Southeast Asia is full of historical, cultural and natural attractions. Where you should go will depend on your interests and what time of year you plan to travel. Since most of the region lies in the tropics, all of the countries are subject to annual monsoons to some degree. The monsoons are marked by heavy rainfall, and so are the less popular time of year to visit. However, the rainy season is not necessarily really a bad time to visit. The rains usually only come in drenching afternoon thunderstorms, leaving the rest of the day to explore the sights.
The region straddles the equator, so when it's cool and dry in the north, it's hot and wet in the southern part of the area. We've drawn up the list below based on when the conditions are best for each destination. However, keep in mind that in many cases this is when these places are most crowded and accommodations are at their most expensive.
- Phuket, Thailand
- Thailand's southern resort island is at its best in January, when it's both cool and relatively dry.
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- The "cultural capital" of Thailand can be good at just about any time of year. In February, the weather is still cool and the city's annual flower festival is held early in the month.
- Samui, Thailand
- Thailand's other popular island resort is subject to a different monsoon season, owing to its position on the eastern side of the southern Thailand isthmus.
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Although the former capital of South Vietnam is good any time from January to March, the latter part of this period is when night-time temperatures are not too cold and the rains have yet to get started.
- Hanoi, Vietnam
- The Vietnamese capital gets quite cold from December to March. April is the month when things become more temperate, but not yet too wet.
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- April is generally not the best month to visit Thailand, but mid-April is the time of the annual Thai new year, called Songkran. This big three day holiday tends to be very festive, with lots of water thrown about, which cools things down in this otherwise very hot time of year.
- Bali, Indonesia
- The idyllic island of Bali is cool and dry from June to August, but the last month is when it's at the driest. Of course, August is when Bali is the most crowded, so you may wish to consider May as an alternative.
- Angkor Wat, Cambodia
- The cool and dry season around one of Southeast Asia's greatest monuments runs from December to March. While there is a slightly higher risk of rain in November, it is still rather cool. Many of the monuments have large reservoirs surrounding them. No longer supplied with water from the mountains, they now only fill with rain water during the rainy season, and dry up within a few months. November is the time to see the monuments at their best, surrounding by the huge artificial lakes they were meant to have.