Last night, a loud crack of thunder followed by the pounding of rain drops on our roof interrupted five straight months of dryness here in Northern Thailand. While November through February is generally considered the cool-dry season, this year was especially dry. Generally, the winter (for lack of a better term) will see a least few rains, but this year there literally hasn't been a drop of rain since early October.
In this normally humid country, dryness does have a few advantages, like crackers that don't go soggy within hours of opening the package, or not having to use inordinate amounts of baby powder to feel dry after a shower. Unfortunately, there were also a few drawbacks to this season's dryness. The excessive dryness in the region led to increased burning of fields and wilderness areas, which in turn, led to record air pollution levels in the North. In fact, air quality has been so poor over the past few weeks that hospitals in the area have seen a huge increase in respiratory illnesses, especially in children and the elderly. Even for those of us not seriously affected by the pollution, the constant haze has been bothersome, causing minor health issues like stinging eyes and nosebleeds. For weeks the sky has been gray and the sun hidden by the smoke, and we've been praying for the rains to come and wash away the filth in the air.
Last night's rain storm hasn't completely cleared up the problem; the sky still looks pretty gray today. However, we hope that this marks the beginning of the end of the purple haze that has blanketed Northern Thailand over the past few weeks!