Sunday, 31 March 2013

Taipei Weather

As Mark Twain said, "Everyone talks about the weather, no one does anything about it."

Taipei has a lot of weather and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Winters are wet and humid. Summers are wet, hot and humid. Essential items for living in Taipei include: umbrella, wellington boots, umbrella, rain coat, umbrella, flip flops, umbrella. You need so many umbrellas because, if you're like me, you leave them outside 7-11s. Old, abandoned, rusty umbrellas linger in apartment block stairwells and outside shops and restaurants. Dealing with wet umbrellas is a routine part of life. On rainy days, plastic bags are available at MRT and swish department store entrances to enclose your soggy brolly. Umbrella stands appear at the doors of libraries and shops. In lifts, buckets to catch umbrella drips miraculously materialise.

Now that spring is here I can safely say that this winter bucked the trend and was unusually dry. Mould didn't start growing on our possessions, our emergency flimsy raincoats were never used, and I only lost one umbrella. It's been warm and sunny, with temperatures moving between the mid-teens and mid-twenties Celsius. And now that winter's over it's time for Taipei's best weather. In my short experience, March, April and May are Taipei's most pleasant months. It's warm but not hot, there's some respite from the rain, and there are beautiful spring flowers.

Taking advantage of the lovely weather, we went on an easy hike that neatly connects two MRT stations and provides some wonderful views over Taipei. Starting not far from Jiantan Station, and using Richard Saunders' Taipei Escapes as a guide, we soon left the traffic noise and fumes behind.

Spring flowers are now ubiquitous and the hills didn't disappoint.

The trail passes several popular spots, so we were treated to audio enrichment in the form of Taiwanese songs for the first mile or so. Some hikers had even brought their own portable stereos and had generously turned them up to full volume so all around could benefit from their musical taste. The small exercise areas and viewing spots were full of picnickers and the trail was busy with serious walkers, romantic couples and large families.

Animal life had begun to stir in earnest. This small creature was chancing his luck amongst the many feet treading the paths.

The views were, as always, amazing.

After one or two miles, the crowds thinned out. We walked the rest of the way virtually alone until we started to come down out of the mountains. I think the directions we were following were a little out of date because we lost our way. On these walks near Taipei this isn't a serious problem because, as long as you find away to go downhill, you'll hit civilisation sooner or later. (Having said the guidebook was out of date, it's equally likely that I just got us lost.)

As we left the busier areas, the trail turned unpaved and narrow, but the dry winter meant it was still easy to walk.

We finally arrived at Jiannan MRT station, having cut our walk short a little, tired but happy.

I'm hoping to fit in lots more walking in the next few months before the weather turns very hot, as it does in June, July and August. I have enjoyed lots of walks when temperatures have been in the mid- to high-thirties Celsius, but they're definitely more tiring, especially because you have to take at least two litres of water with you.

Summer is typhoon season. I haven't yet experienced a serious typhoon, or what I imagined a typhoon would be: howling winds and driving rain. There are days of heavy, tropical downpours, where every steep slope turns into a stream, and you understand why the MRT station all have steps leading up to their entrances. But not the extreme weather I'd imagined. I confess to being a little disappointed. Nor is the attitude to typhoons as anxious as I thought it would be. Generally, moods are lifted by a typhoon forecast because it means a day off work or school.

Autumn brings wonderful respite from the heat. First a day or two here and there, and then increasingly frequently, the weather turns cool and cloudy. Typhoons continue, and steady, lukewarm drizzle creates calm, soft, subdued days. I like autumn almost as much as spring. The worst of the heat is over but the memory of it's still fresh, prompting appreciation of the lower temperatures.

Then winter arrives. Time to break out the umbrellas again. Oh, wait, we didn't ever put them away.

No comments: