In Chiang Mai5 min read by
It’s always warm. The sun is out daily, even in the wet season, and there’s very little wind, except for a few minutes just before the rain.
Then, the palm trees and the tall grass underneath bend slightly from soft gusts of air. The dust whirls up from asphalt roads, smudged with dry, red clay. The sun is still beaming from below the dark, thick cloud, but the air starts to feel cool and moist. It’s beginning to drip. A familiar scent of fresh earth hints at the inevitable need to seek shelter.
The raindrops swell in size and numbers in just a few minutes. Under the open sky, it starts to feel like being in a bathtub with ten shower heads spraying all at once.
The rain frantically bounces off the ground, turning into a white mist. The visibility drops. The sun is now veiled by the thickly woven cocoon of the descending water particles.
The hiss of the countless free-falling beads hitting the ground, bursting into droplets, and spreading tiny shockwaves is, collectively, deafening. There’s little else to hear, except for the thunderclaps in the distance.
In the midst of a hovering waterfall, the warm drops plunge softly onto the skin.
The splashes are a joy! If only the clothes didn’t stick to the body and stay wet, heavy, cold, and dripping for hours, damaging precious belongings.
The gloomy, dark skies and the muted grey colours bring up memories of cold, sunless seasons in Toronto — and the blues that came with the “indoor” weather. But a relief from the hot spell, clearing the air, and the added moisture into the otherwise-drying, drastically warmer climate cures those recollections. It’s not cold. There is no snowy winter to follow. Only months of summer rain to be succeeded by a dry season in the midst of the mountainous tropics.
The smell of the wet ground, the haze and the sound of rain finally dull the wandering senses. Like sitting next to a summer campfire, at night; when the conversations come to an end and the orange flame tongues have all the thoughts bewitched into nothing.
The intensity of the downpour wavers to a barely noticeable drizzle in just a handful of minutes. Though still gloomy, there are now some brakes in the cloud cover.
A few moments past, the drizzling stops. It’s misty and humid. Sparse steam clouds are floating low towards the mountainous forest at the west end of the city. The familiar sounds of traffic and street hustle fade back in with the added fizz of splashing water from under the vehicles, passersby feet, and off the roofs — dripping down to the puddles below.
The air is steamy and fresh; the dust and pollution have been washed, the sky looks clear. The sun resumes its assault, unfiltered by the smog.
Later that night, the flooded ditches, bushes, and tree lines will be filling the city with songs of grass frogs backed by the hull of cicadas. And with first morning light, the remaining moisture will float upwards, forming thick, white clouds on the way to join the revolving convection.
Then, there are days, almost weeks, when the sky is unceasingly overcast, and light sprinkles fade in and out throughout.
In that weather, one can safely forget an umbrella: the heat lifts all the formed dampness from clothing within minutes. Though leaving enough to confuse the wearer over whether it’s sweat or rainwater.
In those kinds of days, the calming brew of the sounds, sights, and smells is diluted by time yet uninterrupted.