“You’re in paradise!” a friend told me when I mentioned missing Jeju. “Funny,”I replied, “the weather makes it seem more like the other place…
Look, so far, Cambodia is great. I like the food, the vibe, the prospect of seeing these amazing ancient wonders up close.
I am familiar with two kinds of heat: the hot, dry kind found in South Africa, and the intense oppressive mugginess Korea, and Jeju, specialise in. But the heat in Siem Reap the last couple of days is something else.
I arrived late on Tuesday night, so while it was warm, it was only the next day, when I hit the temple circuit with the sun at full force, that I really felt what 37 degrees with 70% humidity means. (It could have been worse: the humidity could have been higher.) It is hot. I quickly grew to look forward to the tuk-tuk drives between the temples, which afforded one the joy of wind rushing in one’s face and provided temporary relief from the sun.
Dripping with sweat and chugging tepid water which didn’t really help one to cool off, I nevertheless made it through that first afternoon with my spirits still intact. It was hot, but I was enjoying myself.
The next day I was up early to see the classic Angkor Wat at sunrise. The tuk-tuk drive along the wonderful shady roads that lead to Angkor, in the pre-dawn semi-darkness, were the closest I think I will ever get to being cold in Cambodia. It was delightful.
After about three hours wandering around there as the sun grew steadily hotter and I grew more tired, I got back in the tuk-tuk (when I eventually found my driver) and went off to the next temple. Heat and exhaustion ever rising. Back in the tuk-tuk, rinse and and repeat.
By about the fourth temple, I was dragging myself around through sheer will. I would find a shady rock (thank God for trees and breezes, however light), sit down, drink some water, and ponder life while summoning my strength for the next bit. Get up. wander on for a bit until it all grew too much, then I would collapse onto another shaded spot and repeat the process.
I was wandering around the back of some temples, passing other people whose faces echoed the acute misery I feel sure was etched into my own. I saw a temple with a steep staircase leading to the top, almost glowing yellow in the direct sunlight, and decided to just admire it from a distance.
I eventually made it to the designated meeting spot with my driver, who took one look at my sweaty face and heat-dulled eyes and said, “Next temple, last temple. We go back. You are very tired, I am very tired. We go back to the hostel.” I nodded my exhausted agreement.
After the last temple – which was definitely worth seeing, despite the hordes of tourists (it was the temple featured in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, among other cool facts) we went back to the hostel, thankfully. I staggered into the bar/restaurant area, counted down to 12pm and ordered a pineapple daquiri to be consumed pool-side. Temples are cool and all, but daquiris by the pool win in the heat.
The heat is so intense it had me seriously reconsidering a trip to Battambang, a small river town west of Siem Reap. One of the highlights of this town is a bamboo train. I love bamboo, and I love trains, so if it’s hot enough to make me consider not going to see a bamboo train, you know it’s bad. I did decide against taking the boat there: at almost four times the price, three times the length, and probably a thousand times the discomfort level, I said no to sitting on top of a boat in this heat on a nearly-empty river for minimum nine hours. I’m also going to have to suck up two nights of no aircon: just about every single review of the place I’m staying mentioned how hot the rooms were. I’m really not a pampered princess when I travel, I promise, but this heat is a killer.
And then I’ve still seen people wearing long sleeves and jeans! WHAT. Not okay.
There are actually advantages to this heat, not many, but there are a couple: 1. You never have to go to the loo. You just sweat all that water right on out. 2. You eat a lot less. It’s hard to work up an appetite when the sweat is running in small streams from your body and the air feels like the surface of the sun.
I’ve decided I’m definitely a fan of a moderate, dry climate. Hopefully the south will be a little cooler…