It took me some time to get used to my new Thai neighbourhood. Here in Canada, neighbourhoods are neatly organized by density, cost and usage. High density commercial is rarely beside farm land, low density housing is rarely in the city centre and we have virtually zero agriculture in the metropolitan areas.
The same cannot be said for southern Thailand. A multimillion dollar palace (with guards) can be found directly beside a banana leaf hut. Commercial endeavours happen wherever they may – most often out of the main level of someones home. They are built that way – residential on top and garage/commercial on the bottom.
This means that everywhere looked the same to my untrained eye. There was no ‘student’ residential area, or rich neighbourhood. There were no neatly organized trailer parks, no uniform subdivisions. Instead every lot was independently developed as the owner saw fit.
At first, I was lost – a lot. Every direction led me to the same chaotic place. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to pick out a few land marks. The water buffalo that was always tied to a post under a tree on the corner beside the pink building, the stop sign with potted tropical plants surrounding it, the local lady who always yelled at me when I was close.
This was a particularly active day for me. I taught English in the morning from 7am until noon, and when I got home, a package had arrived (beaten and barely intact) from Canada.
My hosts were a Canadian/Thai couple, and as such were smart enough to know the conveniences I would miss. The most important of which was to be bedding. In this part of Thailand, most common use fabrics are a polyester blend (here it is generally cotton). That includes sheets and pillow cases.
I am not sure if you can imagine – but it could be compared to sleeping on a windbreaker jacket. Crunchy, slippery and plastic-y. Not at all what my North American body was used to. So I had bedding shipped from Canada. Just sheets and pillow cases – it is so hot here (even overnight) you really need nothing more.
I was excitedly looking through my box when the rains started. At first it was the familiar deafening sound of the heavy rain pelting the tin roofs of the homes and shanties surrounding me. I love the rain, so the daily warm monsoon was something I looked forward to, and a lot of fun for me.
This time, I quickly realized that things were going to be a bit different. Within minutes, items were floating in our upper court yard, and the water was literally pouring into the top level of the home – where my room was.
Don’t worry, my hosts told me, this is why the homes in Thailand lack cushioning and fabric, carpeting and wood flooring. The rains come in many times a year. Everyone experiences flooding. Most homes are designed to get wet.
When the top level filled, the waters poured down the staircases, through the other levels and eventually out the doors and to the street.
My host and his friend quickly bashed a(nother) hole in the corner of the court yard, hoping to release some of the water before it made its way through the house. They were too late, of course, but hoped maybe their efforts would be a preventative measure for next time.
It was all fantastic excitement for me, so I recorded a bit. Yes, I am laughing and giggling like a child – I couldn’t help myself!
Click the image above to view the video.