With the wet season approaching Bangkok, friends suggest that we purchase Wellington boots as water levels have been known to rise. Taking their advice I purchase two pairs whilst on a trip to London. Sure of my sizing but agonising over the colour, deciding on dark blue, they are ordered by 6pm and delivered by noon the next day. It seemed a great idea at the time adding to the already bursting seams of my suitcase which seems to fill up on every trip. London is still one of my favourite cities in which to shop. Refusing to add another bag to my allowance I disguise clothing in a soft suit pack as my ‘other’ piece of carry on and lock up the bag at 23.5 kilos.
Unpacked and home I wait for the promised monsoons with anticipation. The boots don’t really fit in our cupboards so they stand holding pride of place in a corner of a spare room.
From twenty-two floors up I witness clouds gathering in what looks like a scene from Independence Day gradually smothering the city turning day into darkness, bringing the rain. Skyscrapers disappear as I close the windows to prevent the almost horizontal torrent from flooding our home as well as the streets below. Looking down a kaleidoscope of colour weaves along the streets as umbrellas pop open, dodging traffic, whilst kids appear splashing in newly formed pools and rivers. The roads seem to be fine and traffic flows as always, well you know what always is like in Bangkok.
With a break in the clouds the city has cooled and the breeze hangs with the scent of freshness if that’s such a thing, the humidity and dirt temporarily washed down the drains and cleansed from the air. An umbrella and flip flops will suffice as I head out for lunch.
I enjoy delicious Tom Yum Goong in a restaurant a few hundred metres behind our apartment block and around the corner, not too far. It does start to rain again but nothing too serious I think. In London you’d be scurrying around from shop front to shop front huddling with others in a vain attempt to stay dry. In Bangkok a little rain is a welcome relief from the heat, wet patches drying quickly in air conditioned buildings.
Leaving the restaurant I pick up a little shopping for dinner, pop open my brolly and walk. Now I understand what all the fuss is about. Turning the corner I am greeted by a surging tsunami rolling towards me as a 4×4 ploughs through the knee deep water. Debris and plastic bottles, up ended rubbish bins and discarded flip flops drift by as I contemplate my next move. The laneway to my apartment is knee deep in its entirety a river seemingly coming from nowhere and flowing fast. Sure I could backtrack and take the long way home. I have searched for short cuts before and they don’t exist. Leaving flip flops on I glide through the river not knowing what lies beneath. I know the road so well but there are stories of rains flushing out snakes and who knows what trash could be lingering beneath the floating twigs and garbage. At least that is the memory having grown up in Australia’s Northern Queensland where annual cyclones and the rainy season bore witness to snakes skimming the surface of rising waters as we retreated inside, thankful for houses on stilts.
The walk home is a continual game of chicken with cars emerging victorious. If you stay put knee deep turns to waist deep as they slice a path pushing the displaced water towards you. Ducking into driveways, I dart in and out making a run for it as the water settles before the next passing car gets too close. One bike drives though successfully however another stops short. His passenger is carrying her dog in a box. Disembarking she hurls up her skirt and he lifts up the boggy box and they wade through together. Oblivious to the perils of impending traffic she is soaked within seconds. Screams taper into laughter and I join her for the last leg of my journey. As water teases the bottom of pulled up shorts it eventually grabs hold and disperses upwards like a vine towards the sunlight which in this case is my wallet and phone tucked into pockets no longer immune to the wet. If this was Songkran I would have a beer in one hand and a water pistol in the other, but it’s not and I have shopping, Kellogg’s box soaking and an umbrella which by now is more of a prop.
Getting home I drop shoes at the door, shorts and t shirt are off, bathers are on and I go and jump into the pool which has been beautifully cooled by the passing rains.
I love life in Bangkok. It’s full of surprises and by embracing them it enriches the experience.
I hang up my bathers on the drying rack in the spare room, next to my dry Wellington boots.