September, here in Thailand is usually a rather wet time of the year but this year, takes-the-biscuit. With the arrival of some typhoon from the South China Sea everywhere north of Bangkok has been inundated with monstrous rain for the past couple of days. For the first time ever in Thailand I was on the receiving end of a brutally heavy down-pour that went on for 36 hours non-stop. In fact, the world weather has been so freaky over the past year, that after watching ‘War of the Worlds’ I’m starting to get a little suspicious that our able-bodied green little friends from the planet ‘Starbucksy’ could well be involved.
Well, the only folks enjoying the rain yesterday at our school were the little kiddies who could be found prancing around in the school floods during the lunchbreak as if the Songkran Festival had come early. Even though the teachers spent their whole time screaming into the incredibly loud tanoy for the young whipper-snappers to get out of the rain and up to their classrooms their voices went unheard. Since the school director didn’t need the whole school coming down with a bad cold for the next week the place has been shut down today. Certainly, put a smile on my face after I woke up this morning to a bright blue April-like sky.
The last place you want to be during such rain storms is ‘The City of 3,000 7-11s’. For anyone who has lived in the capital for a while, will have been perplexed to why the local folks, who on seeing a spot of rain, make a dart for home causing the infamous Bangkok traffic jam. Even after 30 years of repeatedly doing this, most of them have still to realize that by the time they actually get home, it has stopped raining. A true Bangkokian phenomenon. Well, the rains of yesterday and the day before that saw traffic congestion, caused by the floods, so bad that it was reported that some drivers spent 6 hours getting home.
The governments over the past years have had many a problem to cope with and one that comes near the top of the list has to be the country’s floods. Each year we hear of brand-new well-thought over plans to curb the problem but alas nothing seems to actually happen. Even this year during a sudden morning pour-down in Bangkok, Parliament was put on hold after the compounds were well…flooded. On the news were the TV cameras zooming in on all the senators carrying their shoes in their hands with their trousers folded-up to their knees wading through the floods getting into the parliament building complaining to the likes of “If us, as the opposition were actually in power, such flood hazzards would have been eradicated donkeys years ago”. Oh yeah… too right. Our beloved PM himself has been reknowned for some eloquent quotes over the years and this is one of me faves. Just a few months ago while visiting the drought-ridden north-east, where he had been under a barrage of complaints concernings the area’s darned dams, informed the country “The drought problem ought to be over soon, while I was here today, it rained”. Very nicely put.
As you may have experienced, getting stuck in a Bangkok flood is far from enviable as all the sewers just pour out all the junk that has been clogging them up for the few months before. Walk in a Sukhumvit Road flood and you’ll be wading past dozens of panicking cockroaches floating around just waiting to run up the nearest hairy leg. Then, by the time you’ve arrived at yer destination you’ll find a three-legged gecko and a couple of cigarette butts stuck between yer toes.
Where I come originally come from, the rain is all part of a normal day and doesn’t really affect our daily routines that much, but here in Thailand and especially Bangkok it does. I can’t remember how many students (adults) that on me asking why they had missed the last class looked at me rather dumbfoundedly as if I were stupid and replied “Well, it was raining”. Given the weather forecast for Bangkok today, half the working population of Bangkok will be bunking off work, safely at home with their feet up scoffing down half a dozen vitamin pills and paracetamols so as not to catch the slightest cold. As for their kids, they’ll be running around in the rain playing ‘soak the dog’ and ‘drown the cockroach’.
The rain and traffic congestion are two excellent, great excuses, for those just too darned lazy to get to work on time. If on getting up late for yer first class at your new school, forget a shower and instead jump on a motorbike-taxi to work, run in to class and shout to the likes of ‘darned traffic police, they haven’t the foggiest on how to run a set of traffic lights – had me friggin waiting at the intersection for half an hour!” Suffice to say the rains over the past week have again been blamed for a whole variety of cock-ups and big business too enjoy making up a whole variety of farce excuses.
