Little Winter in Thailand

I left Thailand on probably what was the coldest day of the year. The thermometer outside my backdoor registered a chilly 21 degrees Celsius. However, the windchill factor was making it even colder. It is funny how in Thailand, a sudden drop in temperature makes people break out the sweaters and jackets. This is actually my favourite time of the year. Unfortunately, this “little winter” rarely lasts much longer than a week. In Central Thailand, we get an average temperature of 32 Celsius throughout the year. Maximum temperature is usually reached at 8 a.m. in the morning and overnight it will only drop by a few degrees. In the summer months around April it will, of course, get a lot hotter. However, for most of the year there isn’t much variety. Only during our “little winter” do we get a nice range from around 20 Celsius to 35 Celsius. Yes, that is what we call winter. I even feel the cold myself and will wear a jacket in the early morning.

I flew out of Thailand last weekend. This was the first time I was using Suvarnabhumi Airport. I have been there to visit as a tourist a few times of course, but this was the first time I was using the facilities. It actually went quite smoothly and I am not sure whether all the complaints have been fair. Of course there are some growing pains but that is only to be expected for such a major move. However, you might want to give yourself plenty of time to check-in. I arrived two hours before my flight and that was only just enough. There were not only long queues at the check-in, but it also took 30 minutes to pass through immigration. Then it took me about ten minutes to walk to my departure gate.

In the end I arrived ten minutes after the announced boarding time. So, I had no time for shopping or taking pictures. Some gates are a bit further, so make sure you leave plenty of time. I see what people mean when the say the place looks like an expensive shopping mall. There are certainly plenty of shops. And surprisingly, not a lot of free space. I didn’t have much time to look around but it didn’t seem to be that friendly for people in transit or who come too early for a flight. And yes, it is true, the metal seats are not only uncomfortable but very very cold.

I flew on Eva Air which is one of my favourites. The last time I flew on an international flight was three years ago. Back then they had just started having personal screens on the back of each seat. A further innovation this time is that everything is more interactive. Instead of choosing a channel to watch a movie, you can now choose what movie or programme you want to watch, and more importantly, when you want to watch it. This means you can pause when your meal is served to you. The flight to the UK was about 12 hours and it passed reasonably well.

I haven’t been back home to the UK for three years. I was a little anxious this time as I was expecting some form of culture shock. I have been so immersed in Thai culture lately I wasn’t sure if I would fit in any more. However, I knew that my main problem would be the weather. If I had left Thailand during winter, then I would be arriving in the UK during what could only be described as the ice age. However, I was prepared; I had carried a warm jacket on the plane as I knew it would be cold in the terminal.

When people arrive in Thailand for the first time it is like walking into a giant hair dryer. It is that hot. Arriving in the UK at the height of winter it is the opposite. The first thing I noticed was my own breath. Something I had completely forgotten about and haven’t seen for a few years. Strange how you forget some things. It was also a little weird seeing so many foreigners. Now it would be easier for me to get lost in the crowd and not stand out so much. You sort of get used to being so “different” to the norm but it is a welcome relief to come here and not be the focus of so much attention.

One of the lessons I do with my students every year is teach them about sunrise and sunset around the world. They are always amazed when I tell them that the further you go away from the equator the shorter the days are in winter. In Thailand we only get a variation of 30 minutes throughout the year. The sun goes down at about 6 p.m. And when it does it certainly gets dark quickly. I told my students that during the winter in the UK, I used to go to school in the dark and return in the dark. The sun is low during the day and even by 3 p.m. it is already starting to dip below the tree line. By 3.45 p.m. it is already setting.

I have never liked winters in the UK so I welcome the warmth of Thailand. But, they say variety is the spice of life. It is nice having a range of temperatures during the day and during the year. And, in the summers it is nice to have the long evenings. But, at the end of the day I prefer to live in Thailand. I always have the option to retire to a place like Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand where there is a wider range of weather. And, it never gets cold enough to snow. And if I want to see some snow I can always go to Snow Town at Dream World in Bangkok.

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