Winter in Chiang Mai, Thailand: when the blood goes jungle

Written by on December 18, 2013 in Asia, Blog, Expat Life, Thailand - 14 Comments

The morning market by my house changes in November. Once the days shrink and the night comes on early, the warm clothes come out. Racks and racks of used jackets, knit caps, scarves, pants and more replace the skirts and dresses which hang during the hot months in Chiang Mai. Technically, there are four seasons here if you count warm, hot, scorching and rain. Although the rainy season is warm. And the winter is “warm” but it really depends on who you ask.

Most mornings as I walk to work, I shake my head, confused at why the winter clothes have come out since … well … the winter I had last year wasn’t really winter to me at all.

Enter December 2013.

A day filled with rain during the winter in Chiang Mai

Not pictured: the obscene wet cold.

It’s a rainy, chilly Sunday. In America, it would be the kind of Sunday where I want to tuck into a dimly lit bar, sip on a spicy Bloody Mary and watch some American football. But, in Chiang Mai, it is the perfect sort of day to sip hot tea, work under an awning as the rain splashes down in full force, and get some work done.

Only, the chilly air has dug into my skin. It’s tapped on my bones. I sit at the little wooden table with my friend, trying to let the hot tea warm me from the inside out.

“Last winter, I don’t remember being cold,” I say to no one in particular.

I remember it so clearly. In the mornings, I’d walk to work in short sleeves and jeans, relishing the autumn-like temperatures and clear blue skies with sun beating down on me without causing a sweat to erupt. I’d laugh softly when I saw locals bundled like an impending snow storm was coming.

It was warm. It bordered on hot for me.

But now?

Oh, karma.

Now, I’m one of those bundled people. I walk to work clad in a sweater, a scarf, a knit cap pulled down to keep my ears warm.

The worst part?

It’s a balmy 60 degrees in the morning.

I get what I deserve for laughing last year.

‘Cause you know what? Now, I’m one of them. I’ve got the thin, jungle blood. I’ve survived the excruciating hot months from mid-February to May. I’ve played through rainy season and the humid air. And now? I’m freezing.

The temperatures in the winter in Chiang Mai

I swear, it feels like 0!

We get a cold front in the middle of December that drops the temps even lower. In one day, the thermometer dips a whopping 8 degrees Celsius. Whopping. Biting wind. Nights that chill to the bone. My Facebook feed is overtaken by expats and locals lamenting about the temperatures. It’s cold for us locals.

You can actually tell those who have lived through at least one winter in Chiang Mai and aren’t Thai. They look like me. Covered, head-to-toe to stay warm and not get frostbite … even though there is no chance of that.

The tourists, they’re a different breed. They are likely coming from cold climates (except those Aussies and Kiwis) and are love-love-loving the “warm” weather. They walk around in tank tops, shorts, flip flops. The girls wear their hair up because its hot. They sit outside, scantily clad at Thaepae Gate, under the great ball of sun. I scratch my head … try to recall my cold-but-not-cold self last year. The happiness that filled me to not sweat in the winter. To walk and breathe in the crisp air. My first winter was heavenly. So is this one, but now it’s just heavenly chilly.

“Give them a year here,” I think to myself. “They’ll freeze, too.”

Then, I go home, turn the water in my shower on slow so it can heat up, and let the scalding water rush over me to rid myself of the cold. There are no heaters here, so I cuddle up into some PJs, place my cats strategically next to me on the bed and snuggle deep under the covers.

But, in true D fashion, I try to rebel against my newfound jungle blood just a little. I keep the windows open. And thank my lucky stars I get to have this cold weather. Summer is coming soon … and I know that once the temps begin to rise, I will long for this cold.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In 2010 she quit her job in PR to go on a solo backpacking adventure and tackle her 30-Life-Crisis. After seven months abroad, journeying throughout Europe and Africa, she returned to America and relocated to Las Vegas. Following a year-long stint back in PR, she once again quit her job to follow her dreams; this time her journey took her to the elephants and Elephant Nature Park where she is involved with raising awareness about responsible elephant tourism. Recently, Diana was named a finalist in the Destinology Travel Bloggy Awards for travel writing. She has been a regular contributor to Viator and recently served as the Las Vegas contributor for OneTravel.com and CheapOair.com. Her work has appeared in print and online, including The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Vegas Seven, World Nomads and more.

