Reader question: Southeast Asia in September

A reader question today from Emma, who’s facing a rather common issue – where to go when it’s monsoon season.

I am planning our honeymoon and been a seasoned traveller I thought it would be the easy bit but I’m finding it surprisingly stressful, mainly because it’s in the monsoon/hurricane month of September!
We originally had our hearts set on Central America but it’s too risky weather wise. What we are looking for is a week of total relaxing luxury on a beach, ideally a bungalow/bure with a private plunge pool type thing. (We never travel in such luxury so want to make our honeymoon stand out) Then we want 2 weeks to explore somewhere on a mid range/ budget.
We can only really afford £5000 so we think we have got it down to Koh Samui as it’s the driest part of Thailand at that time but then to where??? Probably out of Thailand to Cambodia or Laos or thinking of making our way to KL? Any advice for a 2 week trip in September?
We are open to other suggestions we did Bali/Java/Lombok a few years ago and loved it but now wished we had saved it for our honeymoon! Also to mention even though I fly I HATE it so would sooner do overland travel where possible.

You’re right about September being a bit dodgy weather-wise in Southeast Asia, but with any luck you’ll just have a few downpours and lots of lovely sunshine in between. As long as you’re prepared for rain then I think you’ll be fine.  There’s lots of lovely properties on Koh Samui that have rooms with private pools – we stayed a few years back at Six Senses Samui in one of their Pool Villas, which was amazing. The only thing I would say is that if you’re used to being a bit independent you might find it a bit claustrophobic after a few days (it’s quite a walk to the nearest town), though it should be easy enough to get taxis. It’s pretty expensive, but take a look at Turquoise Holidays as they can often get much better deals; they also have a whole host of other properties on Samui (and beyond), many of which have private pools – so worth looking there for ideas. Oh, and at the moment they’re running a honeymoon offer for Rasananda which is actually on nearby Koh Phangan, and looks like a fantastic place.

With regards to where to go afterwards then I guess it really depends what you’re most interested in doing. My personal choice would be to head up to Laos – I was there last year researching the new Rough Guide and it’s really an amazing place. Plus, there’s direct flights from Koh Samui to Luang Prabang. September is still rainy season, but a lot of hoteliers recommended it to me as a great time to go – they said that the scenery is at its most beautiful, and it’s not too busy with tourists (always good news). There’s some beautiful hotels in Luang Prabang, for all budgets, and it’s just a lovely place to spend a few days. My post here has a few ideas about how to spend a honeymoon in Laos. And do let me know if you want specific hotel recommendations as I have loads.

Cambodia is also a good choice – and with the rains the temples at Angkor would be a lot less crowded. Cambodian beaches are supposed to be lovely and laid-back, too. You could also combine it with southern Laos if you wanted a taster of both – it’s fairly easy to travel between the two overland (though prepare yourself for a potentially long journey!).  But of course you won’t avoid the rain here either!

If you really don’t want to fly then Malaysia will definitely be your best option, and it’s probably the best choice with regards to the weather, too. The only thing you’ll want to look into is the safety of the border crossing between Thailand and Malaysia – I think official advice is still that you shouldn’t cross overland due to insurgents, but that the sea route from Satun to Langkawi is okay. That said, we crossed the border a few years ago and had no problems in that respect – the trouble we had was getting accurate information from people in Surat Thani and Hat Yai about buses! You can also take the train from Surat Thani, so that could be worth considering (Surat Thani is the jumping off point for Koh Samui).

I really love Malaysia – it’s really underrated, the people are lovely, and the food is amazing. The west coast is your best option in September as the monsoon is beginning to tail off – on the other coast it’ll be beginning to kick off. If you want another honeymoon island then you could try Langkawi (I love the look of Bon Ton Resort on the island), and I’d also really recommend Penang – it’s main town, Georgetown, is very enjoyable for just wandering around, with lots of old architecture and great food. KL is also a lot of fun, and you could always head into the Cameron Highlands or down to the old colonial town of Melaka. A great thing about Malaysia is that you can stay in some very nice hotels for pretty cheap – a lot of five stars in KL have prices below £100 (see here). Again, let me know if you want specific recommendations.

Another good company to look at for ideas (and to go to for some advice) is Selective Asia – they’re really helpful and have a great website that’s crammed with info and ideas.

Photograph courtesy of Ali Catterall

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