The Way That Water Washes Over

Author: Kyra Newcomb

Tags: Asia, Finalist, Heritage

If I had to pick one thing, for-sure, that I love most about Thailand, it would be the rain. Where I'm from (San Francisco, I tell everyone I meet, because it's close-by anyways and far more well-known), we are lucky to get a good, strong shower more than twice a month. In Bangkok, especially during rainy season (of course), this type of weather is commonplace. Rain here strikes hard, fast, 0-60 in 4 seconds flat, fat droplets taking by surprise those who had not glanced up at the sky recently. Thankfully, the winding, ramshackle roads of the inner city offer many reliefs—most restaurants are open-faced and provide cheap and easy shelters for passersby to wait out the storm, until it's gone again in 30 minutes, having packed its bags and headed off just as quickly as it had arrived. The sun shines constantly from start to finish.
 
There's a certain griminess to everything when viewed during one of these downpours. The water flows down twisted gutters, mixes with dirt and refuse, and puddles in the broken concrete, screaming, "don't touch me or the fabric on your shoes will get dirty. Your pant hems will drip, and watch out for the globules from above or they will run into your hair and muddle with the sweat on your forehead." The Thai locals are smarter than I. They wear waterproof sandals and short pants. I trip, trying not to let my toes dip into a rivulet underneath me, skipping up uneven pavement, ducking under the plastic-sheet overhangs that wave welcomes into the shops underneath, while those around me are throwing sheets over their wares in practiced movements, unconcerned about the high likelihood of getting wet. I wish I could be the same.
 
We're coming up on Wang Lang pier now, just hugging the edge of the Chao Phraya River (pronounced more like Ja-pa-ya with what I like to call a 'Bangkok' accent), where everything is roofed over with metal sheeting that resonates the thrum of the rain through to the pier below. My mom says that we can sit on the roofed ferry and ride it back and forth across the river until the rain dies down, just like she used to do during her school-child days. We each step through the worn and in-need-of-a-good-oiling turnstile (fare is paid on the other side of the river) and then tread unhurriedly down the metal ramp, paint interspersed with rust, onto the platform bobbing amongst river plants and trash. The ferry pulls up and people pile on, foot traffic high despite the pouring rain.
 
I like to think that the weather patterns in Bangkok have some profound, hidden message about life, like how the sun doesn't stop shining, even when it rains, or how the rain falls hard enough to wash everything away, but only for a short while, or even how it's humid enough for the air to hang on to the heat of the daytime and keep the nighttimes just as oppressively stuffy and warm. Honestly, the real message is right there to see in the way the people stick out anything and keep on going about their daily business, paying no attention to the sun, rain, or heat. There are many incredible works of art in the temples around this city, but all it really takes to get connected with the spirit of Bangkok is a walk down a busy street in the rain.