Bangkok in Rainy Season

For nearly six months of the year, from May through October, Thailand experiences the monsoon season. It has its own rhythms, its own challenges and its own joys.


Much of the time, rainy season days are humid in the morning as the pavement dries out after overnight rain. The skies are mostly blue and the fresh air provides no filter to the sunlight, which bakes anyone unfortunately enough to be outside the shade like ants under the magnifying glass of a cruel, petulant child.

As the day progresses, cumulonimbus clouds build like fluffy albino cotton candy reaching into the stratosphere. They darken over the afternoon, their shade growing ever more menacing. Often, one half of the sky will still be sunny and blue while the other half will be an advancing, sheer wall of dark grey.

Once the wind picks up, you know that it is just a matter of minutes – at most a half-hour – before the rain starts to fall. Often, this happens in a fierce opening of the heavens, fire hoses turned on full force, a deluge turning roads to canals and canals to lakes. The torrent can just as rapidly cease, leaving the temperatures considerably cooler and, if the clouds vanish, the stars clearly visible even in a city with so much light pollution.

Sometimes, though, the rain stays around at varying degrees of intensity, snarling traffic, stranding pedestrians and leaving behind flooded sois (alleys) that take hours to drain. Thankfully, this does not happen too often and when it does, you just alter your plans and either stay in (if you were caught at home) or stay out (if you had not yet made it home).

Patience is called for.

The joy of rainy reason comes in the moderately cooler weather – each degree of reduction is appreciated – and the breezes. This year, while our rainfall has been heavy, there has been minimal flooding. The greatest joy of rainy season is the cool season that follows it, though.

Rainy Season Finally Arrives

This has been an unusually dry monsoon season in Thailand. So much so, that much of the country has been suffering from drought. September is typically the rainiest month by far, and true to form, it brought relief from the dry weather.


For the most part, the rains have been tolerable. Sometimes heavy, but none of the severe flooding that torrential monsoon rains are known for. Our soi (small street) is prone to flooding after as little as 30 minutes of heavy rain. So far, there has been no need to put on the waders!


The thing I like best about the rainy season is the cloudy, overcast weather. It amazes me, how much cooler the temperatures are when we are not baking in the direct sun. This time of year is also breezy, which helps keep temperatures more tolerable.

Now that October has arrived, the rains should decrease in frequency and by November, the relatively cooler “cool season” will arrive. This coincides with the start of a new job, which I will take as an auspicious sign.


After the Rains

It is rainy season here in Thailand and true to norm, September is proving to be the wettest month.  Almost every evening we have heavy rains here in Bangkok and we’re even having several days with on and off showers.  The air is cooler than normal, which is nice, but the humidity hasn’t been below 65% in two months.  Still, I prefer rainy season to the hot season.


Here’s an audio clip I recorded last night about midnight after the rain had stopped.  Various creatures are croaking and chirping in the background as the occassional drop falls from one palm frond to the next.


The Hottest Day is Doused

The Thai Meteorological Department announced that Monday April 27th would be the hottest day of the year, as it was the apex of the sun’s seasonal arc across Thailand.  As we inched towards that day the weather became hotter and hotter, leaving few doubts that their prediction would hold true.

But then in the midst of the high temperatures a few days before, the forecast began to crack: a high pressure system was descending from China and instead of the hottest day, the 27th would instead be a preview of the coming rainy season, which the department announced would officially begin May 15th.


Sure enough, by lunchtime Monday the thunder and lightning was upon us and rain fell for nearly two hours in a steady downpour.  By the time I tried to return home I found our soi flooded.  This often happens when it rains as the city lies low and its water system struggles to handle a deluge, but it usually clears out quickly.

The water reached levels I have not seen in our two years here on the soi.  I couldn’t find a motorbike that would attempt to traverse the waters so I walked home, eventually up to my shins on the flooded sidewalks.

Here’s a video compilation of the storm set to a wonderful song, “Come In Out of the Rain” performed by Chicago jazz vocalist Audrey Morris.


Wrapping it all up

The first few weeks of November are the last few weeks of rainy season here in Khrungthep, the weather cools and the monsoon rains come one storm after another.  It is pleasant to see the end of this season as it is followed by three or four months of relatively cool weather.


Meeting Markus for lunch the other day at Central Chidlom department store, another storm arrived, stranding everyone indoors.  The mid-day traffic, usually very heavy around here, was notably absent.

A montage of monsoon scenes with some nice music.

After the rains ended, I noticed this billboard atop the Metropolitan Electric Authority building, next to the Chidlom BTS Skytrain station.


The message: “Dedicated every minute for the good life of every person.”  I’ve never seen MEA employees look so happy.