Monsoon, often synonymous with rainy season, fundamentally means a change in wind direction due to uneven heating of land and water; winds begin to blow from ocean to land causing the air over the land to become moist and causing heavy rainfall. Southeast Asia is the most famous example of a monsoon area compared to any other part of the world.
Heavy rainfall and storms characterise the Asian monsoon. However, if you think that this is a nuisance, think again. Monsoons are very important for they bring the much-needed relief from the gruelling heat of the Asian summer. After the scorching heat of the summer months, people await the cooling showers eagerly and the first monsoon rain is greeted joyously. The monsoon rains are also very important for the crops. Absence of monsoon in this region would mean destruction of crops the worst nightmare of every farmer.
To experience the magic of the monsoons, take a trip to one of the Asian countries during the months of June to September. You can see the dry earth reviving and bursting with life under the life-giving showers. From eating hot snacks and drinking steaming tea in the rain, to splashing around in the puddles or sheltering under an awning and watching the rain, there are many new experiences that only monsoons can offer. Read on and discover the 5 best monsoon destinations in Asia you can travel to during the monsoons.
Monsoon Months: June to September
There is no better place than India if you want to catch the monsoon magic. Here you can see the monsoon in all its black-clouded, lush vegetation and gorgeous wet-earth smell glory and experience every shade and mood of the monsoon rains.
Kerala: The lush vegetation bursts afresh with greenery under the magic touch of the monsoons. Rainfall is heavy here, but there are fantastic off-season discounts on hotels, tours and houseboat cruises at this time. Depending on the date of your visit, you can catch the renowned Onam festival and the Snake Boat Race. Monsoons are traditionally the best time to have the famed Ayurvedic spa treatments and massages of Kerala. If you love the rains, this is the best place to hear the beat of the raindrops and slip into the delightful heaven of doing nothing.
Goa: Fresh and verdant under the rain, Goa is a lovely place to enjoy the rain. Though beach and water fun can be threatened by rain, it is not ruled out totally. There are other interesting things to do, like visiting wildlife sanctuaries, having your breath taken away by the rain-engorged Dudhsagar Falls or the view alongside the Mandovi River from a cruise boat, enjoying the Sao-Joao festival and visiting the lush spice plantations of Savoi.
Rajasthan: This desert state is a great place to tour during the monsoons as it does not rain much here. You can visit the ancient and colourful cities of Jaipur, Jaisalmer or Jodhpur and marvel at the lovely forts and monuments there; watch the countryside come alive under the rains from the Monsoon Palace at Udaipur. Catch the colourful festival of Teej; go on a camel safari and of course get drenched in the quick showers of Rajasthan’s monsoon. All this at a fantastic off-season price!
Valley of Flowers: Tucked away in a Himalayan valley in Uttarakhand is a glacial expanse, which bursts into masses of alpine blooms during the monsoons. This beautiful valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The flowers are at their best in July-August. Good walking shoes and raingear are essential.
Monsoon Months: November to March
Indonesia is one of the best destinations to visit during monsoon as it has dry season at this time. Rainfall, if any, is light and intermittent. The weather is warm and lovely with temperatures ranging between 25° to 30°C.
Bali: Soak in the sun and water on the beautiful Kuta or Seminyak or Legian beaches of Bali; rest your eyes with the lush green beauty of paddy fields in Ubud; find peace at the Besakih temple, explore the natural reserves, volcanic mountains or explore the culture – the dance, music, food and lifestyle of the Balinese.
Jakarta: A visit to this bustling capital city must include the iconic national monument, national museum and a bit of shopping for electronics at the Mangga Dua Mall. For recreation hit the Ancol Dreamland.
Sumatra and Java: You simply cannot miss the huge, volcanic Lake Toba or Lengkuas Island in Sumatra and the world-famous Buddhist temple of Borobudur or Mt Bromo in Java.
Others: Bunaken Marine Park in Sulawesi (famous for diving and snorkelling), Gili Islands, Komodo National Park, Toraja and Raja Ampat (Papua).
