How to Survive the Bangkok Heat

How to Survive the Bangkok Heat

Many of you who grew up in Thailand may agree that in the past 20-30 years, we feel that temperatures in Thailand have been rising incrementally. Winter these days is nothing compared to the cool breeze just a few decades ago. I remember lining up with other students early in the morning for the national anthem. We all wore thick sweaters or jackets but this didn’t really help much.

Nowadays, when it’s summertime, it is awfully hot. Especially in Bangkok, summertime can get worse due to several factors, such as pollution and the layout of the city with towering skyscrapers acting like the walls of a preheated oven, and we are stuck in between like roasting meat!

In April, the hottest month of the year, it’s common for some places to have temperatures in the 40s. If you work in a high rise building, you can feel even more uncomfortable due to the fact that after a nice lunch in the heat outside, you have to  go back into the office where the temperature can drop to 20˚C due to over-usage  of air conditioners. Two extreme weathers may get you sick easily.

But life has to move on. I would like to share some tips to survive the heat in Bangkok and hopefully make your life here a bit “cooler”.

Drink more water
Stay hydrated at all times. This is a simple key to survive the heat as you tend to sweat more than usual out in the heat. Water can also help cool you down. Juices are great options, too, and juice stalls are easily found in any street corner near your office building. Just watch out for caffeinated drinks and alcohols. I know iced tea or coffee is just almost irresistible but caffeine in it can increase perspiration and alcoholic drinks are also dehydrating and should be avoided at all cost.

Wear light clothes and sunblock
You may remember what your science teacher from high school told you that the darker the color, the hotter the material is.  Sark colors, especially black, can absorb heat much better than white or any lighter color. So not clothes should be light in color, but they should be loose and lighter in weight, too. Recommended fabrics for your outfits are cotton, linen, rayon and silk. Lightweight clothes are important for ventilation and you can opt for this option even when you have to wear a long-sleeved shirt and tie.

If you are new to Bangkok, don’t be surprised when you see Thai office workers wearing light long-sleeved shirts, carrying an umbrella while walking in broad daylight. The heat is just almost unbearable to them and long-sleeved shirts can actually perhaps help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

But if you find an umbrella or a hat too overwhelming since you are nowhere near the beach or see any rain in sight, do,  however, wear sunblock, especially on your face, to protect your skin from UV rays which can cause skin cancer. Just make sure to pick the one that says “UVA, UVB and PA+++” on the label for maximum protection. Sunblock will also help protect you from sunburn. Going home lobstered is definitely not the ideal way to end your day.

Use a handheld fan or wet towel
Another way to cool off instantly is to use a handheld fan, manual or electric which can be found in any convenient store in Bangkok. When I was still an office worker in my younger years, I made sure I kept my body as cool as possible right after I left the office building. Not only I tended to sweat less, but also felt less uncomfortable when returning to a contrasting weather in the office. A damp washcloth kept cool in a freezer or wet with cold water can make a good and easy cooling compress. By placing it on your wrist, other areas of pulse points or even around your neck can cool the blood in your veins and provide some instant relief.

So word of advice during the upcoming Songkran: Don’t take the weather too lightly. If your body is not familiar with this type of weather and without any preventive actions, heat stroke might be around the corner and this can be serious. Drink lots of water, dress appropriately, slap some sunblock, and enjoy the city these coming holidays!

Born and raised in Bangkok, J. Pakchuen studied English and translation at Chulalongkorn University. Currently, she lives in Washington, D.C. where she works as a translator, interpreter, writer, and tour guide.