I wish I had 500,000 VND for every time I was asked, “Are you not cold?”
For sure, I would be a Dong billionaire by now, standing there in my shorts struggling to recall the last time I wore long trousers. And then wondering if any of them still fit.
Clearly, my north west European body has a completely different thermostat setting from the norm here in Vietnam. As I like to point out, our definitions of cold are vastly different.
In Hanoi getting a bit chilly appears to be when the thermometer dips down to the low twenties or so. You can tell as everyone else is wrapped up, wearing double layers or a big jacket.
By contrast, I, still in short sleeved shirt and shorts, am finally feeling comfortable, basking in what is the equivalent of a lovely summer’s day in Scotland. Usually, and especially in summer, I am a walking sweat patch. There’s something particularly gruesome about sitting around in a pool of your own sweat waiting for the air con to kick in. I am simply not designed to operate at summer temperatures in Vietnam.
During the so-called winter my usual response to the query as to whether I am cold is something along the lines of “This isn’t cold. It’s not cold until you can see your own breath.”
Then the conversation immediately heads to the mountainous northern region of Sapa and the temperatures there in winter. I have still to visit, so I can’t really comment. Almost made it there four years ago, but went to Ha Long Bay instead when I saw the weather forecast for Sapa. On the basis that I could have stayed at home in Scotland to see rainy mist-cloaked mountains, I headed to the coast instead.
To be honest, my thermostat is set much lower than Vietnamese people. Combined with my relatively gorilla-like hairiness, I can truthfully say that I have only ever been cold in Vietnam twice. Once, in 2014, in Da Lat, which is in the mountains of central Vietnam, and then again this year one January morning as I walked away from a bus stop. I felt a little temporary chill that day and zipped up my jacket. It was 8 degrees.
The conclusion I am drawing from all this is that no matter how long I live in Vietnam I will probably never get used to the heat. Conversely, I was back in Scotland this year at the end of January and took three weeks to finally heat up once I got there.
My thermostat is broken.