Summer in Ulsan can be hard to handle, as the temperatures rise above 30*C (that’s 86*Fahrenheit for those that are metrically challenged) and humidity soars into the 70%-90% range. Hear are some methods for dealing with the heat for those of you who may not come from similar climates.
1. Koreans swear by eating hot soup on the 3 hottest days of the summer. These days are pre-determined according to the Lunar Calendar (July 18, 28 and Aug 7, 2014), and are not necessarily the hottest in terms of temperature. Nicknamed the “dog days”, some folks still eat dog soup (boshintang), but more and more are moving over to Samgyetang (삼계탕), or chicken soup. Eating hot soup (and you can also spice it up – it’s served with a side of pepper paste and such to mix in if you want) will make you sweat, and when the sweat evaporates from your skin, you’ll feel cooler.
2. Another popular summer dish is Naengmyeon (냉면), an icy buckwheat noodle soup where the noodles are served in a cold, vinegary broth filled with crushed ice, and topped by chopped vegetables. It can be an acquired taste, but ask some Koreans to tell you where there is a good naengmyeon restaurant, as quality makes all the difference with this dish.
3. Patbingsu (팟빙수) is a summer favourite in Korea, to the extent that new Bingsu-only cafes are popping up all over the place. The original dish (Patbingsu means red beans with ice) has evolved from being a bowl of crushed ice topped with sweetened red bean sauce, to include other toppings, like ddeok (rice cake) ice cream and fruit salad. In the past few years, cafes started to offer different Bingsu flavours, such as Nok-cha (green tea) bingsu, oreo bingsu, and mango bingsu, to name a few. Be forewarned, this is meant to be a shared treat, so bring at least one friend with you.
4. Hit the water! Here in Ulsan, we’re lucky to be right on the coast, and we have several beaches within an hour’s drive (closer if you live in Donggu or down near Jinha). If you live in the west end of town, and Donggu is a bit of a trek, check out the swimming hole at the Seonbawi Bridge in Guyeongli – right at the end of the Taehwa River walking/biking path. It’s shallow and rocky (swim shoes are a good idea), but the water is cool. Added bonus, Seonbawi (Standing Rock) is one of Ulsan’s 12 Scenic Sites, so you can knock that off your Ulsan Bucket List while you cool off. Just make sure you stay within the swimming areas wherever you go.
5. Put up window shades. If your apartment gets stifling hot during the day, and you either don’t have or don’t want to use air conditioning (or you want to keep your electricity bills within reason), try adding a blind to your windows. White on the outside helps reflect the sun, and it can make a surprising difference on how hot it gets inside.
6. Cold showers and fans. Again, if you’re air-con free for whatever reason, this is a great way to cool your whole body. Take a cool shower (or spritz yourself with water kept in the fridge), and sit or lie in front of the fan to dry off. Repeat as necessary. If you’re worried about Fan Death, most Korean made fans have built in timers, so you don’t have to worry about falling asleep and being assassinated by an appliance.
7. If you are using an air conditioner, make sure your windows and doors are closed to maximize its effectiveness and minimize your bill size.
8. The extra humidity in the air can cause some wet, sticky, embarrassing problems for some folks. If you’re finding you need to wring out your clothes part way through the day, try buying some athletic gear that is made from “technical fibers” that wick sweat and moisture to the outside of the clothes, allowing it to evaporate quickly. Cotton tends to hold moisture, so while it can feel cooler when you first put it on, if you sweat, it’ll stay damp for ages (which is why it’s not a great fabric for winter wear). Also, choose colours that are lighter, as they reflect the heat better than dark tones, and loose fitting clothes that allow air to move against the skin.
9. Make sure you drink plenty of (non-alcoholic/non-caffeinated) liquids throughout the day. Being dehydrated raises your body temperature, so drinking lots of water to replace the stuff lost to perspiration is really important, moreso if you’re active. If you’re exercising in this heat, now’s the time to consider sports drinks to keep well hydrated.
10. Use a homemade cold compress to cool your sheets for a better night’s sleep. Fill a cotton sock with rice, and tie it off. Then freeze the sock for two hours. Then you can either rub it over your sheets to cool the bed, or put it on the back of your neck to cool your body. The rice will hold the cold for a long time, and won’t get everything all wet. It’s like the opposite of a hot water bottle for the winter.
Hopefully some of these hints will help you feel a little more comfortable. Here’s a picture sending cool thoughts your way: