Beating the Heat in Siem Reap & Cambodia

Cambodia is hot, all the time. Scorching, burning hot. But, don’t fear, it’s survivable and more than that, if you do it right it actually becomes quite comfortable and dare is say enjoyable.

Why do I say enjoyable? To be honest, the heat for forces you to be relaxed. You can’t ‘dress up’, there’s no need for bags and bags of different attire. It’s just not needed. It’s casual and enables you to pack refreshingly light. A guy can get by with a few t-shirts, a long-sleeve shirt for the long days out temple exploring and a couple of pairs of shorts and underpants. No socks or shoes required as flip flops are the daily standard.

Many women will be pleased that light comfortable boho wear is the norm and available cheaply at the Old Market or Night Market.

SR and Cambodia are hottest during the months of March, April and May with temps ranging from 34-38 deg C. It’s coolest during December to January with temps in the low 30’s. Whilst it doesn’t sound hot, when you factor in the humidity it feels like 3-4 deg hotter.

Monthly Temp Chart

Sihanoukville is marginally cooler and Phnom Penh can be a touch warmer at times than Siem Reap.

How to survive the heat?

Heatstroke and dehydration are real issues and you really don’t want to encounter them. Here are some essential tips:

Drink plenty
You are going to sweat, day and night, and you need to replace those fluids. My own fluid intake has risen to 3-4 liters per day and I think I could be drinking more. I also try to fit a coconut or two each day as they are everywhere and cheap at $1. One of the beauties of coconut water is that you can consume a lot without feeling full.

I also monitor urine color, as apparently dark yellow is a sign of dehydration, see the chart below.

Many people including local doctors recommend supplementing electrolytes and a popular local product is Royal-D which is available in just about every supermarket and pharmacy.

More about heatstroke here at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_stroke and dehydration here at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehydration

Clothing
You are going to have a mild sweat simply lift a cool glass of ale to your mouth, but don’t worry, everybody else is too. Start walking around and the sweat increases. It’s a two shirt a day kind of place. For clothing think light and airy, many manufacturers such as Under Armour, Columbia, Patagonia and even UNI-QLO make fast drying, sweat wicking, odor preventing shirts which are well worth looking into. I got by with standard T’s as many people do. The Old Market in SR also has a lot of cheap ($9-12) Under Armour UA Tech shirts, and Nike equivalents.

Underpants are an important consideration, you might want to invest in a few pairs of Airism from UNI-QLO or another brands equivalents. Same as the shirts, they are light, breathable, quick-drying and comfortable. I didn’t see anything like that on the shelves around the markets here.

A scarf or Kroma as it’s called locally is hugely useful. Drape it over your head and under your hat it gives a little more sun protection but mostly it helps catch any breeze and works well to keep you cool. A loose long sleeve shirt can work in the same way, catching the breeze and cooling the body.

You’ll be surprised, take notice of the locals, most cover themselves from head to toe. Young girls especially wanting to hold onto their youthful skin and white complexion will cover themselves completely and maybe wear three layers plus gloves plus a hat with tinted sunshade and a scarf!

Avoiding the peak
It’s hottest during 12-3pm and during May and April most locals will not venture out during this time unless the have to. That’s a great idea to follow. Try to get most of the Angkor Wat temple trekking done during the early hours and then head back to the hotel for a nap, swim, shower, massage or something of the like or even all of them. Unless you’re on a one-day ticket and you’re doing the fast trekking the temples.

Suncream and covering up
Sunburn is no fun, and it’s much healthier to use suncream liberally and to cover up where possible. I see many people roaming the temples in tank tops, I think that’s kinda crazy, they’ll be paying dearly later.

Suncream is easily available from any major supermarket such as Asia Market or Lucky Mall or any of the pharmacies. They stock many types 30SPF to 50SPF some with vitamin E and some from known brands such as Nivea.

Accommodation with A/C
Bar being on the beach at Sihanoukville or being in Cambodia during the cooler months of Dec-Jan I would generally recommend getting a room with Air Conditioning. It’s not hard to find a hangout with A/C during the afternoon but come nighttime it’s a blessing just to chill the room down a bit with the A/C and get a good nights sleep. If you are in a multi-level building the lower rooms will obviously be the coolest if you have to opt for a room without A/C and fan only.

Heading to Siem Reap? Essential Siem Reap, which is available from Amazon in e-book and print, provides deeper insight to the temples, more off the beaten path temples, loads of activities and things to do in Siem Reap, plus guides to local foods, where to eat, and how to stay safe.