Chiang Mai has an almost peaceful bustle to it. No frenetic hurry here. A South East Asian pace and in many ways quieter and more relaxed than many cities I’ve visited over the years. Not so much noise and not so much pollution. Thai culture, great food and nice people. Think I could live here, although the mosquitoes are a bit much. They’re everywhere. Hard to escape them. They have no respect for the star rating of preferred restaurants or hotels. They don’t even know of the damage they do and havoc they reek around the world. The WHO has said that Dengue is growing. 75,000 cases last year in Thailand alone. Too many it seems to me. The street rats are less of a threat.
So I’m playing poker with a group of people from the conference I’m attending. I don’t play the game – Texas Hold’em. I think if Texas had of held him we wouldn’t be in the trouble we’re in. I’m playing with a group of expats living and working in Chaing Mai, all in development of one kind or another.
Playing cards are controlled just like cigarettes and booze in Thailand? Who knew? Hard to find them. Usually back behind the counter. Easier to access the nightlife in Bangkok. Fabulous. Irony is, like the disease carrying mosquito, everywhere.
I start talking to our host. He’s recovering from Dengue Fever. Second time. This infection though was bad. He spent a few days in the hospital. His blood platelets were way low. It wasn’t looking good. Rob is a big, healthy guy. Built like a small, hardwood garden shed. Solid with plenty of support. And he was down for the count. No meds. No vaccine. No cure other than bed rest and hydration. Miserable little buggers. Rob is now immune from two different varieties of Dengue. 2 more to go.
I was always under the impression that people who were healthy and had a decent physiological infrastructure in place would be okay. I figured if the body was in shape it could filter out the worst of Dengue or even Malaria. I was wrong. Fevers can rise. The organs shut down. Internal bleeding can start. The body’s defense mechanisms start to feed on itself. Ugly. Mosquito borne diseases are preventable and they are treatable. Rob was fortunate. Unlike so many others around the world. 500 million cases of Malaria every year. 50-100 million infections of Dengue and these numbers don’t include other killers like Japanese Encephalitis or Yellow Fever. Over 2,500 different varieties of the bug – tiny and resourceful winged vectors of misery and death.
So as I sat there learning how to play Texas Hold‘em and swatting mosquitoes here and there I couldn’t help but think that poker is boring unless the stakes are high. And that I would like Chaing Mai a whole lot more without the mosquitoes.