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Hot, damn hot – 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand

Tim Newton

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February to May is the hottest time of the year in most of Thailand. And after the heat comes the rain. Then it’s hot AND humid. Actually it’s usually reasonably humid all through the year. But, whilst it can be a bit of a shock for tourists used to a colder or dry-air climate, it doesn’t take too long to get used to the humidity.

Thing is, it’s a hot climate country and if you come to Thailand you’ll be prepared for hot weather. For people travelling in Thailand for a long time, or people moving here permanently, you DO get used to the humidity.

Humid and healthy

For your health, and in general, having more moisture in the air is a good thing. High humidity can affect people, plants and animals in positive ways.

In places where the humidity levels stay above 80% you can expect it to rain off and on throughout the day. It’s rarely THAT humid in Thailand. In Bangkok the ambient humidity level averages over 60% throughout the year. Further south in Phuket, the humidity level is above 70% throughout the year, reaching higher in the early months of the annual wet season.

The humidity avoids the local climate fluctuating between high highs and lower lows in temperatures. It’s obviously more beneficial for the tropical plants which thrive on the high levels of ambient moisture in the air.

For you, there are health benefits of high humidity as well. While low humidity will dry out your skin, high humidity can give you more supple, glowing skin with minimal blemishes. If you suffer from acne, high humidity can also be of benefit here.

For your respiratory system there are positives and negatives. Whilst it can certainly help with existing respiratory problems like asthma or COPD, there is also a down side with increased potential problems with allergies.

A humid environment can also help prevent the spread of airborne illnesses as the water particles are ‘sticky’ and make dust and other particles heavier, and sink to the ground.

Here are a few ideas to help you cope with the humidity in Thailand.

1. Drink plenty of water

Drink lots of (bottled) water. Don’t drink out of the taps, even in the fanciest of hotels. Drinking lots of water will keep you hydrated and help you avoid headache, nausea and dizziness. If you come from a cooler climate you will find yourself needing to drink at least twice as much as you did before.

Don’t be a hero, drink plenty of water. You’ll be surprised how cheap the bottled water is at convenience stores or many hotels provide some drinking water for free each day.

If you rent or own a house or condo there are many water delivery services all over the country who bring 20 litre exchangeable bottles. Usually costs which usually cost between 15 – 20 baht per bottle.

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger

2. You need more salt than usual

Thai food has plenty of salt in it already, you won’t need to add any. But when sweating you lose a lot of salt in the form of sweat. Just eating a few Thai meals each day will provide you with all the salt you would ever need. But the evils of adding extra salt aren’t quite as evil when living in Thailand. Drinks like Gatorade (there are other brands), will keep your salt and electrolyte levels up if you believe you’re lacking salts.

Avoiding hot, spicy, think curries will also help your body cope with the ambient heat.

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger

3. Wear loose fitting clothing made from natural fibres

Most of the time you’re only going to be wearing a single layer. You may as well leave all your coats at home, you’re not going to need them unless you’re heading to northern Thailand between December and March.

Go for light colours and natural fabrics like cotton and linen. You will almost never wear a jacket or need a tie. Ladies, think ‘hot summer days’. Here’s your excuse to wear one of those outrageous tropical print shirts. Even the ubiquitous cotton/polyester T Shirt can feel a bit uncomfortable on a hot day.

But don’t feel too inclined to get your gear off – the Thai’s don’t appreciate TOO much skin – respect the local customs regarding skimpy clothing. Speaking of your clothes, beware closing the wardrobe door in the wet season. Without air circulation, after even less than a week, you’ll open to wardrobe doors to a sea of black mould. Just leave your wardrobe doors open. The cat’s not going to be offended.

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger

4. Exercise first thing in the morning or last thing at night

Don’t exercise in the middle of the day unless you’re a sucker for punishment. The heat of the day is best spent shopping, inside an air-conditioned office or as a siesta time. Go for a swim, take a nap.

If you do need to be outside keep your clothing light All the running events (getting increasingly popular around Thailand) are held around 4 or 5 am. Get the idea? Take a bottle of water with you and drink more than you might usually drink during your exercise.

