Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Follow the Sun
Latest word from Bangkok is that the flood crisis has peaked, with a good part of the city remaining high and dry. The levees have held, sandbags have stemmed the tide and the weather is sunny and hot. And with thousands of people fleeing the city last weekend, locals who stayed to face the music have joked that getting around the city has never been so easy or traffic-free!
While the scale of this flood is unprecedented (an unhappy combination of heavier than usual rainfall, deforestation, urbanisation, mismanagement of local reservoirs and damming as far north as China), the effects of the monsoon are nothing new to Thailand. Visitors should be aware that Thailand is a tropical country, it does rain ... and yes, your feet might get wet!
With careful planning, however, the worst of the monsoon can be avoided. It’s simply a matter of choosing your destination according to your travel dates, and following the sun.
(wish you were here? Me too. In Koh Kood, one of my favourite islands. @ Julie Miller)
Broadly speaking, the north of Thailand has two seasons – the wet and the dry. The driest months are from November to May, with April the hottest, driest and smokiest month (owing to slash and burn farming techniques in Laos and the border regions of Thailand). Anytime from May through to October, rain is to be expected – and yes, the rivers may flood. This is simply a fact of life in the north, part of nature’s wondrous cycle.
South of Bangkok, weather patterns are a little more complicated. There tend to be three seasons: dry, wet, and hot and confused. But the good news is, there’s always a beach destination that’s sunny and warm, with peak seasons running at different times on the east and west of the peninsular.
The best time to visit Phuket or Krabi, for instance, is from December to March – happily coinciding with Australia’s summer school holidays. April is the hottest month, with tropical showers continuing through to October. Prepared to be soggy if you visit in September, with heavy rain and flooded streets par for the course.
While it storms in Phuket, however, chances are that other favourite island paradises are basking in blissful sunshine. The monsoon tends to hit the east coast islands of Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao later than Phuket, with the wettest months being between October and December.
The beauty of tropical rain, however, is that it cool things down, and is often gone as quickly and dramatically as it came. If there is minimal flooding, low season can be a beautiful time to visit your favourite destination, with the added bonus of fewer crowds and cheap-as-chips hotel rates.
And remember, water brings life, new growth and ultimately prosperity. It’s something (in moderation!) to be celebrated, to give thanks for. Which is exactly what the upcoming festival of Loy Krathong is about – to pay respect to the spirit of the waters.
I imagine that, following the floods, that this year’s celebration on November 10, will hold particular poignancy for many people...
(Monk on the beach at Hua Hin. @ Julie Miller)