Rainy season in Chiang Mai usually consists of just light drizzle and short bursts of rain, making it an ideal escape from the tropical downpours of the south. Here are some of our top wet weather picks for the North.
The wet season is the best time for a trip to the waterfalls, as this is when they have the fullest bodies of water, while surrounding forests are at their greenest. The most impressive is Mae Sa Waterfall, with its drop descending over more than 10 tiers. The majority of visitors hang out around the bottom level, so if you want more privacy, just hike up a little further. If you’re lucky, you might even see elephants taking their baths in the bottom-most pool. Entrance is $8 per day.
Huay Kaew Falls
Easier to get to is Huay Kaew Falls, the ideal waterfall for a fuss-free picnic. Located on the bottom part of Doi Suthep, it consists of a high descent point that pours over a 50-meter rock slope that offers numerous spots to relax and cool off. Entrance is free, but make sure you pick up after yourself and throw away any trash. Don’t feel like preparing food? No problem. There are also restaurants you can visit that overlook the cascade, so you’ll be able to dine with a view too.
Those who are up for a little more hiking, climb further up the same spot to the Monthathai Falls. Since they’re located in the national park area, there is a $8 entry fee—but this ensures they remain more secluded, and the ground up here is also more suited to picnicking. During the rainy season, the water gets high enough that those who don’t wish to get completely wet can hang out by the banks and comfortably dangle their legs in the water. What most people don’t know is that Monthathai Falls also carries the only path to a pretty hidden gem. If you’re physically in-shape, climb up to the waterfall’s third tier, then hike 40 minutes upwards on the trail above the drop. Here, you’ll find a separate little waterfall deep in the forest that a lot of people don’t know about. Don’t forget your Gopro, as you’ll be able to snap some rare footage of the spot at its most picturesque.
Although smaller, the Bua Thong Falls have got to be crossed off any bucket list purely for their unique appearance. The water drops down a white limestone and sandstone cascade which has been naturally carved into steps that even let you walk up the fall. But be careful; some areas can be slippery. This spot is very popular during the rainy season, as the pool beneath can actually dry up completely during the scorching hot summer. Entrance is free, but bring your own refreshments.
Thanks to Chiang Mai’s booming coffee and art scenes, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Northern capital for a city break alone. The recently opened Arttitude Gallery (Nimmanhaemin Rd., +66 52 002-202) introduces a new angle to Chiang Mai’s cafe scene by catering to health-conscious art lovers and replacing the coffee with 100 per cent pure cold-press fruit juice. Each drink is named after famous paintings based on the flavor and color. Try their signature Monet Sunrise, consisting of carrot, passion fruit and pineapple, while admiring the displayed works of permanent and periodical exhibits.
For coffee with a view, Ponganes Espresso (133/5 Ratchapakinai Rd., +66 52 089-569) wins hands down thanks to its setting amid the great outdoors. You’ll also be cooled by a natural breeze rather than air-con as you enjoy your quality cup of Joe.
Rustic & Blue
For a cozier, homier view, visit Rustic & Blue
(Nimmanhaemin Soi 7, +66 98 495-7119), where you’ll find an adorable vibe similar to that of a Northern California flower farm. The cafe specializes in tea and food made from home-grown organic produce. The floor-to-ceiling windows provide a view of their well-kept garden while you dine. Go for afternoon tea and try their homemade cheeses paired with salami. And if it rains? Let it! It’ll just make for a prettier view.
Roundtrip flights from Singapore start around $360 with Silkair and $169 with Tiger Airways.
Just because it’s rainy season doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the pristine beaches of Southern Thailand. In fact, August is actually
considered relatively high season for Koh Samui. Days are long and the rain only falls on occasion. Here are our top picks.
Arguably the most iconic spot on the island, W Retreat’s Woo-bar, recently recruited a new music curator, DJ Kelly Kellam from New York. The team are also making sure that your luxury party experience is that extra special with its SPF #Shockwave Summer Series. The week-long celebration of art, music and gastronomy takes place this Jul 27-Aug 1, just in time for the long weekend. Guests can also indulge in free-flow Mo-Hee-Toe Madness on Thursday night at $51. Finally, the party concludes on Aug 1 with an eclectic mix of interactive art, design, dance and film. Entry for guys is $19 and comes with one free cocktail. Free entry for ladies. The submerging pods at Woobar are also available for pre-sale at $785 (for 10 people with a bottle of Ciroc vodka and free mixers). A pool villa for two starts from $864. More information at wretreatkohsamui. com.
DJ Kelly Kellam
The international resort brand Nikki Beach celebrated its sixth anniversary this year, and is still as popular as ever. Every week, its Sunday Brunch offers a well-heeled crowd poolside entertainment and a $67 buffet under a different theme. Aug 2 theme is Casino Royale, while on Aug 16, the beach club holds a pre-party in honor of its newest branch, Nikki Beach Dubai. Ending the month this Aug 30 is What Women Want: Summer Edition, a signature fashion series, featuring designer clothes, cocktails and sweet treats. A garden villa by the signature 75-meter-long pool starts from $240 per night. More information at nikkibeachsamui.com.
U Koh Madsum Samui
U Koh Madsum Samui
For the ultimate escape, take a trip to a private island. Forty minutes away from the main Koh Samui island, you’ll find the newly opened U Koh Madsum Samui—possibly the cheapest private island luxury resort in Thailand. The 37-villa resort is currently offering an all-inclusive package for a two-night stay in a tented villa, with daily breakfast, dinner and roundtrip airport transfers at $280 per person (available through Oct 31). More information at ukohmadsumsamui.com.
