When it comes to red-hot holiday destinations, some spots are more or less a sure thing for long sunny days, balmy breezes and only a rare drop of rain – think Barcelona in July, Florida in December and Sydney in January. But if you’re planning a sojourn in Asia, things aren’t quite as clear cut. Don’t be seduced by the travel agent’s glossy brochures; picking the right place at the right time will determine whether your two-week stay is a. out of this world b. blissfully sun-drenched or c. a water-logged, windswept non-event!
In the first of our special travel guides, we’ve put together a month-by-month low-down on some top Asian holiday locos, revealing where’s hot and where’s most definitely not at different times of the year.
JANUARY TO MARCH
We think Thailand is a safe bet for New Year travel. Consider Koh Samui, Koh Phan Ngan and Hua Hin for some refreshing winds, plenty of sunshine and low humidity. Up until March, the west coast (Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi) also enjoys lovely bright and breezy weather (average temperatures are 26°C – 32°C).
Other fantastic destinations for a sunny and dry getaway at the beginning of the year include Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. In fact, February is thought to be the bulls-eye month to visit Vietnam as there are usually clear skies with comfortably warm temperatures throughout the region – from the southern beaches righty up to the mountains of the north (take a sweater for those cooler evenings though).
Don’t do it!
Dreaming of white sand and a nap under the shade of a palm tree? Well, the east coast of Malaysia is not the place to make this a reality in January, February or March. Many beaches are closed due to heavy, heavy rainfall.
Similarly, Lombok can be very wet and wild during these early months so we don’t recommend that you book a frangipani-filled adventure before the end of February. Ferry crossings can be a little haphazard and roads become flooded.
Koh Samui, Thailand photo: kohsamui.com
APRIL TO JUNE
Bali is beautiful at this time of year. Not too hot but plenty of all-day sunshine. Low humidity, warm breezes and cooler nights are what tropical island getaways are made of.
Sri Lanka is similarly a brilliant choice for a March/April holiday. With low rainfall and moderate winds, the southern beaches are glorious at this time of year.
Don’t do it!
Northern parts of Vietnam are best avoided in June. This includes the popular holiday spots of Hanoi and Halong Bay. It’s usually hot, wet and stormy in these parts (meanwhile in central Vietnam, you’ll find that it’s warm and sunny and extremely pleasant).
If you’re hoping to escape to some fresh, clean air then Cambodia can be tricky in April and May as these are the months when local farmers burn cut-down trees and bush to clear the land for new crops.
Finally, if you’re considering an energetic city break, Hong Kong can be very, very rainy in springtime. Think black skies, all-day downpours and damp, dank humidity. Not the best conditions for sightseeing!
JULY TO SEPTEMBER
Always fancied jungle walking in Borneo? July is a good month to get to it! Head to the Danum Valley or Kinabatangan River for some fantastic trekking and breath-taking scenery. Just don’t forget the mosquito repellent!
Another option for travel in July or August is Fiji. Like most tropical-island destinations, rain can fall at any time of the year, but the official Fijian rainy season doesn’t kick in until November so white sands and crystal clear waters should be yours for the taking.
Don’t do it!
If you like nothing more than a leisurely swim in the ocean, Langkawi in Malaysia may not be the best place for it in June or July. We’ve heard that the water can be quite choppy and afternoon downpours are common.
And in Laos, you can expect high rainfall and lower temperatures during the months of August and September, which counts Luang Prabang and Venetiane out of your travel choices.
Fiji Islands photo: tourist-destinations.net
OCTOBER TO DECEMBER
The weather across Southeast Asia can be a little hit and miss from October until the end of the year, so heading further north might provide better options. China and Hong Kong are cooling down from October onwards and it’s much less humid – great weather for hitting the tourist spots. We also think Japan is lovely in the autumnal months.
But if you’re hankering after something a little more relaxing, the dry season in Laos starts at the beginning of November and it’s the perfect place for that “getting away from it all” feeling.
Don’t do it!
Mauritius is a risky choice between October and December as there’s a chance of tropical cyclones to blow you back to your beachside bungalow.
Sand fly alert
Here’s a rundown on the Asian holiday spots where you’re most likely to get bitten by sand flies. Unlike annoying mosquito bites, the sand-fly bite can itch for weeks afterwards. There are no clear times of year when you might encounter these pests but they are believed to be more prevalent during full and new moons. And they come out in full force in the late afternoon!
• Indonesia – Riau Islands / Bintan
• Thailand – Koh Mak, Koh Kut/Kood
• Singapore – mainly around the Changi beach area
• Malaysia – Pulau Tioman (peninsular Malaysia), Pulau Sipadan (Malaysian Borneo)
• Philippines – Palawan island
Mind the jelly fish
Although jelly fish can blight many Asian beaches at various times of the year, here’s our run down of areas that are often hit by an invasion of the stingers – we’ve heard white vinegar is a good thing to pack in your beach bag and splash onto the skin if you do succumb to a sting because it helps to neutralise the affected area.
• Philippines: The months of April and May are considered to be “jellyfish season”.
• Bintan, Indonesia: We’ve been told that jellyfish tend to be more abundant during the dry season of March to November.
• Penang, Malaysia
• Langkawi, Malaysia: high season months of December to February.
Have you ever booked a holiday in Asia at the wrong time of year? We’d love to hear about your Asian holiday hot and “not” spots. Tell us all about it in the comment section below.
References: selectiveasia.com, wonderfulmalaysia.com
Image courtesy of Wiki Jet.