Why visit Cambodia in low season?
Do you ever find yourself longing for rain?
Living in a rural village outside of Siem Reap and being an avid bicyclist, I’m very aware of road conditions. Writing this in the middle of dry season (November – April), I’m reminded how dusty things are during this long period without rain. I’m missing the rain.
The busier tourist season corresponds to dry season, but we want to share with you why to visit Cambodia during low season.
When visitors come to Cambodia, it’s most likely to see the World Heritage Site and Wonder of the World – Angkor Wat. Concerned about heavy rain, many choose to come during the drier ‘high season’. Who wants their sightseeing plans interrupted by rain?
In fact, the rainy ‘low season’ is not as bad as what people think. There are even many positive aspects that may change your mind visiting Cambodia during low season.
First, the most concerning thing: the weather forecast. Cambodia has two seasons. From November to April is a rather dry season with ideal temperature until March and then a much hotter climate. This corresponds to the high touristic season. Then, from May to October is the wet season. It’s less hot than the March-June period, usually called ‘green season’ by the locals. Fewer visitors, less crowded.
You might read that Cambodia is flooded during the monsoon season and that it is raining all day long. Truth is, it does not rain that much. From June to August, it may rain almost every day, but brief tropical showers. So it is rather easy to plan the daily schedule around the rainy hours. When it rains it is also a good excuse to go to a sheltered place and enjoy a local ice-coffee, a fruit shake or some local cuisine.
Cambodia is in South East Asia so it’s usually on the ‘warm’ side. The rains cool things down, making the climate very enjoyable. For the travelers who are eager to experience the monsoons like a native Cambodian, rent a bicycle or get a Moto-taxi, buy an extremely cheap and very colorful plastic bag poncho-raincoat and this is it!
Flora and fauna
Low season is not called the green season for nothing. Thanks to the abundant water, the Tonle Sap – the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia – reaches its highest level. Ponds and waterfalls are flowing through lush vegetation. It’s a great moment to visit the floating villages and markets. Take your time to admire the water birds and the fishermen casting their nets. The countryside is full of shimmering colors and it is great to wander in the endless shining rice fields and look at the massive and calm buffalo taking baths. Sunsets are much more mind blowing with the dance of light and clouds than it is in dry season when there are almost no clouds.
The temple experience is also very different during rainy season. Overall, the roads are less dusty, rather muddy after the rain, but you breathe much less dust which makes a great difference. The temples sparkle after their daily shower and the bas-reliefs are glimmering with the reflection of the sun. One really nice thing is that the stones keep the temperature at a lower level thus making the interior breezier. But the best thing is that you do not have to cope with crowds of tourists. On the contrary, you have the time and space to absorb the ambiance and enjoy the refined Khmer architecture.
For photography lovers, it is simply the best moment, not only for nature pictures, but also for people pictures. Cambodians are known for their smiles, but during rainy season it is even stronger because they are happy that the weather is “cold”. Cambodians are not shy and they love to be on pictures but it is always better to ask. And don’t forget to show them your pictures, they love it!
On a more practical aspect, it is much cheaper to travel during low season. Transportation is cheaper, it is easier to bargain in markets and souvenir shops, and accommodation is usually discounted.
The travelers sensitive to responsible tourism will also note that there are two fixed seasons for tourism. This creates an imbalance for local businesses and workers. Many locals can only get a job during high season and lots of businesses struggle to survive during low season. So, traveling off season is a way of supporting Cambodian development, too.
All that is pretty exhausting and by dusk you may want to relax. Even in low season the well-known Pub Street is pretty packed. Alternatively, you can go to an indoor performance with refreshing air cooling system to start your nightlife while helping a great project. Is there a better way to enjoy quietness and astounding entertainment than Phare the Cambodian Circus?