Readers' Submissions

The Heat is On!


According to the weather report in the Bangkok Post, next Monday, April 12th, is supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far. Temperatures are predicted to be well above 40 degrees. Yes, just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any hotter than it already is, the celestial thermostat is about to be ratcheted up. Oh wonderful! I doubt I will need to spend a single baht to take a comfortable shower…or to cook anything. I suppose I could probably cook an egg or two on the hood of my truck. Any savings will of course be offset by the cost of keeping my air conditioner chugging away. My darling wife will undoubtedly panic when she sees the wheel on the electric meter whirring away, but then as far as I’m concerned, that is just too damned bad!

One of The Four Conditions she had to agree to before I signed on to moving here was air conditioning in the bedroom; that is to say air conditioning that would be used whenever I needed it. In case you are wondering, the other Three Conditions were: a western toilet, hot water, and screens in the windows.

I can put up with the heat during the day, but when the sun goes down, I’m content to let icicles form in the bedroom. Some husband and wives battle over the TV remote control. My tee-rak and I arm wrestle over the A/C control. She turns the temperature up at some point during the night. I, on my way to bathroom simply turn it back down. If you are cold I tell her, either throw another blanket on…or go sleep in the guest bedroom. I need my nightly Big Chill!

Like many of you, I was seduced on my first visit to Thailand…and I don’t mean by some dusky skinned, jasmine scented beauty. If like me you first set foot in The Land of Smiles during November, December or January, then you too were probably seduced by the temperature. During Thailand’s “cool season”, the days are pleasantly warm, with low humidity and delightfully cool nights. Thailand hot? Surely you jest! The climate is perfect! Fast forward to the end of February and suddenly you are facing nine months in a sauna. The temperature and humidity have risen steadily, and by the time Songkran rolls around in mid April the idea of a few buckets of ice water being sluiced over your heads sounds like an absolutely brilliant idea! At least when you are soaking wet, you’re not hot any more!

Not long ago my family and I enjoyed a day at a resort in Doi Saket, where among things we splashed around in a lovely salt water pool. I am one of the least aquatic people you’re ever likely to meet, but I have no aversion to floating like a beached whale. If I had my home to build over again, an in-ground pool certainly would have some appeal. Of course keeping out the insects, frogs, lizards and snakes would probably not be all that much fun. Dana once offered to help me with a snake problem, but the solution required something on the order of a rain of fire and brimstone approaching biblical proportions.

So, how do you keep cool here? These days I require a minimum of three showers a day. Four would be better, but alas I haven’t managed to take one at school. My classrooms are ovens. The three or four fans merely turn them into a convection oven! At least my office has air conditioning, and I’m not ashamed to say that I spend as much time as possible there.

Even after you take a shower, the steam bath like humidity has you soaked and sticky within minutes. No wonder Thailand is the apparent Powder Capitol of the World. By powder, I am referring to talcum powder. Strolling down the aisles of Big C, I have hundreds of choices. I usually go for something with plenty of menthol. “Icy Cool and Refreshing” the label proclaims. I suppose anything that prevents jungle rot is a good thing!

Keeping cool requires drinking plenty of cool drinks. My wife claims that cold drinks “aren’t good for you”. I however prefer my drinks to have been cooled in a bath of liquid helium. Then I proceed to eat any ice left in my glass. (Isn’t there a name for people who eat ice?) The only drink I want ice free is my beer. Yes, it’s my western prejudice rearing its ugly head again, but I prefer my ice in the bucket, where my bottle is getting frosty cold.

Most of what I drink, except when on holiday is non-alcoholic. I consume several liters of unsweetened iced tea every day. Nothing fancy, just plain old Lipton is good enough for me. Given a chance, I’ll stop by an orange juice vendor whenever I can. Fresh squeezed OJ is a wonderful thing to have handy here in Thailand. For 10 baht I get a cup (or bag) of tangy nectar. Since I patronize some regular vendors, they know by know that I like mine without nam-tan (sugar) or gleua (salt). I haven’t developed a taste for the Thai equivalent of Gator Aide. I suppose the salt is an adaptation to the climate, but I’ll continue to drink mine “straight”.

I’m always amazed that despite what I consider being unbearably hot conditions, so many Thais think nothing of swaddling themselves up. In countless rice fields, construction sites, and along thousands of kilometers of roadside, men and women are bundled in layer after layer of clothing. Just looking at them I feel a case of heat prostration coming on. How do they do it? Is this just the result of “evolution in action”? If so, where do I sign up for some gene therapy? Of course I could simply result to a less technological yet tried and true Thai method of “re-hydration”. Beer anyone? Whisky and soda?

Stickman's thoughts:

The heat can be tough in the peak of the hot season but frankly, I find it more bearable than the cold.