Rainy Season Woes
I like Bangkok. I think it's a interesting, eclectic, surreal meeting-point for people of all sorts (teachers, vagabonds, professionals, sex tourists, etc.), and because of that, Bangkok is not Thailand—it could probably be it's on little country unto itself—and it's time I left it for a few weeks.
It's not just the big four that determine how happy I am—if I look in the mirror frown at the color of my skin, that's a problem. I don't just feel pale—I look it. I need a healthy injection of UV, stat!
The problem I'm discovering is that I've arrived at the onset of the rainy season for this entire region of the world. From southern China to India to Malaysia—rain. This will not end soon. It's a season that lasts until November.
Although it's a rainy season, it doesn't mean constant rain—you can have an entire week of sunshine during such times—but it does mean that overcast skies and showers will be more common than not. It's been this way in Bangkok since I arrived, five nights ago.
I'm plotting my escape from the city. Transportation isn't a problem, but selecting a destination is. Trying to find a destination that will have some people to talk to during the rainy times, but not enough to be annoying isn't easy. Nor is trying to select such a place with accommodations in my price range and a beach to my liking. And then of course I have to factor in the weather, and its impact on many levels, such as transportation (which is important if my destination is on an island with rough waves and reduced schedules).
Then again, I'm not afraid to relocate if I'm not smiling, and think the important thing to do is not to over-think things, get on a bus, and just get out of town. The good news is that finding a place to stay shouldn't be a problem, as the rainy season means empty rooms and bungalows, with rates as low as 60% of those found during the peak-season.
I've finally acquired a guidebook for this region—the 2006 edition of Lonely Planet's SE Asia on a Shoestring. I have tested the waters with other guidebooks, but find the maps in the LP series especially helpful; you just have to ignore all the subjective malarkey in between them. If I can get my hands on a cheap copy of the LP Thailand I'd be happy, as the depth and breadth of information in this particular (regional) guidebook isn't that great—that is to say, it's a thin book.
I went and had a chat with Andy's man on Khaosan: Jeroen at Nat Tours. Jeroen is a travel agent (specializing in airfare) with wealth of regional knowledge, and a helpful, friendly demeanor. I said Hello to him for Andy, and asked some questions.
He told me flat out to scrap plans for the coast for at least the next week. He said a weather system was in the area, and he was getting people returning from the southeastern islands reporting 8-meter (26-foot) waves and beaches soured by debris and storms. Sounds lovely.
He said if I was looking for sun, I should head to Indonesia, where the seasons are generally opposite that of Thailand. A flight to Bali with 30-day visa was running B$13,000, he said.
We kept chatting out my options, and looking at the large map I had brought. I had read that storms tend to come out of the west in these parts, and had seen writings about sheltered, leeward-facing beaches. He was like a Magic 8-Ball reading gone wrong: Outlook Not So Good.
"What about taking a train south," I asked, as part of our conversation. "You can take it as far south as Tang," he replied, "but I won't try to go there—a mudslide just killed 30 people." Right.
He ultimately suggested a visit to an inland, riverside city, about three hours from Bangkok, where I could wait and see about this week's weather.
So, what to do. I think I'll just have to marinate on my options a little bit more tonight, and see what tomorrow brings.