When is the best time to visit Bangkok? While I’m not sure that there is a time of year that stands out as the best to visit, I do think there are times when Bangkok is not at its best. A reader suggested I write a column on the topic of the best time to visit Bangkok, so here goes.
The issues I have considered are the weather (heat / rainfall / pollution), the number of visitors at any given time, the number of – and nature of – holidays in any given month and one or two other variables.
I have listed the months of the year in order from when I think is the best to visit to when I think is the worst. Admittedly, this is all very subjective.
Things to consider when visiting Bangkok:
December – February is the cool season when the weather is best with daily highs not too much above 30 degrees Celsius and pleasant temperatures at night when you can be equally comfortable in shorts or jeans. The sky is blue most days and if you’re lucky, there won’t be a single drop of rain.
March to May is the hot season, and April and May can be brutally hot with daily highs touching 40 degrees in Bangkok in April. Some nights the Mercury won’t dip below 30. High humidity means it can feel 10 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. Brutal is not overstating it, this time of year can be terribly uncomfortable.
December through to May is when pollution can be a problem and it can be particularly bad in March and April.
The rainy season is officially June to mid-November in Bangkok with the heaviest downpours and rain more likely to fall in September and October. June and July often feel more like a fringe season with neither the heat of the hot season nor the frequent downpours of the rainy season.
July, the best month to visit
For me, July is the best time of the year to visit Bangkok. It’s hot, but not what I would call unbearably hot. The hot season has passed and the worst of the heat is over. July is officially a rainy season month but it’s not usually that wet and a number of days can pass by without any rain at all. Visitor numbers are fairly low so airfares and hotel rates tend to be good. You won’t be fighting high season crowds.
Where July stands out from other months is that there’s nothing terribly “bad” about it.
July and August are much the same in terms of visitor numbers. August is ever so slightly cooler than July but is usually wetter with more frequent downpours.
August used to be known as Italian month on Phuket and Samui and to a lesser extent in Bangkok when Italians would flock to Thailand to escape the heat of Summer back home, but those days are over and there’s nothing much remarkable about August, and specifically, few reasons to avoid visiting then.
Slightly less rain in July gives it the edge over August, but August is still a very good month to visit.
November marks the end of the rainy season in Bangkok and at some point during the month the rain in Bangkok will just stop, the clouds will disappear and the city may not see another drop of rain until after New Year.
If avoiding the end of the rainy season (which can see very heavy downpours) is a concern, it may pay to give the first couple of weeks of November a miss. From mid-November, the rainy season will almost certainly be over.
In November the days are getting shorter and it feels like you have an hour or so less daylight in November and December than you have in say April or May. No big deal if you’re a night owl, of course.
November sees visitor numbers picking up and saying goodbye to October is also saying goodbye to the low season for another year.
Weather-wise, February is a little like November in that it can be a month of two halves. The cool season is generally considered to be December through to February although you often find that by late February the hot season has arrived. In the space of a week the daily high in Bangkok can jump several degrees – daily highs jump from pleasant high 20s or low 30s, to daily highs of 35 / 36 / 37 degrees. A 7-degree temperature change mightn’t sound that much, but it sure feels like it is.
February is very busy although not quite as busy as January which is often sees the highest visitor numbers. In February I’d say visit earlier in the month because the change in weather can happen almost overnight as the cool season becomes the hot season and things go from pleasant to unpleasant.
Also, consider that Chinese New Year often falls in February and for a few days many hotels massively inflate their rates. (Chinese New Year may also fall in late January.)
June has a lot going for it – visitor numbers are down and while it’s the first official month of the rainy season, there’s not usually all that much rain in Bangkok (although every year is different and you just never know what Mother Nature will bring). Airfares are reasonable, hotel rates very reasonable and for the naughty boys it’s a time when the girls are getting hungry, following May – the quietest month of the year.
There are no reasons to avoid June although it can be quite hot and for that reason, I think July and August are better choices if you’re looking at the middle of the year.
The peak of the high season has passed but the low season is still a couple of months away. March is what I think they used to call shoulder season – in between peak season and low season.
March is hot in Bangkok and the skies can look clear and be great for outdoor photography, but your nose, throat and chest might tell you otherwise. Think of March in Bangkok as Pollution Month! I spent a few weeks in Bangkok this past March and it was not so much the temperatures that were a problem – sure, it was hot but I could cope with that – it was the pollution that was bad. Health experts said that time spent outside in Bangkok this past March was hazardous to your health. Outside you could smell it and literally feel it in your throat.
