Thailand’s cool season has officially begun, bringing a drop in temperatures to much of the country and lower humidity levels, making the months from November to February the best time to travel, as they can enjoy a respite from the usual tropical heat.
During the cool season or “Thai winter” – which corresponds to know actual season or calendar – Bangkok typically sees temperatures of between 18 and 32 degrees Celsius while in the North and Northeast the mercury can drop significantly to around 10 degrees Celsius in the morning and at night to the point of being particularly chilly. At high altitudes, the temperature can drop below freezing. That’s right, freezing in Thailand.
For Thais, the cool season is a time to visit the mountain tops of Central, Northern and Northeastern Thailand to experience the early morning mists and “seas of fog” that winter brings.
While mist and fog are probably not so much of a novelty for foreigners, there are other wonderful experiences and activities to enjoy during the cool season.
It’s from December to February that various species of flowers are in full bloom, especially in the North. In the mountainous province of Mae Hong Son bordering Myanmar, the renowned Bua Tong (wild sunflower) field at Doi Mae U Kho bursts into a sprawling carpet of bright yellow during November and December.
In Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, around the same time, beautiful pink cherry blossoms are in bloom, while in Udon Thani in the Northeast, millions of red lotuses turn Nong Han freshwater lake into a mass of deep pink-red petals. Closer to Bangkok, the sunflower field at Phattana Nikhom in Lop Buri is a scene of dazzling yellow from November to January.
The cooler months are also a good time for hiking and camping in Northern Thailand with the lower temperature and humidity providing a more comfortable climate for such activities during the day.
Visiting the world-renowned beaches and resort islands of Southern Thailand is another appealing “winter” option, with the region neither overly hot nor humid during December to February. Popular destinations like Phuket, Krabi and the Phi Phi Islands on the west coast of the Thai peninsula are best visited from November through April, and great underwater visibility makes December a great time for diving and snorkeling.
On the eastern side of the peninsula, spots like Koh Samui and Phangan Islands in the Gulf of Thailand are best visited from December through June.
In Bangkok, Christmas and the New Year are celebrated in a brightly lit and festive manner with the areas around Siam, Ratchaprasong and Sukhumvit decorated in dazzling night-time illuminations and displays, shops and department stores offering various promotions and special deals, and hotels serving festive fare.
Also, a number of Thailand’s annual festivals and other events take place during this time of the year. Among these are the Glorious of Ayutthaya Fair 2020 set for Dec. 11-20 at the Ayutthaya Historical Park, which celebrates the historical significance of this ancient Thai capital that flourished from the mid-14th-18th centuries and has been recognized today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is also the River Kwai Bridge Week scheduled for Nov. 27 to Dec. 6 in Kanchanaburi which honors the Allied prisoners of war and Asian laborers forced by the Japanese army to build the infamous Death Railway during World War II.
Both of these events feature a light and sound show along with other entertainment like cultural performances, exhibitions, food, music and locally-made products on sale, and are held in conjunction with a Red Cross Fair.
The weekend of Nov. 28-29 also sees Lopburi hold its renowned Monkey Buffet Festival, an annual feast the locals put on for the hundreds of resident, free-roaming monkeys for which the town has become famous.
From Feb. 5-7, the Chiang Mai Flower Festival will feature floral floats, horticultural contests, botanical displays, music and other entertainment, and an abundance of blooming flora. Chinese New Year – which in 2021 is on Feb. 12 marking the start of the Year of the Ox – is always a fascinating time to be in Thailand, where it is one of the biggest festivals of the year.
Celebrations are held around the country of which those in Bangkok and Phuket are the biggest and most well-known