The Adventures of Tom: April 2015
Something dreadful has happened. Simply awful. Peter is dead. After half a decade of almost ceaseless service Peter is no more. He went out with a blood-curdling squeak followed by a low grown and now does little more than hum to himself. Peter fan, my tireless servant during Thailand’s changing seasons, has ceased to be. His blades will whir no more and I am now uncomfortably warm. It is only now he is gone that I realise life is almost impossible at this time of year without, at the very least, an electric fan to keep one’s cool.
I’ve thought about getting out my toolbox and having a tinker with Peter’s insides to see if I can revive him. But I don’t have a toolbox, and my electrical skills are little more developed than being able to wire a plug or screw a light-bulb into the correct socket, so the workings of a small electric motor are probably beyond me. I could look up how to fix Peter’s internal workings via Google, but the memory of doing this in a disastrous attempt to fix a laptop computer is still too fresh in my memory.
I could always bite the bullet and join the modern era of hot season comfort by investing in some sort of air conditioning unit, which I would probably name Nicholas (a free trip to the 7-Eleven to hang out for 20 minutes by the ice cream freezer for anyone who sees what I’ve done there) but air-con makes me sneeze.
I did see an ingenious way of making a cheap and cheerful air-con system by putting a bowl of ice in front of an electric fan. But now I’m gazing at Peter again, and that makes me sad.
I also saw a picture on the interweb recently of a Thai guy getting away from the interminable warmth by shutting himself in a supermarket freezer. Tempting as this is in my present predicament, I have seen too many gangster movies where very bad men put other very bad men in freezers and don’t let them out again.
Cold showers are an excellent way of staying cool. Unfortunately the “cold” water for my shower comes from a tank on the roof of my building. This means that just after the sun has come up the temperature of the water heats up to approximately one degree above my body temperature. A “cold” shower feels like adding more sweat to my already sweaty person, and that’s not really the point.
And it’s all exacerbated by the smog. I’m not going to bang on about the burning in the north and the visible effects on the air quality here; there are popular forums where people are welcome to argue endlessly about how harmful half the air being made up of smoke is or isn’t. Point is it does make the heat more oppressive.
Ice is good. I find that filling a washing-up bowl with water and ice and placing it under my desk for my feet to go in gives me some relief, and takes my mind off not having Peter’s breath gently caressing my body. A washing-up bowl of icy water is also a great place to keep a couple of bottles of beer cold for elevenses.
Chiang Mai’s malls are a top place to get out of the heat and into a more bearable climate. Even if that climate is created by machines contributing to the world’s outside temperatures notching up a little every year. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to spend more than six minutes in a shopping mall without wanting to do an impression of Charlie Sheen’s death scene in Platoon.
I’ve also heard that places where people work, like schools and call centres, provide free air-conditioning for staff, so getting a proper job could solve my heat problem. Perhaps next year.
But there are more natural ways to stay cool in this part of Southeast Asia. Just outside the city is Huay Tung Tao, or “The Lake.” The air is usually a little clearer than in the city, there is cold beer on hand and, of course, a lake to swim in. Although, like my shower, the water is a little too warm, and although I’m well aware that this is the fault of the sun I can’t quite banish thoughts that perhaps the temperature has risen to that of warm pee for another reason.
Waterfalls are a brilliant place to keep cool. There are plenty dotted around the province for a half-day trip and a picnic (as long as you avoid the ones at the foot of Doi Suthep which my editor says are full of sewage). But please, however tempting it might be as the mercury rises, don’t take a dip in the Ping River. That’s just asking for all sorts of nonsense.
I’ve also considered depilation. Hair is the body’s natural insulator, so it just makes sense to remove it all at this time of year. But before applying the Immac (the hair removal cream, not the popular laptop device) or getting out a razor, remember that the eyebrows are extremely useful for keeping sweat out of your eyeballs. The amount of heat retained by the body because of eyebrows is minimal and keeping them is preferable to going slightly blind.
There’s always Canada. I am seriously considering setting up a fund for next year’s hot season that will enable me to board a plane (more free air-con) and fly to somewhere where the temperatures are sensible. The temperature in a village called Montreal is a very tempting -11 at the moment.
Or I could just stop complaining, pull myself together, admit that Peter fan is gone and buy myself a new one. I think I can be in and out of an electrical store in Kad Suan Kaew in under six minutes.
What we really need during the hot season is some sort of multi-day event where everyone gathers in the streets to throw deliciously cooling water at each other.