Thursday, September 23, 2010

Raindrops are falling on my head and other ponderings

Roads and Rivers
Monsoon season has come to Chiang Mai – though later and lighter than in past years and less than is desired. But while much of the time we wonder where the rain has gone there are a couple of occasions were we ponder the opposite. Since coming here I have learned that monsoons can last anywhere from ten minutes to five hours. They can be nothing but a light drizzle and they can pound down with such force that you start to wonder if you should brace your windows or whether Noah might be itching to get back to sailing. On a few truly hilarious and spectacular occasions the rains have come at such ferocity and for such lengths that the gutters have overflow and the streets have transformed into rivers – one prime example is my street. I have now, on a number of days, entertained myself by watching trucks and motorbikes drive down my street leaving watery wakes in their path.

Like almost any large city, Chiang Mai has rats. They are large and a dark, muddied color, the kind that would accompany the word “filth” in the dictionary if colors were a common part of definitions. They are most often seen scampering along the Old City moat or across shadowed fences. Cars regularly hit them, allowing daylight to expose just how large they are. In many places road kill will barely last a day before it is whisked away and turned into someone or something’s dinner. Not in Chiang Mai. Here, even the stray dogs do not ordain to partake in them. Indeed I have never seen a city where the stray dogs are more groomed and cared for then in Chiang Mai. Only the flies partake of the rodents and they hardly leave a mark. So the rats are reduced to lying for days, getting increasingly flattened into the pavement until finally they morph in undistinguishable black spots, or a monsoon rain pries them from the pavement and sweeps them unceremoniously into the gutter.

For those who have been reading the news, there has been a slight increase in cardinal and canary activity. I will refrain from discussing matters in a written forum, but will be more than happy to delve into the subject at length when I am back in Cambridge.

Things on Bikes
It has been a number of months since I drove my first wobbly meters on my bike (since dubbed “Simba” because I miss Swahili, my bike reminds me of a lion, and its fun to think of exploring Chiang Mai via lion back.) Since then I have become very much attached to speeding through the city, accustomed to squinting while driving through monsoons and navigating the fastest way between cars to get myself to the front of a line of traffic. But equally exciting to speeding down Huay Keaw road, is making note of how others drive or what they transport via motorbike.

I have seen bikes strung with dangling and bobbing bags of fried pork skin. There have been bikes attempting to grow gardens with the quantity of vegetables strapped down. I myself have balanced pillows, challahs, and 9” cakes on my bike, driving through the streets, my legs either delicately wrapped around the parcels or sticking out beyond the bike altogether. I have once driven opposite a man carrying a tall stack of Styrofoam trays that he secured with his chin like Gus Gus and corn kernels. When it rains, drivers will relinquish one hand from the brakes so as to hold umbrellas against the downpoor. When it is sunny I have seen women do the same to block the rays. Families of four or more on a single bike are so common they are hardly worthy of note. Rabbits in plastic boxes that their handlers carry balanced on their lap are less common, but can be found. Dogs in particular are frequent passengers. Small froufrou toy dogs fit easily into front baskets and command a full view of the road ahead. Larger dogs poke out between the knees of their chauffeurs: A Husky on an old yellow Fino, a Golden retriever on a teal tinted model. Once while driving into the old city I drove for a while beside a man on a bike. With him was a fully-grown black lab who stood on the passenger end of the seat balancing like a circus stunt through the streets of Chiang Mai.

Look for the boy jumping from the tree into the very small pool of water that is part of a series of waterfalls Riley and I hiked up to on one particular hot afternoon. I don't think even I would have the guts to make that jump.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Jess~
    Sorry~ life was a little busy here when I read this post, so I didn't comment. (That photo is WILD!)
    Anyway~ just checking in, since we haven't heard from you in awhile, and hope all is well~
    Love you~