Wednesday, February 15, 2012


At the present, we are experiencing mild late-winter temperatures: 60s and 70s Fahrenheit, with medium humidity and occasional rain intermingled with sunny days. During Chinese New Year, however—in late January this year—Hong Kong experienced a bit of cold weather that took us all by surprise.

In an average winter, rarely does the temperature drop below 50° F (10° C), though with the damp air and strong winds off the ocean, it feels much colder. In fact, I’ve been more miserable from the cold weather in Hong Kong than I ever was in the occasional snowy, sleet-filled winter days of Texas. I attribute it to a lack of indoor heating systems and the thick concrete walls of our flats—if the temperatures are roughly the same inside as outside, it’s difficult to ever warm up.

I’m not exaggerating much when I say it’s equally cold indoors as it is outdoors. During the New Year holidays, the temperature dipped below 7° C (44° F)—breaking a 16-year HK record. A new record was also set for my flat: 52° F in my bedroom. Since this occurred during the holidays, I settled down in the living room, bundled up on the couch, where a mini-space heater kept it a toasty 55° F. Layered in four pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, five shirts, a hat and scarf, I waddled back and forth between the kitchen and bathroom for the necessities, otherwise staying huddled under four blankets with a hot-water bottle at my feet.

When the holidays ended and I returned to the land of the living, I heard tales of peoples’ flats that maintained 68° or 70° F temperatures with the use of powerful heaters. Remembering I had a stash of ancient, rusting heaters in a storage shed on my roof, I retrieved them, cleaned them up and put them to use. A bit of burning dust and a few puffs of smoke were disconcerting, but I didn’t feel it was unwise to use them… until a fuse blew and I was sitting in cold darkness.

The next day, I went shopping for a proper full-sized heater. The day after that, the wind stopped blowing, the sun came out, and winter was over. I’m prepared for next year though.