When the sun shines they slip into the shade…

Fashion, Food, fear

It’s been rain­ing in the town.

Life, most­ly, has been hum­drum aver­age — eat­ing, drink­ing, laugh­ing a bit and the odd movie. But rain­ing it has been and rain in Asia, despite its reg­u­lar­i­ty dur­ing parts of the year, is often an event.

Yep it’s been rain­ing an awful lot in recent months. That, I’d argue, isn’t real­ly a sur­prise as it’s the infa­mous rainy sea­son here in cen­tral South East Asia. Actu­al­ly, that’s not true — the rain is a sur­prise every year, or so it seems.  Giv­en the reg­u­lar­ly voiced reac­tion to the way the heav­ens open, the rain for some rea­son seems to sur­prise every year — and has done so I guess since, well, for­ev­er, when­ev­er that was.

Because every and each year, as the water buck­ets down week after week, you hear the same inevitable shouts of ‘the rains are ear­ly this year’, or ‘the rains have last­ed longer than usu­al this year’, or ‘the rains are are heav­ier this year than usu­al’. It becomes the chat de jour every­where — and it’s not true. The truth is the rain comes every year, it stays for months — not unpleas­ant­ly when it’s 30 degrees plus out­side — and then goes. It is — year in and year out — most­ly quite pred­i­ca­ble with­in a range.

At least it is in Bangkok town. It floods. It floods again. And it floods with some monot­o­ny — and in our frus­tra­tion we some­how for­get that it did the very same last year.

That the city seems to be sink­ing too, I’ll avoid as dif­fi­cult right now.

The SoiBrigid goes wading

In Auck­land there is — too — always annu­al sur­prise at the rain that falls inces­sant­ly every year from ear­ly June to the end of Novem­ber with lit­tle respite. It does it most every year and it does so cold­ly and uncom­fort­ably. Then the sun arrives, the mood lifts and we for­get the rain until the fol­low­ing June, only to express sur­prise when it stays until Novem­ber. Again.

That said, noth­ing — noth­ing — is more won­der­ful than Auck­land on an icy-cold sun-filled win­ter’s day1.

The UK seems to get the worst of it. But they real­ly only have them­selves to blame — not only is the annu­al four day sum­mer in July inevitably pro­claimed as a ‘heat­wave’ — which throws every when they do actu­al­ly get one every decade or so — but the nation still seems bliss­ful­ly unaware that every year it will snow and every year, unless some­how they are ready for it, it will cause sub­stan­tial may­hem.

Sad­ly some 1100 years of con­tin­u­ous gov­ern­ment has not, it seems, pre­pared Great Britain for this twelve month­ly even­tu­al­i­ty, and in a way that only the British could, they seem utter­ly sur­prised by the arrival of ice and snow each year and the afore­said may­hem ensues. Every bloody year.

The Unit­ed States and Europe both seem to get it far worse than the UK and whilst air­ports are closed, trains are stopped and there is brief dis­rup­tion, both long since worked out ways to deal with the annu­al even­tu­al­i­ty, and impres­sive­ly push it out of the way as soon as fea­si­ble or turn it into a nation­al tourist or sport­ing plus.

At the time, I won­dered how the UK would have dealt with the recent US Atlantic storm (which I mis­tak­en­ly called Tere­sa in an email to a friend but, of course, was tagged Irene — a far less stern name.  There is a Simon - I checked — but hap­pi­ly it’s in the far less malev­o­lent North East Pacif­ic and to date has caused less harm than many of its mid Pacif­ic and mid Atlantic cousins. Names rotate — I did­n’t know that — and Simon is due back in 2014. Fin­gers crossed.

It’s rain­ing again here as I write. So much so that the street has flood­ed again, which trashed any ideas about get­ting out on week­end night for a beer and a tune. I’m become obsessed with the intrigu­ing Shaz­am app on the phone. Far more so than any piece of soft­ware I’ve found of recent. It can iden­ti­fy songs in noisy pubs from a few bars, over the din. Yes­ter­day it got Stiff Lit­tle Fin­gers’ Alter­na­tive Ulster and an obscure 60s Amer­i­can garage punk thing that even I’ve not heard of. It iden­ti­fied Coltrane!

My friend Sam — a DJ — told me that kids turn up in his DJ booth with it on their phones. When asked, they say things like ‘I’m the DJ tomor­row night and I’m just work­ing out my set from what works for you’.…

I’m impressed with the soft­ware if not all the users, but it will have to wait to be test­ed again: the soi is now flood­ed.

Which is bizarre. At 6pm I’d just com­plet­ed a six km walk from Lad­prao to Rama IX, down the eight lane jug­ger­naut of Thanon Ratchadapisek. I’d dis­cov­ered two new malls (one had sev­en floors and yet anoth­er Guc­ci store) and what may be the world’s biggest broth­el:

The world's biggest dedicated brothel

Do you pay more or less for a room on the tenth floor? Does a view mat­ter in the allo­cat­ed hour of what I assume is plea­sure? I also won­der about the big stacks of bro­ken bath­tubs you often see out the back of these places. I try not to won­der too much about them.

