With temperatures easily hitting 35 degrees C for most days during July and August, and nights often cooling down to the high 20s, summers can be a bit of a shock to the system. But if you take it easy and try hard to keep your cool, you have a chance to survive your own private summer ordeal (if you’re lucky)…
By Stuart Hill
There are three broad categories of people when it comes to Taiwan’s summer. For those who come from places of below-freezing winters, Taiwan’s all-year warmth and smothering heat can offer the embracing relief of a safety blanket. For those that come from the world’s tropical and desert regions, Taiwan’s mid-year temperatures are nothing much to write home about. And then there are the irritable temperate zone dwellers who do nothing but complain about the endless heat and intolerable humidity.
This story is for the latter — easily overheated — group.
If you happen to fall into that category — and nobody said summer had to be your thing — there are some basic survival tips you can follow for when Taiwan’s temperatures hit the unbearable.
1. Keep Hydrated, All Through the Day
It’s surprising how even just a couple of hours outside in the heat can get you dehydrated and scratchy. While a convenience store on every corner will be the next best thing to an emergency medical center, carrying a bottle of water around to sip every 15 minutes will help you avoid some of the early effects of heat stroke. Sports drinks and coconut milk/water are good at quickly restoring your body’s equilibrium.
2. Wear Natural Fibers, with Clothes that Layer and Roll
Despite a national obsession for all fibers artificial, when it comes to summer attire, cotton and linen shirts are de rigueur and perfect for all settings and times of the day. Long sleeved shirts are a great help, if you are moving from outside into the sudden cold of indoor or MRT air-conditioning. Meanwhile, long sleeves are equally practical as a light cover against the direct rays of the sun. Thanks to Muji and Uniqlo, its easy to perspire AND get that chic crinkled look with inexpensive linen clothes that happen to mix and match with almost anything.
3. Escape to a Village in Taiwan’s Mountains
Summer really is the perfect time to indulge your bourgeois fantasies of owning a cottage in the alps. With summer making the cities barely livable, Taiwan’s spectacular mountains provide a safe and significantly cooler place to recuperate. Temperatures in areas like TaiPingShan (太平山) and QingJing (清境) can be 10 degrees cooler than places down in the nearby valleys or along the coast — even during the hottest part of the day. Night temperatures can drop to the low teens. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
4. Get an Umbrella!
Who said parasols went out in the 1890s? This modern variation on a classic look is easy to pull-off by recycling the umbrella you carried around during the April plum rain season. A note of warning though to the guys: like quiche and super-tight jeans, only real men and cutesy teenagers can get away with unfurling their umbrella on a sunny day. And golf varieties don’t count!
5. Withdraw to the Safety of an Air-conditioned Building
This survival tip potentially combines one of Taiwan’s most sacred cultural expressions — shopping — with one of Taiwan’s most common anthropological phenomena — crowds — to give you a myriad of excuses to at least try this once. As you jostle among the throngs of consumers grouped around the cosmetics counters or patiently lining up to get on the escalators, it may be possible to briefly forget the excruciating discomfort you had just getting to your current location. Variations on this therapy include watching a movie in a freezing cinema, sitting on a bus with the the air conditioning pointed at your head, or locking yourself in your bedroom with the a/c set to max.
BONUS TIP: Just Learn to Live with It — October’s Almost Here!
Admittedly Taiwan’s summer seems to last roughly 6 months of the year, but there are some noticeable changes in the weather around April-May and September-October. Yes, after enduring 2 months of 35 degrees daily a dip of 2-3 degrees on the thermometer might have you grabbing for your fur coat and scarf, but generally between the Dragon Boat Festival (rice dumplings in June) and mid-Autumn Festival (moon cakes in September) expect temperatures to be set consistently on hot. So just deal with it?
Let me know some of your summer survival tips.