Escape from the Hot Season

July 30, 2010

There’s something happening here.  It’s not exactly clear.  The hot season here in Thailand (and it looks like around the world too) seems to be getting hotter and longer (I just learned that the last June was the hottest one on record – for the whole world!).  It is the rainy season now so we are experiencing a little respite.  We’ve got about 8 really good months ahead of us.  But I’m not really sure we can take another hot season like the last one

So, Pikun and I need your advice.

Last hot season was close to unbearable for us.  We don’t like air conditioning but had to turn it on just about every night just to get to sleep.  I have a thermometer on my back patio, in the shade, and it registered over 40°C every day for more than 6 weeks.  That is 104°F for those of you who are metrically challenged.  When I first came to Thailand, it rarely got to 38°C, and then only once or twice a season.  Something is happening here.

So, here is why we need your advice.  We are thinking of running away from Thailand for a month or so during the worst part of the year, sort of a vacation from our retirement.

We have a few places in mind but there are a some conditions.

  • It has to be a cool place, both weather-wise and metaphorically, someplace below 30°C during April and May.
  • It has to be affordable.  We don’t have lots of extra money.  We live off of Social Security so we would have to cut back a bit during the year to be able to afford the plane fare.  If the cost of living there is low enough then our expenses should be about the same as here.  Since we won’t have to run the air conditioner we might even save money by not having such a high electric bill.  It might even be cheaper to leave here in the hot weather.
  • It has to be a place that isn’t presently at war with anyone.

Here are a few places we are considering.

1. Kunming, China and its surroundings like Lijiang and Dali and Shangri-La (Yes there really is a place called Shangri-La.  Check here to see some pictures.)   It is close to us, straight to the north,.  It’s cool in April.  The surrounding Yunnan province seems like a very interesting place, has great food, and it is cheap.

Lijiang, near Kunming, China

2. Turkey We have been to Istanbul and love it, the people and the food, the Haja Sophia, Grand Bazaar, Topkapi, and the Blue Mosque. I would love to see them all again.  Turkey probably has the best food in the world besides where we live now.  We would like to visit the southern coast.  But it seems like Turkey may be facing some terrorist problems (mainly in the Kurdish east) so we will have to keep an eye out for that.

Istanbul - one of our favorite cities

3. Southern Spain and Portugal We will have to keep an eye on the Euro.  If it goes into the toilet this might be the cheapest place of all, and with my high school Spanish still in my brain somewhere, the language wouldn’t be a problem.

Savilla, Spain

We would love to hear from anyone who has ever been to these places?  What do you think?  Does it meet the above conditions of fun, cheap, peaceful, and most of all, cool?

Do you have any other places that you might recommend?  I am sure that others reading here might be interested too.  We can’t be the only ones who almost went nuts during the last hot season.  Pikun and I are in our 60s.  Maybe that is the problem with the heat.  I don’t think it is, but it could have something to do with our not being able to take it anymore.

There is something happening here and I am hoping that you might be able to give us some advice.

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8 Responses to “Escape from the Hot Season”

  1. Bob said

    I’m glad you have written about this topic. I am planning my Chiang Mai retirement now, May 2011 is my target. I view the temperature as a big issue for me. I love Thailand, the Thai people and food but their hot season is a real drag. To hear that the heat situation is getting worse is not good news.

    My plan is to go to Central or South America. I’ve spent time in several countries in both and the weather is fantastic. I spent the most time in Guatemala and have it on my list of back-up retirement locations or places to get away from the heat. I am also exploring Ecuador, having spent time there as well. Of the two places Ecuador seems to be the most published as a retirement haven for expats. I suspect either of these, or for that matter most of the other countries in these regions, would be good places to spend time away from the Thai hot season. You may still need to deal with a rainy season though.

    Personally I found Quetzaltenango Guatemala to be perfect, weather wise. It is the second largest city in Guatemala and not as ‘touristy’ as the capitol or other destinations. It also has lots of local character, local indian tribes, churches and hiking. I love Thai food but I found the food there to be excellent! It is one of the eating destinations of the world for me, simple but great food! The cost of living was also very affordable. Health-care was very good, easily accessible and affordable as well. Two things I did not like there were the amount of trash and armed guards. The locals do not care about tossing whatever trash they have in their hands on the ground. It just bothered me to see all the litter. There were also armed guards at all banks and stores. I didn’t experience any crime but there must be some with all the guards around. In some ways it reminds me to Udon Thani in Thailand. Two reasons for this were that Xela (nickname for Quetzaltenango) has a large expat population that keeps to themselves for the most part and English is less common there than the tourist parts of the country, both things I noticed when I was in Udon.

    Ecuador was also great weather wise. I was in the capitol there and didn’t get a chance to explore much of the mainland. It does have hiking opportunities, lots of local character and seemed safe to me. It also has very good and inexpensive food. The cost of living is affordable. One nice thing there is they use the US dollar as their national currency, so it is easy to see how far your money will go. I spent some time living on various Galapagos Islands while I was in Ecuador, so for the nature lover that is an option. It does cost a bit more to do that but you get to see some cool wildlife, up close and personal.

    I also look forward to other people posting on this topic. If I do go with Chiang Mai as my retirement destination I, like you, will want a cooler place to spend the dreaded Thai hot season.

    Bob

  2. Snap said

    Hugh..have you considered Vietnam? North of course, perhaps a bit further north than the hustle and bustle (and beep, beep) of Hanoi. I’m not sure of the legalities of living there as a foreigner, but the cost of living is even less than that of Thailand and the food is on par, if not better!

      • Snap said

        Hanoi is as far north as I have ventured, so I cannot suggest any towns. I have heard that the hilly, Sapa area stays nice and cool. I liked boating on Ha Long but did not get to stay in Ha Long city. It was cool when we were there.

        Hoi An is indeed lovely, small, charming and by the sea…it still get’s hot, but you have the sea breezes and not the stifling humidity.

        I would seriously consider Dalat. It’s up in the mountains and I actually had to buy a sweater when we visited…but, how cold do you like it? The internet says it flucuates between 15 and 24 degrees C. It’s a not to small, not to big city with lovely views and cleaner air.

        If things don’t go as planned for our Chiang Mai long stay, this would be my next choice. Only a few hours in a comfy bus from touristy Nha Trang and a very short flight to Saigon (HCMC), from their newly opened airport.

      • Snap said

        Hanoi is as far north as I have ventured, so I cannot suggest any towns. I have heard that the hilly, Sapa area stays nice and cool. I liked boating on Ha Long but did not get to stay in Ha Long city. It was cool when we were there.

        Hoi An is indeed lovely, small, charming and by the sea…it still gets hot, but you have the sea breezes and not the stifling humidity.

        I would seriously consider Dalat. It’s up in the mountains and I actually had to buy a sweater when we visited…but, how cold do you like it? The internet says it flucuates between 15 and 24 degrees C. It’s a not to small, not to big city with lovely views and cleaner air.

        If things don’t go as planned for our Chiang Mai long stay, this would be my next choice. Only a few hours in a comfy bus from touristy Nha Trang and a very short flight to Saigon (HCMC), from their newly opened airport.

  3. Snap said

    Sorry Hugh…hit the button twice, please feel free to delete one.

  4. James E said

    I have a friend in Varna,Bulgaria on the Black Sea. From what I am told the weather is great in summer and the costs much lower than western europe and no threating issues. I can say for a fact that bulgarians enjoy english speakers for it gives them a chance to practice their english.
    Among all immigrants to the USA the bulgarians have the highest average level of education.

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