SEPTEMBER IN PHUKET AND KOH SAMUI
If you're the type of intrepid traveler who dislikes masses of tourists and large crowds, then chances are that you like taking vacations in the off seasons. This usually means more time with locals, a genuine atmosphere and the only other foreigners are like-minded travelers and expats. Hitting a country when they're not set up for tourist season will let you enjoy a much more intimate setting and a slower pace of life. For most, summer and spring are the times to visit Thailand to enjoy the weather, festivals and environment. What about Thailand in the fall, though? Despite it being the rainy season, many travelers would tell you it's one of the most enjoyable experiences to the region they've had.
Two big choices are Phuket and Koh Samui. Both have their attractive features along plenty to offer in way of events and hospitality. In Phuket during September you'll find the flights and hotels are at their lowest rates. Not only is it easier to fly there, but there will be an exquisite resort hotel waiting for you when you arrive. Traveling in Phuket will also be a breeze as traffic quiets down throughout the townships and you won't have to fight for a spot at restaurants, shops or any other venue. While statistically September is the wettest month of the year, you'll be happy to find that warm and sunny days persist. Along with this, a lot of the nighttime local spots remain busy. Bars also tend to have drink specials so they can keep attracting customers.
September in Phuket may not be the best season for relaxing on the beach or to go scuba diving due to the increase of rainy days, but it's great for spending time in the cities and exploring the every day life that people experience there. You can also enjoy the shopping, dining and association – especially because fewer tourists means happier shop owners who may give out deals to excited foreigners. While you may not be soaking in the rays, you can still stay warm with the 27 degree Celsius (80 degree Fahrenheit), enjoy cheaper flights and hotel rates, stay in and watch the tropical rain or go out and see what no one else gets to see in Phuket – the day-to-day life of the locals who aren't dealing with a constant stream of tourists.
Koh Samui hardly changes in September. The third-largest island in Thailand still maintains its beautiful tropical weather. On average, the daily high maintains at 31 degrees Celsius (87 degrees Fahrenheit) while the low is 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit), which means warm weather persists no matter what. In fact, in the course of the month, Koh Samui spends 63% of its time in the “warm weather” classification and 37% classified as “hot weather.” While it's still the wet and cloudy season, you will find half your day to be sunny with rainstorms making intermittent appearances throughout the day. Cloud coverage in Koh Samui is around 85% with an average humidity of 80%. The further into September Koh Samui ventures, the more frequent the storms become. On average, Koh Samui has 11 days of rainfall with anywhere between 51%-55% chance of rain.
With the warm weather, beautiful rainstorms and the fact you're on a gorgeous island resort, there's also the fact most tourists and holiday-makers will be on their way off the island. Having Koh Samui to yourself with only the locals around makes the prospect that much more enticing. Koh Samui doesn't close any of its shops or attractions during the rainy season. As such, a vacation in September isn't only a smart option to avoid big crowds, it's also an opportunity to see the island in a different atmosphere than most people do.
In September, you'll find a couple particularly important holidays for the local residents. In Phuket, they celebrate Por Tor or the “Hungry Ghost” festival. This festival is highly important to the ethnic Chinese as it is their time to offer gifts and food to their ancestors. In a show of generosity and reverence, they also offer tribute to “feed the ghosts without relatives.” These spirits are lonely ones who have been released from hell for the whole month.
If you're looking for the most authentic celebration of this event, check out Seng Tek Bel Shrine, which is on Phuket Road. This shrine is the center of the festivities as they celebrate Por Tor for a full seven days and seven nights, an event that offers Chinese-influenced food, native customs of the Chinese and gifts specifically for the holiday itself. You may also visit the market on Ranong Road to find the freshest local food items at massively discounted rates so you can take part in the festival yourself. Por Tor also includes a few major parades where you can see the festival in all its glory.
A custom to take note while celebrating Por Tor is the gifting of a red turtle cake. Por Tor is first a family festival to honor the ancestors, showing a strong belief in family and respect. To the Chinese, the turtle is a sign of strength and longevity while red is China's color of good luck. Giving your ancestors a cake in the form of a red turtle signifies giving goof fortune to their afterlife and that they will always remember their families for as long as they live. It's a beautiful show of love and gratitude to the fore-bearers of the family. Por Tor is held normally around late August and extends to early September, it's an event you definitely want to be in Phuket to witness.
Koh Samui has a similar tradition called Thaa Yai. Thaa Yai is a yearly event celebrated all throughout Thailand at different times with different names. For Koh Samui, this event falls on September and their celebration consists of getting family together to cook huge meals that they take to local shrines to feed both the monks and their ancestors. Thaa Yai carries the belief that for two weeks, the dead walk the island with their family, paying their respects to their ancestors in the form of food offerings and spending time together preparing and eating meals. Offerings for the dead consist of food on wooden skewers with heartfelt messages attached to them. At the end of the two weeks, people gather at their temples to enjoy one large feast together to mark the end of the tradition.
The weather combined with reduced tourist traffic, happier locals and sentimental holidays, September in either Phuket or Koh Samui is the perfect month to visit Thailand. Having cheap flights and amazing hotels that are just begging for your patronage certainly helps to sweeten the deal. If you're looking for a vacation this September or next, consider Phuket or Koh Samui.
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