Here in Shenzhen, summer has hit us hard and fast, hotter than Gaffney in July and more ruthless than Frank Underwood himself. And even after living in southern China for nearly two years, I’m still having trouble adjusting to summer’s intensity. If you too are living or visiting China during the warmer months, you will probably experience more heat and humidity than you ever have before. It’s time to pull out some local tips and treats to help us cope and keep moving in the most torrid of weather.
Of course our first go-to is water, but it’s more common here to drink hot water than cold. Tap water in China is not potable, but it simply needs to be boiled to become safe for drinking. Chinese people prefer drinking hot water (开水 kai shui), as it hydrates one faster and is good for the digestion, and I’ve come to be a believer as well. Right now I’m drinking warm water and some cool mango juice on the side for double hydration. Bottled water is widely available too, room temperature or cold – just ask for 一瓶水-冰的 yi ping shui – bingde for cold. When on the road, you can carry a small thermos with you and fill up with kai shui almost anywhere; hot water dispensers are often provided at the airport, hotel lobby, or even on the train.
When you dine out, try a flower tea instead of a caffeinated tea. Chrysanthemum tea (菊花茶 ju hua cha) is a light herbal tea, also said to be cooling in traditional Chinese medicine and good for sore throats (combatting allergies or pollution as a bonus). The best varieties of chrysanthemum tea come from the Hangzhou and Yellow Mountain region in the east of China. A friend taught me how to make ju hua cha into a superfood tonic for the summer. Brew chrysanthemum flowers with goji berries (枸杞 gou qi or Chinese wolfberries), rock sugar (冰糖 bing tang), fresh ginger slices, and a few red dates (红枣 hong zao).
Southern China is blessed with an abundance of fruits, sold street side everywhere, from the beaches of Beihai to the pedestrian shopping streets of the big cities. Look for bright magenta dragon fruit (火龙果 huo long guo) with a polka dotted white interior, skewered half pineapples (菠萝 bo luo), watermelon (西瓜 xi gua) and local melon (哈密瓜 ha mi gua) similar to cantaloupe. Artilleries of whole coconuts line food streets and surround outdoor food courts, each containing a generous volume of fresh coconut water, one of the best replenishers of fluids to the body.
Remember to go easy on caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods in the heat. If you feel dehydrated, go for hydrating foods like noodles in clear broth, yogurt, mango pudding, and rice porridge (粥 zhou).
How do you stay hydrated when you travel in China?