delights & activities in the 'green season'

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Don't be put off by the word 'monsoon'

Just one word, ‘monsoon’, makes people forget about beachfront vacations.  But it does attract a few – those who understand the full realities of this neglected time of year. The few in the know understand that during the rainy season there are not so many days of rain; that during the monsoon season all of Thailand turns lush and green; that this time of year offers the coolest months of the year; that this is the quietest and most relaxing tome; that there are few tourists in the resorts; that prices are down, service is up and that there is a whole range of other things to do and enjoy.
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Here are 15 of the delights of the monsoon season along Thailand's Andaman coast that can be enjoyed if you are contemplating a true beachfront resort from Khao Lak in the North, through Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi down to Koh Lanta.   
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However, many of the suggestions here will not apply to the islands further offshore, like Koh Phi Phi , Koh Lipe , Koh Ngai , Koh Mook and Koh Kradan because their remoteness, and the difficulty of transport once the monsoon swells are up, will rule out many activities suggested here.  Those islands, however, can be fine during the monsoon season for those seeking an absolute escape without many activities and very, very few people around. ... especially in the early, transition period of May, or even June.
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enjoy cooler weather during the monsoon season

Following the hot-hot, almost breezeless months of March and April that have all of Thailand gasping for breath, the cooling off that the monsoon brings is welcomed across the land. Everyone who lives in Thailand looks forwards to the cooler, wetter months. Visitors will also enjoy the significant drop in temperatures that the first rains bring, and once the monsoon season settles in, it's rarely too hot, and never really cold.
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Despite that it is far outside the northern winter, September is the coolest month of the year on southern beaches, the result of heavier cloud cover and cool ocean winds.
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fewer people, better service in beach resorts & restaurants

Some people hate crowds. At this time of year it so much easier to have things to yourself, your way. Low season means fewer people and better service – often at a cheaper rates – in restaurants, markets and other service establishments.
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When the service staff are not harried by a restaurant full of guests you will not have to wait so long for your meal to arrive on the table – and you'll be blessed with added attention and more relaxed, beautiful Thai smiles. The lone customer in our photo enjoys a quiet time in a beachfront restaurant in Khao Lak with a waitress waiting on him alone.
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We even dare call this a more romantic time of year for couples.
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catch hotel bargains – they're everywhere

With hotels emptying during the May - October rainy season, room rates plunge along beaches across the country. Hotels throw out sweet deals of all kinds to catch a little of the scarce business. Andaman destinations offer especially good bargains, for this coast takes more effect from the southwest winds than the Gulf islands. And for further savings, guests in all beach destinations here find shopping outlets, restaurants and services like car and boat rentals offer local bargains too. The shopping centre of this region is Phuket , and prices here certainly plummet
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Samui , Koh Phangan and Koh Tao enjoy a mini boom in July and August due to the European summer holidays, and their weather is also not very wet at this time. But the major resorts in the Andaman remain very quiet.
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with fewer people, enjoy a beach to yourself

A beach to oneself is a dream that many people hold, but few realize. It represents romantic tranquillity and perfect isolation. During the monsoon months there is no trouble finding a beach to yourself along the Andaman coast, even on a popular tourist island like Phuket. In virtually every well-known beach destination along this part of Thailand – Krabi , Khao Lak, Koh Lanta , Phi Phi etc – you may have any number of beaches to yourself.
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end each day with a grand spectacle of nature

The electric power of the natural world is on full display during the monsoon season, particularly during the early months of May and June. Spectacular cumulonimbus clouds build up through the day into dramatic, towering thunderheads. The skies display roiling changes as dark clouds churn across the skies, breaking light into shafts and allowing some to fire through like beams from a giant's flashlight. Rainbows point to pots of gold all across the land and sea. By late afternoon the towering thunderheads come alive, firing lightning bolts and claps of thunder as if the gods were at war within.
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The horizon might display a dozen of these huge storms some days, with the occasional one churning a path of wind, black cloud, electric bolts and rain right over us. For those who live in awe of the power of nature, this is a dramatic time to be in Thailand.
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photography – catch those blue sky breaks

