Haikou winters make me wet

As this has been our first winter in Haikou, I wanted to hold off with this rant public service announcement until I was confident it wasn’t just a passing thing. Unfortunately, I think I can confidently state, on the record, that Haikou winters suck.

Crap winters aren’t something new to me. Growing up in Southern Ontario, I’m used to cold, slushy, sleety, snow-filled months from the end of October until the end of March.

The problem with Haikou winters isn’t even really the cold. The mercury shares its time riding just above and just below the 20°C mark, and so isn’t really “cold” by this Canuck’s standards. However, it’s not so much the (lack of) heat, it’s the humidity. I don’t think I’ve been dry since December.

Six or seven years ago I spent a week on Koh Chang in Thailand at the height of the rainy season. It was warm, so the rain itself wasn’t much of a bother. I could still swim, drink and hang out in a hammock — my primary vacation activities. And generally, I quite like the rain. However, what I discovered my 3rd or 4th day, after running out of dry clothes, is that being permanently damp ranks up there with mosquito bites on the under-arch of your foot and canker sores.

That was a week. I’m now going into month three of living in a cloud. Every day I wake up to what looks like a rainy day, but it never rains. The ground is wet, our balcony is slick with a thin layer of water and the ants continue to migrate from ground to kitchen counter — but no rain. The air just sort of sits there and makes things moist.

I’ve lived in several apartments in China that have come with a clothes dryer, but sadly our place in Haikou is not one of them. After months of waiting days (often in vain) for clothes to dry on the line, I’m pretty certain I would trade Casey (or at least Button) for a few spins of warmy dryness.

On that rare day once every week or two that the sun makes an appearance, our community instantly transforms into what looks like an elaborate yard sale — specializing in textiles. Every balcony fills with hangers, every tree gets a line tied between it, every shrub that can support the weight gets loaded with blankets and pillows. Children run and laugh; adults breathe a long, deep breath of air, the first in a while that doesn’t smell like a dirty gym sock.

But it doesn’t last. All that sunshine coaxes out the moisture that has permeated every pore in the city, and it isn’t long before once again you’re able to wash your hands simply by waving goodbye to that distant warm glowing orb in the sky.

One thing that does love all this moisture is mould. It’s everywhere. The spot just under your windows that the sun never reaches — mould. That box of old clothes in the spare closet — mould. I pulled out a leather-bound journal of mine off the bookshelf the other day and its cover had sweatered up. The smell of my apartment alternates between the scents of “Musty Basement” and “Sterilized Hospital”. The battle is endless.

The end is nigh

We moved to Haikou last March, and only briefly experienced this cold dampness, so I can only hope that the pattern repeats and we’re coming out of the clouds (so to speak).

I suppose this is the penance we’re required to pay for the other 2/3rds of the year where the weather is pretty stunning. If ever there was a case for moving 2 hours down the tracks though, Haikou’s winters would be it. Sanya, only 250km to the south, suffers hardly any of this. Never in my life did I think that decision on where to live would come down to sunshine or supermarkets.

In the end, supermarkets won out. Despite the nicer beaches and better weather, giving up our apartment and the easier access to amenities proved too difficult. We’ve renewed our lease for another year here in Haikou — I think I’ll be buying a dryer before next winter though.

Oh! The sun just came out … I’ve laundry to do before all the best bushes are taken.

4 Responses

  1. Does your place have the cold sweats today? Cold tile vs. warmer outside air filled with 100% humidity means that every surface in my house is covered with WATER. We keep dry-mopping it up but 1. all our mops are now sopping wet and 2. more water just condenses there after 15 minutes anyway…ugh. The dog hair is not helping the situation. Soon it will be over…I hope…I pray…

  2. We didn’t have them yesterday, but do today. Not so much on the walls, but the tile floors are slick with condensation. It’s notably cooler in the apartment than outside, so that’s probably why. I think the sun arrived too late in the day yesterday for our ground floor to get much in the way of direct sunshine.

    Two days of sunshine in a row… am still making my way through the backlog of laundry 🙂

  3. Hey guys, we are looking for a city with clean air to move to from eastern Ontario….would you recommend Sanya over Haikou? Also, do locals understand English ? Only until we familiarize ourselves with their dialect, of course…thanks !

    • Hey Petya, between the two, I suspect Sanya has better air quality than Haikou. Sanya is much smaller than Haikou, so there is a lot less traffic, and thus a good deal less air pollution. It is also more open to the sea, and so probably benefits from the openness. I’ve not been to Sanya in years, but I wouldn’t count on much English in either place. Most university students you run into will be able to stumble their way through the basics, but shops, markets and restaurants are rarely staffed by university students. The local Hainan language is considerably different from standard Mandarin, and so even speaking Mandarin can sometimes be a challenge. That said, there are lots of businesses (especially in Sanya) that specifically cater to the Western tourist crowd, so getting by isn’t terribly difficult. Outside the tourism bubble though, it’ll be a lot of pantomime and pointing.

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