Unlike many Vietnamese who distrust weather forecasts, I just
stopped looking at them. This is not to say they are wrong; they are always
The weather in Vietnam is unsettled sometimes and no one is quite sure when it
allows, even in summer. Some days you might have to tweak it a little bit to say
‘it’s going to be so hot that you will feel like you are in the pit of hell for
five days’, and then it will rain - heavily - and then for the next few days it
will be a bit cooler (with a chance of rain). But overall I imagine the weather
forecaster has it pretty sweet.
Last week I was glued to weather forecasts, poured over them and bored my friend
with exactly how hot (not very), windy (very) or wet (extremely) it was going to
be. It was almost certainly the first time I had even thought of looking at one
for around 5 months.
We were greeted at Hue train station, at the start of a three day trip, with
horrendous rain. By the time we were whisked from the train station to our hotel
the water had already reached the level of the pavement. Post breakfast it had
rose another few inches, post lunch it was knee deep, post dinner the canoes
were out. We were politely told that if we had arrived a day beforehand it
wouldn’t have been raining. ‘Ha! The weather was great yesterday!’ our hotelier
said with more than enough sarcastic delight. ‘In Hue we have three days of rain
like this a year’ he added, ‘And you’re gonna be here for all of them!’
Don’t get me wrong I’m not adverse to rain. I’m English. We can talk for days
about rain. We have as many words for rain as the Inuit’s have for snow. Walk
past any bus stop housing older women and the weather will almost certainly be
intensely discussed. But Vietnamese and English attitudes to the wet are
curiously different, yet simultaneously strangely similar.
For a start everyone complains. It’s too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry.
It’s windy, it’s snowy, it’s just plain horrible. Everyone complains. Bad
weather will always arise when you have that date or that sporting event. Bad
weather will always arise when you run out of petrol on a deserted highway or
when no taxis are in sight. Bad weather always seems to arise at the worst
possible times in the worst possible situations.
But more than anything, anywhere in the world, adverse weather is just an excuse
for people to come together. In Vietnam the relentless heat of the sun, or the
relentless pounding of rain, may cause one to edge their plastic stool a few
inches further under the canopy, and thus a few inches closer to one’s fellow
diners. A courting couple may slide together to share a single raincoat while
battling rush-hour rain. Two children may create a game out of an inadvertent
stream of rainwater.
In England evening rain may persuade a family to curl up together in front of a
film, rather than individually disperse over the town. Although even the tiniest
sprinkling of snow may bring the country to halt, there is nothing sweeter than
a ‘snow day’, when school and work simply close down, paving the way for a day
sledging the nearest hill or relaxing under the warmest of duvets.
In Hue the knee deep water only served to further accentuate the beauty of the
Ancient Citadel. Temporary rivers snaked amongst the ruins, hiding and
concealing certain features, making discovering the Imperial City even more
magical. Flora glistened with the last of the drops and children played and swam
just outside the confines. The outer city functioned as normal. The braver Xe Om
and Cyclo drivers still plied their trade and assorted bars and restaurants
still buzzed with business. Overall the efficient nature that the city has
learnt to deal with the rainy season meant our trip was not hampered at all – if
anything the weather added to our experience.
Though we may complain, maybe the occasional plan-changing bout of weather may
be a blessing rather than a blight in our lives. So the next time the sun and
rain become too much, embrace it, ignore it, forget it, pull your plastic stool
a bit closer and get talking; just don’t talk about the bloody weather.