Asia shivers: All bundled up, from Bangkok to Hanoi

People in Bangkok all wrapped up as the Thai capital awoke to a chilly 17.5 deg C yesterday. Many parts of Asia are feeling the chill as a cold wave from China travels south.
People in Bangkok all wrapped up as the Thai capital awoke to a chilly 17.5 deg C yesterday. Many parts of Asia are feeling the chill as a cold wave from China travels south.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tourists and residents in Bangkok bundled up as the temperature in the Thai capital dipped to 17.5 deg C yesterday, with many regions in Asia shivering in unusual cold weather.

The cause of it? A cold wave from China making its way south.

The mercury dipped further elsewhere in the kingdom, including up north in Chiang Rai province, which recorded 8.6 deg C after daybreak.

The Thai Meteorological Department has predicted minimum temperatures of between 18 deg C and 20 deg C for the week in Bangkok.

Experts have warned of severe weather changes in Thailand this year, with the rainy season arriving later and a drought that will continue to affect farms across the country.

In Vietnam, temperatures in Hanoi dropped to 6 deg C at night over the weekend, which state-run media said was the coldest weather the country has experienced for two decades.

Weather-related deaths were reported in Japan and Taiwan, which registered a low of 4 deg C over the weekend, the coldest in 44 years. At least 85 deaths from hypothermia and cardiac disease were reported in Taiwan following the sudden drop in temperature, according to the BBC.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled across the region, with 60,000 holidaymakers stranded in South Korea.

In Hong Kong, primary schools and kindergartens were closed after temperatures plunged to a 60-year low of 3.3 deg C.

But in Singapore, it was warm and rainy, with temperatures expected to average between 25 deg C and 34 deg C this week.

Professor Jason Cohen of the National University of Singapore's civil and environmental engineering department said the cold snaps sweeping the North American and East Asian regions are "statistically highly unusual", and may be linked to climate change or the El Nino phenomenon, although there is no solid evidence yet.

But Singapore is unlikely to be affected as it is well protected by the ocean, he added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK


Bangkok bundles up, farmers in north fret over crops

City folk piling on jackets against the chill yesterday. In January 2014, Bangkok had its coldest day in 30 years when the mercury plunged to 15.6 deg C. The Thai Meteorological Department expects the cold spell in the northern reaches of the kingdom
City folk piling on jackets against the chill yesterday. In January 2014, Bangkok had its coldest day in 30 years when the mercury plunged to 15.6 deg C. PHOTO: EPA

City folk normally shielded under umbrellas piled on their jackets as Bangkok woke up to a 17.5 deg C chill yesterday.

The sudden cold snap, brought on by high pressure sweeping down from China, provided a refreshing change in the capital , which usually sees temperatures in the high 20s at this time of the year. But the cold weather was not so welcome up north, where farmers fretted about damage to their crops.

On the streets of Bangkok, motorcycle taxi driver Bantheng Phumthonwang, 40, had to layer two T-shirts under his jacket and wear thick riding gloves.

READ MORE HERE


86,000 stranded as 'tropical' Jeju freezes

South Koreans enjoying a tug-of-war at a winter festival in Gangwon province over the weekend as the country shivered to a cold wave with temperatures dropping to as low as -20 deg C.
South Koreans enjoying a tug-of-war at a winter festival in Gangwon province over the weekend as the country shivered to a cold wave with temperatures dropping to as low as -20 deg C. PHOTO: EPA

Singaporean Claire Chen moved to South Korea's southern island Jeju thinking it was the country's own tropical paradise.

Over the weekend, however, the 38-year-old housewife got a shock when she woke up to 11cm of snowfall - the most in 32 years - as a cold spell hit the country, sending temperatures diving to as low as -20 deg C. Jeju, usually warm, was a freezing -6 deg C on Sunday.

Ms Chen's father, who was going to visit her, was stuck in Hong Kong for a night as Jeju International Airport cancelled more than 1,000 flights from Saturday due to heavy snow - up to 1m in mountainous regions - and strong winds.

READ MORE HERE


Rumours of snow draw 'frost chasers'

 a snapshot of icicles. Singaporean pilot Mr Tan and his three friends were hiking at Sai Kung in the New Territories
Singaporean pilot Mr Tan and his three friends were hiking at Sai Kung in the New Territories when temperatures dropped to 3.1 deg C, the lowest in Hong Kong in nearly six decades. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN HOWE YANG

Along with the de rigueur dim sum and wanton noodles that Singaporeans visiting Hong Kong seek out, pilot Tan Howe Yang snared a rather different souvenir: snapshots of icicles.

On Sunday, he and three friends went hiking at Sai Kung in the New Territories when temperatures in the sub-tropical city dropped to 3.1 deg C - the lowest in nearly six decades.

Up in the mountains, it was below 0 deg C, with ice pellets and frost forming amid strong winds.

READ MORE HERE


Cold snap hits routes, travel for Chinese New Year

Frozen coastal waters in Qingdao, in eastern China's Shandong province, in this picture taken on Sunday. The cold snap saw temperatures in Beijing plunge to minus 16 deg C on Sunday.
Frozen coastal waters in Qingdao, in eastern China's Shandong province, in this picture taken on Sunday. The cold snap saw temperatures in Beijing plunge to minus 16 deg C on Sunday. PHOTO: AFP

With the big chill coinciding with the start of the big annual movement of people going home for Chinese New Year, travellers are having to brave both the unseasonal cold and the inconvenience of travel delays.

More than 2.9 billion passenger trips are expected to be made during "chunyun" - or "spring movement" - this year, but the unprecedented cold snap that has hit the country has resulted in train delays, flight cancellations and highway closures.

Pictures in media reports here showed passengers wearing thick layers of clothing as they thronged trains for the journey home at the start of the 40-day chunyun on Sunday, which saw 400,000 people depart from Beijing's train stations.

READ MORE HERE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2016, with the headline 'Unusual cold wave causes Asia to shiver'. Print Edition | Subscribe