Thailand has two monsoons; a famous one and a forgotten one

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Geographically - Thailand is the lucky country in Southeast Asia

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Thailand's beaches have two major oceans, two monsoons and three weather patterns, and are not as simple as might expect in a small country. Anyone considering a vacation in a beachfront resort here should arm themselves with knowledge of the basics of Thai weather.
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The major influences on the weather are the two monsoons, the Southwest Monsoon blowing in from the Indian Ocean (May-October), and the Northeast Monsoon that rages out of the Pacific (November-February).  
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Read more about how Thailand lies along the relatively tranquil, mid point between these two great competing weather patterns from the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
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Of these the southwest monsoon is the most important, by far, since it sweeps across and brings rain to the entire country for almost six month of the year. Thailand catches only the edge of the Northeast monsoon, and only in the South of the country.  The big beach destinations seriously affected by this second monsoon are Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, and all places to the south of there.  All others are dependent on the weather created by Indian Ocean, the Southwest Monsoon.
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Thailand has 3 seasons – but its beaches have just 2

Thailand has three seasons, generally classified like this;

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• the cool season (Nov- Jan)

• the hot season (Feb-April)

• the rainy season May-Oct)

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Thai beaches, however, have just two seasons:

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• The dry season

• The wet season

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Here we see both the ‘Cool Season’ and the ‘Hot Season’ have disappeared. The reason is quite simple: the ocean, and its moderating effect eliminates most big variations in temperature.
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The Cool Season enjoyed in the north of the country hardly affects the beach destinations at all. The chart below shows barely a dip in temperatures along the country’s Andaman beaches even in December or January, the middle of the northern winter. There is no more than 2 degrees difference, and here we find that the lowest temperature of the year occurs during the rainy season, in September. Temperature wise, there is no 'winter' or ‘Cool Season’ on Thailand's beaches at all – that’s only experienced in the north of the country, from Bangkok onwards.
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The Hot Season is similarly moderated by the cool breezes off the ocean, making beach destinations quite comfortable. When Chiang Mai and the north of Thailand gasp for breath as temperatures soar towards 40 C degrees in March and April, those near a beach enjoy more pleasant conditions around the low to mid 30s Centigrade.
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The 2 Thai beach seasons are DRY and WET (or 'High' and 'Monsoon')

Both of these name sets are good descriptions of the reality on Thai beaches. Removing the words ‘Cool’ and ‘Hot’ is also helpful in giving future visitors a better understanding of the real conditions they will meet here.
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The Dry or 'High Season' runs from November - April.
Read more about the conditions on the beaches of the Andaman Coast in November- December, the beginning of the high season.
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The Wet or 'Monsoon Season' runs from May - October.
Read more about conditions you can expect to find on the Andaman Coast beaches during July-August, the middle of the monsoon season.
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However, seasonal conditions in the Gulf of Thailand are more complex.


The conditions discussed above apply to all of Thailand’s Andaman Coast beach destinations, and to those in the upper portion of the Gulf. But the timing of the wet and dry seasons is different on the famous islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. These all lie far enough south in the Gulf of Thailand to catch the effects of the Northeast Monsoon that powers out of the Pacific Ocean from November to February.
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See a separate page detailing the Northeast Monsoon Season in the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
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yet Thai beaches have 3 distinct weather regions

While a beach seeker planning a trip to Thailand must consider seasons, he/she should also understand that geography jumps into the equation to complicate the beach weather patterns.
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We can thus divide Thai beaches into these three geographic weather regions:
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1. The Andaman coast

All destinations on this coast have virtually identical weather, with only minor local differences. True Beachfront has separate pages outlining those minor differences in each sub-region, and pages describing the weather month-by-month. In general, all of this coastline enjoys six months of good weather and calm seas starting in November, following the end of the southwest monsoon. March and April are particularly hot. May is often a transition month as the monsoon starts to build, and can be the most 'photographic' month of the year, with the scenery at its finest.
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2. Southern islands in the Gulf of Thailand

Tthe islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan & Koh Tao in the south of the Gulf of Thailand are in direct line of the Northeast Monsoon, getting heavy storms and rain from November through January. It's surprising how many people land on Koh Samui at this time of year expecting ideal, high-season weather. So many reports tell of Thailand's beautiful post-monsoon weather that begins in November, but forget to mention that these southern islands are exposed to the northeast monsoon, while the centre and north of the country is not.
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3. Beaches in the upper Gulf of Thailand

These include Hua Hin, Pattaya, Koh Samet, Koh Chang and neighbouring islands. These are sheltered from the Northeast Monsoon by the land mass of Vietnam and Cambodia, and get most of their rain from the Southwest Monsoon, and only dry winds from the north.
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This upper Gulf region does get quite a bit of wind from the Northeast Monsoon, however, and this has a major impact on Hua Hin, Cha-Am, Pranburi and nearby beaches along this coast. After crossing the land mass of Vietnam and Cambodia, this northeasterly wind arrives as a dry and steady, offshore breeze of about 20 - 30 kilometres an hour - the perfect kite surfing wind. It blows strong from December through February, easing off in March and April. During those months Hua Hin is one of Southeast Asia's two kite surfing (or kite boarding) hot-spots. The other is Mui Ne in Vietnam , where near-perfect wind conditions are created by the desert-like conditions in the area behind the beaches.
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Both of these beaches are awash in colour during the kiting season,with hundreds of kites slashing their way across the bright blue skies.
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Thailand's Andaman beaches: temperatures & rainfall by season & month

These statistics apply to all beach destinations along the Andaman Coast

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temperatures by season - Centigrade

Here we show the temperatures followig the traditional three season pattern. The small differences between 'Cool' and 'Hot' seasons shows why they are really just one, the The Dry Season.
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Average temperatures through Thailand's traditional seasons in all beach destinations on the Andaman coast, including Phuket, Phang Nga, Phi Phi, Khao Lak, Krabi Koh Lanta, Trang, Koh Lipe:

These readings were taken at Phuket airport, in the centre of the Andaman coast.

Minor variations are caused by local geography and conditions, but they are barely noticeable.
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  • Cool Season: November -- January

                                         maximum 32 C         minimum 23 C
    
  • Hot Season: February -- April

                                            maximum 34 C         minimum 23.7 C
    
  • Rainy Season: May -- October

                                            maximum 31.4 C      minimum 23.7 C
    

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rainfall by month - in millimetres

Average rainfall across the Thai Andaman region by month, measured at Phuket airport. The variations here are quite significant, with locations backed by mountains getting significantly more rain during the Southwest Monsoon. These include Khao Lak, Phang Nga and Krabi.

There is additional variation in the far south, in the Trang Islands and southern-most Koh Lipe, due to the effects of the Northeast Monsoon that runs from December - February, bringing additional rain during that period.
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. . . . . Jan: .... Feb: ... Mar: .. Apr: .... May: ..... Jun: .... Jul: ...... Aug: .... Sep: ..... Oct: .... Nov: .... Dec:

     30     30     30     160     340     210     260     260     410     300     200     50

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by John Everingham
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Free advice on beachfront hotels and beaches in Thailand is available from True Beachfront’s expert on the subject, John E, who’s visited virtually all beaches in the country with beachfront hotels. See his photos on more than 1,100 Thai beach hotels in this website. E-mail john@beachf.com