It’s raining in Chiang Mai. Not unusual in the rainy season, but recently it has been raining for a couple of hours in the afternoon, with sunshine otherwise. Or it’s rained very heavily, but at night. Which is fine with a lifestyle like mine – I just avoid being outside when it’s raining. But at the moment it’s raining all the time, and it’s even a little bit cool – cool enough for a cardigan, which in a year, I’ve only worn twice.
A day indoors
So yesterday I decided, when the rain just kept coming, to stay for the day in my little apartment. I’m back in the same place I started 10 months ago, Puri Piman, an apartment block which has guests who stay for different lengths of time – you can pay by the night or by the month. I have a medium size room – I had a kitchen at one point last year, but realised I never really used it. So now I have a big room, with a microwave and a fridge in it, and a sink on the balcony outside. And a bathroom with a shower that’s enclosed and separate from the rest of the room, which isn’t the norm here. Usually bathrooms are more like a wet-room, and you end up with a wet toilet seat and even wet toilet paper if you’re not careful!
My room does have a sofa, but it’s some kind of plastic, and it’s not very comfy. I like to be able to snuggle up on a sofa. Sometimes I put my (King size) duvet on it, and make a little nest… But mostly if I’m reading I read on the bed. I have two tables, a little two-person dining table, and a small writing desk, which is where I tend to work. I have a TV, but this visit I haven’t even turned it on. There aren’t many English channels anyway, and I can watch the odd things I’m interested in on my computer.
So my day inside started with me being a little bit disappointed. As always I had a list of things I was planning on doing for the day, and the rain meant I couldn’t do most of them. But then, I realised I was being silly, and flipped my thinking to be pleased I could spend the day inside, snuggled up from the rain. I love Autumn in the UK, it’s my favourite season, so I decided I could spend the day pretending I was back in my UK flat while the wind blew and the rain came down outside.
I skyped with friends, read a couple of books, watched an episode of a TV series I like, played with my blogs, and replied to emails. I went down to the restaurant that operates as part of the apartment complex, called The Salad Terrace. It’s a bit of a novelty here, salad’s not really big, and as it’s in a suburban area it’s usually packed with Thai people. It was even extended in the 6 months I was away, so it’s even bigger now. I had three items – a small salad, half an aubergine marinated in miso sauce, and French fries. A tasty, if a bit random, combination.
Thai houses are different from the UK in that there are often openings to the outside that are not protected by glass. So for example, my bathroom doesn’t have windows that you can shut – it has some high up openings with screens on them so the insects can’t come in, but they are always open to the outside. Which 99% of the time is fine – the more breeze you can get through the flat the better. But it does mean when it is unusually cool, you can’t shut all of the windows to keep the heat in. And of course there’s no heating in the rooms. It’s normally a bit unnecessary. I have air conditioning, but heating would be redundant most of the time.
All the windows of my little flat are protected by a mini-roof which juts out over them. This is because the rain, when it’s really raining, would drive into your room if you didn’t have that protection.
It’s hard to explain how much rain there can be if you haven’t been in a country like this and experienced it. I’m writing this in a little café with a plastic roof for example, having ventured out today, and the rain is so noisy in coming down it drowns out the music, the waitress asking me what I want, everything. Luckily, I like the sound of the rain. Well, I like it when I’m inside. I got caught in it on the bike a couple of days ago without my poncho, and I didn’t like it then – I had my glasses on, and they were covered in drips, so it was like I was seeing things through cling-film, and I was soaked through. I do have an 80p plastic poncho which I have worn a few times, which makes me look like a small green mountain, as it’s much too big for me. But it keeps most of me dry…
Just having a few days of rain without any sunshine has made me realise how difficult it must be for countries where this is the norm. Which certainly includes Thailand, which has had flooding and problems with large rainfall in the past. When it continues to rain, and it’s a bit cooler, everything becomes a little bit damp. Because there is no central heating to dry things out, and most places don’t have tumble driers (as they would mostly be very unnecessary), and very few places are fully closed off to the outside, your towels stop drying, your bedding becomes just a little bit damp, and you have to make sure your clothes are well aired. It’s not so fun. And the mosquitos are worse after the rain when it’s damp.
Light at the end of the tunnel
As I said, I’m lucky because normally, I don’t have to go out in the rain. So for me, it’s an interesting novelty (as long as I keep things in perspective and remember everything can be fun!), which can keep the heat down. But for the many who have to drive to work on their scooters, work outside or make their living market trading, all when the rain is pouring down, it can have a much bigger impact. Tourists are less likely to come to the market when it’s raining for example.
So next time you complain about the weather in your country, think about Thailand, and the many other countries which experience ‘proper’ rainy seasons, with monsoons and flooding. And be grateful for your central heating and tumble driers!