March isn’t such a bad time to visit so long as you’re ok with the heat and don’t plan to spend a lot of time outside.
May is traditionally the quietest month of the year for visitor numbers and many businesses with a lot of foreign customers have their lowest monthly take in May.
The last of the 3 hot season months, by the time May comes around many locals – Thais and expats alike – are fed up with the heat. Many Thais, especially those working outside, slow down in May. They’re in to their 3rd month of heat and they cope with it by moving slower and doing things more slowly. The fun of the holiday season of Songkran (mid-April) is but a memory and there’s little on the immediate horizon to look forward to.
My first visit to Thailand was in May and one of my over-riding memories was how hot it was and how even the locals were visibly slow going about their day.
May is hot and pollution levels tend to still be pretty bad for most of the month. But there are fewer visitors around which I think is a bonus.
December starts slowly and there can be a bit of a lull before the storm then bang, the peak of the high season hits with hotels full, flights jammed, long queues on arrival and departure at the airport. The peak of the high season lasts from around a week before Christmas through most of January.
There are many good reasons to visit in December. The weather is good / cool by Bangkok standards with no rain. It’s the end of the year, Christmas and New Year are upon us and people are happy and many are in party mode. There’s lots going on with parties thrown, beer gardens set up and plenty of things to do. For naughty boys, the bars may have more ladies working in December (and January) than any other months.
The downsides of visiting in December are airfares shoot up and hotel rooms can be hard to come by – so book as far in advance as you can to get a good deal.
January is usually the best month of the year in terms of the weather. Daily highs in the high 20s with the Mercury dropping below 20 plenty of nights in January. The weather is an anomaly in Bangkok in January and can genuinely be described as pleasant with light winds from the north sometimes making it feel a little cool after dark. If you can’t bear the heat, January is the best time to visit.
January is the peak of the high season. The difference in customer numbers in the areas popular with Caucasian visitors (Sukhumvit Road / Silom Road / Khao San Road areas) between say early January and September (when it’s particularly quiet) are night and day. As good as the weather is, if you don’t like crowds, then January wouldn’t be a good choice.
Typically the second wettest month of the year, September is usually the second quietest month of the year for visitors. Only May typically gets fewer visitors.
September is a typical low season month with fewer people around and plenty of rain, which is offset by lower airfares and cheaper hotel rooms. September is wet and the second half of the month can be a nightmare with heavy downpours most nights. Getting out and about after dark can be an ordeal if the heavens open and the traffic locks up.
Note, if the bar scene was your only reason for visiting Bangkok, September is probably the best month of the year to visit. Visitor numbers are low and some girls are very hungry by the time September comes around.
The wettest month of the year in Bangkok, it can rain damn near every day, although if you’re lucky the rainy season may come to an end before the end of the month.
October usually sees visitor numbers pick up a little from September but it’s still relatively quiet.
Just how the frequent downpours may affect you really depends on what sort of holiday you’re after. For a naughty boy staying at the Nana Hotel who is in town for the nightlife, the rain will have little effect on the 50-metre dash from the hotel lobby across Soi Nana and in to the world’s largest adult playground. But for someone after a beach holiday or who enjoys getting outside / doing sightseeing, October mightn’t work.
If you visit in October (or September for that matter) and are keen to see the sights, start your days early as rain typically falls from late afternoon and / or in to the evening.
April, the worst month to visit
There is no doubt in my mind that April is the worst month of the year to visit Bangkok.
April is the hottest month of the year, and can be hellishly hot. Officially, Bangkok can hit 40 degrees but many people report temperature gauges going well in to the 40s in Bangkok in April. High humidity can make it feel closer to 50 than 40. Pollution is bad in April and that combined with the heat, you can almost chew the air.
It’s not just the weather that’s bad in April. The Songkran holiday which falls in the middle of April is the biggest holiday of the year. Millions of Thais travel to their home from the capital or other major centres to spend time with their nearest and dearest and traffic can be crazy from a few days before the official Songkran holiday (April 13 – 15) until a few days after. Intercity transport (buses, trains, planes) is booked solid and bus and train stations can be a nightmare as masses swarm on them.
Some shops close while bars and restaurants typically stay open but might operate with a skeleton crew. In the naughty bar areas, venues typically lose half their girls and the staff who remain can seem more interested in having their own party than entertaining paying customers.
It’s not just the heat that is a problem. Songkran is a country-wide water fight. Even if you don’t want to “play”, odds are the locals will insist that you do – so expect to be soaked, irrespective of your protestations to be left alone.