I saw count­less big broth­els as I walked, but none as over­whelm­ing­ly large as that one. You do won­der how they all sur­vive — this is after very much not tourist Bangkok, this is Thai­land and in the small cafés there is absolute­ly no farang sig­nage.

Most­ly we don’t exist out here. The boule­vard — quite order­ly giv­en the traf­fic — cuts and deliv­ers through a mas­sive Thai-tar­get­ed enter­tain­ment, shop­ping (the hard­ware stores here are five or six times the mega ver­sions of Mitre 10 in Auck­land) and eat­ing zone, head­ing north to the Lad­Prao uber-mall zone, where two of the biggest malls in the world (one — new­ly — with the world’s biggest LED screen as an out­side wall) sit on oppo­site sides of the road.

I grew uneasy with the end­less mas­sive knock shops — as open mind­ed as I try to be I do suf­fer a per­son­al sense of dis­com­fort when con­front­ed with this sort of thing:

You said you were high-class....Another One..and another

I crossed the road, but the oth­er side was filled with glassy insur­ance tow­ers and an unin­spir­ing five-floor mono­lith that seemed — if I trans­lat­ed the Thai words and imagery cor­rect­ly — to sell only Ara­bi­an themed tiles and bath­rooms. There is a mar­ket I guess in a city of 15m. Per­haps the bro­ken bath­tubs are a clue?

It was dull. So I climbed back up the next over­bridge — one does­n’t try and cross a road like this with­out one: Thai dri­vers have yet to learn the art of let­ting a pedes­tri­an pass safe­ly in front of the car. Which is still bet­ter than Chi­na, where bus­es notice­ably accel­er­ate into parts of the road opti­misti­cal­ly marked as a zebra cross­ing.

I was con­front­ed by a branch of the world famous Som­boon Seafood, home — as the sign says — of the ‘orig­i­nal fried cur­ry crab’. I don’t like fried cur­ry crab, orig­i­nal or not, so I moved on. Still, I’m told that this par­tic­u­lar Som­boon is to fried cur­ry crab fans as Abbey Road is to Bea­t­les fans, so I can at least say I’ve seen it when I next spend time with one. A guy flies up from Sin­ga­pore to this out­let every week, eats and then flies home, or so the leg­end goes.

Somboon Seafood

The greater prob­lem for me was the heat. All after­noon it was stink­ing hot and get­ting hot­ter. I wore a hat. I need to. The last time I attempt­ed a walk like this with­out one — in Dusit — I even­tu­al­ly suc­cumbed to heat­stroke, despite a friend­ly cop offer­ing me a gratis bot­tle of iced water. Not again.

There was nary a cloud in the blue cloud and I was begin­ning to stag­ger under the relent­less onslaught. 35 it said on the big LED out­side anoth­er mul­ti-storey spe­cial­ist plumb­ing sup­plies mega-opo­lis. It felt it. The Thai peo­ple dri­ving past were laugh­ing at me — nobody sane, as the song says, does this. I walked on.

Anoth­er mall and — I real­ly feel uneasy about say­ing this — a Star­bucks looked real­ly entic­ing. Some­times a sug­ar infused pas­sion­fruit frap­pé seems far more appeal­ing that you know it real­ly should.

On the fifth floor of this mall was a CD store with a real­ly impres­sive selec­tion of Black Sab­bath remas­ters. For the folks to lis­ten to in their Ara­bi­an themed bath­rooms per­haps?

Summer in the city

I tossed around, briefly, the thought that I would call it a day and head under­ground into the Thai­land Cul­tur­al Cen­tre MRT sta­tion — named not for the malls, the cur­ried crab and big knock shops, but for a dis­tant arts cen­tre odd­ly over a kilo­me­tre away and almost impos­si­ble to get to from here.

Instead I fool­ish­ly stag­gered to the next sta­tion, drawn by the IT mall next to it, where I found some respite in a bot­tle of that slight­ly salty fresh orange juice I quite like and the com­fort­ing floors of mon­i­tors, gad­gets and point­less cyber add-ons.

I then caught a cab.

With­in a few min­utes of arriv­ing home around 6.30, the winds began to gust — a sure indi­ca­tor that rain is com­ing — and a huge black cloud was pushed into the sky. It duly erupt­ed with­in a few min­utes — flood­ed the street to ankle depth.

This morn­ing the street was clear. The phone says it’s 32 out­side and the sky is blue again.

Today some­one will tell me that the rains are stay­ing late this year.

ETA: As the heav­ens opened tonight, Brigid said “the rainy sea­son seems to be last­ing longer than usu­al this year.”

M/C taxi guys killing time

Show 1 foot­note

  1. Unless you have no win­ter cloth­ing that is. I had to hur­ried­ly scrape togeth­er old wardrobe bits this year.

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