10 Signs The Rainy Season Has Arrived in Northern Thailand
August 10, 2016
I’m in a slump. I’ll admit it. There is so much going on in the world right now, so much going on in my head, so many things I want to say, writing a piece of “fluff” just seems wrong. I know many of you are going through difficult life changes and health crises. The fact that I can’t even bring you a casserole is frustrating. I think about you all, and hope for a speedy, complete recovery, and hope that this piece of “fluff”, inspired by my continued discoveries, can help take your mind off more serious things for a few minutes.
We have reason to celebrate here in northern Thailand. The rainy season is in full swing. To give you an idea of what that means, here are the
Top 10 Signs The Rainy Season Has Arrived in Northern Thailand:
1. The smoke is gone
My Thai teacher explained that there are 3 seasons in Thailand, the rainy season, the dry season, and the hot season, or, in northern Thailand, the smoky season. As soon as the rainy season hits, the smoke is cleared out, but not forgotten. More on this topic later . .
2. The road kill gets . . . interesting
On our morning walks after a good rain, the roads are decorated with squished scorpions, centipedes, spiders the size of a toddler's hand, small snakes, so many toads, a rare stick bug, beetles the size of a Hot Wheels car, you get the idea. All of them, I could say until last weekend, I have only seen dead.
Sunday morning, about 50 meters ahead, I saw what looked like a fallen tree across the road. Traffic, which was unusually heavy (one truck, two scooters and two runners) stopped as the “tree” slid off the road into the bushes. I know the Thai word for snake, but not for python . . . looking it up today. The excited truck driver who ran off after it, returned confirming that it was a really big snake.
As a kid, growing up in San Diego, I remember my favorite thing, well actually the only thing I liked in the reptile house at the San Diego Zoo, was the beautiful yellow Burmese python. I connected that with where we live for the first time.
Oh, and who else has been wasting a lot of time on Prisma??
3. Mangos are suddenly everywhere
The parade of rainy season fruit starts with green mangos. We had so many green mangos on our tree, one of the main branches snapped off. They littered our driveway every morning for weeks attracting clouds of flies (fortunately, a short term problem). If I stacked the mangos neatly, people would help themselves.
Green mangos taste like a really tart granny smith apple, and are almost identical in color. The Thai’s just pick them and eat them like an apple. Or, if you're lucky enough to be working the Saturday Temple Dog route with Marlar and Joy, Marlar would have a stash of her homemade Tai Yai version, 12-chili-hot nam pla wan, literally, sweet fish sauce. She'd find a mango tree at the temple, slice it up to dip in the honey-like sauce. My new favorite snack is green mango nam pla wan, made with fish sauce, coconut sugar, shallots, chili, really more like a chili jam. It’s tart, sweet, salty, spicy. Delicious.
Sadly, strawberries and pomelos are finished for the year, but mangosteen, rambutan, lychee, snake fruit, dragon fruit (the name in Thai, I can now remember thanks to Boonta, is literally “dragon’s cup”), and my new favorite, jack fruit, made its short, but sweet, appearance. If durian is the king of fruit, then mangosteens are definitely the princess, beautiful jewel tone purple on the outside, pure, pearly white on the inside.
Mangos are still everywhere, but now hang on the tree in little bags to help them ripen and keep the birds from eating them. Perfect for smoothies or on sweet sticky rice.
4. We live in a butterfly garden
I snicker at the gardens that charge you to see butterflies. They are everywhere in all shapes, sizes, colors. One day volunteering, a tree seemed to be barfing butterflies. Sorry for that metaphor, but I can’t think of a better word. We looked closer at the tree branch to find small cocoons hatching clouds of small green butterflies.
5. Everything is green again
Beautiful, so bright it’s almost fluorescent, the rice seedlings, the bamboo, the tamarind trees, everywhere is a different shade of green.
6. The temperatures are perfect
Rainy season means you can exercise (outside!!) any time of day. The high’s of the hot season in April drop from +40C/104F degrees to a balmy 30C/86F degrees, with the evenings in the 20’sC/70's F. No more risk of heat stroke by only going for a short walk.
The rainy season here isn’t like in Japan where you have a constant dreary drizzle for two months. It’s more like Hawaii, where you have sunshine and short, torrential downpours. We get a warning gust of wind and Bam! it starts dumping for about 20 minutes. On the road people on scooters take shelter under bridges or trees to put on their 30 baht raincoats or to wait for the cell to pass. Then the sky lightens and opens up to clear, beautiful skies. These downpours drop the temperatures by 10C/15F degrees.
7. We can see the mountains again
The smoke that took our mountain view away is replaced by mist and fog, rain clouds and rainbows.
8. Rainy season skies are the most beautiful
Dry season has clear, cloudless blue skies. Hot season skies are just gross. The rainy season skies steal the scene and make every view gorgeous, a reminder that it is always raining somewhere.
9. Water is everywhere
The canals are full and look like flowing milk chocolate. The rice fields are full, reflecting the beautiful sky, sparkling in the sunlight.
10. I love my mosquito zapper
All of this does come at a small price. I don’t go anywhere in my house without my mosquito zapper. And, did you know that mosquitoes can lay eggs in your dogs’ water bowls and hatch in just 24 hours? Before I figured this out, walking into the bathroom first thing in the morning felt like stepping into the jungle, a machete replaced by my trustee mosquito zapper.
The dry season was brutal this year with record highs and one of the longest burning seasons to date. Happily, the rainy season is here. The brown has been replaced by green, smokey skies replaced by dramatic clouds and clear blue. It officially lasts until October.