May in Asia is pleasant, particularly in East Asia where spring is in full effect. Flowers and foliage will have recovered from winter. Tokyo averages 12 wet days in May, but the busiest travel time of the year (and largest of the spring festivals in Asia) begins with the Golden Week holiday.
The Indian subcontinent, with the exception of the Himalayas in the north, will be hotter than ever. Meanwhile, Thailand and most of Southeast Asia will be starting into their rainy seasons.
There is one very tempting option for avoiding a rainy trip to Asia in May: Flee the Southwest Monsoon's arrival by heading to destinations in the southern part of Southeast Asia. Bali, along with other top destinations in Indonesia, will just be starting their dry seasons as Thailand and neighbors get all the rain.
Urgent Seasonal Information for Japan
The Golden Week holiday period begins the last week of April and runs through the first week of May. Four consecutive public holidays give millions of people a great reason to close up shop and travel the country.
The first week of May is literally the busiest time to travel in Japan. You'll wait longer for trains, pay more for hotels, and fight for space at parks, shrines, and attractions. If you can wait a week or two to travel, do so!
Asia Weather in May
(average high / low temperatures and humidity)
- Bangkok: 96 F (35.6 C) / 80 F (26.7 C) / 73 percent humidity
- Kuala Lumpur: 92 F (33.3 C) / 77 F (25 C) / 80 percent humidity
- Bali: 87 F (30.1 C) / 76 F (24.4 C) / 80 percent humidity
- Singapore: 90 F (32.2 C) / 79 F (26.1 C) / 80 percent humidity
- Beijing: 80 F (26.7 C) / 58 F (14.4 C) / 50 percent humidity
- Tokyo: 71 F (21.7 C) / 63 F (17.2 C) / 68 percent humidity
- New Delhi: 104 F (40 C) / 78 F (25.6 C) / 42 percent humidity
Average Rainfall for May in Asia
- Bangkok: 8 inches (203 mm) / average of 16 rainy days
- Kuala Lumpur: 3.1 inches (79 mm) / average of 18 rainy days
- Bali: 0.6 inches (15 mm) / average of 6 rainy days
- Singapore: 2.8 inches (71 mm) / average of 14 rainy days
- Beijing: 0.5 inch (13 mm) / average of 6 rainy days
- Tokyo: 1.7 inches (43 mm) / average of 11 rainy days
- New Delhi: 1.8 inches (46 mm) / average of 3 rainy days
While pretty much all of East Asia will be warming up with pleasant weather and spring showers, a large portion of Southeast Asia will be scorching hot and ready for the monsoon to start if it hasn't yet. Rice farmers will be watching closely. April and May can be the hottest months in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
Rainfall is pretty consistent in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, but if you head south all the way to Bali, you'll enjoy a pleasant "shoulder" season with nice weather.
What to Pack
Although temperatures in East Asia are pleasant by day, drastic dips at night can make them feel even chillier. Take one warm item (e.g., a light fleece) you can use in the evenings. Once you feel the superpowered air conditioning on public transportation, you'll be glad you have something warm!
You'll pretty well want some sort of lightweight rain gear no matter where you're going in Asia in May. But don't bother with carrying an umbrella thousands of miles — cheap ones are for sale everywhere.
As usual, you'll want an outfit that's thin for the heat but conservative enough for covering up to show respect when visiting the many temples throughout Asia.
May Events in Asia
The secret to enjoying big Asian festivals is timing. You need to book in advance to avoid paying inflated prices for hotels that are near the action. Arriving a few days early is a good idea.
- Golden Week: (begins April 29) Four major holidays hit at once to create Golden Week, Japan's busiest time. Golden Week extends from the end of April into the first week of May and will certainly clog transportation and accommodation as many Japanese people travel for the holidays. Be ready for some serious crowd surges during and immediately following the holiday.
- Buddha's Birthday: (dates vary by country) Although dates vary from year to year, most Buddhists in Asia observe Gautama Buddha's birthday on the first full moon in May. Also known as Vesak Day, the event is a national holiday in much of East Asia. Alcohol sales are often banned to respect the holiday, and temples get busier. Interesting note: Gautama Buddha was born in modern-day Nepal sometime around 563 BCE.
