About this time every year, people who live in the coldest parts of the northern hemisphere (not here in tropical South East Asia), who are already getting weary of the chilly weather, are starting to consider sunny escapes and retreating to warmer climates in the new year for some winter sun – if they haven’t already.
Here in Cambodia, high season has already kicked in and many of the people we’re meeting and the accents we’re hearing in the streets of Siem Reap are European, particularly northern European. For many travellers, Cambodia is part of a larger trip that might also take in Vietnam or Laos, and usually Thailand, with a spot of shopping in Bangkok and, at the end, the obligatory few days basking in the sun at a Thai beach resort. And who can blame them.
Northern Europeans spend much of their winters in darkness, while in the UK things get dismally grey and gloomy. Fog, sleet and snow are winter constants. So, after they’ve enjoyed their Christmas markets and the festive season, and got in some skiing or snowboarding, unless the cold is a novelty as it was for us all those years living in sizzling Dubai (which is why we loved our first full winter in Europe a few years ago), people in Europe begin to plan their sunny escapes.
The only European countries to visit in winter are those on the coast on the sunny Mediterranean – Spain, Southern France, Southern Italy, and so on – places that still get cold after the sun goes down but if you find a sheltered spot can be warm enough to lie in the sun. Which explains why islands like Cyprus (where we’ve worn t-shirts in winter in the middle of the day) and Mallorca (which I love), and holiday resorts like Magaluf and Paphos (neither of which I’m a fan of to be honest) are popular with people seeking little more than some therapeutic time sitting in the sunshine.
I am fond of Mallorca, where the photo above was taken, and I am a big fan of the island in winter, when the clarity of light is just magic and the sea sparkles diamonds. Though I’d prefer to be going hiking in the hills or eating my way through the restaurants in the Old Town of Palma than lying on the beach with goose bumps beneath the hotel towers at Magaluf. But then I was born in sunny Australia, as was Terence, we moved to the blistering United Arab Emirates in the late 90s, and now we’re living in tropical Cambodia. We’ve spent our lives living under the rays of that big ball of fire in the sky.
I would like to know what that impulse to escape to warm climes feels like, to pin a picture of a tropical island on your work cork-board or the fridge in your kitchen at home – or share it on Facebook or Pinterest! – and gaze at it longingly day after day, yearning to be in that frame. I’d like to remember what it feels like to expose my skin to the sun for the first time after months beneath woolly jumpers and overcoats and feel the heat warm that poor body, weary from trembling its way through winter. Or would I? Perhaps not. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be living in South East Asia.
Can you relate? Are you a resident of a cold climate country already starting to dream of a sunny escape? If so, are you planning a quick trip to the Med or a longer holiday further field to Asia? Make sure you tell us if you’re heading our way. We’ve love to meet up.