Cold isn’t a word you often hear used to describe Thailand, or Vietnam, or anywhere in Southeast Asia, really. Hot, humid, sticky – something along those lines is usually the norm. But cold, or at least chilly, is what it is has been in some parts of the region for the past several days.
In parts of northern Thailand, temperatures dropped to as low as three degrees Celsius (37.4F). Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in the country, saw the lowest temperatures and frost on the mountainside. The government declared two districts of Chiang Mai disaster zones due to low temperatures between four and seven degrees, according to The Nation. Although the area typically sees cooler temperatures this time of year following the end of the muggy rainy season, lows like this are unusual.
The Meteorological Department predicted that northern Thailand’s cold spell will last until December 22, warming up after that, according to the Bangkok Post. The chilly weather is reportedly caused by a low pressure zone moving over China.
Temperatures have been milder in Bangkok, though still chilly, as the capital is generally warm and balmy.
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) December 18, 2013
Vietnam also felt the effects of the front, and very nearly had a white Christmas when snow began falling in northern parts of the country earlier this week. Gawkers reportedly flocked to the mountains in Lao Cai and Ha Giang provinces to see the white stuff, a rare sight in this part of the world. Inquirer News reported that the snowfall caused damage to farms in affected areas of Vietnam, harming flowers, chayote and vegetables.
As someone who grew up in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., it’s surprising and a little amusing to see folks around Chiang Mai bundling up in wool hats and jackets and wrapping themselves in blankets just to sit outside in the slightly cooler temperatures. But for those living in mountain villages, the cold is no laughing matter and blankets and jackets have been delivered to groups up there who are likely unprepared for dealing with the cold snap.
Though this cold front, which feels more like a pleasant spring day for many expats used to far more frigid winters, is not set to dip into freezing temperatures, it will be a welcome relief when the front breaks and it begins feeling a little more like the Southeast Asian warmth to which everyone is accustomed.