LAST WEEK'S weather was less than wonderful, but at least it was cool. Before long, the blazing heat of summer will be upon us and the humidity will be way up at the levels where the only difference between taking a shower and walking around in the open isthat showering is pleasant. Air-conditioners, dehumidifiers and fans become vital life-support systems when cooling breezes become as rare as hens' teeth. So, is there really no escape from the summer's steamy cauldron? In the early days of Hongkong, British colonialists sought refuge from the territory's searing summers by heading up Victoria Peak, perched arrogantly atop sedan chairs carried by labourers. The days of the degrading sedan chair are long-gone. Now, the only barrier from refuge on the Peak is about $10 million - the cost of a home. And, at that price, relief from the heat of the summer up on the Peak is not going to be solved for the vast majority of Hongkong people. There are, however, some more realistic options. Hongkong's overall climate is classified as sub-tropical, but its complex topography means that a multitude of micro-climates exist. In short, factors such as altitude, aspect, pollution levels and distance from large bodies of water such as reservoirs or the sea, all have their impact and produce significant effects that can make or mar your summer. Sadly, all seem to have their positive and negative aspects and the perfect combination does not exist. While living on the Peak still remains the ultimate social solution, there are, in fact, 17 higher places in Hongkong at which to enjoy the physical benefits of what meteorologists call ''lapse rate effect of altitude''. What this means is, the higher you go, the cooler it gets. Hongkong's lapse rate works out to a drop in temperature of about two degrees celsius for every 300 metres of height. It should also be windier higher up, because there is less friction between moving air and the land. Being cooler, this extra wind should, therefore, be more refreshing. Unfortunately, hillsides and peaks also have more rain and cloud. As an air mass is forced upwards by the contours, it expands as the pressure decreases. However, it also cools down and, eventually, the water vapour condenses to form cloud. Where this cloud touches the ground, the type of hill-fog that regularly shrouds the Mid-Levels is formed. The high ground, then, is usually cooler but more humid. An alternative possibility is to try to take advantage of Hongkong's prevailing winds. East-or southeast-facing slopes are the best positions for this, since nearly all the territory's winds come from this direction during the spring and summer. Proximity to the sea, or any other large body of water, such as a reservoir, is also likely to be beneficial. This is because seas, or reservoirs, heat up more slowly than the land around them. The air above the land rises as it warms, and cooler sea air is drawn inland, producing a pleasant breeze. Although the sea warms more slowly, it actually retains its heat longer than the land. Thus, in the late evening, the reverse pattern occurs as warmer sea air rises and cooler air from the land flows sea-ward. Over the course of the day, the effect is like having a tidal ebb and flow of relatively cooler air. Hongkong's air pollution is another of its less-enticing summer elements. The combination of heat and exhaust fumes is not only bad for lungs, eyes, clothes and tempers, but it locks in ever greater amounts of dirt, dust and irritants. Not surprisingly, with the Peak financially inaccessible for most residents, a popular option is to live on one of the outlying islands. Living in an east-facing house, a minute from the beach, on the lower slopes of a hill on one of these islands would be ideal. Bearing in mind all of the above, why do most of us still know there will be times when summer is simply intolerable?