Rain

Bangkok, Thailand -- 23 May 2004 | Permalink
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Making generalizations about the weather is always a poor idea. Just when I thought I had the pattern figured out, we had two days of steady drizzle followed by a solid day of blazing sunshine. Nevertheless, the typical Bangkok day in this season appears to follow an easily-described pattern.

The day begins warm and gets steadily warmer. In the morning, the sky is largely blue, although more clouds tend to gather as the day wears on.

At some point towards the end of the afternoon, the sky begins to darken. At first the change is almost imperceptible. Soon, however, the clouds overhead turn the color of lead, and an ominous darkness spreads across the entire sky. Then the wind begins to rise.

Within minutes, the trees are swaying furiously, while the bushes thrash as if they were trying to take off. Black rags of cloud scud across the slate-colored sky. This is the signal for you to forget any plans that you had about going out or, if you're already out, to get under cover as quickly as possible.

The rain typically follows the windstorm by only a few minutes. It may send down a few warning drops at first, but often it simply comes down full force, like turning on a shower. The appropriate adjective is 'torrential'; the preferred noun is 'downpour'. You may, if you feel so inclined, speak of 'cataracts'. In the French phrase, “ça pleut des cordes” - it's raining ropes, the rain so intense that it seems like continuous strands of falling water rather than individual raindrops.

If the weather is feeling particularly melodramatic, it may add in a few flashes of lightning and the occasional crack of thunder. Oddly, the sky seems to lighten almost as soon as the rain begins falling, perhaps because the mass of the raincloud is no longer between you and the sun.

On most days, the rain is a once a day performance, but it's unwise to count on this. A few days ago, it threw in a surprise second event, which caught us as we came back from the supermarket. A few fat drops smacked tentatively on the still-wet ground, and then the heavens let go full force again. We galloped down soi Hungry Working Girl (not its official name), weaving between tables on the suddenly-slippery pavement, scattering bar girls and their suppers in our wake, arriving home - just a short distance away - comprehensively drenched.

The rain usually lasts for anything from a quarter of an hour to an hour and a half. Afterwards, the wet streets and buildings are bathed in a rich, watery golden light, and the air is - for a short time at least - cool and fresh. It is my favorite time of the day.