Unless you love Songkran, I’d avoid April – and not just the official Songkran holiday, but the whole month when the country bakes.
Last week’s photo was taken of the “other Egyptian restaurant”, the Nasir Al-Masri restaurant, right next door to the more famous Nerfertiti in the alley connecting Sukhumvit sois 3 and 3/1. It’s a great place to eat with magnificent food – just be careful to go over the bill with a fine tooth comb, lest you get a surprise.
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
Why there are fewer characters.
There are fewer characters in Bangkok and I think there’s a valid reason for it. Nobody wants to put their head above the parapet these days. Keeping a low profile is a much better / safer idea. Not only that, but for every online comment or post, there’s an army of negative expats ready to descend and attack the poster. I remember a few years ago when I took on an issue here in Bangkok. Ideally, I wanted to stay incognito, but my identity was eventually revealed in the Bangkok Post. Then I got to experience ThaiVisa first hand. I promised myself I wouldn’t look but of course I did. And it was amazing to see the illogical contortions and outright lies people were prepared to post. I read that I was a DEA agent. I was one of South-East Asia’s biggest drug dealers. I was working with the Thai police. It was a hoax designed only to provide publicity for my business. Despite it all being complete nonsense, it still bothered me that there were people out there that would invent this stuff and others who would believe it. These days, I keep a much lower profile online. It just makes life simpler.
The importance of being woke.
As far as characters go, the whole world seems to be turning more sterile. Here in the UK you have to be on your guard, or dare I say it, “woke” with everything you say and do.
La la la, life goes on.
Your column about some of the more colorful characters struck a chord with me, and I had the thought that you were simply writing about life. It comes in to better clarity the longer you live. Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve lost so many friends to some major illness or unexpected circumstances that it makes me think about myself in a similar context. All my interesting buddies with whom I’ve lost contact for one reason or another have become part of the stories I tell and the memories I have. And then it’ll be me who carries on only as part of the stories and memories of others who outlive me. As the Beatles said, “La la la la, life goes on.” Enjoy it.
The Bangkok Arsenal Alex knew has gone.
Interesting column this week. I can’t really argue with the part about myself. Will I go back to Bangkok in 2023? Almost certainly yes. But will it be for more than a visit? Almost certainly no. From your column, as well as from other sources, it seems the Bangkok I left and the Bangkok I would be returning to are two totally different places. The Thais have always been xenophobic, perhaps more so than any other nation, except Japan. This has always been the case as can be seen if a fight occurs between a foreigner and a Thai. Let’s face it, if you were walking down the street in Auckland and saw a fight between a New Zealander and a Thai would you immediately, without having a clue what the fight was about, jump in and start battering the Thai? Of course not. Nor would this happen in any other country I have ever visited. And the anti-foreigner sentiment seems to be getting worse, although your readers who live there will know if that’s true or not. I prefer Angeles City and the Philippines to the Bangkok I believe exists today. Visas and visa extensions are issued here with no fuss, I can travel and stay anywhere in the Philippines without having to report my movements to the local police. The Philippine people are friendlier than the Thais. That is a simple fact that anyone who has spent time in both countries will confirm. Basically, the Bangkok I knew has gone. I would imagine I am not the only one who feels that way. Arsenal Alex.
Smoke in the killbox.
I was certain someone would have commented on the “smoke” incident in a Nana Plaza go-go bar with punters within being sent to the place next door. In military terms, Nana Plaza is a “killbox” – one way in and out – and a place you don’t want to be in should the shit hit the fan. In the UK, if an activation was raised all premises would be cleared until inspections were carried out to ensure each place was safe and clear of any fire threat. Having been on a course where I was sent into a burning building, the first thing that you notice is lack of visibility.
Whitey started the bar scene’s demise.
I remember when whitey didn’t dominate bar ownership and everything was cheap and reasonable. Whitey changed the industry, saying he would pay more and have all the hot chicks in his bar, but now everyone is stuck paying higher salaries for all of the girls, the fat ones included. Beer prices and barfines were jacked up. This infiltrated the industry like a cancer and now the Thais who follow by example might taint the industry, but by no means did Thais start the demise.
Real life healthcare costs.
I have been living in Thailand for the past 15 years. I have NZI cover from the Thailand Insurance arm. I am 72 years old and it costs me 220,000 baht per year with a 150,000 baht excess. So the Americans saying heath cover here is cheaper than in the USA, just wait until they hit 70. No wonder older retired expats are worried about Thai Immigration wanting heath cover confirmation with visa renewals in the future. Lucky I budgeted well in advance before I moved here. Many did not.