- Full Moon Party in Thailand: (dates change) Although Thailand's busy season begins to wind down in May, you may not notice at the rambunctious Full Moon Party. Thousands of people gather each month at Haad Rin on the island of Koh Phangan to party on the beach. The monthly event has grown large enough to influence the flow of backpackers through Thailand. The islands are particularly busy before and after the party, meanwhile, Chiang Mai gets a bit quiet for a few days.
- Gawai Dayak: (begins May 31) Borneo's Gawai Dayak festival celebrates indigenous culture and traditions. The festival begins on the eve of May 31 and runs through the next day.
- Rayong Fruit Festival: (dates vary in May) Rayong, not far from Bangkok and the gateway to the island of Koh Samet, hosts an annual fruit festival each May. The province is famous for producing some of the best fruit and seafood in Thailand.
- Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festivals: (dates vary in May) Get ready for some serious fireworks! The various rocket festivals held annually in villages across Laos and Isaan (Thailand) are meant to usher in a productive rainy season. Teams compete by building and launching huge rockets, some of which could be better categorized as missiles!
May Travel Tips
- May is just the start of the dry season in Bali, however, Indonesia's most-visited island stays busy all the time. Book your Bali accommodation in advance if your itinerary isn't flexible.
- Expect drastic weather swings in May. Blue skies can quickly turn dark and release a chilly downpour — be prepared!
- India, especially New Delhi, experiences daily temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Urban pollution and humidity can make them feel like 110 F! Be ready for three showers a day, and pack or buy extra tops.
Places With the Best Weather
Places With the Worst Weather
- India (extreme heat)
- North Sumatra (rain)
- Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos (heat and rain)
- Langkawi Island, Malaysia (rain)
- Burma / Myanmar (heat and rain)
- Hong Kong (heat, humidity, and rain)
Of course, you'll always find exceptions to the list above. Mother Nature doesn't really observe the Gregorian calendar, and you'll be able to enjoy sunny days sometimes even during the rainy seasons.
Singapore in May
Although rainfall in Singapore isn't much heavier than usual, humidity will be thick on the many sunny days in May. Afternoon showers pop up frequently in Singapore; be ready to duck into one of the top-notch museums for exhibits and extra-strength air conditioning!
Haze in Thailand
Although the choking smoke from agricultural fires in Northern Thailand dissipates once the rains begin, it may still be a problem in May if the monsoon is late to arrive.
Slash-and-burn fires and dust in the air raise particulate matter to dangerous levels. The airport in Chiang Mai has even been forced to close on some days due to low visibility! Travelers with respiratory problems should check conditions before planning trips to Chiang Mai or Pai.
The Best Islands to Visit in May
While rain begins around Thailand and islands such as Koh Lanta begin to close down for the slow season, other islands in Malaysia and Indonesia are just beginning to wind up for their busy seasons.
The Perhentian Islands in Malaysia begin to get busier in May, and the diving gets better. June is the peak month on Perhentian Kecil where sometimes all accommodation on the island becomes booked. Tioman Island in Malaysia gets rain throughout the year, but May is a good month to visit.
Mount Everest Climbing Season
The most bids for the summit of Everest are made from Nepal in mid-May when weather is most favorable. Everest Base Camp will be buzzing with activity as teams get resupplied and prepare to climb.
May is generally the last month to enjoy spectacular views while trekking in Nepal before summer humidity messes up views until September.
Traveling During Monsoon Season
If you'll be traveling in Southeast Asia in May, you may find yourself dealing with the beginning of monsoon season. Don't despair! Unless a tropical storm is shaking things up, you won't have perpetual rain day in and day out. Plus, sights and attractions won't be as crowded.
Like any other time of year on the road, traveling during monsoon season has its advantages and disadvantages.
Temperatures may be more pleasant, but the mosquito population increases. Prices are often lower in the "off" season, although May is so soon after the busy season in Southeast Asia that tour operators and hotels may be reluctant to start doling out discounts just yet.