Monsoon Months: May to October
Thailand is another great destination which need not be off-limits during the monsoons. In fact, the low tourist turnout can be a blessing with great discounts and less crowded tourist spots. If you can plan a trip around showers of rain, mostly afternoon downpours, you should be fine. If beaches and working up a gorgeous tan is the only thing on your mind, then the rains can be a problem. If not, read on.
The rainy season makes fields and trees greener and the scenery gorgeous. The ‘safer’ areas to visit during the rainy season are generally Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. In the mainland of Thailand, though the rain can be heavy, it is not generally long. Take a trip to the lovely Ang Thong National Marine Park. You can head to Phuket’s Patong Beach when it is sunny; when it is not, lose yourself in shopping, games or cinema at the huge Jungceylon shopping mall. Pamper yourself in the amazing spas or take a museum or temple tour.
If you are visiting Bangkok, remember it rains heavily but after the shower, the sun comes out again drying everything quickly. On rainy days too, there are no dearth of interesting things to do. Shop till you drop at the enormous Terminal 21 shopping mall, MBK shopping mall, Central World, Paragon Siam and so on. Visit the fascinating Siam Ocean World or go for one of the popular cooking lessons. As long as you have an umbrella, rain shoes and do not hate the rains, you are good to go.
Do Carry: Stout umbrella, flip flops/good rain shoes, quick drying clothes, waterproof backpack or pouch for carrying mobiles, watches etc. mosquito repellent and first aid kit.
Monsoon Months: May to October (west coast); November to February (east coast)
Malaysia is a great tourist destination even during the monsoon. During the traditional monsoon months in Asia, the east coast has dry weather, so the lovely beaches there are still open. Swim, dive or go snorkelling at the heavenly Redang or Perhentian Islands. Sipadan is one of the best diving havens in the world and you can also catch turtles laying eggs in the beaches there (May-August). Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in East Sabah is one of the few places on earth where the endangered animal can still be seen. Go trekking, camping and explore the beauties of nature at Sarawak’s national parks. The world’s largest and rare-to-glimpse Rafflesia flowers (up to 39 inches diameter and up to 22 pounds heavy) bloom in Gunung Gading National Park (Sarawak). See the lovely coral reefs in Tioman islands (selected once by the Time magazine as one of the world’s most beautiful islands). Do not miss the incredible Mulu caves (Borneo). May to July is a good time to visit Kuala Lumpur. Not to be missed attractions are the renowned Petronas Towers, Menara KL Tower, the Chinatown and Batu Caves. Penang and Cameron Highlands should definitely be on your itinerary too.
Monsoon Months: June-September (south-west monsoon)
Singapore is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. It has two monsoon seasons, south west and a north-east monsoon (December-March). Between June to September, there can be showers and thunderstorms but they are of short duration and therefore not a hindrance to tourist activities. The monsoon months are a good time to catch two fantastic tourist events of the country. Indulge in a celebration of shopping during the Great Singapore Sale when there are discounts for as much as 70 per cent on various products. June and July is also the best time to treat your taste buds to a breath-taking variety of delicacies at the Singapore Food Festival.
Tourists love to go to the newly constructed Gardens by the Bay near the Singapore Flyer. The Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay has been attracting visitors ever since its installation. Sentosa Island is also a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. A whole lot of interesting experiences await them in Sentosa. The fascinating Underwater World and Dolphin Lagoon, the lovely Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom, the thrilling Megazip Adventure Park, Merlion Statue, Universal Studios (with rides based on blockbuster movies) are great hits with tourists. Explore the natural world with visits to the fabulous Singapore Zoo and the Singapore Botanical Gardens. For restaurants and pubs, head to Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. Marina Bay Sands, the National Museum, the Science Centre, the Singapore Flyer are other popular must-see attractions.
You can choose any of the above destinations for experiencing what the rains in Asia are all about. With a few alterations in your choices you can witness either an awe-inspiring thunderstorm and heavy showers or just an afternoon-shower-with the sun coming out soon. Either way, it will be an experience to remember. Experience the rains, experience monsoon in Asia.