We spend months under cloud cover, winds, humidity and cool temperatures only to be thrust into the middle of a heat wave! Yup, that’s Taiwan for you! How do you deal with the heat?
The sun in Taiwan can burn you to a crisp. I’ve never seen anything like it. Even 6 degrees off the equator in Malaysian Borneo wasn’t as intense. Readers of this blog know what we’ve been in Thailand many times and yes, that place is hot! But there is something very deceptive about the sun in Taiwan. It seems like you are OK walking around and suddenly, you feel sick to your stomach – a sign of sun poisoning.
Fortunately there are things that you can do to beat the heat!
Watch What You Wear
People think that less is better. You see people walking around with short-shorts and skimpy tops. While I’m the last one to complain when it’s a woman wearing not much, it’s important to know that clothing is protection, not just fashion. On our recent trip to the US, several people commented that I “must” be hot in my long sleeve shirts and long pants. Invariably the commenter was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and subsequently hiding in the shade for fear of being burned. Those shorts and minuscule top could actually be making you feel hotter by not protecting your skin from the sun. I felt just fine wearing clothes designed for the outdoors.
Wanna feel like you’re in an oven, soaking wet? Wear a cotton t-shirt! Outdoors people, hikers, expeditionary and field engineering professionals all know that cotton is the last thing you want to be wearing when it’s hot. I recommend technical clothing such as that made by famous brand names like North Face. Look for shirts made from CoolMax materials and designed with air vents in the back so the breeze can actually enter the shirt and take away moisture. Nylon and other quick-drying synthetic materials are very light, offer excellent UV sunblock, and will “wick” away moisture. When moisture is evaporating, it feels cooler. Many companies offer such technical clothing and it makes a big difference!
Normally when it’s very hot I wear sandals. I take advantage of opportunities to cool off by wetting my feet. If your feet are cool, then you are (the reverse is true too). In Taiwan, nearly every shop and store has water outside. Give your feet a little blast of cool water every once in awhile while you’re walking. You’ll feel a lot better. You can also wear technical socks with your everyday shoes and that will help keep your feet dry.
Everyone knows I wear a bush hat. Sure, it looks cool, but the fact is, it keeps me cool. The wide brim keeps the sun off my ears too, and out of my eyes. I don’t have to squint or cover my eyes to see clearly in the bright sun. Every time I take my hat off outdoors I cannot believe that people actually walk around without one. There are quite a few types of hats that are good for the outdoors. Please note that ball caps are not one of those types. Ball caps are designed to fall off your head due to the mistaken impression that the hat gets in the way of outfielders trying to catch a pop fly. When they run to get the ball, the wind takes the hat right off. If losing your hat is your thing, by all means wear a ball cap. The thin protruding brim bothers me because it doesn’t go all the way around. That kinda defeats the purpose if you ask me.
One of the good hat designs is called the “breezer.” Cabela’s makes a great breezer. My main bush hat (see in my profile photos) is a New Zealand river guide hat. I like it because it can really take the abuse. I often roll it up and use it for a back or neck support pillow when traveling. This bush hat can also be drenched with water to take advantage of evaporative cooling. I also have a breezer with a very wide brim.
Under Your Clothing
It’s hard for some people to believe but wearing an undershirt can make you feel cooler (again, try to find a technical undershirt). The undershirt takes the moisture off your body making you feel less humid. The outer shirt should be loose-fitting and allow the air to circulate, taking the moisture away. Working together with the outer shirt to wick away the moisture, your undershirt will feel cool. Wearing technical briefs can make an incredible difference in your comfort level. Don’t take my word for it – buy some at your local hiking store and you’ll never go back to cotton underwear!
One helpful substance you can use to good benefit is cooling powder. I’ve been using these medicated cooling powders for years and they have great benefit. Not only do they act to keep you cool and dry, they also prevent irritating fungal infections that can easily overtake one during the hot season. I’ve tried all kinds and the one that I like best is Snake Brand made by British Dispensary. I first discovered this powder in Thailand, where I bought several cans before I found places that sold it in Taiwan. Is is primarily sold in Thailand and Thai stores in Taiwan carry it. I prefer the “herbal” scent but the regular scent is OK too.
Along with cooling powders, there are hair tonics you can apply to keep your head cool. Use a tonic that keeps the hair moist (not something that make the hair shiny to look wet). You’ll find that having wet hair will make you feel several degrees cooler.
Sunblock is very important, especially if you are not wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants. I can’t tell you how many times I see people in Asia out in the hot sun wearing a short sleeve shirt, short pants, no sunblock, no sunglasses, no hat – yup, they’re European and they have no idea how to protect themselves from a sun that doesn’t burn them back in their home country. Don’t make that mistake!
You’re sweating out in the hot sun. Where do you think that water comes from? If you don’t replace it, you will be sorry that you didn’t! The best substance for re hydration is water. Some sports drinks tout the fact that they replace electrolytes, but often they taste somewhat sweet and can make some people feel even more thirsty. Try them and see how you like them.
When it’s really hot, you should slow down. Take your time and avoid becoming overheated. If you feel faint or lightheaded (and this can happen to anyone, regardless of fitness level or age) find a cool place to rest and drink water.