I’m sure that as soon as I post this it’s going to start dumping buckets and I will be completely discredited…but here goes…
There are three seasons in Southeast Asia: the cold season (hot), the hot season (very, very hot) and the rainy season (hot-ish with rain…so, hot and muggy).
The cold season (from October-ish to February-ish) in the high season for tourism and understandably so. The. Weather. Is. Perfect. I was amazed every single day how perfect it was. Every single day. It’s clear, dry, sunny, hot-but-not-completely-unbearable, and in the evenings it actually cools down allowing you to even ‘bundle up’ with a sweatshirt and enjoy the contrast in temperatures.
This was on Christmas…it’s almost disgustingly perfect, isn’t it?
It’s a safe bet to travel during this time. Everything will be open/running/operating. You’ll be woken up by glorious sunshine every morning and never have to think of layering or if you should bring an umbrella. However, you’ll pay for it in higher prices, little bargaining power, a bit of heat stroke and hoards of people.
There’s an apprehension about traveling during the rainy season. It can be unpredictable and you can easily become wary from other people’s stories or the constant reminders that IT’S THE RAINY SEASON! I’ve even had locals look at me as an obvious backpacker and shout, “Are you crazy? It’s the monsoon!”. Thanks.
I’ve now lived and traveled through Thailand, India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos during this time of the year and would argue it’s better than during high season.
Everything is cheaper — Whether it’s a nice hotel room or a bunk in a hostel, a tuk-tuk ride, souvenirs from the market or even a tattoo, just about everything is discounted when there are considerably fewer tourists. People want need your business and are willing to give deals, negotiate and put in the extra effort to make you happy…and hopefully spend your money. Since your money goes further here to begin with, anything you save can really contribute to your next meal, transportation or lodging.
There are less tourists — Less tourists means less waiting times, less crowds and more of feeling like you can explore on your own terms. It’s kind of like when you go to Disneyland and it rains – at first it sucks…but then you realize all you need to do is rock a poncho and you can ride Space Mountain over and over with no line.
The Taj Mahal with no tourists! Granted it was 6:30 in the morning…but still…
It’s less hectic — Naturally, with fewer tourists comes a sense that things are less rushed and more relaxed. Instead of racing from place to place, activity or activity, the weather may force you to slow down and pause for a little bit. The locals working in the tourist industry are less stressed and have more time on their hands to chat. Where during the high season there’s more people and more pressure, during the rainy season people want to enjoy the calm before the storm (so to say) and things slow down a bit, which is often what you want from your vacation.
It’s interesting — I come from a cloudy, wet, rainy place where I’m not a huge fan of the weather. Oddly though, here I don’t mind the rain. Honestly. It makes things interesting. There will be wind, thunderstorms, downpours, rainbows…it’s like real weather, not just constant drizzle and gray. And, usually, you still get some sun too. It will rain, then stop. (Which is a concept Seattle weather should seriously consider.) Recently, even though it has rained almost everyday, I still spend much of my time outdoors because it’s not constantly raining and is still warm. Your entire day isn’t ruined, you can use the rain as a good excuse to sit and relax for a little before venturing back out and be in awe of some crazy storms in the meantime.
It’s a good story — Ever see someone driving a motorbike with one hand and an umbrella in the other? Ever watch as a river forms in the road within a couple of minutes due to a sudden downpour? The interesting weather makes other things, well, interesting. Sure you may have to change your immediate plans slightly or pause and wait it out, but it lets you experience something different. When friends came to visit in May, one of their favorite moments was riding motorbikes across town trying to beat the rain that was starting to fall. It sounds kind of silly, but I get it. It’s something different, in a way exhilarating, and will be something you remember.
Not usually something I see at home = interesting
Though everywhere I’ve been people have moaned about the rainy season or had doubts about going to some places because of the weather, the bottom line is: rain could always affect your trip and plans no matter where you go any time of the year. It’s not worth worrying about too much and it’s not worth not visiting a place because the season or weather isn’t ideal.
Now I’m going to go wait for the rain gods to prove me wrong.