Updated on the 5/4/2020

South East Asia is one of the most visited regions in the world. The reasons are not hard to guess.

Tantalising food, fantabulous hospitality, lower prices (except you, Singapore), perfect beaches and lit parties. 

But the weather? Blisteringly hot.

How do the South East Asians cope with such harsh weather? Well, I survived well all those years growing up in Malaysia and these are the tips that pulled me through.

Before The Trip:

Travel during the not-so-hot season: Although the weather is uncomfortably hot all year round, sometimes it’s not as hot. Check the coolest months for the countries that you’re going to. Rainy seasons bring the temperature down. Go right after the rainy season to enjoy lower temperature (we are still talking about 29C/84F). 

Don’t over pack: Under the torturing sun, the last thing you wanna do is to carry a massive backpack weighing 20kg. Pack some short sleeves, singlets and shorts. Don’t stress too much. You can always shop for some clothes in South East Asia as they are inexpensive.

But pack at least one sweater: Although it’s hot, buses and trains in SEA are famous for blasting their air-conditioning. Remember, you can always buy something warm when you’re already in SEA. So, don’t stress out if you can’t fit it in your baggage.

Pack lightweight cotton: Ever wonder how the heck do those South East Asians wear long sleeves? And you are sweating profusely under your singlet and shorts? Chances are, they are wearing breathable materials like cotton. Cotton allows your skin to “breath” and your sweat will dry up quicker.

Before Going Out:

Plan well: Before going out every day, plan well. Make sure you plan something that makes you indoor during midday. Only mad dogs go out during midday. Most of the South East Asians choose to take a nap in the afternoon and go out in the evening instead. Chill at a café or a shopping mall in the afternoon and explore the city in the evening! 

Use talc powder after showering: It’s a common practice to use it on babies in SEA to make them feel comfortable by not sweating. I still swear by this. When I was in Malaysia, I would use a little bit of talc powder after my shower to decrease the amount of sweat I am gonna get throughout the day. Besides, it can also prevent you from getting that prickly pain after spending a day under the sun. This is probably one of the best advice I have for you.

Again, do not carry a big day pack: Like I said, you will sweat a lot at your back if you are carrying a heavy day pack. However, there are some essentials to pack:

  • Water: this might be a little heavy so just bring a small bottle. Remember you can buy it everywhere when in South East Asia so you don’t have to buy a big bottle.
  • Sunglasses: Glare in SEA is unforgiving. Save yourself from squinting all the time and not enjoy the scenery that SEA has to offer.
  • Sweat rag: If you sweat a lot, it might be good to bring a sweat rag. I don’t cause it becomes a nuisance down the track.
  • Portable fan: You can buy a small portable fan in SEA and carry it around. It is powered by battery.
  • Umbrella: Bring a small, foldable umbrella to save yourself from the melanoma-inducing sunshine.

Use a deodorant: You smell after you sweat, that’s human. Use a deodorant to avoid scaring away all your newfound friends.

When you are out:

Drink a lot of water: I cannot stress this enough. Dehydration increases the chances of getting a heat stroke. 

Sidewalks: I have to say that most countries in SEA are not pedestrian-friendly. However, if sidewalks are available, they are normally sheltered by stretches of big trees so walk under the shade. No brainer.

Go to an air-conditioned place when you can’t take it anymore: Fortunately, countries in SEA are well-equipped with air-conditioned places. Cities like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Singapore house some of the largest shopping malls on earth. Convenience stores are ubiquitous. Most restaurants are also air-conditioned. Stop by for a drink if you need to.

When having a meal, find the coolest place: Look for the fan. It’s the most precious asset in a restaurant. Some restaurants have such bad ventilation that you can’t even have your appetite up due to how stuffy it is. In reality, you will eat a lot of street food where there isn’t any proper establishment. If that’s the case, try to find a shade or under the big umbrella the vendors might provide. Now the portable fan will be of great use.

If you can’t take spicy food, don’t take it: It’s good to try spicy food, especially when you are in SEA. But trying it by the street without any air conditioning? You might want to think twice. Yes, eating spicy food will impress people, but you will impress people more with all the sweat that you are rapidly producing.

Walk slower, eat slower, do things slower: When it’s winter in your home country, you’ll try to walk as fast as you can to generate heat energy to warm your body up, right? So, in SEA, you want to produce as little heat energy as you can. So slow down.

After the day:

Take lukewarm showers: Do not have really cold showers! Have you ever had the experience of being out for the whole day under the hot sun, and then come home and have a very cold shower? And you sweat even more after the shower? When you are feeling hot, your body will try to keep your temperature at a constant by making your blood vessels closer to the skin so that you can sweat more to stay cool. When you have a cold shower, the regulation is disrupted as the skin becomes cold. The body will then increase the blood flow to the skin to bring back the temperature and then you will be sweating again right away! So don’t take a super cold shower!

Change your clothes every day: You will smell bad and feel uncomfortable if you are re-wearing the same clothes that drenched your sweat yesterday. Make it a habit of washing your clothes everyday if you can and air dry it. 

Retire to a cooler place if you can’t take it anymore: No all South East Asian destinations are hot. There are places that you can go if you’ve had enough of the hot weather. A few places that you can consider are:

  • Malaysia: Bukit Tinggi, Cameron Highlands, Kundasang, Genting Highlands
  • Thailand: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai
  • Vietnam: Hanoi, Sapa, the Truong Son mountain range
  • Philippines: Sagada, Baguio, Tagaytay
  • Indonesia: Ruteng, hills near Bogor, Puncak Kaya near Papua, Mount Bromo, Bandung

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Make sure you protect yourself from the blaring sun in South East Asia!