| IN THAILAND, the hottest season of the year begins in early March, and continues on into early July. Thai Summer is the season when the visitor should really pay attention to travel routines, proper attire, eating and drinking habits and rest periods. |
Following the cool, invigorating winter of the North, which runs from December through mid-February, a short interim period of about 30 days makes a steady transition into the summer. At summer's end, Thailand moves rather quickly into the rainy season, which runs from early to mid-July through October.
Each of Thailand's three distinct seasons requires some advice to travelers, and perhaps the summer more than the others. Many travelers tend to think of northern Thailand as cool all year round. You might find a few cool evenings during the summer months (you might!), but you certainly won't find any cool mid-days or early afternoons.
With this in mind, we will offer you some advice for the summer months. We hope the following comments will make your stay more enjoyable, and we hope by using this advice as a guide, you can manage your activities, both in the cities and in the countryside and mountains, to your best benefit.
And, in conclusion, these final words from the experienced Bill Young*:
- START EACH DAY EARLY. Fortunately, during the summer months, the early mornings are relatively cool. We therefore suggest an early start, wherever you might be in the North - between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. is best. This way, you can get quite a bit in before the intense sun begins to take its toll on you as midday approaches.
- PLAN YOUR DAYS IN HALF DAY PORTIONS. As during hot seasons in any part of the world, you'll most likely find yourself becoming a little tired after lunch. Don't push it! Try to plan your time in half-day periods, with a long lunchtime rest (why do you suppose siestas are so common in so many tropical countries?). Arrange sight-seeing for early mornings and late afternoons. After lunch, do it the Thai way, and take a nap, or at least lie down and rest for a while. At this time, you might also wish to take a cold shower. It will do wonders for your body temperature and peace of mind.
- DON'T TRY TO SEE TOO MUCH. Go for quality instead of quantity in selecting your trips and activities. Leisurely visits to fewer sights than you might have planned will most likely make your holiday a much more rewarding experience during the hot season. Decide on what is most important for you to do and see, and then go out and really enjoy them at a modest pace.
- WEAR COTTON CLOTHES. Clothing makes a big difference. It is suggested that you try your best to stick with 100 percent cotton clothing, as it breathes and lets your body heat escape. Synthetic fabrics don't do this, and will only turn you into a walking oven. If you don't have cotton clothing, or don't have enough to see you through, you can find them in stores all over Chiangmai, at reasonable prices. There are also a number of cotton fabric factories in this area as well as shops in the city. If you decide to buy cotton fabric, there are many high quality/low cost tailor shops in Chiangmai who can make you a good cotton shirt or pair of slacks for less than US $10.
- WEAR A HAT. Head and eye protection from the sun is another important consideration. If you are planning a rafting trip, any boat trip, or will be spending a lot of time out of doors, you should wear a hat with a broad brim and some sort of sunglasses. On boats, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants are advised to prevent sun burn.
- IT'S HOT BUT DRESS MODESTLY. On the subject of clothing, keep in mind that despite the heat of the summer, Buddhist culture places a high priority on modest dress, for both men and women. If you are planning to visit temples, or planning a trip to Thai Immigration or another location of formality, it would not be wise to wear tank tops and/or shorts. Particularly at the temples, where you would most likely be denied entry. This does not mean you have to wear a suit and tie, jeans or cotton slacks will serve the purpose very nicely.
- ALL TREKKERS SHOULD HAVE ESCORTS. The best bit of insurance trekkers who may be travelling on their own could buy is that once you have reached a hilltribe village, ask someone from that village to escort you to the next village. Otherwise, undesirables may follow you. It would be better to join an organized trek with a company recommended by the TAT.
- BE PREPARED FOR DUST. Dust is something to consider during the summer months. If you are traveling by van, car, motorcycle or local bus, you are going to be running into dust, especially outside of the cities. Remember, there is very little rain during these months, if any, and the land becomes very dry. Even in the city, all roads are not paved, and you will want to keep electronic belongings and cameras in protective cases or wrapped in plastic bags.
- DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS. The heat can play very strange tricks on the body. One of the most common during the hot season is gradual dehydration - "gradual" meaning within just a few days. We suggest drinking plenty of water in addition to the other fluids you may drink. Five or six liters of liquid per day is the minimum. If you find yourself feeling little "spacey" (not just heat tired), it's probably because of dehydration. In addition to the heat depleting your bodily fluid levels, it can also suck the sodium right out of you. It is therefore recommended that you add a little more salt to your food. You may also wish to drink a powdered electrolyte beverage once a day. Packets are sold at nearly all drug stores in Thailand for about 5-10 baht a packet. Just empty the packet into a medium sized glass, add water, mix well and drink. This electrolyte drink contains a high degree of sodium as well as small quantities of potassium and other minerals necessary to prevent, or cure, dehydration.
- MOSQUITO BORN DISEASES. Mosquito repellent is another important item to carry with you, especially it you plan to travel outside the cities. Although the major mosquito threat in northern Thailand is during the rainy season and immediately afterwards, there are still some around during the summer. For dining and sleeping, or just sitting around outdoors in the evening, mosquito coils are recommended; these work very well. If you are eating in an outdoor restaurant, you can always ask the waiter to place a mosquito coil under your table; they almost always have them. Mosquito nets for sleeping are also advised in the mountains and countryside. Mosquito repellent is readily available in pharmacies and supermarkets.
"Jai Yen Yen - Nhoi"
which means: "Have a cool heart and take it slow". (That's how the Thai survive the summer).
* Bill Young is the son of a missionary to the hilltribes of northern Thailand, and has spent his entire life traveling this area of the country. His experience and advice contributed greatly to the writing of this article.