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Weather

Torrential Rain in China!

Living in China was not without problems. It wasn’t an easy place to live by any means.

So let’s take a weather check…

My first run-in with Southern China’s crazy weather was when I got caught in downtown Guangzhou in a monstrous thunderstorm.

While I managed to find my way back to the metro station, I was lured into a false sense of security.

Back in the poorer Baiyun district, I quickly discovered that the hotch-potch of roads we had round there made for some monstrous puddles:

Rain lashed streets in the Baiyun district of Guangzhou

Rain lashed streets in the Baiyun district of Guangzhou

Well suffice to say that my expensive “waterproof” shoes were totally waterlogged by the time I reached my apartment.

Yeah, I should have stayed in the metro station until the rain subsided, but this storm raged for THREE HOURS!

It was still raining when I had my date with a lovely Cantonese girl later that evening. I turned up to the date in a cheap pair of plastic slippers – having only recently arrived in China I had absolutely no other footwear.

I felt totally foolish, but the despite the footwear date was fairly successful.

My second run-in with torrential rain was when I was heading back home from an evening spent dining out and taking a few photos downtown.

I saw the big black thunderclouds approaching…

…I almost made it to my apartment, but the rain started to fall when my bus was two bus stations away from my destination.

And the rain fell more heavily than any rain I have ever seen in my life…

The rain was so heavy that the bus driver could barely find our bus station. And of course there were a whole lot of other cars, buses and lorries to worry about. In four months living in China I’d seen over a dozen traffic accidents, so I had first hand knowledge of how dangerous the roads could be there.

Chinese freeways are dangerous at the best of times - but in a tropical storm they're horrendous...

Chinese freeways are dangerous at the best of times – but in a tropical storm they’re horrendous…

So anyway, the bus reached the bus station, and I had to leap out of the bus to get to dry(ish) land.

I sheltered at the bus station for about 15 minutes or so. A Chinese guy and I adopted the Chinese trick of standing on the bus station seat in order to avoid the worst of the rain, and also hopefully save our lives should we get a direct hit by a lightning strike!

Lightning powerful enough to turn night into day...

Lightning powerful enough to turn night into day…

I guess I should have stayed in the relative safety of the bus station. But previous experience had told me that thunderstorms can last for some time.

So I decided to make a break for home…

I knew my shoes would in a lot of water, but nothing could prepare me for the conditions of the small hill on the way to my apartment. At the bottom the water was 3 inches deep, and a couple of girls were frantically trying to keep the water from flooding the local convenience store:

Chinese girls battle to stop a convenience store being flooded by torrential rain...

Chinese girls battle to stop a convenience store being flooded by torrential rain…

And coming down the hill was a torrent of water at least an inch deep. Water was pouring out of every crack and crevice like I was on the set of some disaster movie:

Torrential rain in China...

Torrential rain in China…

How the Chinese Cope With Rain

In my Chinese class I learnt that the Chinese have five phrases for rain – light rain (毛毛雨), showery rain (小雨), standard rain (下雨), heavy rain (下大雨) and torrential rain (大暴雨).

Chinese girls caught out in torrential rain

Two Chinese girls caught out in torrential rain

If Chinese people have expensive shoes and they’re caught in the rain then they sometimes take their shoes off or tie a couple of plastic shopping bags around their ankles in order to protect their shoes. I’d heard that they do this and I have actually seen it for myself. One of these days I’ll get photographic evidence! But here’s some ways Thai people cope with the rain.

But generally speaking, if it’s raining heavily, Chinese people just don’t go outside:

A deserted street in Guangzhou

A deserted street in Guangzhou

And my tips for dealing with extreme weather in China (and the Philippines or Thailand)?

Firstly, carry an umbrella as often as you can. The weather can change extremely quickly in Asia. Thunderstorms are also quite difficult to predict as regards their location. They’re also often highly localised. There have been occasions where there’s been heavy rain in the North of Guangzhou, but my friend has reported that there’s no rain at all seven miles away.

Secondly, take extreme weather seriously. My Chinese friend also told me that people have literally disappeared during torrential rain storms. Bearing in mind that you can easily lose your footing in as little as two inches of water, I kind of think she’s telling the truth.

Thirdly, when it starts raining cats and dogs in Asia, don’t count on being anywhere soon! A couple of days ago my friend missed his flight from Bangkok because when the thunderstorm moved in, the freeway ground to a halt. I had a similar thing happen to me in Tokyo – in torrential rain there even the normally 100% reliable train service took a huge hit.

Travel chaos in Bangkok during an afternoon thunderstorm...

Travel chaos in Bangkok during an afternoon thunderstorm…

Aside from the dangers of floodwater and lightning, also be aware that mudslides and other subsidence are possibilities, so be careful to avoid being caught in a valley or other dangerous location.

Lastly floodwater can rise very quickly indeed. In Guangzhou I saw the water level in our little stream rise by over two feet in just 30 minutes. And in Thailand my condo gets cut off from the rest of Bangkok whenever it rains heavily for over 20 minutes.

Flash flooding at the end of my road in Bangkok. Guess I won't be going out for a while...

Flash flooding at the end of my road in Bangkok. Guess I won’t be going out for a while…

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