Does the idea of a trip to Asia during monsoon season make you raise your eyebrows? Visiting when the tropical rains are at their height might seem unusual, but monsoons don’t bring the constant rain and grey skies that you might expect. They bring quite a few benefits, too.
The characteristic heavy downpours of a tropical monsoon are short, only lasting between 30 minutes and an hour. Clear signals, such as a sudden breeze, herald their arrival, giving you time to take shelter in a cozy café. The rest of the time you can expect blue skies, with the humidity washed away, leaving the air fresh for exploring the sights. Add to this reduced crowds, lower prices, and rehydrated green landscapes, and you start to see some of the advantages of travelling to Asia during the rainy season.
Read more about Asia's weather here, or read on for our monsoon travel tips - if they don't get you singing in the rain, perhaps they'll have you singing its praises a little more!
Though some coastal spots are out-of-bounds during monsoon season, others come into their own, and you won’t be disappointed if you're looking to enjoy the region’s legendary surf. Peninsular Malaysia’s weather patterns differ from those of surrounding countries, and when the west coast is prone to sudden downpours, the east coast is often dry and sunny with ideal surfing conditions. Check out Pulau Tenngol, which is said to be one of Malaysia’s best-kept diving secrets, and has excellent conditions for beginners.
Low season is a time to see some of Asia’s most famous sights at their best. With lower visitor numbers, you’ll have opportunities to see monuments, landmarks and wildlife without the usual crowds, and take some fantastic photos. The guides are less pressed for time too, meaning that tours can be even more in-depth than usual. The Angkor temples look particularly spectacular during this time of year: the waters fill up the moats around the wats, reflecting them as they were meant to be seen, and the surrounding landscape is lush and vibrant.
For many communities, the arrival of rain is a reason to celebrate, as fresh drinking water is replenished, hydroelectricity is assured, and crops flourish across the region. From the Rocket Festival in Laos and Thailand, and the quirky Esala Perahera elephant parade in Sri Lanka, to the boat races in September and October (including one on Myanmar’s Inle Lake), the attitude seems to be ‘if you can’t beat the rains, dance in them'!
There’s something especially satisfying about sitting in a hot spa or having a relaxing massage whilst listening to the patter of the rain outside. Treating yourself to a wellness break means you can make the most of the sun when it shines, and spend the soggier hours indoors on some proper self-care. Indonesia’s wellness retreats are primed to welcome visitors during the low season, and Japan’s numerous ryokan are ideal places to squirrel yourself away and soak in a hot spring pool.
With museums, galleries, restaurants and shops mostly being indoors anyway, you probably won’t mind if it’s rainy when sightseeing in the big cities. You can spend a whole day exploring Tokyo’s Miraikan museum, for example, learning about global weather patterns (amongst many other things!) without being affected by the real conditions at all! And while Kuala Lumpur’s mixed feast of architectural and shopping delights can be explored in wet weather, when the sun shows itself you can take a trip to the top of a skyscraper to admire the view.
If you do get caught in the rain, learn how to create some of Asia’s best-loved dishes in our specialist cookery classes. Whether you’re preparing a sour Assam Laksa in Malaysia, picking-out fresh ingredients in a Myanmar market, or discovering the secrets of Vietnamese pho, a cookery class is the perfect souvenir; you can take your new skills home and relive the holiday magic whenever you like. If cooking isn’t your thing, why not escape from Japan’s cloudier days to learn Samurai swordsmanship or take part in a traditional tea ceremony.
Sometimes the weather can be severe, and it's never worth taking risks with your safety. Check the forecast regularly, as the weather is prone to sudden changes, and if there’s a storm on the horizon be prepared to alter your plans. Steer clear of affected islands and coastal or remote areas during very severe weather, and head instead for a city, where there is always plenty to explore and you can take full advantage of those out-of-season bargains. Lastly, ask the experts for advice – the people who live with these weather conditions every year know their stuff, and will be able to tell you what is safe and what isn’t.
Chat to one of our travel experts, who can help you put together the best package for visiting during the rainy season, and meantime, invest in a brightly-coloured waterproof poncho…