Understandably, I guess, not much gets written about the rainy season in Sihanoukville and the internet is almost devote of rainy season photos. While photographs of clear blue skies and girls frolicking in the placid turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand are admittedly more enticing that pictures of grey skies and choppy seas, there’s a lot to be said about the rainy season in Cambodia, especially in places like Sihanoukville, which is not flood prone.
Last year was a big one for floods throughout Southeast Asia. As late as last November, I wrote Sihanoukville Flooded with Tourists as Bangkok Flood Worsens and November is the end of the rainy season. Historically, the rainy season in SE Asia goes from June to September and then slackens off in October. Weather patterns are changing everywhere, though, and it’s hard to predict when the rains will come and when they will go anymore. This year for example:
- Much of this part of the world had major floods in October and November, 2011, yet Sihanoukville, which has a reputation as the rainiest part of Cambodia, was sunny while much of inland Cambodia and Thailand were deluged with rain.
- We had smatterings of rain throughout December, January and February. A friend of mine who relies on rain water or the water truck for his water only had to have water delivered once this dry season. In the past, he has needed monthly deliveries in December, January and February.
- It’s May 15 today. This is about our 4th consecutive day of rain. Until today, it always let up throughout the day, but today it hasn’t stopped.
- If last year is anything to go by, June and July will be sunny and beautiful, but the rains will return with a vengeance in about August or September.
Except for those occasions when it rains relentlessly for two weeks, I love the rainy season in Sihanoukville. Between rains, the air is fresh and relatively cool. On Sunday afternoon, for instance, I set out on my bike ride at 2pm – two hours before my usual 4pm start. I was able to ride fairly hard (for an old guy with an arthritic knee) for most of the distance and only stopped for one water break.
No offence, travellers, but I also love the rainy season because the tourist numbers drop off. The roads are quieter, the restaurants and cafes always have plenty of empty tables and the prices go down in some of them, too. We never go up to the Hill in the high season, but in the middle of the rainy season, we often go to the Corner Bar; order a large wood fired pizza; plant ourselves in front of one of the big TVs and watch an entire movie with the volume up. We don’t feel guilty about it, because we’re usually the only ones there.
That seems to be changing this year, though. Here it is the middle of May and there are still quite a few Western tourists all over town. The King’s birthday holiday was on over the weekend and Sihanoukville was packed with Cambodian tourists. The biggest change with them is that now they come in private cars. On Sunday night, there were far more cars on Ekareach Street than motorbikes. When I came here to stay in 2007, seeing a car was a fairly big deal and the owner of the vehicle was assumed to be rich.
So what can I tell you about the rainy season in Sihanoukville? I’m not sure. It’s too unpredictable. I will recommend staying at a hotel in Sihanoukville that has a pool, because the onshore winds at this time of year sometimes make the sea water very dirty. You may not be able to safely travel out to the islands, either. Other than that, if you don’t mind getting wet, it’s a great time to visit.