The Heat of Southeast Asia

After over two months of being fine without it, I gave in and got a room with air conditioning. Siem Reap finally did me in. It’s low elevation along with its large distance from the nearest ocean create a dry environment this time of year before the monsoon rains can cool it off. It was miserably hot outside and a fan provided little relief blowing only hot, humid air. The thermometer regularly approached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), which isn’t out of the ordinary for parts of California, but back home just isn’t so darn humid. Even being so hot, the relative humidity gets over 80% forcing your body to sweat while you’re laying down, limbs spread apart. Two to twelve cold showers a day are always on the agenda.

Wearing sunglasses causes beads, or perhaps streams of sweat to form where the rim touches your skin. But don’t dare take them off or risk being blinded by the bright sub-tropical skies. Knowing a full day of exploring the ancient temples of Angkor Wat is in order, it’s best to go early or late and avoid the midday heat. But if you find yourself stuck in it, as Austin and I inevitably did, do the only logical thing there is to do. Drench your shirt in cold water every opportunity you get.

And while you’re over there looking and feeling like you just ran a marathon, the Cambodians go about their daily lives, perfectly adapted to their respective environment. They wear long sleeves and skinny jeans as if to taunt you and there isn’t even a hint of glistening sweat on their skin. They smile and laugh about the heat and claim that they are also hot, but you’re not sure if they actually understand what you’re going through. As a Californian, I’m far away from my natural habitat. My body is poorly adapted as even cuts and bug bites take much, much longer to heal.

Walking in the shade of my new hat

I suppose coming to Southeast Asia in April/May helps you avoid the crowds and prices of the high season, but I now understand exactly why. I currently find myself in Myanmar and it’s no different here. Well, the relative humidity now approaches 90%. A five minute stroll down the street leaves you glistening, in a need of a shower, and your clothes in need of a wash. So of course we decide to set out on a three day, 60 kilometer trek through the rural countryside. Nowhere on the brochure did it mention comfort, but then again, if that’s what I was looking for, I’d be sitting at home on my couch with a giant box of Goldfish crackers in front of me. Looking for ideas to help cope with the sun and heat during our walk, I realized the answer was right in front of me on display by the locals. Obviously, my next purchase was a fine bamboo rice picker hat for 300 Khat (~38 cents). And boy did that hat get some use. The thermostat hit 44 degrees Celsius a few days later while bicycling around the temples of Bagan. I can’t be positive, but that hat may have saved my life.

One thought on “The Heat of Southeast Asia

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