooked first. We have about 10 different kinds of bananas in our garden.

These are platanes, our biggest bananas. They need to be cooked first. We have about 10 different kinds of bananas in our garden. The smallest are called The Lady’s Fingernails.

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Sounds (of the stifling nights)

At this time of year the calls of mating birds and other animals can be heard at night, even with all the windows closed. They sing me to sleep even better than the white noise of the air conditioner. The ones I like best are the ones that are onomatopoetically named (in Thai).

They include the “Boot Bird” (Thai: Nok-a-boot, English: Greater Coucal), that calls “boot boot boot” all night. Then there is the “Gawow Bird” (Thai: Nok-gawow, English: Koel). And of course they say “ga-wow ga-wow, ga-wow” over and over again. They seem to disappear for a while and return during the hottest part of the year. The “Gwak Bird” (Thai: Nok-gwak, English: White Breasted Water Hen) is a yearlong resident. And you can hear them calling “gwak gwak gwak” at all hours, day or night. And the best sounding name is that for the “Kawear-wear-wet Bird” (Thai: Nok-a-wearwearwet, English: Lapwind) that goes “ka-wear-ka-wear-ka-wet”.

But my favorite sound comes not from a bird but from a lizard. It’s the infamous call of the Tokay Gecko (Tokay in Thai too). What does he say? “tokay tokay tokay” , up to around 7 times in a row, and very loudly. Just in case you have never heard one, here is what one sounds like. They seem to disappear for a while and then come back at this time looking for a mate. There is a story that if you hear it call 8 times in a row you will disappear (I made that one up myself.) I have only heard up to 7.

Our resident Tokay Gecko, caught hanging out under a towel in the bathroom.

Our resident Tokay Gecko, caught hanging out under a towel in the bathroom. He’s been quiet until the hottest part of the year.

After listening to these guys you tell me if the Thai onomonopia correctly depicts their sounds.

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And then there are the sounds and sights coming from my TV right now. Really, how could one complain about the weather when Game of Thrones is back on the air, with Araya sticking Needle into some bad guy, and Kaleesi looking more queen-like and beautiful with every episode, especially with her dragons? I wish Sansa would wash that black dye off and get her gorgeous red hair back.  And if they would leave just a few of my favorite characters alive at the end of the season; I would like that.

But who’s complaining. I hear a bit of thunder behind Doi Suthep as I write this. We just may have survived the hot season for one more year. Godspeed the coming rainy season.

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8 Responses to “Hot Season in Thailand – Colors, Tastes, and Sounds”

  1. Lani said

    Wonderful post. And what an amazing garden. You all are so ready for the zombie apocalypse (aka global economical meltdown)! It’s also really endearing to see how you cared for your tokay. We love them. Stay cool, Hugh!

  2. Lani said

    Ah, and I need to get back to GOT, too. Love that show 🙂 We’ll have to discuss favorite characters!

  3. joe moon meung said

    or just a month in bangkok, where the sky is blue and it’s not as hot, believe it or not, i was in CM right after songkran, really like old los angelas, with the heat of the desert, not sure how you can stand 2 months of it, not to mention the swarms of dubious tourists in the old city CM, eg sunday walking street is a mess, need to remove all the vendors from the middle of the street , as it’s not bearable after the national anthem ……

    • Rarely go downtown. Walking Street should only be visited around 4pm. After that there are 100,000 people there (no exaggeration). You’ve seen pictures of my garden. That is where I spend most of my time, there and in front of my piano with the fan blowing hard on me. But next year, maybe somewhere near the sea.

  4. I own 6 air conditioners (3 in one house and 3 in our 2 bungalows). But I only use them like right now (temp at 93 degrees in my room which is cooler than outside). I really don’t like the feel of “conditioned” air so it is a toss up whether I use them or not. I also own 7 ceiling fans, and I don’t know how many other fans. I know, that sounds like overkill but when I was a Peace Corps volunteer I didn’t even own one fan and somehow survived the hot season then. So I have paid my dues.

    Just played the piano or 1.5 hours and going to watch TV now (really downloaded torrents), turn on the AC, have a cold juice, and probably fall asleep in 2 or 3 minutes.

    (Remember I write these post not to complain but to inform people of what they might be getting into if they decide to retire here.)

  5. Bruce M said

    Hello Hugh,

    I continue to appreciate and look forward to your posts.

    I was reading on another blog by someone living in Chiang Mai that she regretted moving there because there are now so many farang and the hot season is so smoggy she was having respiratory problems. I’m wondering if you are noticing a rising level of disenchantment among the farang you know there, now that retiring to Chiang Mai has been “discovered.”

    As Yogi Berra said, “If the ballpark gets too crowded, people will stop coming.”

    Bruce/Vancouver ( where it is a perfectly lovely 72F)

    • Hi Bruce,

      I don’t hang out with too many newbie Farangs. Most of my friends are old timers (and Thais), and we are as happy as clams, and btw, I lived here in CM when there were so few Farangs that everyone knew every Farang living here. When you went to immigration you knew every person there. The only tourists you would see here were serious world travelers – who were usually quite interesting.

      Chiang Mai is unlike other Farang destinations in Thailand as it is spread over a very large area so even though the Farang population has increased considerably one never really sees too many at any one time. There are lots though, including a large population of Japanese, and now Chinese, and in the winter lots of Korean (golfers). I play very early, 6:30am, so I avoid the big crowds. And I rarely go into the old town where the tourists are. During the holidays I stay home.

      As for the smog, yes, it is quite bad. Seems like there are large corn plantations in the mountains that get burned after harvest. It is a rather stupid thing to do and Thailand is losing billions of baht per year because of it, not to mention the health effects on the people here. Maybe a government that doesn’t need to answer to anyone, including the rich growers, might be able to solve the problem.

      We will be leaving for the smog season next year. Not sure where though but somewhere near water and a sea breeze.

      Regret moving here? No way. You’ve seen the pictures of where I live. And we aren’t rich. We live off of Social Security. But it is a very good life. It isn’t Paradise but it is close enough.

      My son is back on Orcas Island, just a few miles from you, and he thinks that really is Paradise, except for the winters when he comes here.

      Cheers.

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