Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hot in Herre: The One Downside to Living in Bangkok

It's official: I'm a pig.

I may not go "Oink! Oink!" Or roll around in the mud. And if you eat me, I probably won't taste anything like bacon. But boy, do I sweat like the proverbial porker. (And yes, I do know that pigs don't actually "sweat.")

I've always been prone to perspire. In New York City, although I lived less than a block from the Union Square subway that I took to work, which was a few air-conditioned underground walkways from the Midtown subway station where I got off, I somehow always managed to arrive at my office feeling drenched.

Maybe it was all in my mind. After all, nobody ever gave me any strange looks like, "Look at that sweaty pig over there." But it's not so much how you look -- or how they look at you -- as how you feel. And I felt... wet.

In Buenos Aires, though, those beads of sweat rolling down my face, my arms, my back were unmistakable. And unlike in NYC, neither the subte (the BA subway) nor the colectivos (the city buses) were air-conditioned, and most of the taxi drivers didn't want to turn on the AC, even in the height of summer. I started carrying around a backpack with nothing inside but a towel, in case of a sweat emergency. Ironically, BA is where I made my shift from liking summer more than winter, due to the humidity there, which can make cold BA weather even more unbearable than the summer sun.

I'm not sure how I always end up in the hottest, most humid cities imaginable (except Melbourne, which always seems to be unseasonably cool, which is one of the things I love and hate about it), but here we go again in Bangkok. And unlike in New York and Buenos Aires, it's like this year-round.

My friend Dave in New York and I were having a Skype video chat this past weekend, and he was talking about coming to visit me in Bangkok. When he asked when it cools down around here, I had to level with him: "Never." For the most part, I'm okay with that, since I write at home and don't have to go to an office every day, I have two AC units in my apartment, and I always take taxis when I go out at night.

But there have been a few close calls. The first time I went to meet my editor at the Bangkok Post, the taxi got lost and dropped me off too far from the newspaper's offices in the Bangkok Post Building. As I wandered about in the heat, getting stickier by the minute, I was more concerned with getting there dry than on time. In the end, I wasn't late, but thank God, my editor was, because it gave my body a few minutes to cool down and dry off.

Another time, I was meeting a guy for a dinner date a few blocks away from my apartment, too close to just hop into a taxi. By the time we met up, I was soaked -- even my face was covered in sweat. Luckily, I had the time of day on my side. Since it was nighttime, he probably didn't notice. And since I'm no longer in Buenos Aires, where every meeting means a kiss on both cheeks, he wouldn't have to taste the salt in my sweat. That's the kind of thing you want to save for the end of the date.

I recently met an Australian guy on holiday in Bangkok, and he had it even worse than I do. After walking one block outside of an air-conditioned restaurant, he would look like he'd just stepped out of the shower. He was envious at how dry I was. "I guess that's what happens once you become accustomed to the humidity," he once said.

"Yeah, right," I replied, hoping he wouldn't notice the sweat beads starting to form around my temples. But I was sure they were the first thing everybody else noticed about me, especially the Thai locals, whose skin always seems to be so free of blemishes and sweat. My favorite food vendor near my apartment, who knows that I regularly go running around Lumphini Park, sometimes asks me if I've been running when I've only walked a few hundred meters from home. I'm still not sure how they all maintain such dry, glowing skin in this humidity, but I'm hoping it rubs off on me eventually.

The other day, when I walked the roughly two kilometers from home to my favorite spa in Bangkok, I thought that maybe I finally had. It was the first time I'd felt anything resembling a cool breeze in the air after nearly a year in Bangkok, and I was sure that my face was completely dry when I arrived at Burberri to have my massage. But when I took off my t-shirt, and it felt like it had just gone through a spin cycle, I knew I'd been fooling myself.

"Is it hot outside?" my regular massage therapist there asked, with a friendly laugh. The last time she'd commented on how damp I always was upon my arrival, and I explained that I always walked from my apartment in Sathorn. She nodded and seemed to be surprised by my stamina. After all, it was a long way from there to where we were on Silom Road.

I'm not sure how I replied the other day, but whatever I said, I'm pretty sure it sounded like "Oink!"

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