Monday, May 30, 2016

Thailand: The Florida Connection

I am not ashamed to admit that I have a touch of the insect fear. I see movement out of the corner of my eye and I go on attack alert. It could be one of the little six legged intruders that requires killing, with extreme prejudice. My last apartment in New York was in a city housing project in Queens, and roaches, and other bugs, were our constant companions. You can’t kill them all, you can’t chase down all of the ones that live in the walls, especially the wet walls connecting to the kitchen and the bathroom. But one must do what one can, if only to feel busy and maintain one’s pride.

Before coming to Thailand I had had extensive experience of Florida. I had assumed that Thailand would be a lot like Florida on the subjects of heat, and bugs, and palm trees. In the event, the two places are not very similar at all. Florida is actually hotter when the heat is really in bloom. The temperatures are similar, but Florida is much more humid, making it more exhausting and uncomfortable. Thailand is usually down around seventy, seventy-five percent for humidity, which is a lot better. So that’s good. On the bug front too, Florida comes out the loser. Florida is a miracle of bug culture. The bugs in Florida are huge and various, and for some reason they are much more aggressive about moving into your residence. Moving into your corn flakes box, even. I don’t see much of that in Thailand.

Early on in my Thailand experience I noticed that the packaging for corn flakes and cookies was nothing like the solid, metallic, bullet-proof packaging that was used in Florida. I wondered if this was an oversight on the part of South-East Asian marketers, but no. There’s no need for it. In over ten years I have yet to see so much as an ant in my corn flakes. My only guess is that they find plenty to eat outside.

Florida has a particular bug called a palmetto bug, which is as big as a baseball. Their preferred environment is the palmetto bush, and around dusk they can be seen sallying forth to do whatever it is that they do. Find water, probably, and food. Your food, in your house. They get into your cabinets, and it’s amazing to wonder how they could accomplish that, being so huge. But they do. Thailand has some pretty large roach like bugs, but I don’t think there’s anything here to match the Godzilla like majesty of the palmetto bug. Here in Thailand, they stay mostly out in the woods, and not in your kitchen, your swimming pool, or under the dashboard of your car.

Incidentally, although the mosquitos here in Thailand are impressive and well organized, they do not match the mosquitos of the east coast of America for either size or aggressiveness. Dengue fever notwithstanding, they are a manageable annoyance kept in check by aggressive vector control on the part of government entities at all levels. There’s lots of spraying and smoking going on, and it’s very effective.

The palm tree situation was a big surprise for me. Thailand is a tropical country, and I was expecting lots of palm trees everywhere. But no, that’s not the case. In the north and the east, you hardly see palm trees at all. In the southern peninsula there are more palm trees around, but still not as many as I expected. Florida, hell, Los Angeles, California has lots more palm trees than Thailand. There are lots of tropical trees in Thailand, and they are beautiful, but not that many palm trees. Most of the trees in Thailand feature beautiful flowers, and there are some strange intermediate trees that exist somewhere between deciduous trees, ferns and palms, but here too, not like Florida at all. It might be soil conditions. Florida is really just a sand bar jutting southward into the ocean.

Florida is America’s tropical paradise, but it cannot be used as a template for the tropics in general. Your experience of the real tropics will be different, and I think that that’s a good thing. Actually, I never really cared for Florida. Thailand is a much nicer place. 

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