TILAT #4: Sun is shining, the weather is sweet

The year and a bit I spent in a Thailand was initially a challenge for me in terms of adjusting to the climate. For someone accustomed to Scottish climes (summer is the second weekend in August and it usually still rains) the shock of being plunged into a world where it’s hot every single day can be a tad overwhelming. Obviously I survived and must admit to being a sun convert instead of a pseudo-vampire but even the most ardent heliophile would be worn down by the monotony of the exact same weather year round. Okay, sometimes it rains for a couple of hours, monsoon rain the likes of which I’ve never seen but within minutes of abating the baking sun has eliminated any clues that the deluge ever occurred.

Taiwan boasts a weather system somewhat less predictable and more varied. Since arriving I’ve had to wrap up in jeans and hoodie (unthinkable in Surat Thani), been reduced to a glob of sweat by the sunshine, come close to being blown into oncoming traffic by the wind while cycling and taken such a soaking that my shoes were still wet three days later. Drowned kitten didn’t even begin to describe it but I loved every second of it. I’d missed good old-fashioned weather and will never take it for granted again.

Why such a difference when I’m still relatively close to Thailand? Well for starters Taiwan is considerably further north, more or less the same latitude as Florida, so temperatures are generally lower and seasonal variations more pronounced. This means you can actually tell what time of year it is by the weather, something that you don’t tend to notice until it’s gone. Perpetual summer may sound tempting but it plays hell with your sense of the passage of time. Secondly Taiwan’s position makes it a buffer for typhoons rolling in off the Pacific from the east and the attendant complex weather patterns make forecasting even less reliable than in Edinburgh.

Fortunately for us in Taichung, the mountains running down the centre of the islands form a natural windbreak, sparing us from the worst of the typhoons. Occasionally one breaks through, usually no more than two or three a year though and I’ve yet to experience one. The flipside of this is that without the benefit of the ocean winds the accumulated pollution of the choking traffic tends to just hover in the city, only temporarily being dissipated by the rains when they come. I’ve yet to decide whether the trade-off in safety and assured working hours (I don’t get paid if school is closed by the weather) is worth it – my lungs vote a strong no.

Either way it’s glorious to have some change. This weekend’s Compass Magazine food and music enjoyed glorious sunshine and blue skies, moderated by a strong cooling breeze representing the leftovers of a small east coast typhoon. I could get used to this.

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