The lower light levels also make you feel generally cooler.

You might look really good in a sweat band, foot warmers, track-suit pants and layered singlets and over-shirts. But, in Thailand, keep it practical, light and airy.

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger5. Wear a hat

Hats can be fashionable but in Thailand they’re also very functional. A hat will stop sweat dripping down your face and prevents the sun hitting you directly on your head, face or eyes. Sunglasses are also very important to protect your eyes from damaging UV.

They also tell your brain that it’s not quite as bright (or hot) as it really is. Shade, generally, is worth pursuing as standing out in the sun, at any time, can really drain your energy and dehydrate you faster. Although the sun light isn’t particularly intense, it is hot, hot, hot when added to the humidity level.

Umbrellas are a popular accessory for all Thais, not so much for the rain (when it does rain in Thailand, an umbrella really isn’t much use!). But you’ll see Thai’s walking down the streets in the middle of the day with their umbrellas. Sun tans aren’t popular in Thailand so keeping the sunshine off the face is as much a fashion issue as much as it is better for your skin.

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger

6. Take your time – sabai, sabai

There’s no need to rush – adjust to a slower pace. Do what the locals do. Thais rarely rush around and tend to adjust their pace to the levels of the heat and humidity. Rushing around will just heat up your body temperature and expose your body to heat-stress. Sabai, sabai (relax!)

Be assured that punctuality, generally, is not a strong trait in Thai culture. So do what you can to relax and put your watch away. Keep relaxed, keep cool.

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger

7. Avoid air-conditioning, if you can

OK, it’s hot, we get it, but AC will likely cause your body even more stress if you spend all day in an air-conditioned room or office. Seek out cool places, sure, but try a fan, sitting in a cool breeze or under a tree.

AC will really dry your air passages and your skin. For sleeping turn on the AC for an hour before you go to bed then use the ceiling fan (or a floor fan) for the rest of the night. Very few locals, even expats, will use AC for sleeping as they quickly adjust to sleeping with little or no blankets or duvets on top of them.

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger

8. When in Rome, do as the Romans do

When it Thailand, watch the locals. They’re not running around the streets in the middle of the day and often enjoy many showers during the day as well. Turn down the hot water when you head to the shower. Many Thais don’t even have hot water connected to their shower as the ambient tap water temperature is probably at least 10 degrees warmer from where they came from.

If you live in the southern areas of Thailand, where the running water is quite warm, it’s like the tropicals seas… not hot, not cold, just ‘nice’. A cold-water shower a few times a day will help keep you cool and refreshed. After showering it’s a good precaution to use some talcum powder in the ‘nether regions’ as sweat build-up and bacteria will thrive in a humid climate, sometime leading to rashes and itching. Nasty! Alternatively, face the fan and get some gentle breezes to do the same thing (close the door first).

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger

9. Mop up the sweat

You will sweat. Your body needs to sweat to help maintain your body temperature. A damp hand towel carried around in a plastic bag will be a perfect way to wipe your face, neck or hands from time to time. Some of us perspire more than others but there’s no problem in mopping up the perspiration from time to time – you’re not the only one sweating you know.

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger

10. Eat healthy, light food

Lighter, less stodgy food is going to make your body work less to digest and keep you feeling a lot cooler and refreshed. Local fresh fruit and salads should be included in a humid-climate diet. Some of the Thai spicy dishes can be quite light as well but maybe keep off the heavier curries until the evening. Coconut water is available everywhere, cheap and very refreshing. You also have the prefect excuse for an ice-cream too!

Hot, damn hot - 10 ways to cope with humidity in Thailand | News by Thaiger

 

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    Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2011. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for 42 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program (public radio Australia), presented over 11,000 radio news bulletins, 3,950 in Thailand alone, hosted 1050 daily TV news programs and produced 2,100 videos, TV commercials and documentaries. He also reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and other major stories in Thailand. As founder of The Thaiger in 2016, Tim is the current English Content Manager for the company, based in their Bangkok HQ.

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