There are two things to note in relation to the monsoon in Koh Phangan. Firstly, the start date and finish date of the worst weather is unpredictable until close to the traditional ‘monsoon season’. Secondly, Koh Phangan is virtually empty during the worst of the rains, and this is especially true of Bottle Beach.
Only Bottle Beach 2 officially closes for the rainy season. They set their close dates from 1st November to 30th November. This theoretically means that there are still bungalows and rooms to rent at Bottle Beach 1, Haad Khuad Resort and Haad Khuad. There are always people living on Bottle Beach – locals, hired help (often from Burma) and a few long stay ex-pats. Otherwise the place is empty. The resorts will only be manned by a skeleton staff as many people prefer to head north to avoid the rains.
Work is done every year making sure the resorts are ready for the lashing rains and the winds. Along the beach there is a small wall designed to prevent the sea reaching the flat land just next to the beach where most of the buildings are located. Often extra sand bags will be used to protect the resorts.
Some years the sea levels get very high and the flooding causes damage to the tourist facilities.
For those living on Bottle Beach the monsoon conversations start in October. The storms start in the north of Thailand and move south. By keeping track of the progress of the rains it is possible to accurately predict when the worst storms are coming.
If you are on Bottle Beach in October then you should be keeping a careful eye on the weather. When the monsoon hits Koh Phangan you could get stranded on Bottle Beach – perhaps not a bad thing in some people’s eyes, but for others a disaster. The seas get too rough for longtail boats. The rough road linking Bottle Beach to Thong Nai Pan Noi gets very muddy and slippy and hard to navigate even for the experienced Bottle Beach taxi drivers.
What’s the Monsoon Like?
It is not a constant deluge for 3 weeks. Rather it is a series of heavy storms. Often accompanying the rain are thunder and lightning. The winds also pick up. After the storms people re-emerge to find giant puddles and various bits of storm damage. The sea levels rise and the sea is very choppy. Waves are pounding the shore.
The monsoon some years can be very short, other years it drags on into four weeks. The rains are necessary to keep the forest lush and the ecosystem healthy. Climate change concerns occur when the rains are too short. Local businesses hope for plenty of rain to make sure there is a plentiful supply for guests throughout the year.
Surfers, don’t get excited. The waves dump on the shore at the last moment. Don’t go swimming as the sea is full of strong under currents.
At night the lights sometimes flicker and there is the occasional black out as a generator goes down. It is a good idea to have a candle, matches and a light. Don’t fear, chill out and the storm will pass.
When Does the Monsoon Finish?
The monsoon usually lasts about 3 weeks. During this time expect heavy rain every day. After the worst of the storms it is will still rain a lot but without thunder and lightning. The temperature is still relatively low for Koh Phangan and the sea remains dangerous for swimming. The poor weather continues throughout most of December.
Most people don’t turn up to Koh Phangan for their Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays until around 20th December at the earliest. Up until then it is officially low season. The sea on Christmas Day is sometimes flat as a pancake under a blue clear sky; other Christmas’s it is wavy and cloudy.
I spent a monsoon Massage House sitting ‘down the road’ in Thong Nai Pan. Here is a video clip that captures the rain and sheets of lightning. The path to the massage house disappeared and in the morning I had to shift a load of sand to repair the damage done the previous night.