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Vietnam diary: I’m a pluviophile

Sunday, July 30, 2017, 15:15 GMT+7

Before you get the wrong idea, a pluviophile is someone who loves the rain. I’m also a turophile (loves cheese) and an oenophile (loves wine) but that’s another story…

Rain makes me quite happy and there’s no place like Vietnam for soft, feathery rain all the way up to pounding golf-ball size water drops smacking across my face. Even in winter, I still enjoy the feeling of being wet. Odd, isn’t it? Getting soaked in summer is fun to me!

I’m not forgetting that the rain is a terrible thing for people during the wet seasons with flooding and all kinds of disaster but I’m reflecting on the positive side.

As we get to the high end of summer and the late daily thunderclouds build up across the central plains south of Hoi An, I deeply enjoy sitting out on my large yard watching the puffy clouds expand into the darkening sky. There’s something deeply relaxing about watching clouds, probably because you have the luxury of enough time just to do that! Even better are those moments when the cloud formations in the western mountains cross the setting sun, producing a rainbow edge around the top, like a crown with rainbow diamonds for Mother Nature.

As a little boy growing up in Kuala Lumpur, I would stand outside on the grass in awe at the crack of the thunder and the lightning all around me as the tropics displayed their power. To me, thunder is better than an action movie – particularly when it’s just overhead and the house rattles and my last surviving dog huddles under the table. I still count the thunder claps, just as I did as a kid…

For a tourist in Vietnam, sightseeing views over the mountains and coastline are stunning just after the rain clears away the urban dust. It’s sometimes hard for me to understand how people can come to Vietnam, stay in a resort yet not see Vietnam’s majestic landscapes with that ethereal deeper green across the rice fields and valleys just after a rainstorm. 

Many expats in Vietnam are sun-worshippers and grumble about the rain but I feel relieved when it finally comes, knowing it will replenish the rivers, clean out the streets and raise good crops. I find it all reassuring and comforting – like a promise from your parents after you hurt yourself as a youngster that it’s going to be alright.

We get big storms in Australia, where I’m from, with the slow dramatic build-up of a tropical storm with a huge black storm edge that stretches for miles across the sky, a giant pulling a huge blanket of darkness over human heads and the steadily rising rustling of leaves and trees swaying alarmingly as the apocalyptic tempest rushes overhead. I can’t get enough of it!

Coming from a mostly dry climate, my first encounters with flooding in Vietnam occurred in Ho Chi Minh City in my second week in the country. I’d never seen people riding motorbikes in water up to their knees before! I really wanted to get a surfboard and ride behind a car or bike just for fun but…well… we all know about Vietnamese traffic, don’t we? Still, I did learn to ride with my feet level to the handlebars! Typhoon Katsana was a revelation to me as I hadn’t realized how much of Hoi An was barely above sea level. While I was shocked and dismayed as everyone, hoping that everyone would be ok, it was actually invigorating to stand outside in the howling wind and stomp through the warm waters although I did worry about snakes in the brown, swilling floodwaters! There’s nothing as surreal as hiring a boat and rowing down the old town streets in and out of second-floor windows!

One thing that’s truly magical is the smell (if you live in a rural environment) of the moist rain air. The sheer freshness is wonderful and even my dog loves it, putting his nose high in the air and racing the rain puddles outside my gate. I sleep extremely well during a heavy rain and I leave the windows open to catch the fresh winds.

The recent rains were also a useful reminder to throw out last year’s boots and rain gear. This year I’m going against the ‘Banana shirt’ trend and got a floral pink/red full-length raincoat that looks so horrible that you can’t ignore me on the roads! I also topped up my supply of candles, cooking gas, non-perishable food and portable power pack for my music so I can still sit outside with a beer in hand during the stormy nights and watch the world light up as the thunder cracks my little world.

Yeah, I’m a pluviophile and proud of it!

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Stivi Cooke


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