Retire in Thailand? No thanks!
I’ve got a tourist visa for which I had to do an absurd “planes train and automobiles and long tail boats trip to get and I can’t face doing that again. I’m thinking of getting the easy 10-year residence visa for Malaysia. Thailand is really overplaying its hand if they think we farangs are so desperate to live here that we’ll tolerate shabby treatment like this. The need to bow and scrape for a visa and then report every 90 days like some kind of released felon is crazy. The visa run company representative said “but if you don’t do all this, you can’t live in Thailand!” like it was some kind of death sentence. I just said fine, and his face fell. Your recent article “Retire In Thailand No Thanks!” really drove it home for me. It’s amazing to see so many farangs living here when it’s such a hassle. The government of Thailand clearly doesn’t want farangs to live here, or they’d make it less onerous like Malaysia. I don’t blame Thailand for wanting to keep farangs away, when you consider the calibre of the average farang, but they should be mindful that with the Thai baht currency so strong now, Thailand is not even cheap enough any more to justify their high-handed approach to foreigners!
Peep by Dundee on Soi Cowboy opened on Friday night with zero fanfare or publicity. It was a case of switch the lights on, open the doors and hope for the best.
A few doors along, Lighthouse had a great night with their monthly theme party, 90’s Throwback. If Peep by Dundee wants a bar to replicate, the boys at Lighthouse are doing a lot of things right.
Bar areas closed at 1 AM sharp last night and the night before, due to the ASEAN Summit taking place in Bangkok. Gossip doing the rounds it will be 1 AM again tonight but I’d take that with a pinch of salt.
In Patpong, the new sports bar above Shenanigan’s will be opening very soon.
Management at Kazy Kozy are happy with the start they have made with big plans for a summer marketing campaign to put more bums on seats for their nightly shows. A contingent of new recruits have already taken to the stage with more expected next week.
Could something finally be happening at the corner of Sukhumvit Road and soi 7? The building still standing in that otherwise vacant lot adjacent to the Nana skytrain station that has been there for decades is being torn down. Could this herald the start of a new development? And will this have any bearing on the Biergarten just opposite, which has stood alone as the last venue still going on soi 7, refusing to budge, alongside barricaded empty lots.
No comments on business in the Bangkok girly bars this week because you know very well what’s going on without me having to say a single word about it. Curious whether it was just the girly bars that was suffering, I put the feelers out and word is that the ladyboy bars are hurting too with even True Obsessions – the busiest and best ladyboy bar in Nana Plaza, and probably all of Bangkok for that matter – doing less trade than usual. It has also been observed that the Japanese are fewer in number too.
Things are changing in Pattaya with some old names disappearing, seemingly without anyone so much as noticing. Long time soi 7 favourite, the Pig And Whistle, has finally closed with signs outside saying the space is available for rent. I imagine similar signs are popping up around town.
The doom and gloom in recent columns about how quiet it is in the bar areas should be looked at in context – those naughty boys who do visit at this time may feel a little more handsome than usual. Of course, that doesn’t mean they will find discounted prices…..Thailand just doesn’t work that way!
Girls in one Nana Plaza bar have commented that customers are keen to swap phone numbers and meet at the end of their shift and avoid paying a barfine. This is yet more evidence of what we already knew – that prices have reached a point that some just aren’t willing to pay them. You’d think bar owners might notice this and consider dropping the cost of barfines after, say, 1 AM. It might just help the bottom line.
The new Kiwi Pub on a sub-soi off Sukhumvit soi 8 celebrates its first birthday this coming week. The Kiwi has been around for much longer, assuming we’re talking the original Kiwi which was located on soi 8 proper. It is the new Kiwi, located at the end of the first sub-soi on the right-hand side, that is just a year old. The Kiwi does very well despite its awkward location and is popular for live sport. Rugby matches especially draw a crowd – and when big international rugby matches are shown the bar is packed. The new Kiwi pub celebrates its first anniversary this coming Thursday, June 27th, with happy hour prices all night and free BBQ from 7:30 PM.
