Bangkok in September
Cards on the table: September is Bangkok’s wettest month. This is when the southwest monsoons reach their bone-drenching crescendo with a whopping 339mm of rain on average. To put that into perspective, the second-wettest month (October) averages just 275mm and the driest (December) a mere 9mm. Yep, when it rains in Bangkok it really – and we mean really – rains. Now we’ve got the awkward bit out of the way, here come a few of the pros of visiting Bangkok in September. More rain means: a) lower Bangkok accommodation prices for savvy umbrella-toting travelers; b) shorter queues at major attractions as fellow tourists fly to sunnier climes; and c) more chance of bagging tables at the most popular bars and restaurants.
In fact, due to the somewhat predictable nature of the early-autumn monsoons – usually one mid-afternoon and another in the evening (but don’t quote us on that if you get caught in a rare morning cloudburst!) – September can be a pretty good time to visit. Pack a pocket poncho and a pair of waterproof flip-flops and plan your outdoor sightseeing around those daily deluges and, hey presto, you might just find yourself with a brilliant budget Bangkok break on your hands. So here, without further ado, are some of our favorite downpour-dodging September activities in Bangkok...
Art, History and Culture
Bangkok isn’t short of a top-notch museum or three, ideal for when those ominous clouds begin to gather overhead. Chief among these is the National Museum, an absolute treasure trove of Asian antiquities that’s housed inside (where else?) a former royal palace. Step inside to experience Thai and Asian history in microcosm, a tale as old as time told through exhibits such as decorative Chinese pottery, intricately carved idols and Buddha statues, ancient kids’ toys, Thai art, and even the odd royal throne or funeral chariot. It’s quite the ride. You’ll find the National Museum just upriver from the fairytale Grand Palace and nearby Wat Pho temple, should the retreating rain permit you to continue your historic tour of Bangkok outdoors.
Behold further eye-popping artifacts at the Jim Thompson House museum, an extensive collection of museum-worthy pieces accumulated by ‘Thai silk king’ and prolific Asian art collector Jim Thompson in the 1950s and 60s. Or hit up the (free!) riverside Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, where an ever-rotating roster of bleeding-edge exhibitions showcase the coolest contemporary art in the country, from avant-garde abstract paintings to mind-bending sculptures, installations and artistic performances. Heck, the superb soaring central atrium here (pictured above) is virtually a work of art in its own right!
Further Indoor Fun
As well as being rather wet in September, Bangkok is also at its most humid. Which is where the city’s cavernous and, critically, air-conditioned mega-malls really come into their own. Better yet: VAT-free shopping means there are bargains to be had in luxury boutiques and electronics stores from Fendi, Apple, Nike and more at the likes of the sprawling ICONSIAM, only one of the largest shopping and entertainment complexes in the world, where 700+ shops, a floating market, an IMAX cinema and something like 100 restaurants will send your credit card into meltdown faster than a coconut ice cream in Bangkok’s midday sun. Holders of attraction passes from Go City can get the VIP treatment over at the equally awesome centralwOrld, with shopping discounts, food court credit and access to the exclusive lounge all included.
Indeed, if you do plan to do a few indoor (and indeed outdoor) activities on your September Bangkok break, a pass from Go City can save you money. Other indoor faves on the pass include the all-singing, all-dancing, high-kicking Golden Dome cabaret, Thai cookery classes like this one and this one, in which you’ll learn how to pimp your dinner party recipes up to the max. And, if all that sounds a little too much like hard work, opt for an indulgent – and totally deserved – 90-minute Thai massage that’s sure to take your mind off the weather and, well, pretty much everything else.
The Great Outdoors
Whaddya mean you don’t want to go out in the rain? Where’s your sense of adventure? Are you allergic to water or something? Bangkok is, at its best, a vast outdoor playground, chock-full of unmissable temples, lush green spaces and ace open-air markets. But yeah, it’s probably best to do this kind of activity earlier in the day during September, before that first afternoon monsoon sweeps in flooding everything in its path.
Just one of Bangkok’s many fine (if unpronounceable) parks, leafy Wachirabenchathat is a stroller’s paradise that’s also sure to satisfy incurable Instagrammers. We’re talking long winding paths, along which you might spot strange sculptures, black swans gliding across the lake and even a miniature village where you can tower Godzilla-like over Bangkok’s most famous landmarks. Better yet, there’s a beautifully ornate glass-and-iron Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, ideal for ducking into should the weather turn.
Chatuchak Park and its legendary weekend market are right next door to Wachirabenchathat. It’s an epic complex where incurable browsers are liable to a) get hopelessly lost and b) emerge triumphantly clutching a rare Madonna vinyl LP, a bunch of irises, an antique bottle, several 1970s badges, a kilo of mangoes, a vintage pair of Levi’s and, quite possibly, a kitchen sink. Grab a map at entrance 3 (and maybe even make an antique compass your first essential purchase) before diving into the market’s labyrinthine lanes. When it all gets too much, hit up a coconut ice cream vendor and retreat to the shaded lawns of Chatuchak Park to gobble it up and gloat over your new treasures.
And, if all else fails and the rains really are starting to spoil your fun, you could always seek spiritual help. Make like the locals and hit up four-faced god Phra Phrom, the golden idol that sits at the heart of the Erawan Shrine, bestowing (it is said) good fortune on pilgrims who come to pay their respects and make offerings of garlands, coins and candles. Some even perform traditional music and dance, a bit like the precocious kid trying to get the teacher’s attention at school. Will it stop the rain? Probably not. Is it worth a visit for the spectacle anyway? Absolutely.