Hi - If you are in the area or have been I'd love your advice!
I'll be starting a 3-month solo trip through southeast Asia starting in early September. My flight gets into Singapore, and I was originally planning on taking a flight from Singapore to Bangkok to do Thailand/Cambodia/Vietnam/Laos, but have recently thinking that as long as I'm in Singapore it may be worth trekking overland through Malaysia and southern Thailand to get to Bangkok. Do you have thoughts? I think it would be a fun way to start my trip, but am worried about the rain given September is the end of rainy season - especially given southern Thailand is mostly beaches/islands (see https://www.travelfish.org/weather/thailand). I'm planning on getting scuba certified in Koh Tao and other articles I have read make it seem like September is fine as that area is a bit sheltered from the weather. Also, I read conflicting reports on different forums that the rainy season is not as bad as some people make it out to be.
Anyone have any ideas on traveling through southern Thailand/Malaysia in September? The other option is fly to Bangkok and then do southern Thailand towards the end of my trip in November (assuming I still have time left :) )
Also, for anyone else in southeast asia in Singapore in early September looking for a travel companion and heading North, let me know.
#1 adaminasia has been a member since 22/7/2013. Posts: 20
I haven't traveled much in Malaysia at all so can't comment on that. For the Andaman coast of southern Thailand, September is the wettest month of the year. Even so, it rarely rains all day and some people like visiting at that time because the tourist areas are so quiet. If you're just traveling through and stopping off 'here and there' en route to Ko Tao, it should be fine. Some places like Nakhon Si Thammarat and Ranong are prone to periodic floods, but then again so is Bangkok! The main issue is that, if you plan to hit Andaman islands, only a few ferries run during wet season and only to the most popular islands. There are local ferries to a lot of islands, but many of the more offbeat islands are basically shut down during that time. Even Ko Lipe has only a handful of large resorts open in September.
With all that said, the season probably wouldn't stop me from going to southern Thailand if it were the only / best chance I had to experience it. Even if you mainly hit places on the mainland (like Krabi, Phang Nga and Khao Sok National Park), and maybe hit an island that's easy to get to (like Ko Lanta), it should be worth it.
The islands off the eastern coast of peninsular Malaysia should be dry at that time of year. September is a good time to go to the Perhentians for example ... nice weather and fewer tourists than in July and August.
DLuek - appreciate the advice... and thanks for the input into my itinerary on where to go in Southern Thailand! Regarding islands, I feel like I'll be ok sticking to the Gulf islands (and can always try to get to the Andaman islands at the end of my trip if I have time). I don't really know how bad the "flooding" gets - should I steer clear of Nakhon Si Thammarat and Ranong because of that? Any recommendations on how to get from one city to the next during this rainy/flood-prone time?
SBE - good to know re the Perhentians. Any other suggestion on islands or else mainland cities to check out in Malaysia?
#4 adaminasia has been a member since 22/7/2013. Posts: 20
"Also, I read conflicting reports on different forums that the rainy season is not as bad as some people make it out to be."
Millions of locals live in these places so they can't be that bad now can they? The only real concern with low season is the quieter islands have less boats visiting them but the mainstream spots like Phi Phi, Krabi , Phuket , Samui, KPN and Tao have boats operating everyday unless there's a really bad storm. Phi Phi is packed with tourists year round and Phuket is fairly busy. Krabi is quiet low season but all the boat tours still operate which is good and they are cheap then.
Lanta boats stop low season due to low demand but you can visit via a mini bus plus short car ferry.
Thanks Leonard, good to know the mainstream spots are still accessible, and that transportation still runs despite the occasional flooding.
#7 adaminasia has been a member since 22/7/2013. Posts: 20
I lived on Koh Tao for about three years doing diving. November is the only month you'd really want to avoid because of monsoon. Not even because of the rain really, just the visibilty in the water can drop to about 2-3m which is not great for diving. The water is much clearer at other times of the year, ranging from 10-30m. September will be fine, I would definitely not wait till the end of your trip. Also be prepared to fall in love with diving and the island, many people plan to come for four days and end up staying for months, or even years. You will certainly be in risk of that if you've still got months to go before having to go home. You're likely to end up doing your divemaster course and then stay for the free diving and even work as a diver leader for a while. I've seen it happen literally hundreds of times. Good luck, enjoy, you'll love it!
#8 greenman42 has been a member since 18/9/2009. Posts: 63
Thanks Greenman42 for the additional advice - I'll be doing Koh Tao at the beginning of my trip as you suggested.
#9 adaminasia has been a member since 22/7/2013. Posts: 20