Travelling to Thailand in May has its advantages. As one of the low season months for tourism, discounts are available on room rates and internal flights, and the main tourist attractions are less crowded. If you’re planning a visit to Thailand in May you can expect hot and sultry weather in many areas of the country, especially during the first half of the month. May in Thailand also sees the gradual transition from the hot season into the rainy season (green season) with an increase in the amount of rainfall during the second half of the month. The May rainfall is welcome, bringing an end to the long dry spell and introducing fresher conditions.
Although heavy downpours can occur almost anywhere in Thailand during May, it doesn’t rain all day every day. You will still encounter plenty of blue skies and sunshine during a May holiday in Thailand so don’t let the prospect of rain put you off. When the showers arrive they bring respite to the heat and you may find yourself looking forward to seeing the rain for an hour or two.
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Where to go in May
Wherever you travel in Thailand during May you can expect to see some rain mixed in with periods of hot and sunny weather. Do keep hydrated and if you are sightseeing in locations such as Bangkok or Chiang Mai, you may find conditions more comfortable and less humid earlier in the morning or late afternoon.
If you’re planning a beach holiday for May, the Gulf Coast usually has more sunshine and less rainfall compared to the opposite Andaman Coast. This means that destinations including Ko Samui and the Gulf Islands along with destinations on the mainland such as Chumphon, Khanom and Hua Hin, can all be a good choice for a beach holiday in May.
On the Andaman Coast, the effects of the south-west monsoon can lead to gusty winds and tropical downpours, especially later in the month. It doesn’t rain persistently and you can still expect to see lots of sunshine too during a typical fortnight holiday. This is particularly true in the first half of the month as the photo below (taken in Ko Kradan in early May) shows. However, bigger waves in the Andaman Sea at this time of year and more unsettled conditions at sea means that some boat services to outlying islands are temporarily suspended from May-October.
On Thailand’s east coast, conditions are varied. Pattaya and the nearby island of Ko Samet see relatively low amounts of rainfall during May while further east in Trat province, there are higher levels of precipitation. If you are visiting Ko Chang or any of the islands in the Ko Chang archipelago you are likely to experience some heavy downpours mixed in with periods of fine weather.
Do pay attention to any warning flags on beaches at this time of year. The sun may be beating down and the wind low, but big waves can catch out even the strongest of swimmers and on some beaches riptides can be an issue too. Summer storms can also see jellyfish drift into Thai waters, but Thai authorities do actively monitor conditions and warning notices are posted on beaches where there is any potential hazard.
May events & festivals
Although the exact dates of festivals in Thailand can often depend on the lunar calendar, May usually sees a couple of significant events.
Visakha Bucha Day is the most important event in the Buddhist calendar and often falls in May. Visakha Bucha commemorates three defining events in the life of the Buddha, which all occurred on the full-moon day of the sixth lunar month (the Visakha month). This Buddhist holiday marks the day on which the Buddha was born, reached his enlightenment 35 years later, and the day he died and entered Nirvana 45 years after that. Visakha Bucha Day is a public holiday across Thailand and as such an important religious occasion, restrictions are in place on alcohol sales.
The arrival of the rainy season and the importance of the rice crop is celebrated in the rice growing heartlands of north-east Thailand. As a way of encouraging the rains and ensuring a good crop, lively Rocket Festivals are held in a number of locations in Isaan.
And in Bangkok, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony is a colourful event steeped in tradition which symbolically predicts what lies ahead for the rice harvest.
There is no fixed date for the Royal Ploughing Ceremony with royal astrologers helping to assess what day (usually in May) is the most auspicious date for the ceremony.
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