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The past week was defined by two goals: 1) Stay out of the heat as much as possible, and 2) Decide where to go next. Both were equally difficult.
I don’t remember ever hearing much about weather across Asia while living in the States, but let me tell you It Is A Big Deal!
This summer has been the hottest ever recorded in Korea. Did you hear that? EVER!
Most of our days in the past month here have reached 100 degrees F or more. When you factor in humidity the heat index (what it actually feels like) gets close to 130 degrees. As soon as you step outside of any air conditioned room the heat hits you like a brick wall and envelops you. If you’re in a room not air conditioned you actually start to feel like you’re suffocating.
The heat has really impacted our time in Seoul. We still get out every day, but we don’t do nearly as many nature activities as we’d hoped and we don’t stay outside for very long. It’s a real shame, because there are some amazing things to do outside in Seoul!
This is a great example of why we love slow traveling, though. If we’d only had one week in Seoul we would have either A) gone out anyway packing in what we wanted to do and just hated every minute of it (and probably gotten heat stroke), or B) have stayed inside as much as we do now and missed a ton of great things.
At least we’ve had enough time to slowly drag out our to-do list in the few hours we’re willing to leave the house!
We’ve been lucky, though.
Yes, we can only stand to be outside for around 2 hours per day. Yes, we take multiple showers each day. Yes, we have to carry two backpacks around to keep our extra waters, water gun (yup), and shade umbrellas. Yes, we get cranky when we become dehydrated. Yes, we’re spending a ton of money on popsicles at convenience stores.
But we’re alive.
Not to sound too dramatic, but staying alive in this heat is a big deal.
The temperatures and humidity make it almost unbearable to be outside, but temperature isn’t the real problem. Plenty of places around the world have the same weather and don’t complain. Heck, in my home state of South Carolina you don’t leave the house for two months unless you want to pass out!
The problem with this weather is that Korea isn’t used to it. The infrastructure here wasn’t built to combat high temperatures. They rely on predictable weather to grow crops and don’t have centralized air units, instead relying on individual air conditioners to cool down a room.
Since it doesn’t ever get this hot one A/C is usually all that’s available to cool an entire apartment.
Assuming that apartment even has a unit.
The heat stroke deaths have occurred in rural areas of the country that don’t have any A/C units at all, but also in cities where the power grid can’t handle all of the units running simultaneously and buildings lose power.
The heat also means the rainy season has completely evaporated, which will greatly depress the crops yield later.
Believe it or not, the situation is even worse in Japan.
Japan has declared a state of emergency as hospitals are overrun with heat stroke patients. Their death toll is around 3x that of Korea.
Crowding around our apartment’s A/C unit (thank goodness we have one!) in our underwear after our second showers of the day helped us make an important decision about how we travel: WE HAVE TO CONSIDER THE WEATHER.
There’s only so much weather we can know/ prepare for in advance, but we have decided to do our best to avoid both the dead of summer and the rainy season when we travel. We don’t want a repeat of Seoul’s heatwave! Or a repeat of DisneyWorld’s freeze. Or of Hawaii’s unexpected monsoon.
Hmmmm…. Maybe it’s us?
Which brings us to trying to figure out where to go next.
We only have a few days left in Seoul before spending an undetermined amount of time driving through the rest of the country. This past week we had to figure out A) When we would leave Korea, and B) Where we would go.
Our options were between Japan, Singapore, or islands south of the equator.
Since we learned that Japan’s heat wave is even worse than Korea’s we decided to postpone that leg of our trip. Singapore is in a region that won’t have a rainy season for a while, but it’s pretty small and not where we want to wait out the rest of the region’s rainy season. An island off of New Zealand or in Indonesia seemed like a great bet, but it’s crazy expensive to get to Fiji from Korea and our top choices in Indonesia (Lombok or Bali) were both hit by earthquakes.
See why this is so tough?
In the end we went for a destination that had been no where near our radar: Vietnam!
Vietnam won because it’s elongated borders means we can travel around to avoid the north or south’s rain. It’s also pretty cheap, which means we can hide out for a month or two and save some money before heading to Australia and New Zealand.
It took so long to decide where to go that we haven’t nailed down any other details. We did get flights from Korea to Hanoi, Vietnam, on August 21, and we have plans to spend a few days with a friend of Ben’s who lives there. We want to spend around a month on the beach in central Vietnam, but don’t know when (or how) we’ll get there, what we’ll do or how long we’ll stay in Hanoi, or anything else.
Choice Paralysis is a thing. Look it up.
We’re currently trying to ignore the heat and enjoy our last few days in Seoul before we leave. We really love this city, and it’ll be hard to walk away.
Maybe we’ll come back when it’s a bit cooler!