I thought I was pretty ready for the heat, knowing we were going to Thailand at the peak of the hot season. But really, is there any not-hot season in Thailand? Many of the online guides said there is a hot season, a really hot season, and a wet-and-hot season.
But I made it through almost a week in La Dorada, Colombia, in 100 to 110 degree heat and chew-able humidity... Albeit literally
doused in rum half the time (but that is another story altogether).
So I packed special for the heat, because I know I am sensitive to it from too many near-heat-stroke experiences over my lifetime. And also knowing the fact that I don't ever just stop
if I say I am going to do something. Committing to the trip basically made the announcement that "I am going to do this.
" I don't know why that basically etches my will into stone, despite the fact that the heat actually made me want to sit down on the sidewalk and cry more than once (but how can you cry when you are that dehydrated?). And I must have looked like I swam through red cool-aid because the tour guide asked more than once, with shockingly wide eyes, if I was okay?
You could put the subtitle "Are you really going to live through this?"
under her question if only she didn't speak perfect english.
But the fact is, I did survive. And the worst times I wanted to give up were the times I got cocky and didn't apply all my cooling devices.
So here is the list...
But first, a quick side-note... if your backpack doesn't have a half-dozen internal pockets for hats and sunscreen and all the things you need... just sew some pockets and safety pin them inside... keeping things organized makes it MUCH easier to get out what you need on the go. Also, small "S" clips can make your pack much more secure from potential pick-pocket type theft.
And back to the list...
Nothing fancy about sunscreen, except I learned that a light coating of spray-on just isn't adequate for an hour long boat ride in the sun and then snorkeling for several hours... and after getting fully soaked, the spray-on doesn't seem to work as well as old fashioned lotion when re-applying.
The big note here is even if you think you will be out of the sun most of the day, plans change and you may need that extra-strong sunscreen lotion and those full-cover swim clothes with you. Er... even if you look a little odd in a swim shirt, swim pants, and swim slippers...
Packing a sun hat may not be very easy unless you get special pop-open ones from online. I thought it was pretty funny that our China guide was so amazed by them and surprised when we told her that I had to order them from China before the trip. Also... flower hats are not as light-weight and shady as pop-open white cotton hats, but when your elephant specifically helps pick out leaves and flowers for your hat... you wear it for the rest of the day!
Light weight shirts.
As light weight as I could find without them being see-through. Surprisingly, it truly is nicer to be in a long-sleeved light weight shirt than to have to coat your skin in a ton of sun-screen and/or bug-spray. Finding the right shirts can be a serious difficulty though, especially in late-winter, Denver, Colorado. So if you even think you might ever need some hot weather shirts, collect a few when you can. I actually washed several of my lightest shirts half-way through the trip even though I had plenty of other shirts still clean.
Very light weight cotton pants
really helped, too. But of course, the heat and humidity means that every trip to the bathroom is like trying to get out of a wet-suit every time, no matter how light the clothing is. For this I was very thankful that Thailand bathrooms were generally much better than I expected with always at least one western style toilet (even at an out-of-the-way little restaurant), and while they didn't always
have toilet paper, the facilities were almost always nice and clean and almost always had hand-soap and sometimes dryers or paper-towels (definitely none of these things I can say about Beijing, China). Regardless, it seems travel out of the country will almost always end up with at least one toilet that has no paper and no soap... so wet-wipes, mostly-dry wet-wipes, and some vacuum packed toilet paper is a MUST on any trip.
Poncho/towel. Added to hubby's outfit was always a Colombian style poncho. Somewhat between a poncho, a towel, and a bandanna, these ponchos come in great handy and I frequently used his to dry my hands after washing. A spare one also came in good use when drying our feet after wading to and from a boat... because hiking with wet feet is a Level 1 no-no.
Fans, fans, and more fans.
