Sandstorms, deceptive

Sandstorms are nasty business. I never really appreciated how sneaky those things are. We were caught in one on our last day of the Nile cruise. Fortunately, we weren’t flying. We were able to continue our sightseeing agenda on the ground. But now that I’ve lived through one, I realize how deceptively dangerous they are. Initially it just looked like smog in the air, albeit thick. By the time I realized the sand was actually clogging up my lungs, I have inhaled a whole day’s worth of grit. Check out the air quality in these before/during comparison photos.

Envy my view

I have no bones about making you jealous. Of many of my social circle, I can- and do- brag having the best view from my apartment.

So I see gorgeous sunsets pretty much daily, the rainy season yielding more dramatic colors with clouds.

Along with approaching storms:

Or really bad smog.

And most recently, where the fires are.

You know it’s bloody hot when..

… you get on the elevator with a Thai fanning himself desperately complaining it’s hot.
… you find out he is only one of a whole native population whining about the climate.
… your car door locks stick.
… the Skytrain is jam packed all day and night.
… Thais walk 1/4 of their already slow speed.
… it takes longer than usual to get service and no one cares.
… first thing you want is a cup of hot water.
… you see Thais sweating more than you do.
… Thais are even more fidgety than you about trains arriving late.
… the sweat stink has surpassed the garlic breath in crowds.

Summer is here and not a soul is happy about it in this region.

Cooler weather indeed

An email I sent to my family this morning:

It’s very cold the past couple days… I think it is actually below 80, adding on a gusty wind(chill) of 10degrees off. So don’t forget to pack your mittens and parkas when you come to Thailand in Dec.

My father replied with a flash of rare wit:

It’s very cold the past couple days… I think it is actually below 40, adding on a gusty wind(chill) of 10degrees off. So don’t forget to pack your mittens and parkas when you come home for Thanksgiving.

It is almost as if Koy Lathrong marked the end of humidity. The next day, the temperature dropped at least 15° Fahrenheit, compounded with strong gusty winds, cloudy skies, and a half the usual humidity due point. It didn’t mark the end of the rainy season as it rained last night, although not thundering style as is the norm. I reveled in shivering and opting to walk the entire way home.

Ohh, I hope it will a be a long dry cold season!

Ondoy’s wet welcome

I was stuck in Manila when the first of a recent series of major typhoons blew through. We know Storm Ondoy (pronounced “on-Do-Oi”), internationally known as Ketsana, was approaching but reporting had treated it like a heavy rain storm that will blow through without event. In reality, yes, it was just that. A long heavy shower. No one just realised how heavy it would be.

We attempted to go sightseeing even in the weather. Oh, we saw, heard the rain. But we figured if we did some museum hopping I would get my Philippine culture intake.

What a trip. The taxi driver, perhaps annoyed that we wouldn’t play ball on the fare negotiation process, tried to drop us off in some obscure building near the hotel, insisting that it was the only museum in the city. Right. National Museum, which we requested? Manila Casa? San Augustin? Villa Escudero? Malacanang Palace? Nonetheless, we got kicked out in the middle of a flood.

We waded our way back. On a dry day, that walk may take us five minutes. Ten max with all the road crossings. That day? Over 45 minutes. First, fascinated, I took my time juggling my umbrella, backpack, and camera to take photos of sights and scenes. Then the rain weighed me down since my sweatshirt apparently collects water very well. Finally, we kept backtracking and zigzagging to avoid going anything more than knee-deep in the water.

The following morning, the local front page compared Ondoy to Hurricane Katrina. I was indignant. The winds in Ketsana, while strong, didn’t compare the Katrina’s 100mph+. In retrospect though, having seen the construction in some of the villages and outskirts, and having experienced the rain volume myself, I can understand that it needed to be brought up that the devastation is phenomenal and, given the poor infrastructure and questionable building standards, the damage is far greater than what an American city and county would have taken under the same circumstances.

Many more photos to come. In the meantime, for a bit more lighthearted view of our day:

Now just what was he trying to accomplish?

Er, is the world spinning around me?

I recently spent a week’s holiday in New Zealand, primarily to ski.

After one long day off from the slopes to go horse riding, sightseeing, jumping, and wine tasting, I settled back into my room for the night. Spread across the bed with brochures and reading materials, I thought I felt some rumbling. Looking up, I would have sworn the clothes and laundry bag hanging off hangers were swinging. Damn, that must have been some potent pinot noir I had.

Then I realise the rumbling wasn’t my imagination. As it dawned on me, I glanced incredulously at the table where a gallon-jug partial filled with water sat. I just needed to make sure the water was swinging with everything else. Because I think I have found myself in one heck of an earthquake. A long one, too, over a minute.

Following news would announce it was a 7.8 earthquake off the coast of South Island. The magnitude of the earthquake prompted a tsunami warning.. An alarming 8-inch wave did occur, roughly around the same time worrisome Dad sent a panicky email saying “Watch out for the avalanche!!!”

I’m not surprised that there are earthquakes in New Zealand. I just didn’t expect the first one I consciously experience to be there! As I looked up the details this evening, I’m stunned to realize the last thirty in New Zealand all occurred within the past two weeks.

As of 24 July 09:

You know it’s summer when..

… you’re surrounded by Taiwanese tourists on summer break.

We don’t really have seasons in Thailand or many parts of Southeast Asia. The year in Thailand can be broken down into:
– Extremely hot: February through May
– Rainy: June through November
– Dry: December and January

To work with that, the Thai academic year runs from May through February.

So the sense of seasons, for those of us used to the seasonal changes, is lost. It’s only a matter of whether keeping an umbrella on you is a daily thing or not.

The dry season is the peak tourist season. The students are on break in the extremely hot season. So we don’t get the flux of people on summer break flocking everywhere like many American and European locales do.

Instead, we get the Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese tourists, who get the same Northern Hemisphere summer vacations but are closer geographically.