Monsoon Season in Thailand: A Tourist’s Blessing and Curse
Published: March 24, 2017
Mourners dressed in black take pictures in the rain as people continue to gather outside of the Grand Palace to pay respects to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok on October 30, 2016.(LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
Thailand, particularly the southern coastal regions, stands as a top destination for vacationers from the Western world, with its tourism-based economy and great exchange rate. For those considering a holiday in this tropical wonderland, December to April present a perfect opportunity for calm, clear waters; picturesque beaches; and plenty of mild weather, allowing visitors to swim, snorkel, hike, climb, play on its many beaches; visit temples; or otherwise explore this culturally rich land. However, these ideal conditions draw tourists in droves, making it a madhouse with packed beaches and more garbage and trash lining the streets and waterways, in addition to increasing the difficulty of getting reservations, causing prices to rise, and resulting in longer wait times for transportation and activities.
If you crave a solitary vacation away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, Thailand’s off season is the time to go. If you seek a solitary, more inexpensive trip, May to November is ideal. During this time of year, monsoons come in and the seas are more rough, making for a more unpredictable trip, but as long as you are willing to go with the flow, it can turn into a thrilling adventure or a relaxing getaway, depending on your goals.
During monsoon season, the more extreme weather does make for choppier seas, which results in limited boat travel — one of the primary modes of transportation around the southern portion of the country. Ferries and speed boats don’t travel to the southernmost islands during this time of year, so you will have to fly if you plan to travel from, for example, Phuket to Koh Lipe.
The ferries still run among the northern islands and mainland, such as Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Ko Pee Pee), Krabi and Koh Pa-Ngan. However, the seas are no joke with larger swells and more fetch as wind and storms churn the waters in the area, so come prepared with anti-nausea medication and shore up your bravery. But don’t worry, the boats won’t run if the weather is too rough, and they aren’t as unsafe as Westerners would have you believe; plus, the boat services are quite serious about ensuring there are plenty of (often new) life jackets for everyone aboard. It is in their best interest to ensure everyone arrives safe and sound, so rest easy even if it may seem like a bit of a roller coaster on stormier days.
Heavy rain clouds move over the central business district in Bangkok on August 29, 2016.( LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images)
The primary factor affecting activities in Thailand during monsoon season is, of course, the rain. Yes, it does rain hard and unexpectedly during this time of year, but as long as you are prepared, this should not hinder your vacation. Often the rain only lasts for an hour, give or take, as it largely results from scattered clouds passing over the islands and mountains. As the clouds rise to pass over the islands and mountains, they cool, and since cool air holds less water, they unleash their payload. However, predicting when this will happen is nearly impossible, since a slight shift in wind can make the difference between the rains falling offshore, a few miles away, or right on top of you.
Even with these unpredictable weather patterns, you can prepare in a number of ways. First, bring wet weather gear. It will be warm, so you don’t necessarily need a heavy raincoat and galoshes, but a good pair of waterproof sneakers (or flip flops if you don’t mind your feet getting wet) and a poncho or waterproof windbreaker will suffice, and if you are backpacking, a waterproof pack cover is ideal. If photography is your passion or you just want to capture your vacation in digital form, you can purchase a waterproof camera, like a GoPro, or buy a waterproof case for your DSLR. Plus, nearly all of the shops in coastal touristy areas carry waterproof cases for phones and dry sacks of various sizes and materials.
You will, however, want to limit your activities to those that are safe in case of flooding and runoff. For example, you should probably avoid hikes along rivers and waterfalls, since these can become very slippery and flash floods are common, because even if it isn’t raining near you, it could be raining up river. You will also want to stay out of bodies of water for 24 to 72 hours after a good rain if you are in a more populated area, especially at the beginning of the season, since the water washes all of the waste and toxins into the sea.
Nevertheless, traveling to Thailand during monsoon season offers a variety of advantages. You will save even more money since flights, hotel bookings and activities are cheaper. Plus, the hype about the weather keeps the hordes of tourists away, so you will often have entire beaches, temples and parks to yourself.
Holly Zynda is a copy editor, proofreader and writer with a lifelong passion for the written word. She owns and operates Owl Intermedia, a content production and editing company, and has provided writing and editing services for companies ranging from GoPro and Reputation.com to The California Environmental Protection Agency and Genentech.
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