Indochina Climate

The Climate of Vietnam

Vietnam Map

   Vietnam is located between 9 and 23 degrees north. Eastern Vietnam has a long coastline on the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. It has a tropical monsoon type of climate; from May-Sep the south monsoon sets in, and the country is dominated by south to southeasterly winds. From Oct-April, the north monsoon is dominant with northerly to northeasterly winds affecting the country. There is a transition period between each monsoon season when winds are light and variable.

The country is mountainous in the northwest and in the central highlands facing the South China Sea, with peaks reaching up to 8000ft (2450m) In the north around Hanoi and in the south around Ho Chi Minh City, there are extensive low-lying regions in the Red River delta and the Mekong delta respectively.

Vietnam has a single rainy season during the south monsoon (May-Sep). Rainfall is infrequent and light during the remainder of the year. Rainfall is abundant, with annual rainfall exceeding 1000mm almost everywhere. Annual rainfall is even higher in the hills, especially those facing the sea, in the range of 2000-2500mm.

For coastal areas and the parts of the central highlands facing northeast, the season of maximum rainfall is during the south monsoon, from Sep-Jan. These regions receive torrential rain from typhoons which move in from the South China Sea at this time of the year. The weather at this time is cloudy with frequent drizzle.

 During the north monsoon, northern Vietnam has cloudy days with occasional light rain, while southern Vietnam tends to be dry and sunny.

Temperatures are high all year round for southern and central Vietnam; but northern Vietnam has a definite cooler season as the north monsoon occasionally advects cold air in from China. Frost and some snow may occur on the highest mountains in the north for a few days a year. In the southern Vietnam, the lowlands are sheltered from outbreaks of colder northerly air and the dry season is warm to hot with much sunshine.

The Climate of Laos

Laos Province Map

Despite having two distinct weather seasons you can travel in Laos all-year-round and with no coastline to influence things, Laos’s weather system is relatively straight-forward compared with much of Asia; consisting of a dry season (October to late April) and a wet season (May to late September). Within each season there are variations in temperature, with the dry months leading up to the wet season (March and April) and the early wet season (May and June) usually being the hottest of the year.

Temperatures throughout the country are also greatly affected by altitude with much of the country at an level that reduces the country’s average temperatures by several degrees °C. As a general rule north, central and eastern regions are at a higher altitude than those in the south, where at its lowest, in the Mekong River valley, humidity is higher and temperatures in excess of 35°C are not uncommon between March and April.

The early months of the wet season (May – July) remain very hot and rainfall is often short lived, whilst in the latter months (late July – September) the rains tend to get more constant and can be heavy at times, especially in southern parts of the country. Further north and in Luang Prabang, rainfall tends to be lighter  and you can often expect rain during the night or mornings with some relatively clear afternoons. Across Laos, throughout much of the rainy season, daytime temperatures average around 29°C in the lowlands and 23°C in the mountain valleys.
Throughout the country in all but the hottest months of the year it is often advisable to have a jumper or fleece for the evenings, when there is a tendency for it to get quite cool.

The Climate of Cambodia

Cambodia is blessed with one of Asia’s simpler weather systems and despite having two distinct weather seasons you can travel in Cambodia all-year-round.  In general, the entire country is subject to the same weather patterns, mainly due to the relatively uniform altitude and latitude throughout Cambodia.

There are two distinct seasons – dry (October to late April) and wet (May to late September). Within each season there are variations in temperature, with the final few dry months leading up to the wet season (March and April) and the early months of the wet season (May and June) usually being the hottest of the year with temperatures in excess of 35°C at times.

Humidity is at its height during March and April whilst the coolest months of the year tend to between October and December, however this is cool for Cambodia but far from chilly (avg temperatures 24°C – 26°C).

The Climate of Myanmar ( Burma )

myanmar map

Although Burma has two distinct seasons – dry and wet – you can visit the country throughout the year. That being said, at the peak of the wet season some regions become inaccessible and some, such as Ngapali Beach, close altogether in preparation for the high winds and heavy rainfall that batter the coast annually.

Like much of South East Asia, Burma’s dry season runs from October through to May and the wet season from May/June through to early October, when the south-west monsoon starts to blow. Within each season there are variations in temperature, with the dry months leading up to the wet season (March and April) and the early wet season (May and June) usually being the hottest of the year when temperatures can reach astronomical highs. The colder months follow the end of the rains, from October to December/January, when it is cool in the foothills and highland areas, especially at night. The driest regions of the country, avoiding much of the annual rain, are the plains surrounding Bagan and Mandalay which remain relatively dry aside from the odd heavy downpour, all the way through to August.

As you would expect, temperatures throughout the country are greatly affected by altitude and therefore the hill stations, lakes and Himalayan foothills are far cooler than southern lowland and coastal regions.

As a general rule north, upper central and eastern regions are at a higher altitude than those in the west, lower central and south where humidity is higher and temperatures in excess of 40°C are not uncommon during March and April.

The very best months to visit Burma are from November to February however this is also the busiest time when securing accommodation can become problematic. Many experienced travellers often consider the ‘mid-season’, either side of this peak period, as the best time to visit as the weather is still generally very good (albeit ‘cooler’ in the months preceding and hotter in the months following the peak season) and crowds are far more minimal. One of the Selective Asia team recently visited in October and found the balance to be absolutely perfect – and yes he did still return with a very envious tan!

Throughout the country in all but the hottest months of the year it is often advisable to have a jumper or fleece for the evenings, when there is a tendency for it to get quite cool.

 

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