When you think of Koh Samui, what do you think of? White sand, blue seas, swaying palm trees, cocktails, sunshine, tanning on the beach?
Well, MOST of the time, it is like that, yes. But here in Thailand, we have three seasons. Not four, but three. Summer, Winter and Rainy season. Where I live, on the island of Koh Samui, we are subjected to Rainy season around November time and it usually lasts around a month.
But let me just explain something important first. For roughly 10.5 – 11 months of the year, I have brilliant blue skies, stinking hot days and a tan that my friends are envious of with an odd splash of rain here and there so that people don’t die and plants are grateful. I sleep with the fan on, use the airconditioner regularly, sweat a lot and drink enough water to prevent dehydration for a small country.
BUT … for 1 – 1.5 months, my lifestyle changes a bit. It rains. A LOT. I am actually shocked at just how much water comes out of the sky. I lived in South Africa for many years and we often had incredible rain showers there but never with a tropical twist like you have here. Here you have dangerous winds (that makes riding your motorbike interesting), roughly 16cm of water falling within a 24hr period, flooding, power cuts and other ‘challenges’.
I’ll put it in bullet points to make it easier to read:
- I have to keep most of my windows closed during this time because the rain often comes in sideways and my apartment floor can become Thailand’s next skating rink (slippery, not icy. You got that right?) This is hard because it becomes stuffy. Just because it’s raining, doesn’t mean it cools down a great deal.
- I wear plastic shoes because it’s pointless wearing anything else. I KNOW I’m going to get wet whether it’s from being out on my bike or walking from my bike to my front door or supermarket entrance.
- I pack a few plastic bags with me wherever I go, so I can wrap up my phone, handbag and iPad, if it starts to rain.
- I carry two plastic ponchos when I’m out so if I do get stuck I can quickly put one on (I carry two in case one tears). However, because the rain sometimes only lasts for around 30 minutes, everyone who isn’t on URGENT business, just tends to pull over and find shelter anywhere (including random peoples’ front porches which is totally accepted by the people living there, who will often wave at you from inside their dry houses).
- I start following various weather/wind websites to figure out how long the current weather spell will last. Sometimes it’s just a few showers over a few days often accompanied by crazy storms too. But sometimes, it rains continuously for 3 days and that is a LOT of water to be sloshing around.
- It starts to become increasingly difficult to navigate around the island. The roads, which aren’t in great condition to start with, get flooded easily. And when I say flooded, I mean ‘over the top of your motorbike wheels’ flooded. Some roads are closed off completely and all of a sudden you’re having to cancel appointments and settle for phone calls instead. The huge puddles also cover up the potholes so you have to try and remember where they are if you’re brave enough to venture out on your bike.
- Tree branches start to litter the road and copious amounts of sand start to wash down from the hills onto the roads. Riding a motorbike on sandy roads is VERY slippery.
- With all the water and the 1000′s of power cables merely hanging between wooden poles around the island, comes the inevitable. Power cuts. Yup, no way to charge my beloved iPhone (which has stupid battery power anyway – see TIP below), no way to charge my laptop or my kindle. This means I have to constantly make sure that SOMETHING is at full power. If my laptop has enough power, I can charge my phone/kindle/iPad from their so that sometimes helps. I can also do my writing from my iPad OR my laptop so as long as one of them has enough power, I’m okay. Writing out my lesson plans instead of printing them isn’t actually the end of the world…
- No power doesn’t only mean no lights, but also no fridge, no kettle, no toaster and no microwave, so eating becomes a challenge. Thank goodness I have a gas hot plate and am able to boil water for coffee and noodles so I won’t starve
- Sadly in my apartment, my water is supplied via en electric pump so no power also means no water. I always keep a 5l bottle of water for emergencies like this so I can at least have a wash. I also have baby wipes. But this is really for short term – not sure what I’d do if I had no power for a week or something. Swim in the sea? Nope, can’t do that either – the storms often bring in jellyfish …
- Sometimes the power cut is just in my town so I can hop on my bike, wade through flooded waters, dodge potholes and make my way to a coffee shop with power or a generous friend’s house.
- The inside of my house becomes full of various items of clothing trying to dry from being caught in the rain because I was too lazy to stop to put a poncho on (oh yes, some of it is self-inflicted).
- I swear a lot. Not because it’s raining, not because of everything I’ve mentioned so far. No, I swear when I’ve managed to stay dry and a car overtakes me and drives through a deep puddle, drenching me from head to toe in muddy water. I swear! Then I try to decide if I want to continue to my appointment drenched in muddy water or cancel YET again making excuses about the rain.
If you’re staying in a hotel, don’t worry. A lot of the bigger resorts, restaurants and bars will have generators so you won’t be reduced to washing yourself with bottled water or the swimming pool (well, unless you really want to…) These points apply to most of us actually living here.
Seriously though, it might all sound bad but you learn a lot about yourself when you’re challenged like this. You learn that you have more strength of character than you might have originally thought. You realise there is a strong community feel on an island and everyone looks out for everyone else offering power, food, transport and general advice about what’s happening in various areas. You learn to make it work because for 10.5 months, it IS paradise and being drenched in muddy water is absolutely worth it.
I wouldn’t change anything. Now where is my poncho…?
Tip: Check the tourism website for the area that you’re planning on visiting and find out when the rainy season is. Tourism Thailand is the official website for Thailand in general but you might need to check the local websites too.
Consider a Mophie battery pack if you have an older iPhone like I do. It allows you double the amount of power and uses a standard USB cable rather than a specific apple cable so you can easily borrow one off someone else in emergencies.
What’s the craziest weather you’ve experienced?