This week hot season has arrived with a bang in Cambodia, and expats have responded with a whimper. The weather reports just don’t accurately describe our suffering. Today in Siem Reap it’s 100 degrees fahrenheit (with 50% humidity), but AccuWeather, which takes in account humidity, cloud cover, and sun intensity puts it closer to 110, and it feels closer to 140. And surprisingly, every hot season seems worse than the last. We’ve got some tips for how to survive Cambodia’s hot season.
Adopt the local schedule
When newly arrived expats and tourists see the locals swinging in hammocks after lunch, they often come to the mistaken conclusion that Cambodians are lazy. Cambodians are not lazy, they have ingeniously organized their day to keep them out of the heat during the hot afternoon. The busiest times in Cambodia are before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m., and these should be your busiest times, too. Don’t bother trying to get anything done in the mid-afternoon, it’s an exercise in futility, and like all exercise will leave you hot and sweaty.
Get your air-conditioner checked
I’m going to be honest, I have no idea what air-conditioner repair people actually do, but I know that if I don’t call them every six to 12 months, the temperature in my bedroom rises, and not in a sexy way. A full cleaning and tune-up should only cost between $10 and $15 and your room will be noticeably colder afterwards.
Head to a hotel for a swim
Many of us live in local-style digs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t slip on a pair of Topsiders and pretend to be a guest of one of the many 5-star hotels in town. Most of them will let non-guests in for a fee, and that fee includes the use of the gym and pool. It also includes hanging out in the air-conditioned lobby for the day. Many smaller hotels will let any paying customer use the pool, so if you order a pina colada, you’re in. Circa 51 and the 252 are good choices in Phnom Penh, Angkor Era is popular in Siem Reap. But if you’re not at the pool, please keep your clothes on.
Baby your plants
If you, like me, are trying to grow Western herbs and vegetables in your garden, be warned that it’s unlikely they will survive this heat wave. My plants, like their owner, have been wilting precipitously. Either harvest them now, or move to a more regular watering schedule (I have some plants that are requiring twice a day). You can also buy shade cloth at any of the local markets, it’s only a few thousand riel per meter. Even plants that usually like full sun will benefit from shade cloth during hot season. Pets and humans that venture outside will also appreciate a shade cloth canopy.
This is probably obvious, but it’s too easily ignored. Drink lots of water. Have a coconut; they’re better at replacing fluids than water or sports drinks. Dehydration is the cause of much crankiness in Cambodia, and it’s a scientific fact that drinking a coconut will make you feel better. For others, though, a cold Angkor beer is more effective.
See a movie
If the Phnom Penh heat is killing you, the most sensible option is to head to one of the city’s many air-conditioned movie theaters. There are quite a few big cineplexes these days, all showing English-language blockbusters, as smaller movie houses, The Empire and The Flicks, showing more eclectic selections. For more information on the best cinemas in Phnom Penh, see our blog post on Phnom Penh movie theaters.
In Siem Reap, check out the new Platinum Cineplex for an eclectic mix of blockbusters, Thai comedies, and Khmer horror flicks.
Get out of town
It’s always hotter inland, so when things get unbearable, head to the coast. The islands (like Koh Rong) might seem like the obvious choice, but they are woefully hot and can become almost unbearable on days where there is no breeze. Kep is an expat favorite, with a breezy beach, endless crab, and air-conditioned hotels. Despite its well-deserved dismal reputation, Sihanoukville isn’t a bad option, either. These days there is more accommodation construction than demand, and it’s possible to stay in a luxury hotel with a pool for next to nothing.