Snow in Taiwan?

Snow in Taiwan? Seriously? I thought I left Canada for a sub-tropical country! What's with this flaky white stuff falling from the sky? 

The temperature fell to four degrees celsius in northern Taiwan over the weekend. The drop was caused by a cold air mass that has resulted in the lowest temperatures that the nation has felt in well over 44 years and the second coldest in recorded history.

Low temperature is typical during winter in Taiwan's high mountain areas, but not in ground level areas and places under an altitude of 400 meters which tend to be warmer. Winter months in the north of the country tend to be a bit colder than in the south, but the record-low temperatures brought on by this cold front have been felt even in the south where a lot of cities are below the Tropic of Cancer and are supposed to be far more temperate. 

The problem with such low temperatures is that buildings in Taiwan aren't constructed for weather like this and houses are neither constructed with insulation nor a system of central heating - houses therefore basically become refrigerators that have people living inside.

The sad thing about this is that despite Taiwan being a highly developed country, people die of hypothermia and cardiac diseases caused by the drop in temperature and this weekend has seen quite a few deaths related to the weather. 

Steam rising up from a waterfall with snow on the trees. 

The forecast for the weekend called for snow and people all over the country felt excited that they would be able to see it for the first time. Snow is common in Taiwan's high mountain regions, but people who aren't mountain climbers have a hard time seeing the flaky white stuff without making their way to a mountain-top. With the knowledge that snow was likely to appear over the weekend, quite a few people made plans to get out and see this once in a lifetime event which caused quite a few traffic jams around the country's narrow mountain roads.

When I woke up and checked Facebook on Sunday, my newsfeed was full of people reporting that it was actually snowing in low-lying areas making this an extremely rare occasion for the people of Taiwan. People were really excited and that excitement was all over social media. 

Places like Taipei's Yang Ming Mountain (陽明山), Taoyuan's Lala Mountain (拉拉山) and Yilan's Taiping Mountain (太平山) were loaded with traffic and people were busy playing in the up to 20cm of snow making snowmen and throwing snowballs. 

For me, I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing snow again for the first time in over a decade. I tried to escape the harsh Canadian winters by coming to Taiwan, but considering I've been removed from that for so long, I actually felt content seeing something so familiar.

The experience was a lot like when I was an undergrad in university. Whenever the first snowfall of the year happened, all of the Taiwanese international students would make their way to a field to play in the snow. Canadians get a bit tired of snow and our long winters but its interesting to see that even adults get really excited by this kind of thing in Taiwan.

I hope all my friends in Taiwan stayed warm over the weekend. The cold front looks like it won't last much longer and it will be back to 17-20 degrees later this week!