Benjamin’s great Aunt and third cousin
The high season for Thailand tourist wise comes in the winter months of October through February. In those times, so I hear, the weather is somewhat mild and blue skies are frequent. I, however, have come to Thailand during the low season where the weather is hot, the rains are frequent and cloud cover is almost always. I don’t mind that though, low season makes for less tourists and really a lot of adventure.
Monsoon rains are fascinating, wonderful and dreadful. They can happen at any moment, often unsuspected, and may last for five minutes, but may last all day. I’d like to take this time to recount all of our strange experiences so far of getting stuck in monsoon rain and the adventures it has lead to.
Some orchids at the orchid farm
A couple weeks ago, Benjamin and I went to an Orchid Farm up a hill in Chiang Mai. The orchid farm was lovely, with rows upon rows of colourful flowers hanging from ropes and the occasional butterfly floating along. After having a brisk lunch we perused down the mountain and decided to stop at a national park to see a waterfall. The forest was lovely, occasional monks drabbed in orange passing by and the sound of water tumbling down to our left on the waterfall. Soon though, water was falling in heavy drops all around us to the point that we had to run to find a dry place. Luckily for us, a woman staying in a small safety hut on the side of the hill let us take a place under her roof with her sleeping dog. Soon, a young Dutch woman joined us, we were later joined by two Spanish ladies and more people continued to come until our little place was crowded. We exchanged small talk but mostly watched the rain in wonder as it plopped loudly and plummeted the soft earth. Benjamin and I decided to make a run for it, rain soaking us while we protecting our cameras with our bodies. Eventually the rain stopped and we were left with smiles on our faces and the cool air that greets Thailand after a heavy rain.
Some elephants bathing
On a similar trip a few days later, we again headed into the heavily forested hills of Chiang Mai but this time to see an elephant camp. While the elephant show wasn’t particularly delightful we got to ride an elephant with a mahout driver afterwards. I had always wanted to ride an elephant and was both scared and excited to board the humble giant. We stepped off the platform onto the beast with the help of our driver and began the rocking motion that is riding an elephant. The ride was nice, we went into the hills and had a lovely view looking over the camp as well as into the mountains. About halfway through the pitter-patter of rain developed into yet another full-blown monsoon rain. The mahout rider smiled, handed me an umbrella and put a plastic tarp upon our legs. I can’t adequately explain what it felt like to be riding an elephant in the rain of Chiang Mai. But I can give the images of crystal water sliding off of tall green plants and trees, a soft and tough gray body moving beneath as we swayed back and forth with its step and wetness reaching our hands and diving off of the umbrella on top of us. It honestly was one of my most memorable moments so far here in Thailand, I don’t think I’ll forget it. Afterwards we disbanded the elephant and trudged through the mud as the rain began to simmer down.
When we were in Luang Prabang, Laos we were fairly fortunate to avoid the rain for the most part. Most days were actually fairly blue skies and absolutely swelteringly hot weather. For a couple of our days there, a kind boat owner brought us to various destinations including a waterfall, pottery village and Hmong village. I don’t know his name, but I can say that he is in his sixties, got a new grandson last week, and is a fan of San Francisco. Anyway, on our first trip with him we were on our way to the pottery village down the Mekong River when a monsoon rain started. The Mekong River is a long and wide winding brown river bordered by green mountains on either side. While floating down it one often comes across fishermen laying down their nets and may see a baby elephant munching on some leaves. Again, it’s something that is difficult for me to explain but it was lovely floating in this boat and watching the rain drops fall into the brown river beside us. When we stepped out of the boat we had to walk along a wooden plank (while avoiding mud) to a steep climb above. I stepped out of the wobbly boat with umbrella in hand and placed my feet carefully in front of the other until I reached solid and somewhat dry land. We walked up a dirt-covered hill until we found ourselves in a rural village. We visited a couple places, one with women using looms to weaving the delicate and beautiful sarongs you so often find in Laos and Thailand.
The rain at our guest house
I would lastly like to mention a not so romantic but unbelievably fun encounter Benjamin and I had yesterday afternoon. Yesterday, we started staying at a guest house in Chiang Mai and one of the first things I wanted to do was visit the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. I had been there a couple weeks before but there were still a few things I wanted to buy including a teak spirit house. And so, we set off, leaving the umbrella and rain poncho in the room, with a vague idea of where we were supposed to go. The first trouble we encountered was the heavy traffic by the moat of Chiang Mai. By this point, we are both extremely used to rural life where the most that goes by is the occasional motorcycle with some school kids. Chiang Mai, is not rural. We stopped and watched the cars, trucks and motorcycles speed by seemingly endlessly. Despite various crosswalks, they just don’t seem to operate the same as they do in North America. Cars don’t stop, and we had to wait for a break in traffic to run across. That settled, we set off, when after a few blocks we became unsure of where we were. We continued on for another seven or so blocks when the rain started pouring, hard. Mind, as said earlier we were without covering, umbrellas or near any sort of tuk-tuk to drive us back. So, we ran. We ran and ran and took shelter under any available roof getting increasingly more soaked as we went. As we ran with Benjamin ukulele in tow and I my camera, people stared at us from cafes smiling and laughing. I myself was laughing; it was just really quite hilarious. I don’t know how we were so silly to forget to bring anything when it had been raining earlier but that’s half of the fun with monsoon rain. It’s incredibly unpredictable and can make life so unexpected and interesting. Later yesterday evening, we went to the Night Bazaar afterall (after getting changed of course) and took a tuk-tuk there. It was still raining and as we passed by neon signs the air blew at us while the wheels of the tuk-tuk splashed into puddles just missing us.
I like monsoon rains, which you can probably gather from this post. If you ever are planning a trip to Southeast Asia and are afraid of going in the low season, I’m telling you don’t be. The rain can be fun! If you’re adventurous and are not afraid to get wet you can end up having some of your most memorable experiences in it.
That’s all for today!
- Leia Atkinson