Travelling during the monsoon in Bali has its challenges but also advantages. While it may occasionally rain for days on end, other days will be clear and sunny with a welcome downpour during the late afternoon cooling down temperatures and washing the air of dust, creating stunning sunsets and sunrises.
Water holds a special place in Balinese culture, with an intricate irrigation system known as subak created many centuries ago. Ancient water temples such as Pura Taman Ayun form the nodes of the complex system, which is still followed closely today but faces serious threat in the busy south due to fast-paced development.
The monsoon runs roughly from November to February, though climate change has seen some seasons start or end later or earlier. Expect the unexpected during this period, when the weather can change suddenly, moving from sunny to sprinkling to serious downfall in a matter of minutes. And when it rains, it can really rain.
If you’re travelling by motorbike, it’s best to wait it out as the roads become very slippery and more dangerous than usual — though you will see the Balinese soldiering on in raincoats that you can pick up for the equivalent of a dollar or two from roadside shops.
Watch out for tiled flooring when it’s wet, which can change from beautiful and cool underfoot to deathtraps with just a few drops of water splashed across them — whether in your hotel room, fancy villa or in shops.
With a really heavy downpoor, minor flooding can occur in the Kuta/Legian and Denpasar areas — probably not in your hotel but on the surrounding roads. Don’t wear your pricey leather shoes out in Bali during the rainy season, even if it’s looking sunny.
If you’re keen on hiking or climbing volcanoes — such as Gunung Agung — skip the monsoon as the terrain becomes too treacherous to traverse. If you do still want to hike, you’ll need to wear serious footwear rather than flip-flops.
Why would you come to Bali during the monsoon? As with anywhere else, accommodation is cheaper during the wet months. And after it does rain, the skies can be stunning and clear, with great photos to be had. During a recent stay on Nusa Ceningan, during the early morning we could see well beyond the pretty seaweed farms here to volcanoes punctuating the sky all the way over in Java.
It’s also rather mesmerising to watch storms roll across the horizon if you’ve got a sea view.
If you do want to gamble on a holiday in Bali during the wet, don’t bother packing umbrellas or raincoats, as you can pick them up cheaply here. If you have particularly large feet, BYO flip-flops as the cheaper ones are only in smaller sizes — Havaianas go up to larger sizes but are not cheap.
Do pack some good books or load up your Kindle though — if the weather does close in, you’ll still be able to chill out and relax, hopefully with a good view of the show.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
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