In another article, I wrote about the excitement that spring brings to those who live in temperate climates, but what of people who live in the tropics? Contrary to the notion of many, the tropics do have seasons too. And although these seasons are by no means uniform, a three-season pattern of hot, wet, and ‘cool’ is quite common. In Thailand, for example, the hot season is the tropical equivalent to a winter. I remember travelling through northern Thailand at the end of the hot, dry, season, and if it weren’t for the soaring heat, from the train you might think you were seeing winter in a Mediterranean climate. A great many trees shed their leaves during this season (just as deciduous trees do in the winter), and regain them when the rains come.
In Chiang Mai, Thailand, you’d expect the people to be accustomed to this heat but on the contrary, they seem to hate this season and grumble about it just as Northerners grumble about the winter.
Then the day comes when there are thunderclaps, the temperature drops about ten degrees, and buckets of water pour down from the sky, causing great delight and joy from the people in the street. Soon after the monsoon begins the water festival is held. It’s a joyous and raucous affair, and everyone is drenched from being splashed by the buckets of water that are freely distributed to anyone with hands to reach.
The water festival, like nearly all festivals in Thailand, is a Buddhist rite, but I suspect that its origins go back far further. In these parts of the world, the onset of the monsoon is always a joyous time of year. It ensures another good harvest, and that fruits and vegetables will soon be plentiful once again. Conversely, should a monsoon fail, a feeling of dread and fear darkens the land, for it could very well mean famine. Hooray for the monsoon!
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