Seasoned travellers in Asia will often say the rainy season is one of the best times to enjoy a holiday in Thailand. The sun still comes out almost every day, the accommodation rates are lower, and there's so much to do on the Kingdom's most popular islands that you're sure to make the most of the stay, no matter the weather.
Our repeat villa guest Tom Chanin described a day of sun, fun and fine food while staying on Phuket with friends during the early monsoon.
Although the dry season is traditionally the most popular time to visit the islands in Thailand; the onset of the monsoon is no reason to avoid what are definitely some of the world's most beautiful destinations.
On Phuket, for example, the weather remains pleasantly warm all year round and even in monsoon season the rains are far from continuous, with many days still sunny and dry. The tropical plants certainly appreciate a daily downpour, which means the island comes alive with vivid natural beauty, and particularly on the West coast, rolling waves and spectacular cloudscape views make for a stunning backdrop for a villa stay.
Tom Chanin discovered the distinctive appeal of visiting Phuket between the months of May and August around five years ago, and he has been heading back to the Andaman Isle during the same period ever since.
"I love Phuket during the monsoon season," he said. "The beaches are much less crowded, the weather is cooler and there's definitely more abundance and variety when it comes to enjoying Phuket's natural wonders. For me, this is also the best time to book a private villa stay because you really get to make use of the facilities, both outside and indoors. On a two or three week stay during this time I always get more than enough sunshine to lie around by the pool or head to the beach. When it does rain, I either head out on a day trip, catch up on some reading or watch those DVDs I never have time for when I'm back home and working."
Tom described a day on Phuket during his recent holiday when he stayed at the Maan Tawan Estate in Bang Tao, an area well known for its wide variety for restaurants, bars, shops and accommodation options.
"I arrived in mid-May with my girlfriend and another couple from Hong Kong on a two week stay in Phuket. The first 5 days were hot and sunny so we quickly settled into a routine," he explained. "After breakfast at the villa and some morning down time by the pool, we usually head for the beach in the afternoon and then after a shower back at the villa had dinner out in one of the many restaurants in Bang Tao or Surin."
"The sixth day saw the rains arrive, which for me was actually a relief because everything felt a lot cooler and fresher. On the first wet day we just hung out at the villa watching movies and eating (which kept the staff pretty busy because we eat a lot), although we did jump in the pool a couple of times during the heaviest downpours, which is always exhilarating.
That night, before we all went to bed with full stomachs and feeling very relaxed, I checked the web for the weather forecast and we worked out the next few days would probably be dry in the morning with some rain in the afternoon."
" The next day, instead of hanging out by the pool in the morning we decided to head to Bang Tao beach and our favourite beach club called Bliss. We had a light breakfast there, then hired paddle boards from a place right next door on the beach. The waves had picked up after the rains, so it was great fun messing about in the water and catching a few breaks. We were actually glad when a clouds came over because it meant we didn't burn in the direct sunshine."
"Once we got back to the beach club, the manager, who's also a bit of a weather guru, said we should expect rain in about an hour so we opted for a beach massage next with the ladies that work in the salas in front of the restaurant. We decided that was the perfect way to soften up the muscles after all that paddling and surfing — and we were right.
The manager was also right about the weather, and the skies darkened just as we came round after drifting in massage heaven for an hour. By then our appetites were back so we ordered lunch at the bar and watched as the dark storm clouds came in over the sea, which made for some great photos."
"Stomachs full again, the next plan was to head to Phuket Town, which is about 30 minutes drive form Bang Tao, but a world away when it comes to the atmosphere and sights. We found our way to the old part of town, by which time the rain had already subsided to nothing more than a drizzle, so we parked the car and wondered around taking snaps of the colourful old buildings until we found a cool little coffee shop serving great coffees and some great home made cakes, it also had some funky souvenirs and polaroid postcards, so we bought some gifts to take back for the office.
Evening was approaching and a friend had told me about a bar in the Old Town called Sanaeha, which had live music so we asked for directions and soon settled in for a few drinks (soft ones for the dedicated driver, of course). The place soon filled up mainly with local people and the musicians played a mix of Thai and Western songs so in the end we had a great night experiencing the "real" Phuket before heading back to the villa where we found the moon lighting up the pool perfectly for a late night swim.
As we said our goodnights we all agreed Phuket is a pretty rare place. There are so many different options on a holiday and even in the rainy season the weather really doesn't stop you enjoying the island's variety. In fact, it probably inspires you to do more. It would be a shame to lie on the beach for two weeks when then there's so much more to the island and sun, sea and sand."
by MAX VEE