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Friday, 10 August 2018 08:55

The Monsoons of Thailand Featured

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I’d go as far to say that everyone is obsessed with the weather when backpacking Thailand. Everyone seems to want the same thing – sun, blue skies, hot and tropical, just like in the brochures and websites we’ve all been religiously studying since we first booked the trip.

A trawl through the many online forums dedicated to SE Asia and Thailand in particular will, again and again, have the same questions and more often than not the same incorrect and badly researched replies –

How’s the weather in Thailand in August?”

Monsoon!”

 

In fact, this is absolutely not the case for the whole country!

 

Thailand has 3 distinct seasons compared to the 4 most of us are used to: hot, cool and wet. The hottest and driest months of the year are usually April and May, while the monsoon rains (and rough seas) that hit the country every year actually depend on what side of the country you’re on. We’ll look at it in more detail here:

 

The Gulf Islands of Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan       

Ah, the lovely Gulf Islands. Three tiny little specks on the world map that we at Big Blue call home, these beautiful islands have been popular with visitors all year round for over 20 years now, and it looks like that will continue for many years to come.   

The monsoon season on these islands differs greatly from the rest of the country, with it coming much later in the year – the rains tend to come in early November, reach their peak towards the end of the month and generally subsiding around Christmas. It’s still hot (it’s very rarely cold here) and if you’re into frogs it’s a marvelous time to visit Koh Tao, but if it’s the promise of days and days of blue skies that brings you here then it may not be the best time to visit us. It doesn’t rain every day, but pack a raincoat if you are heading over then. Diving is still possible, with 5 or 6 of our dive sites sheltered by the island from the big waves that accompany the storms that pepper us during these monsoon months

 

 

The Andaman side, South-West Thailand

On this side of the country (Phuket/Koh Phi Phi/Krabi etc) the monsoon sweeps a continual stream of moist air from the Indian Ocean sometimes as early as April/May, but starting in earnest in June and continuing usually until October. This brings with it the excellent tropical storms that show you the real power of nature, with big waves and heavy rain being the norm. September tends to be the wettest of these months, and you’ll find a lot of island resorts will actually close down completely during the monsoon season here. Boat trips will also be susceptible to cancellations due to bad weather, and any that do still go out may get a little…bumpy!

 

Chiang Mai and the North

Increasing in popularity over the years, Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai in the north of the country are always busy with travelers no matter what time of year you visit, but for those wanting that tropical shit again it’s a good idea to avoid the monsoon periods, which tend to be a little longer than in the rest of the country. The monsoon usually starts in May, reaches its peak in July/August and can continue all the way up to November. The trekking, rafting and hiking that’s so popular in the north is obviously affected a lot, but for those looking for the waterfalls at their fullest there’s no better time to visit – bring a good sturdy pair of walking boots if that’s the case, it gets very muddy. Also please try to stay out of those bloody caves too, okay?

 

The Eastern Islands – Koh Chang, Koh Kood, Koh Mak

Some of my favourite islands to visit in Thailand, the monsoon unfortunately hits this trio of islands pretty hard. Starting around May, it reaches its crescendo of downpours in July/August/September and winds up around the beginning of November. The seas get very rough during this time making swimming and any other ocean-based activities dangerous at times, with tourist drownings not an uncommon occurrence unfortunately.

 

Of course with the monsoon rains come some really good bargains to be had with accommodation options, with my last trip to Koh Chang costing me just 200 baht per night for a simple bamboo bungalow during August and September, after a fair bit of haggling.

 

 It did nearly blow away, but that’s beside the point…

 

Ultimately, the weather in Thailand can be pretty unpredictable. There have been years when the Koh Tao monsoon lasted a couple of weeks, other times when it’s still been in full swing all the way into January. I’ve had beach holidays on the islands of Koh Lanta and Koh Phayam on the Andaman side of the country smack bang in the peak of their monsoon and had nothing but blue skies, and have been nearly washed away by rains in Bangkok’s supposedly driest months.

The secret is to pack a rain-jacket, enjoy the rain when it comes – it may last a few hours, or just a few minutes. To watch the storms approach is something really awesome, with electrical storms on the horizon a sight that really blows you away if you’re lucky enough to witness them…and when it all starts getting a bit too much for you get yourself underwater where it never rains!

 

 

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