14 Comments on "Winter in Chiang Mai, Thailand: when the blood goes jungle"

  1. Mindy & Ligeia December 19, 2013 at 3:03 am · Reply

    COMPLETELY AGREE!!! We have friends back home in North America laughing at us for being freezing when it’s 73 F. Sigh. That first winter we experience back home is going to be rough!

    • Diana December 21, 2013 at 11:29 pm · Reply

      It is kind of funny how cold we are, even though it isn’t that cold at all. But, it is also pretty serious here right now. People in the mountains are dying because of the cold. Puts things in perspective. Even though others may think it isn’t cold, it truly is. It makes me sad to think of all of the people who are suffering here because of this cold front. That being said, I have ZERO desire to go anywhere where it is TRULY freezing cold. There’s no way!!

  2. Ayngelina December 19, 2013 at 10:17 am · Reply

    The wet obscene cold…made me laugh out loud!

    • Diana December 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm · Reply

      Ha ha! It is wet and obscene. Although today is glorious and sunny. But, still a bit chilly!

  3. Juno December 20, 2013 at 1:57 pm · Reply

    Sometimes, it feels good to have some cold days! I enjoyed it when I was in KK :)

    • Diana December 21, 2013 at 11:26 pm · Reply

      I love the cold days! When I was back in the States in September, it thrilled me to put on a sweater!!

  4. Abby December 24, 2013 at 11:18 am · Reply

    Hahaha you know I make fun of you, but after living in Costa Rica I get it. The weirdest thing is, I am chilly in 70 no matter what usually, yet in California, I really do think it’s a warm spring day. I will get annoyed if it doesn’t warm up though!

    • Diana December 27, 2013 at 2:48 am · Reply

      It is so weird! When I first got to Vegas, the heat was stifling. After one summer there, I was used to it. I think it is all about where you are coming from and where you are. If you live in cold weather, coming here in our “cold” season is like summer. If you are from somewhere tropical, it is freezing! I hope it warms up for you, too! Remember the summer we went to SF and thought we needed winter coats?!?

  5. Giselle and Cody December 24, 2013 at 11:35 am · Reply

    Dude! It is -9 over here! The trees are covered in ice, and with the sun shining through, they all look like jewels. But give us another week and we’ll be begging for the hot sun again!

    Hahaha but we know what you mean, we were very surprised at how cold it got in Chiang Mai. Especially up at Elephant Nature Park!

    Hooray for sweater weather!!

    • Diana December 27, 2013 at 2:47 am · Reply

      I LOVE sweater weather!! Although I don’t love minus 9 (no matter C or F), and while ice is pretty, I like to look at photos instead. :)

  6. Ivana December 27, 2013 at 8:58 am · Reply

    The same here, nobody warned us, so we arrived here bravely with one jumper just in case of morning breeze.
    Didn’t know it went so seriously in the mountains :(
    But looks it’s coming back to more bearable temperature so all we are “safe” soon.

    • Diana December 29, 2013 at 2:37 am · Reply

      It gets chilly for about two weeks and then back to gorgeous … and then on to burning season and super sticky hot summer.

  7. Chris and Angela Tieland to Thailand December 31, 2013 at 7:30 am · Reply

    Back in the US, fall used to be our favorite time of year. The leaves changing colors, the new sweaters and scarves added to our wardrobe, and football!

    But here… it’s our first winter in Thailand, and we are just as wrapped up as any local! We can’t wait until it warms up. Not to the blazing smoky season, just warmer… However, I’m (Angela) thrilled that it’s cold enough for me to eat and make soups regularly!

    Maybe there should be a sweater party in the near future :)

    • Diana January 5, 2014 at 11:07 pm · Reply

      I would LOVE a sweater party. Would just have to go and get a sweater!! I miss the fall in the US. Next year, I would like to go back and see it. But, I don’t like being freezing, and it is definitely freezing right now in parts of the States. I’d happily take this gorgeous January with little nips of cold than the ice and snow!

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