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When It Rains...

The best time to travel SE Asia is monsoon season. No really!

Just for a second consider this, Southeast Asia in the dry season is too hot, humid, sticky and plagued by killer mosquitoes to be anything but unpleasant. The tropical paradises of Thailand, Vietnam and the rest of the Golden Triangle at this time are boring, obvious, dull. Yes the weather is warm and wonderful across say Cambodia in February, from the golden beaches of Sihanoukville to the temples of Angkor. But who wants perfect and usual?

Last time I was there around this time I spent most days avoiding being bitten and getting sunburned. Plan a trip to the Golden Triangle now for the summer though, when it’s wetter than an alligator’s tail, and you’ll never consider travelling there at any other time again. I know it’s no easy argument, but I say this from experience. Cambodia in August is incredible. Ok, you’ll be damp as hell but monsoon season means far less tourists and, simply put, the jungle in the rain is awesome with views that will blow your mind.

I am not talking rain like the stuff you get at home, I am talking rain that falls with wartime fury, water grenades dropping like bombs from dark grey skies, cascading off sandstone with a sonically satisfying thwack. This rain stings the skin. But it’s magnificent. It’s nature’s rage in all her fearsome glory, deafening, powerful, elemental. Watching it is liberating, enlivening, invigorating…

In concrete cities from Hanoi to Bangkok the deafening downpours wash away the dirt and dust in an extreme spring clean. In the mountains, the rivers and waterfalls are at their fullest and fastest. The clouds are full of belly-emptying promise.

Visiting the ruins at Angkor, the experience is even better. The forest foliage itself glistens and gleams in a Technicolor-vivid green, overgrown and trippy, curling under and over the ancient temples. I was sodden but felt like Indiana Jones jumping jungle crevasses in search of mysterious treasure, resilient in front of the elements, often with the place to myself. Taking a bumpy boat trip over the Tonlé Sap Lake with its floating villages and entering Kampong Phluk aka the Flooded Forest I found myself in a movie-like magic setting.

I am not mad. Promise! And don’t worry you won’t always be wet. Monsoon rain falls in bursts, a torrent here, a torrent there with oft-sunny moments breaking through for (albeit) a short time in between.

Still, you know my view – who cares for the norm of sun and warmth? A bit of rain never hurt anyone.

Note: Rainy season in Southeast Asia is May to September, dry season October to April with April and June the hottest and most humid months.

First published in AMag 87 Feb/Mar 2017

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