On being cold

When you tell people that you are in South East Asia, the assumption is always that it is warm. When you complain about being cold, people don’t really understand. I remember whining about being cold in Sapa on Facebook only to be told that I wasn’t allowed to complain, because, well, it couldn’t be that cold. Could it?

It’s a fair assumption that if you are in Europe or America and it’s winter, that it be way colder there than in SE Asia. The main difference though is this: while you are wearing warm clothing, enjoying central heating and taking long hot baths, we are not. It may be a luxurious 10C outside compared to where you are at, but we have hardly any warm clothing, and no way to get our heat back up. SE Asia does not know about heating, and there were night where sleeping fully clothes under thick blankets just didn’t do it. It’s sort of like being in the past, where people just wait for the winter to pass and hope to not catch a deadly clod. Everywhere we went we were greeted with people with nasty cold and bronchitis-sounding cough.

In our tradition of narrowly escaping natural disaster, we avoided the horrible cold snap that has been gripping the North of Vietnam for the past 3 weeks. We have been cold, but clearly not as cold as we could have been. So for those who did not believe me when I was complaining that it was cold out here, get this:

Frigid temperatures in north Vietnam send hundreds to hospital, kill thousands of livestock
By The Associated Press (CP) – 4 days ago

HANOI, Vietnam — An extreme cold snap in northern Vietnam has killed at least 7 people as well as more than 20,000 cows and buffaloes,as temperatures fell to 36-year lows.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has ordered local authorities to help farmers protect their livestock, including setting up special shelters for the animals.

State-controlled media said Monday that forecasters predict the cold snap will spread to parts of the central region. The temperatures have fallen as low as -3.6 degrees Celsius (26 degrees Fahrenheit). Temperatures would usually be around 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit).

Hundreds of people, mostly children and the elderly, have swamped hospitals, mostly due to respiratory illnesses. The Central Pediatrics Hospital in Hanoi reported that more than 1,300 children were admitted for treatment for the same diseases each day on average.

Motorbike taxi-drivers in Hanoi light fire to warm themselves

An old woman in Hanoi

[Photos from TuoiTre News]

Remember: there is no heating in people’s houses. The houses on the tribal hillsides are traditionally made of straw and wood, and people cannot afford much clothing at all. As such, Co2 gas poisoning and fire-related accidents are taking people’s lives as many try keep warm by bringing coal braziers and firewood into their houses.

Being warm is something that we take for granted back home, and the past weeks have clearly shown us just how lucky we are, and how difficult it can be when you do not have the tools or the means that you need to get by.


About Magalie

Canadian girl living in Texas, off to see the world when she can!
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