My favorite item to whip out of my little fannypack-backpack was a plastic card about 6x8 inches cut from an old tupperware lid. It acted as a perfect small fan and I was broken hearted when I lost it at a hotel pool about half-way through the trip. It worked well, was lighter weight than the tourist folding fans, and was easy to fan myself in crowded areas without needing a large space in front of me. I replaced it with a couple folding fans, and we had large plastic fans in the backpack, but I missed my little plastic card and have made a couple more since we got home.
Why not a battery powered fan you ask? Because I knew it would die on me at the most needed moment, and short of carrying an entire back-pack full of batteries, I knew it would not last.
Special cooling bands/towels.
And for the very
sensitive-to-the-heat like me... I packed a host of sizes of cooling bands/towels.
These beauties saved me more than once. They are made out of special "Polyvinyl Alcohol" (PVA) that soaks up water well and evaporates even when your skin can't from humidity. Wrapped around my wrists, ankles, and neck, depending on the level of heat, these help to cool at the critical points of bloodflow.
Also, at one hotel room where the cooler wasn't working better than 85 degrees, a large towel slapped across my back was the only thing that let me sleep.
And my last resort when even the cooling bands could not help and there was zero breeze under tropical tree canopy and a few hundred more uneven rock almost-steps to climb... rubbing alcohol. In a small spray bottle inside a baggie, I packed rubbing alcohol.
Sprayed on the chest, behind the ears, on the wrists, and the neck, it can manage to evaporate and cool (with the aid of a fan) even when all else fails. Of course... cool is a relative term here. Bringing down the feels-like body temperature from a balmy 120 or so to a mere 105. You may think I am exaggerating, but even hubby, who snarkily touted "It feels fine to me... I have been living in La Dorada where it is like this all the time."
more than once (sometimes per day)... even HE
looked like a ripe tomato and was ready to admit how incredibly hot and unreasonably humid it was on that hike.
This also explains why I was literally doused in rum in La Dorada... Bet you never knew that the medical rubbing alcohol down there is just the rum that didn't turn out very good. Yeah... I smelled like an amazingly pungent alcoholic, but I survived the heat.
Of course, this method may not be the best as some internet people say you can possibly get alcohol poisoning from it, but I really think you would have to bathe in the stuff for a long time to have that kind of affect through your skin, and I think the dangers of heat-stroke are far worse.
And last but not least is a little thing I didn't even know about until almost the very last of our Thailand portion of the trip. After a hot walk through the Train Station Market (Maeklong Fish Market where a train comes though), our driver handed us these little "Refreshing Towels
". When in Thailand heat (even the morning heat), one of these babies pulled right out of a cooler feels like someone cut a little section out of heaven and handed it to you in a little plastic pouch. Lightly scented with a hint of lemon-flower-tiny-bit-of-menthol, it is a little super-thin damp wash-cloth (or the large size is a hand towel), and it cools, cleans, and feels incredible with the little bit of menthol and whatever else it is soaked in. These things are sold at 7-11 and I wish I had know about them at the start of the trip because I would have gotten a couple at every stop. (Really? Every stop? There is that many 7-11's in Thailand?
Um... Yeah. It might be a slight
exaggeration, but I am pretty sure there is a temple or shrine on every corner and at least three 7-11's in-between... makes for a beautiful country that is well stocked with snacks and sodas.)
And one last way to beat the heat is to get a nice Thai massage to ease those aching and overheated muscles... Er... from a baby elephant?!? Of course!
So that is my assorted methods for "How to beat the heat." Though maybe it would be better titled "How to barely survive a foolish will to go on despite debilitating heat exhaustion."
But here I think I should answer the question, "Was it worth it?"
Was it worth the trouble, trauma, and temperature... To see the other side of the world? A culture and people far removed from everything I know? A completely different style of art, architecture, and life?
Simply put... Y..E..S. With as many caps and spacing and bold and italic.... maybe even more. Would I do it again? Probably not... because I have a million other places to see and experience. But it was definitely worth every minute of it. Not to mention all I could eat of the most perfectly ripe and non-acidic pineapple EVER.