Cold Snap

Temps in Vientiane suddenly drop to unsavory levels, forcing Noe and I to do the unthinkable: Wear socks.

By Dave

Posted 20 December 2017 | 2 Comments

Filed in: Expat Life, Laos

While the northern latitudes are experiencing snow and freezing temps in the run up to Christmas, we’ve found ourselves shivering our way through our own climate crisis. In the fifteen months we’ve lived in Vientiane, temps have rarely dipped below 60 F, with daytime highs averaging 75-80 degrees in the depths of the winter months. So, you may understand why we didn’t take it very seriously Sunday night when we noticed the forecast called for 49 degrees Monday morning. That can’t be right, we thought. And, indeed, frequently the forecasts are dead wrong, particularly with regards to temperature. But not this time.

Objectively speaking, 49 F is not that cold. But when you’re accustomed to tropical temps and humidity where averages rarely fluctuate more than 20 degrees throughout the year, it can be a bit of a surprise. And…when you go from walking around in your house shirtless and sweating one day to wearing three layers and shivering the next, it’s a pretty shocking adjustment. Such was this last week.

It’s always the children who suffer the most, and poor Noe was no exception. With the exception of our week in Tahoe the past two summers, Noe’s never known anything below 60 F. He was quite the befuddled little guy, walking around with a look on his face as if to say, “Mama, dada, what is happening!!!” And when we were forced to dig out several articles of clothing reserved for travel back to the States in winter time that we thought he’d never wear in Vientiane — and put all of them on him at once — it really started to hit home.

Yet, with all the layers and all the shivering, somehow we were still in denial. On the way out of the house I noticed Noe didn’t have a jacket or socks on. “Lori,” I said, “I think Noe may need some more clothes at the creche (French daycare).” She darted up the stairs and returned with his hoodie. I pointed to his feet and she reminded me he has his shoes. Okay, mommy knows best, I told myself.

What we hadn’t counted on was the fact that Noe would be walking around barefoot on freezing concrete all day because in Laos everyone takes their shoes off indoors. I felt guilty about sending my son to his daycare without socks and thought about it all morning, but I guess we assumed they’d be equipped for times like these, even if they are very rare here.

About midday, I received an email addressed to the parents of Noe’s creche (Lori also received the same email) reminding parents to make sure their kids are dressed appropriately for the cold spell, and then in capital letters “INCLUDING SOCKS.”

Luckily, Lori and I had planned to meet up for lunch. On the way, I had passed a baby store and picked up these:

After lunch, Lori and I swung by the creche to drop them off, but the damage to our reputation as parents had already been done. But at least Noe got a cool pair of daddy socks out of it, right? (even if he loses both of his feet to frostbite and can’t wear them…)

We received this pic from Noe’s creche of all the kids bundled up tightly for the cold snap. I blurred the faces for privacy, but you get the gist.

The next couple of nights were pretty rough. Our house is concrete with single pane windows and definitely no heating whatsoever. If it had had some sort of heating device, it most certainly would have been the butt of many a joke over the previous 15 months. We didn’t even touch any of the A/C units OR fans in the entire house for nearly a week, which shattered the previous record of about eight hours.

As a result, we plastered our bed with a half dozen baby blankets and gave Noe a blanket to sleep with. The mornings are the coolest time in the house, and Noe was waking up shivering and unable to sleep. So…for the first time ever, he ended up in our bed for a couple of hours each morning for the remainder of the week.

Around town, signs of the cold spell are everywhere — kids dressed like Eskimos, dogs dressed like kids. My main regret is that I wasn’t able to get any good pics of either, but I did get one of a motorbike covered with a blanket to keep it warm (also a common sight about town).

It’s a slow time of year to begin with and the unusually cool weather only added to the sleepiness. Vientiane appeared like an eery ghost town in the lead up to the Winter Solstice.


Thankfully, the garbage trucks still made their rounds…albeit a day later than usual.

By Thursday, temperatures had begun to rise to a respectable high of 75 again (and lows began to creep up into the mid-50s). We began to open the windows in our house and I began to leave the house without a fleece (but still wearing shoes and socks).

Coincidentally, the cool weather happened to coincide with the discovery (from a tip from a friend) of this place:

A HUGE, legit liquor shop. We had no idea this sort of thing existed in Vientiane. I had spent six months scouring the length and breadth of the city for the final ingredient for a Negroni and it was here all along…along with one to two hundred of its spirited friends. Kind of takes the fun out of the search, but hey, I’ve got better things to do with my time than go shop to shop looking for Campari. Like torment this dude:


Things are warming back up now, thankfully, but just as another typhoon appears headed towards our region, yet again. And just in time for Christmas!

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