This is a moist and humid month in Thailand with afternoon or evening showers being almost guaranteed all over the country. Yet the sun is out and the weather is good for jungle fun.
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South (Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai, Hua Hin)
Phuket is currently at its wettest with the highest amount of rain coming down on approximately 20 days of the month. However, this does leave you some sunny days and it helps to know that showers are sporadic and followed by clear skies.
Gusts of wind from the west make boat tours a dangerous idea at this time. What you can do is enjoy luxury five star accommodation at dirt cheap prices at any beach side hotel or resort.
One indoor attraction that is super fun for family or friends is the Fantasea Theme park. Expect acrobatics, illusions and stunning aerial shows, along with performance enhanced by surreal special effects showcasing the rich culture of Thailand. There are classic carnival rides and games, as well as one of the best buffets in Phuket to dig into.
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From Phuket, hop over to Phang Nga Bay for jaw dropping views of sheer limestone crags shooting out of the blue-green water. To avoid tourist crowds headed for James Bond Island and Koh Panyee, take a boat trip from the northern end of Phuket. Either way, a boat trip on the crystalline water with breaks to sun yourself at beaches is strongly recommended over the standard bus-boat-bus tour.
North (Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi)
In Chiang Rai up North, check out Wat Rong Khun or “the White Temple” which is truly one of a kind and feels like stepping into a Shao Lin fantasy sequence. All white with bits of glass in the plaster that reflect sunlight, it was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, renowned Thai visual artist, to be a home for meditation, learning and benefit from the Buddha’s teachings.
Though the temple is not yet complete, the completed structures are rife with symbolism to the discerning and well read eye. The crux is the credo of non-attachment in Buddhist practice, asking the seeker to quit the cycle of suffering by focusing energy on observing one’s inner life.
The main building is called ubosot, to get which you cross a bridge over a lake. At the entry to the bridge is an area crowded with scores of reaching hands that symbolize desire.
Not surprisingly, this area symbolizes human suffering. The bridge of reincarnation represents graduating from the cycle of karma to moksha or a state free of suffering. Key to this is relinquishing worldly desire.
Once over the bridge, you arrive at the gates of heaven, flanked by huge statues of creatures representing death and rahu, keepers of human fate. Having made it past this cycle symbolically, visitors now gaze upon the main building, the white ubosot or ordination hall.
The crematorium is another structure of note. Buddhists believe that the cycle of rebirth can only be exited with enlightenment. As per a person’s actions or karma in their previous life, they are born into a human or animal form, and in heaven or hell. This is why the idea of making merit is key to the festivals in Thailand, it is the underlying ethic of the Thai cultural fabric.
On a less profound and more thrilling note, the traditional long boat races held by riverside communities are a must do. Trust the Thai to find an opportunity to celebrate even in peak monsoon! This tradition goes back more than 400 years and offers an electrifying stadium like atmosphere with roaring crowds, carnival style games, performances and lip smacking street food.
The best place to witness the spectacle is Nan Boat-Racing Festival in the North. More than a hundred teams enter in the race from many different communities and compete over a whole weekend over a course that’s up to 600 metres long. Many win just by an inch, explaining why the nose of the wooden boats can be meters long.
You can expect to be on the edge of your seat as the crowd eggs contenders on to the finish line with sports commentary in the background. Marvel at the strength and agility of these skilled rowers as they slice and splash through the water.
Head over to Kaeng Lamduan Waterfall in Ubon Ratchathani. Part of the Lam Dom Yai river, it is surrounded by rich flora, notably Lamduan or “White Cheesewood Devil” trees.
As intriguing as that name is, the main event here is the “Parading of the Shrimp.” This is the unparalleled sight of thousands of little shrimp wending up-stream, parading along the river banks on their way to safety high in the Phanom Dong Rak range. Watch them edge along the raging waters of the rapids before descending safely again.
Before heading out, do listen for warnings from Ubon Ratchathani Wildlife Conservation, Promotion and Development Station as flash floods are a possibility at this time. The station is equipped with broadcasting towers there and at the waterfall. So there will be regular updates based on the water level reported from the watching point.
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Central region (Bangkok)
The Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music is a rare opportunity to witness the cutting edge of performance art, especially dance, opera, ballet and classical music. In its 16th year, the festival has grown from 6 performances and 200 artists to 20+ performances by over a 1000 artists spread over a whopping five weeks.
Previous editions featured Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, New York, Swan Lake by the Kremlin Ballet, and Lady Zhaojun, a contemporary take on a legendary Chinese beauty. It is worth taking the time out to attend as the festival offers a rich blend of classical and contemporary performance work from across the world.