The morning market by my house changes in November. Once the days shrink and the night comes on early, the warm clothes come out. Racks and racks of used jackets, knit caps, scarves, pants and more replace the skirts and dresses which hang during the hot months in Chiang Mai. Technically, there are four seasons here if you count warm, hot, scorching and rain. Although the rainy season is warm. And the winter is “warm” but it really depends on who you ask.
Most mornings as I walk to work, I shake my head, confused at why the winter clothes have come out since … well … the winter I had last year wasn’t really winter to me at all.
Enter December 2013.
It’s a rainy, chilly Sunday. In America, it would be the kind of Sunday where I want to tuck into a dimly lit bar, sip on a spicy Bloody Mary and watch some American football. But, in Chiang Mai, it is the perfect sort of day to sip hot tea, work under an awning as the rain splashes down in full force, and get some work done.
Only, the chilly air has dug into my skin. It’s tapped on my bones. I sit at the little wooden table with my friend, trying to let the hot tea warm me from the inside out.
“Last winter, I don’t remember being cold,” I say to no one in particular.
I remember it so clearly. In the mornings, I’d walk to work in short sleeves and jeans, relishing the autumn-like temperatures and clear blue skies with sun beating down on me without causing a sweat to erupt. I’d laugh softly when I saw locals bundled like an impending snow storm was coming.
It was warm. It bordered on hot for me.
Now, I’m one of those bundled people. I walk to work clad in a sweater, a scarf, a knit cap pulled down to keep my ears warm.
The worst part?
It’s a balmy 60 degrees in the morning.
I get what I deserve for laughing last year.
‘Cause you know what? Now, I’m one of them. I’ve got the thin, jungle blood. I’ve survived the excruciating hot months from mid-February to May. I’ve played through rainy season and the humid air. And now? I’m freezing.
We get a cold front in the middle of December that drops the temps even lower. In one day, the thermometer dips a whopping 8 degrees Celsius. Whopping. Biting wind. Nights that chill to the bone. My Facebook feed is overtaken by expats and locals lamenting about the temperatures. It’s cold for us locals.
You can actually tell those who have lived through at least one winter in Chiang Mai and aren’t Thai. They look like me. Covered, head-to-toe to stay warm and not get frostbite … even though there is no chance of that.
The tourists, they’re a different breed. They are likely coming from cold climates (except those Aussies and Kiwis) and are love-love-loving the “warm” weather. They walk around in tank tops, shorts, flip flops. The girls wear their hair up because its hot. They sit outside, scantily clad at Thaepae Gate, under the great ball of sun. I scratch my head … try to recall my cold-but-not-cold self last year. The happiness that filled me to not sweat in the winter. To walk and breathe in the crisp air. My first winter was heavenly. So is this one, but now it’s just heavenly chilly.
“Give them a year here,” I think to myself. “They’ll freeze, too.”
Then, I go home, turn the water in my shower on slow so it can heat up, and let the scalding water rush over me to rid myself of the cold. There are no heaters here, so I cuddle up into some PJs, place my cats strategically next to me on the bed and snuggle deep under the covers.
But, in true D fashion, I try to rebel against my newfound jungle blood just a little. I keep the windows open. And thank my lucky stars I get to have this cold weather. Summer is coming soon … and I know that once the temps begin to rise, I will long for this cold.