From time to time expat conversation turns to the awkward topic of what expats can and cannot do in Thailand – and exactly what requires a work permit. Is it ok to mow your own lawns? What about working on your own home carrying out renovations? These are allowed, apparently. But some expats in Chiang Mai this week discovered something that is not allowed. The Chiang Mai Walking Club has effectively been told to cease operations. It is – or rather, was – a social group who like to walk, a mix of Thais & foreigners. It’s a social thing. There’s no money, no charge to join a walk and always free. Apparently some officious jobsworth has said that any farang leading a walk is operating as a tour guide, which is not just work, but a prohibited occupation that can only be performed by a Thai. As such, the group has to disband. Talk about ridiculous!
Where once foreigners in a dark place would jump from the balcony of their condo, these days they’re choosing the more public option of jumping in shopping malls. There have been a couple of such cases reported in the Thai media this past week, one in Bangkok and one in Pattaya. In both cases the jumper was a foreigner. Jumping in shopping malls in Thailand is nothing new, but it does seem to be reported more these days, probably partially due to social media. Shopping malls have a plan in place and when such incidents happen security guards scurry to set up a “tent” around the body so other shoppers cannot see the aftermath. Not so long ago I wrote that it didn’t seem that there were so many foreigners jumping these days, but it looks like those words were premature.
With things tense between the United States and Iran, Europeans visiting Thailand might want to be mindful that there could be an effect on flights with planes avoiding Iranian air space. There could be a knock on effect with travel plans. Apparently some airlines are already rerouting.
Across the border, the Chinese are investing heavily in Cambodia. Skyscrapers are popping up all over Phnom Penh and the cityscape is changing. Some say parts of the south coast of Cambodia feels more like mainland China. The southern town of Sihanoukville used to be popular with Western expats but many have been driven out as the Chinese buy up large, some said to have paid well over the odds for property. Westerners who had been renting are losing their place to stay mid-lease as the property they live in is sold. So much land has been sold to Chinese and so much accommodation has been lost as buildings are redeveloped that there has been a migration of expats east to the town of Kampot. And guess who has followed them? The Chinese. And guess what they are doing? Buying up land. And guess what the upshot of that is? Some expats who lost their apartments in Sihanoukville which were bought by Chinese have had the very same thing happen to them in Kampot. And it’s not just southern Cambodia where the Chinese are found in greater numbers. Chinese men have discovered the Phnom Penh hostess bars and more of them are partying in the capital. South-East Asia’s expat haunts are changing.
The Thai embassy in London rolled out the new online visa application system last week. As part of the change, multiple-entry non-immigrant O visas are no longer issues. This visa was used primarily by those who are married to a Thai who liked the idea of being able to come and go every 90 days without the need to report to Immigration in Thailand / extend their visa for a year. No explanation was given as to why this visa is no longer issued in London, but it does make one wonder if perhaps other embassies and consulates might also stop issuing this visa? Death by a thousand cuts may have origins in China but it seems the Thais are doing the same, ever so slightly turning the screws on foreigners with changes to visas and immigration rules. Seldom does a month go by without yet another change of some sort announced.
A number of readers sent comments about the scam email I had received that I talked about in last week’s column. I speculated that perhaps some skullduggery was going on with Thailand websites but it seems that is unlikely. This is a common scam where the website is hacked by outsiders who then try to trick users in to sending them money. It was almost certainly not an inside job as I had suspected. I guess this shows how my attitude has changed over the years – anything Thailand or Thai-related and I tend to suspect the worst.
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Reader’s story of the week comes from Mega, “Around The Traps in S.E. Asia Part 16“.
Quote of the week comes from submissions writer Mega is short and to the point, “The prices for a lady of the night are absolutely ridiculous these days.”
A Kiwi is found dead in his rented room in Chiang Mai.
A dastardly Westerner has tarnished the reputation of Chiang Mai by making a porn movie with a local lady who is said to be from a local massage shop.
Coconuts took a look at what’s going on at Patpong.
The Guardian reported an increased police presence in Soi Udomsuk after two motorcycle taxi factions had a huge fight on the soi resulting in the death of a bystander.
Last week’s opening piece, Expat Characters And Legends Of Stickman, which looked at where some folks are now, started out with 10 people. I made a last-minute decision to remove 2 of the people featured shortly before publishing. I removed the first guy because I didn’t want to cause problems for him. Said fellow is heavily involved in politics and has come out strongly against immigrants who do not assimilate, particularly those who insist that Australians respect their Muslim values rather than the other way around. He would prefer it if there wasn’t a link between his present life and the lifestyle he once had in Thailand. The other person is also someone who contributed a lot of stories to this site. I removed him because his life has gone downhill and I just don’t think it’s fair to make that known without his blessing to do so. That’s why the title initially said the 10 Legends and Characters of Stickman before I changed it.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org