Thursday, December 08, 2005

Winter Snaps Back

Shivering in his winter woollies Yorkie Pittstop admits he feels the Hanoi cold, but insists he’s not a big girl, it’s just the humidity that makes him cry

Visiting foreigners walking around often chortle to themselves looking at the locals, including myself, driving around in Hanoi in wintertime dressed like they’re off to climb K2.

Of course technically, last week it was only between 12- 15 degrees, I mean, let’s face it, the North of Siberia it ain’t. It should have been my time to shine, to show my durability, my youthful vigour and non-tropical cold-compatibility. But, alas, no – during summer I melt, and in winter I freeze.

One winter I met a man from Alaska, and as I sat with shivering hands and chattering teeth over a piping hot coffee on Hoan Kiem Lake, he stood boldly on the pavement in a T-shirt and shorts and waxed lyrical, describing it as the “perfect summer’s day”.

So why is it the expat residents – from cold spots like Canada and Northern Europe – lose their winter mojo in Hanoi? The general consensus is the cold gets into your bones. Especially at home, where the high humidity means it sort of rises, like the fingers of an aggrieved zombie, straight through your floor. So in tiled houses you get cold just walking around.

There is also no tradition of fires, and most foreigners refusing to believe how cold it gets, never bother to buy heaters, until it’s too late, hence Hanoi is the only city I’ve lived in where I’ve seen people walk around their house wrapped in blankets with scarves and beanies.

Another problem is most people continue to travel by motorbike, which multiplies the chill factor. The foreign tourists in their shorts are walking around keeping the blood flowing while we’re motionless and exposed.

My friends in Ho Chi Minh City are always slagging off the Hanoi weather and telling me to move. But expat Hanoians would never admit defeat. Sure, down south, the sun shines all year around, but up north there’s the natural cycle of the seasons. We have an autumn and a spring, and although somewhat fleeting, I love them both.

In the event this winter does get too cold, and they say it very well might, there is, of course, always a happy medium. In this case it’s referred to as Hoi An.

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind.

1 comment:

Venitha said...

Oh, man, what I would give for some cold weather! Singapore's heat is relentless. This just can't be December.