Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

Am I going at the right time of year?

Posted by Brownpaperblag on 12/8/2010 at 20:57

Hi guys and girls.
Im planning a trip loosely following the mekong from Vientiane all the way down to vietnam and then back up toward Hanoi before flying to KL.
I was planning on going early April and spending 10-12 weeks doing this. (im in no hurry!)
I was wondering if anybody could let me know what to expect in terms of weather at these times. I keep hearing conflicting reports. Some say that this is the beginning of the monsoon season and Its not a good time to go, others say this is perhaps the best time to go although it will be significantly hotter, the tourism has died down a little and things become a little cheaper. But its likely to rain a lot.
Am I right in thinking that the transition from central to Northern Vietnam would be best done in June? does the weather improve in the North as it deteriorates in the South?
Secondly, how about money for three months? I was thinking £2500 UK Pound. (I like a drink when im travelling!)
and lastly... Anyone wanna join me at any point?

#1 Brownpaperblag has been a member since 12/8/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 4

Posted by rawjer on 13/8/2010 at 08:41

The thing about traveling in SE Asia that time of year is that April is the hottest month through the whole region, and May is only a bit better, but that's caused by occasional cloud cover and downpours. Also, even though April is the dry season, it's still really humid, to the point of nearly being unbearable for some people.

So if you are okay with super hot and steamy weather, you should be fine.

Longtime residents and visitors report that the "rainy season" seems to start in earnest at different times each year. In other words, you might be totally dry in June heading up Vietnam, or you might be getting frequent afternoon downpours by then. Either way, the main roads in Vietnam are good, so it'll probably just be annoying when it rains, rather than trip-ruining.

#2 rawjer has been a member since 20/1/2010. Posts: 104
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Posted by rawjer on 13/8/2010 at 08:48

Oh, and about your budget, yes £2500 for 3 months will be more than enough, even for someone who likes a few drinks at night. Alcohol here in Thailand is relatively expensive, with beers and rum drinks starting around £1.20 each. In Cambodia and Vietnam beers are usually half that price or less.

Accommodation in Thailand is also a bit more expensive, but in Cambodia and Vietnam (and Laos, I think), you can live very well on £600 per month, including everything.

#3 rawjer has been a member since 20/1/2010. Posts: 104
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Posted by Brownpaperblag on 13/8/2010 at 14:16

Hi Rawjer.
Thanks for the advice. Im usually pretty good in the heat, I expect the humidity to slow me down a little to begin with though.
As for the rain, can you tell me does it tend to rain for long periods or is it short, heavy bursts? Im concerned that after all my efforts and planning Im not going to enjoy it as much as say, January-February time? what would you suggest? It might just be a case of suck it and see though to be honest. Im not leaving it until the end of next year its too long to wait and any earlier I wont have the funds to see me through to NZ which is my long term aim.

#4 Brownpaperblag has been a member since 12/8/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 4

Posted by rawjer on 13/8/2010 at 16:15

There are definitely better experts on this board than me, and they'll probably chime in soon. But I've been in SE Asia since early February, currently living in Bangkok, so I've been through that whole season myself.

Yes, rains in these tropical areas do tend to come in short and heavy bursts rather than longer drizzles. That usually happens in the afternoon, and obviously the cloud cover is there before it starts, so it's usually very easy to find brief shelter or avoid it altogether.

The rains in Saigon do peak in June and July, but for most of this area the peak isn't until September, so on your schedule you'll really only see the beginning of the season in your last month, and that tends to be pretty mild (though not always, they say).

If you can make the trip next April I think it's definitely worth it. It's nicer in winter, but more crowded as well. You'll quickly learn to follow the lead of the locals when it comes to beating the heat. Beaches and parks are packed before and after sunrise, and totally empty in the afternoon during siesta time.

#5 rawjer has been a member since 20/1/2010. Posts: 104
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Posted by Brownpaperblag on 13/8/2010 at 19:24

Ive been doing a little more reading around (its Friday now and I haven't started Monday's work yet! ooops) Does anybody know about the 'burn' period during April-May in Laos? Is it really bad? Would it put you off travelling through Laos at this time of year?
The heat I can deal with but i'd hate to think the burning of rice paddies would ruin the experience.
Am I just being too picky here? is it really a major issue? Any thoughts would be welcome.

#6 Brownpaperblag has been a member since 12/8/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 4

Posted by eastwest on 15/8/2010 at 11:18

You should be fine. Most of your worries will turn out to be minor issues during your travel.

The weather will be hot & humid in April/May and especially in the landlocked regions of Laos and Cambodia where you start.
I think you do the trip in the right order though since the worsst roads (southern Laos and northern Cambodia) will be in better shape than at the end of the rainy season.
Still some long bustrips in that region.

But yeah it's difficult. Jan/Feb is definitely the far better climate but also far more crowded in the main tourist sites. But as someone pointed out earlier the rains themself won't be a big issue with the occasional (refreshing) shower that takes some of the humidity out of the air. You're unlikely to find weeks of torrential downpour.

No need to call off your Laos section because of burning. It is only small farmers burning some local patches but it never happens on a grand scale (as on Sumatra or some other regions where it really affects life)

Would love to join but I am currently living in Cambodia and bound by work. Enjoy your trip.

#7 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by Kruzon on 15/8/2010 at 11:48

There's a reason that peak seaon is mid December to Mid Jan as this is the time of the year when the temperatures are at their lowest and the skies have the fewest clouds unfortunately this leaves the air of most of Thailand visible. Coming in the off season and putting up with warmer and wetter conditions offers you lower rates for most tourist services. If you are considering a cooking class I suggest you do a search on articles like "how to choose a Thai cooking school".

#8 Kruzon has been a member since 8/7/2010. Location: Cape Verde. Posts: 15
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Posted by violets on 16/8/2010 at 07:38

I've been in Vietnam in April a number of times and found the weather variable. It is mostly hot, this year particularly so. This year it hardly rained at all (there's been a drought) but the previous trip it rained most days, though only for short bursts. In the Mekong there is likely to be far more rain in June, with the monsoon there usually starting in May.

#9 violets has been a member since 6/7/2009. Posts: 151

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