When I arrived in Vietnam for the first time, I had a very strict schedule to follow. I was working in Korea at the time and had a paid vacation. I needed to get back to my job on time and unharmed. I was concerned. What if the weather was rainy and I didn’t see anything beautiful? What if my motorbike driver slipped and fell on the road, injuring me with them? All these questions flew around in my head like leaves on a windy day.
Rainy season can bring all sorts of stress to Vietnamese locals, too. During the month of August, it is common for people not to fix their homes because of the heavy rainfall. Rain disrupts travel like snow might for people in colder climates. However, the Vietnamese don’t let rain get in the way of their personal and professional lives, and neither should you!
First things first, you are never going to control the weather. Never look at your phone’s weather app in Vietnam because they are inaccurate. Typically in Vietnam during rainy season (especially in the mountains), it rains for a few hours at a time and clears up. You might see stormy clouds on the horizon only to experience no rain at all. On the other hand, storms can creep up on you at a second’s notice. Here are some tips for getting the best out of your rainy season experience in North Vietnam.
When travelling on a motorbike, carry a poncho and plastic shoe covers. Anything heavier will greatly overheat your body. A poncho and shoe covers are great because they are cheap and you can easily dispose or wash them after use. When travelling on a motorbike, less is more. You aren’t going to want heavy clothes weighing you down, figuratively and literally.
Wear waterproof shoes, and bring sandals. Waterproof shoes are great for trekking and other outdoor activities, but sandals might actually be the best thing to wear when travelling on the motorbike! This is because your feet are going to get wet no matter what. Better to save those hiking shoes for the real thing as opposed to using them as a tar mat for the heavy rain.
Take your time! Pulling over on the side of the road during rainstorms should be mandatory. The rain will almost always stop after 15 minutes or so, wherever you are. Vietnam—along with other Southeast Asian countries—know what its like to be caught in the rain so there are many roofed structures on the side of the road to take shelter in during these periods of rough weather. Stop at roadside stores and have your self a snack or a tea! Not only are you avoiding an accident on the road, but you also give yourself an opportunity to meet locals. No matter the language or culture, they’re experiencing the same problems as you are with the rain. Remember, being late is always better than being hurt or totaling your bike!
Stay positive. I know this piece of advice sounds silly, but staying positive also means staying logical. While rain does occur in the north part of Vietnam almost every day during the rainy season (June-August), it is extremely rare for there to be constant rain for multiple days at a time. I have travelled extensively throughout Vietnam and Thailand during these times and have not once experienced a rainfall that consistent. If one part of your trip is rainy, there is a good chance it will clear up soon. The rainstorms in the east are not the same as in the west. The climates are different, and therefore so are the weather patterns.
So stock up, come prepared, and get excited for a beautiful trip up north. When the rain ceases, beautiful clouds hang low on the mountains like frosting on a cake. The grass glows a florescent green and makes one really appreciate the difference between light and dark.
Experiencing Vietnam during this time of year may be tricky, but the delights are worth the tough process.
Jesse Pearlman – From Zonitrip – adventure Vietnam tours./.