For all of yous currently holding passenger tickets for the shortly-to-become defunct Phuket Air, may God be with you. Just after the company declared that they were going bankrupt, Tokyo’s Nalita airport decided to hostage a couple of their planes after they had failed to pay the necessary taxes. To add to the company’s woes the media were alive with stories about their supposed wrecks that were flying the skys. Disgusted at such reporting the folks in charge of Phuket Air were scolding the press to the likes of ‘Our Planes and pilots are of the highest callibre’. That was until last week when another of their planes skidded of the airport at Mae Sot and almost hit the nearest petrol station. Asked to whether it was all due to pilot-error one of the big-bosses repilied “Don’t be so foolish! Can’t you see it was the darned rain, the landing strip was wet”. According to the passengers however, the pilot was supposedly have landed the plane half way down the runway.
Funniest story of the week (if you can call it that!) had to have happened on a speedboat between the islands of Samui ond Phang-ngan carrying 65+ banana-shake backpackers. The story reported to the Thai press went something like this: ‘Just yesterday a Farang saved the lives of 65 other frivolous foreign travellers after the inexperienced schizophrenic local boat driver frieked out and starting running around the boat screaming for his life after the vessle had been caught bobbing-up and down in a severly harsh rain storm. Having no-one to pilot the boat one of the Farangs ran to the front of the boat and managed somehow to steer the boat all the way to the safety of Koh Phang-ngan, a True Hero!”
One of me Grade 5 students a few weeks back stuck up her hand and asked this for a question ‘Khru Ka, does it rain in England?’ to which I replied ‘Goodness no! It just snows the entire year and when it does get hot, half the elderly population drop down dead cause of exposure to the heat’. No wonder half the kiddie population think it never rains in Farangland after they see zillions of Farang chucking water at each other during the Songkran Festival! Even the Thais can be rather embarrased at the unlimited eager enthuasiam shown by the Farang at the water-tossing event. Getting so meddled-up in the action, you would have thought they hadn’t seen rain for zonks.
Not every Farang or other foreigners welcome this saturating festival with such delirium. One of the funniest places to go to during Songkram is near the airport. Not all the foreigners on arrival can be bothered paying the 50 baht surcharge emposed at the airport’s taxi stand and walk out instead on to the main road to flag down a taxi. On arriving in Thailand half on them haven’t the foggiest that it’s the ‘Annual Water-Chucking Festival’ and are soon on the receiving end of a ‘good-soaking’. Fuming at the disgusting behaviour shown by the local kiddies, they are soon fuming even more when the taxi-drivers, who on being flagged down, roll down the passenger seat window and say “I no can take you, you wet too much”. Even stevesuphan here was blue in the face with anger once, when after being soaked outside the Eastern Bus Station hoping to go to Pattaya for a few days was told exactly this by one of the bus-hostesesses before being allowed on the the bus. He had to spend the next half an hour baking under the sun trying to just…. get a ‘little drier’
Talking about Pattaya, now that is a great place to witness Farang enraged by the water-chucking festivities. Just arriving in Thailand and dollying themselves as handsomely as possible in their newly bought fake ‘Polo’, shirts head for the bar beers to awe the girlies. Delighted at the attention bestowed upon them by the girls they are soon swearing at the top of their voices “Wait til I get me hands round yer necks ya hoodlums!” after they are completely soaked by a few kids rolling past in the back of a pick-up truck owning a massive water-chucking tub.
Just a couple years back, I remember the story of a young kiddie down there on Hua Hin beach who was on the receiving end of a ‘smack-a-round-the-face’ after he had tossed a cup of water at a Farang woman sunbathing on the beach. The mother on being distraught at such a swiping handed out to her son was soon down the cop station pressing charges. After the Farang sunbather was escorted from the beach and down to the station it was soon revealed that she was the wife of some European ambassador in Bangkok and was instead let out the door to an array of cops giving her a salute. As for the young whipper-snapper’s mother she was witnessed roaring angry to the press to the likes of “Darned Farang women, they got no respect”