If you love photography, you should love the early months of the monsoon season with the towering thunderheads and electrical storms that are so common then. These provide backgrounds of beauty and visual power.
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However, through the entire monsoon there are regular breaks as the southwest winds die down and blue skies break out all around. These blue breaks in the monsoon come regularly, often lasting for a few days or even a week at a time. The landscape is lush green, all dust and dirt has been flushed from land and air, and the Thai world seems to sparkle with clarity, colour and brightness that's never seen at other times of year.
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For photography, these are ideal conditions. The problem for photographers far away is arriving in the Andaman in time to catch a break with skies as clear and blue as those in the photo here, shot in Koh Hong, Krabi in July.

photography – grab the macro lens

Like macro-photography? This is the season and the place for it, for during the monsoon the forests virtually explodes with life. The sharp-eyed photographer can find even the smallest patch of forest teeming with an astonishing variety of bugs; flashing butterflies, crimson centipedes, horned killer beetles and many more weird-looking and colourful creatures.
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Thailand's 'monsoonal' climate contrasts with the 'equatorial' pattern that covers many tropical areas. Equatorial climates have rain falling year-round, while in monsoonal areas there is a very distinct dry season. Thailand's dry months can be relentless, with the country often becoming parched and brown. The monsoon breaks the 'dry', bringing a complete, six-month reversal when new life bursts out in wild displays of shape and colour that one can hardly imagine. Only a macro lens dare dream of capturing the wild images that suddenly become available.
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boating in the protected waters of Phang Nga Bay

The Andaman region is blessed through all 12 months of the year by Phang Nga Bay . This calm body of water is perfectly protected from wind and waves no matter how big or from which direction they come. This spectacular bay of vertical, rocky monoliths lies directly to the back of Phuket, which forms the western barrier that keeps it mill-pond calm through the monsoon season. This 30-kilometre wide body of water is thus idyllic for yachts, sailboats and powerboats in all weather conditions – though the monsoon months can sometimes be the best.
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Low-hanging clouds and the occasional rain burst may envelop this primeval world, giving it an ethereal, almost mystical feeling. Waking up each day in the shadow of rocky giants is awe inspiring. A multi-day boat charter among the towering islands of Phang Nga at this cool, misty time of year can be a life-inspiring experience. And as romantic as it can get, too.
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driving tours through a lush, green countryside

Want to see and experience the real Thailand? You might find some of the best beaches in Phuket , Khao Lak , Krabi and Koh Lanta , but it's difficult to find that authentic 'Thai' experience in these famous tourist destinations. However, a rental car, a tank of fuel and a map can take you just a few kilometres up the local highway and deliver you to the real Thailand.
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Driving through rural Thailand can be a delight. All provinces along Thailand's Andaman coast from Ranong in the North to Satun in the South have good roads with sign posts in English, lots of interesting places to see and little traffic.
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There are plenty of little side roads heading off to remote beaches, forest temples and traditional villages. And heading off like this is quite safe.
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the Andaman's rain forests 'blossom' at this time of year

Want to see the rainforests of the Andaman at their best? The rainy season is the time when nature blooms, not with flowers, but with new life in myriad forms. Though the world is fast running out of untouched rainforests, and Thailand has destroyed most of its own, there are still some outstanding examples close to Phuket. Khao Sok is largest forested area in the region, and two- or 3-hour drive to the North.
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Phuket has just one tiny patch of natural forest at Khao Phra Taew in the Northeast; small but still very beautiful. This is a good reminder of just how amazing the forests of Phuket once were, before every flat patch of land was turned into a rubber plantation.
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fun on the beach, but of a different kind

Some people love the placid, flat water of the Andaman's high season. It's great for children, and is so amazingly calm that one can float and read a book in it. However, there are many others who love the waves thrown up during the monsoon season. This is not a season for inexperienced swimmers to jump in, and sometimes weak swimming do get into danger in rip currents. However, the numbers who enjoy the monsoon season waves without incident is testimony the fact that body surfing, or just playing in the waves, is a very popular activity indeed, especially on the Southwest beaches of Phuket from Nai Harn Beach up to Patong Beach .
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by John Everingham
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