If you’d rather stay on Koh Samui, there are changes on the island too. The Passage, Koh Samui Resort has now become Movenpick Resort Laem Yai Beach Samui
, the third Thai location of the international brand, overlooking Angthong National Marine Park on the western side of the island and offering a picturesque sunset beach. The special summer rate is $132 per room per night, inclusive of breakfast. More information at bit.ly/1OcJrIU
What used to be the Imperial Samui on Chaweng Noi beach has been rebranded as Sheraton Samui Resort, joining the rest of the luxury Starwood Hotels chain. Located nearby the nightlife of Chaweng, the resort has 141 guest rooms and suites. The special opening offer is $165 per room per night from now through Dec 23. More information at sheraton.com/samui.
Finally, Six Senses Samui
has also undergone a big revamp, and only just reopened on Jul 1. Their villa interior and furnishings have been refurbished, villa pools resurfaced, and seven new pools have been added, making a total of 59 villas. Various packages available at sixsenses.com/resorts/samui/destination.
Roundtrip flights from Singapore start from $515 with Silkair and $518 with Bangkok Airways.
When the rain comes, Thailand’s little-explored northeastern region (Isaan) has abundant things to check out. On top of a host of cultural festivals, there are also some real natural wonders. Here’s where to head this season.
Photo by Tourism Authority of Thailand Ubon ratchathani
(Candle maker community visit) Photo by Tourism Authority of Thailand Ubon ratchathani
The Candle Festival
Though every part of Thailand celebrates the Buddhist lent festival, Ubon Ratchathani can proudly boast that it has the most grandiose carved wax candle parade in the kingdom. As always, the event begins on Jul 29 at Thung Sri Muang, the vast pavilion in the city center, before setting off on a parade by car across the city. This year’s theme, Plern Hatthasilp Thin Khon Tham Thian
“visiting candle maker communities,” lets spectators see close up how local artists create their magnificent wax candle sculptures. Among the 11 participating temples are Wat Bhurapa, Wat Sripradu, Wat Thung Sri Muang, Wat Liab and Wat Sri Ubon Rattanaram. Shutterbug tourists also stand the chance to win the TAT Ubon prize by submitting their photos from the event to the competition. Visit fb.com/tatubonfanpage
(Thai language only) for more information. The deadline to submit pictures is Aug 7.
The Glowing Temple
Pictures of a glowing chapel have made travel to Ubon the talk of social media. The neon-lit Sirindhorn Wararam Phuphrao Temple takes inspiration from Luang Prabang’s Wat Chiangthong, and is situated near Sirindhorn Dam on the Thai-Lao border, about an hour’s drive from Ubon city center.
Photo by Tourism Authority of Thailand Ubon ratchathani
The Shrimp Parade
One of Thailand’s most amazing natural wonders takes place in Ubon during rainy season. During the seasonal shrimp parade at Kaeng Lamduan Waterfall
, situated in Yod Dome Wildlife
Sanctuary in Phu Jong Na Yoi National Park
(+66 45 210-706, dnp.go.th
), tiny freshwater shrimp jump from the water and “walk” across the waterfall’s rocks in order to make it upstream to breed and lay eggs. The spectacle only appears at night on 4-5 occasions around late August through mid-September, when conditions are perfect and the pools are at their deepest. Check with the park before heading there. But even if you’re timing’s not good, you can still admire the beauty of Huay Luang Waterfall
at its most spectacular. Book a stay at the national park ($23 for two people, and $46 for six people), which is 22 kilometers away from Kaeng Lamduan Waterfall.
(Saeng Chan Waterfall) Photo by Tourism Authority of Thailand Ubon ratchathani
(Pha Chanadai) Photo by Tourism Authority of Thailand Ubon ratchathani
(Pha Taem National Park) Photo by Tourism Authority of Thailand Ubon Ratchathani
Rise and Falls
You’ll need to set aside a full day for a roadtrip to Pha Taem National Park, but it’s worth it. Start by catching the first sunlight at Pha Chanadai, which also offers a panoramic view of the curve in the Mekong River. A 90-minute drive away you’ll find the natural wonder of Sao Chaliang, the site of giant rock pillars standing like mushrooms. Another nearby attraction is Pha Taem, where ancient paintings line the walls of a cliff next to another scenic Mekong River view. An hour further north, you can hide from the heat at the gorgeous Saeng Chan Waterfall where water and light flow simultaneously through a small hole in a cave wall.
Charcaol Soymilk & Pals
Milk Bar Hopping
Ubon people are well-known for their dessert addiction. In fact, nearly all of the hangout places in town are dessert-related, especially milk bars. Apart from the well-established Lek Nomsod
(+66 45 240-149), you’ll also find newer places like Nom Lamoon
(+66 80 430-0999, www.fb.com/nomlamoon
) and Nom Noir
(+66 95 883-4383, www.fb.com/nomnoirubon
). Another new contender is Charcoal Soymilk
(+66 95 451-5655, www.fb.com/charcoalsoymilk
), which just expanded from a night-time-only street stall to a proper cafe, sharing a space with the health-centric cafe Pals (try the super-thin-crust pizza made from light-flour crepe and the cold-pressed juice). Read our whole roundup of Isaan’s new cafes and hotels at goo.gl/QHD7V3
The only sure way to get here is with Air Asia via Bangkok. Flights from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani start at $28.