– Living in Thailand: Part 3
We stayed at home and battened down the hatches for the first day of festivities. But on the second day we took a walk down to a local restaurant. It was just five minutes’ walk away, but halfway there we were waylaid by the young couple from the laundry shop. (Labour is very cheap, so as well as having a part-time maid for basic housework, we also outsource tasks such as ironing at less than 10p a garment.) Chris held his day-pack well clear of his body and stood stoically, arms outstretched, as the grinning lad poured a bucket of water over his head. But, as we say, it’s the hottest time of year, so it didn’t take too long to dry off.
(Several years earlier Jules had had a similar experience whilst on holiday in the northern city of Chiang Mai. But to stop her valuables getting soaked she handed them over to the soakers – passport, money, credit cards, air tickets and all! She received them all back, in good order and bone-dry. Not for a minute did it occur to her that they might run off with them.)
While we were eating at the restaurant, some young rowdies drove slowly by with a hose and a tank of water and started squirting all and sundry. The staff had a few choice words to say to them!
Meanwhile we were being savaged by mosquitoes round our ankles. Neither of us thought much of it at the time; try as you may, you’ll never prevent every single mosquito from getting through. But one week later, we were both laid low with dengue fever. (This despite the city authorities’ insistence in the newspapers earlier that month that dengue hadn’t reached the area.)
Dengue is truly unpleasant; sweating and shivering, headache, and the feeling that every bone in your body’s been broken (it’s not nicknamed “break-bone fever” for nothing), plus a rash two days after the first onset. It can also kill, if it’s the dangerous haemorrhagic variety.
We could have checked into one of the city’s excellent and well-appointed hospitals. (Many US residents needing medical or dental treatment find it cheaper to holiday in Thailand and be treated there.) But we showed no signs of internal bleeding, and the deadline for Jules to submit her Master’s dissertation loomed. Since the prescribed treatment was rest, fluids and painkillers, we decided to stay at home.
We travelled to London in May for six weeks to sell our house there. But repairing the damage caused by our tenant from hell meant that it was November before we returned! In our absence, the compound security guards and Jum kept an eye on our house in Thailand – so well that only one sandal was missing from the outdoor shoe-rack. (Thais always remove their shoes before entering a house.) No doubt a neighbour’s dog took it.
Loy Krathong, the Thai festival of light, was approaching with the next full moon. In this beautiful festival the Thais build floats out of banana plants, leaves and flowers, place a lit candle and a few small coins onto the float, and send their troubles sailing away on the water. So we walked the hundred yards down to Crescent Moon Beach to do the same. Watching the myriad little starry points of light bob up and down on the waves in the darkness, we felt at peace. Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars… It was good to be home.