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Best time for outdoor activities in Thailand

  • Matthieu
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3 years 2 months ago #6 by Matthieu
Matthieu created the topic: Best time for outdoor activities in Thailand
Thailand is known to be hot and humid. This actually varies over the year with three main seasons:
• Winter or cool season: from November to February, when temperatures are the most pleasant and the risk of rain accross the country is low;
• Summer or hot season: from March to May, when temperatures are the highest with rising humidity;
• Rainy season: from June to October, when rains get heavier and heavier till reaching a climax in September/October. The season usually starts with short but intense showers, often at the end of the day. The weather then becomes less predictable and rains more intense over the season.

The intensity of each season then varies from region to region. The Northern region knows the coolest temperatures in winter. These sometimes even get close to freezing point in altitude. On the opposite, the North East region often experiences the worst summer weather with high humidity and scorching days.
The Southern region, being closer to the equator, has a more consistent temperature over the year. On the other hand, it is hit harder during the rainy season than other parts of the country, especially the Andaman coast (West coast) where consecutive, non-stop, rainy days between April to November are not a rare event.

The Gulf coast of the Southern peninsula (East coast) and most notably the islands of Samui, Phangan and Tao, lies outside of this general pattern. While rain can happen during the months of June to October, the actual rainy season there is from October to January with a peak in November.

These differences are explained by the direction of the rain bearing winds called monsoons and the way they hit each part of the country. Following the high temperatures of March to May, the considerably warmer land air rises, pressure lowers which in turn causes the monsoon winds blowing towards land. These winds are called "South West monsoon" as they are coming from the Indian Ocean in the South West where they have collected rain. The first Thai land on their way being the Andaman coast (Phuket, Krabi...), it is hit the hardest. Heavy rainfalls, agitated seas, waves are the direct consequences. However, even if chances of rain are high during this season, it won't rain non-stop for the entire time and you may very well enjoy some quiet sunny days in between as well.

After these South West heavy rain bearing seasonal winds retreat around October, weaker rain bearing winds blow from North East bringing cooler temperatures to Thailand. Unlike the South West monsoon, the North East monsoon does not hit Thailand with much rain picked-up on the way and as such brings a much lower risk of rain. As one can now easily understand, this holds true for most of the country except for the Gulf coast (particularly Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao) which then suffers from rain picked-up in the Gulf, albeit not to the extent of what the Andaman coast experiences with the South West monsoon.

The cool season is obviously the best time of the year for most outdoor activities especially trekking/trail running and mountain biking as tracks are less likely to be muddy. Some national parks even open only during the cool season.

Due to the switching wind directions, kitesurfing is always possible somewhere, but nowhere it is possible year-round.
The best time for surfing in one of the spots on the Andaman coast is during the rainy season when Southwest monsoon is bringing along waves.
If you want to go diving but the weather is uncertain on one coast of the Southern peninsula, head for the other one! Cruises to the Similan usually operate only during the cool season.
There are climbing areas better than others during the rainy season due to their layout (cave or overhanging cliff sheltering the routes below) and/or short approach walk.
You can obviously go cycle, run or swim in between two rain showers.

Have fun!

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