Traveling through Asia in September is as enjoyable as any other time. But unless you're a fan of rainy vacations, choosing where to travel in September is important — the monsoon will be raging in some places.
September is also typhoon season for East Asia. Whether you are in an area being threatened or not, the giant storms produce lots of unexpected rain in the region. Hints of cooler fall weather approaching in East Asia will be welcome after a hot summer.
But rain or no rain, some interesting festivals around Southeast Asia will keep you occupied as you chase the sun.
Enjoying Asia in September
While Thailand and much of Southeast Asia is wet and humid during September, top destinations become a little less crowded. Many backpackers, students, and families traveling with children have already gone home for school.
September is a transition month for seasons in East Asia; weather is often unpredictable. China and Japan begin to cool down pleasantly. The rain pours in Tokyo but drops off sharply in Beijing. September starts the harvest, so travelers can enjoy festivals celebrating the many preparations for winter.
The temperature changes also bring a monsoon changeover. Thailand will be experiencing its wettest month while rain starts slowing down in New Delhi and much of India.
Asian Festivals and Holidays in September
Lucking upon one of the big fall festivalsl in Asia may become the highlight of your trip. On the other hand, bad timing could turn a fun event into a complete nightmare if you arrive just after. Transportation delays are a real possibility, and accommodation may increase in price or be completely booked up. Plan ahead for big events!
Many Asian holidays and festivals are based on a lunisolar calendar, so dates change annually. The following festivals could be celebrated in September:
- Phuket Vegetarian Festival: This festival has less to do with veggies and more to do with the spectacle of devotees who voluntarily piece their bodies in grotesque ways without feeling much pain. Officially known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, this Taoist celebration draws a big crowd to Phuket. Dates vary.
- Full Moon Party in Thailand: This monthly beach party is a legend in Southeast Asia. Upwards of 15,000 travelers are drawn to Koh Phangan during peak months. The party isn't for everyone, but it will certainly affect everyone (in the region). Monthly; check dates for the Full Moon Party.
- Chinese Moon Festival: The Mid-Autumn Festival is a joyous time of celebrating the full harvest moon with family and loved ones while giving thanks. Tasty-but-heavy mooncakes are swapped and eaten during reunions. Dates vary; always late September or early October.
- Malaysia Day: Unlike Malaysia's Independence Day that celebrates independence from the British, Malaysia Day celebrates the coming together of Malaysa, Sarawak, North Borneo (later Sabah), and Singapore to form the Malaysian Federation. The patriotic event is always observed on September 16.
- National Day in China: China's busiest patriotic holiday officially begins on October 1, but its impact begins well before. China's Golden Week is a very busy time. Lots of people will be on the move the last week of September for flag waving, outdoor performances, military parades, and fireworks. Millions of people travel around China to enjoy the holiday. The first week of October is the busiest time to be in Beijing — plan accordingly!
Where to Travel in September (for Good Weather)
Rain can pop up at any time. Also, roving tropical storms (September is typhoon season) can throw all predictions out of whack.
Typically, these countries have lower average rainfall, fewer wet days, and slightly less humidity during the month of September:
- Bali, Lombok, and much of Indonesia
- The northern part (Jafna and Trimcomalee) of Sri Lanka
- Beijing and Northern China
- Hong Kong
- Borneo (Kuching may be drier than Kota Kinabalu)
Places with the Worst Weather
Although there will be a few sunny days still to enjoy, average rainfall is high during September for these places:
- The Philippines
- Thailand — September is usually the wettest month in Bangkok.
- Mumbai and that side of India (rain)
- Tokyo and much of Japan
Note: Peak typhoon season in Japan is from August until October. You can track current tropical storms on the Japan Meteorological Agency website.
You shouldn't stay at home out of fear of scary weather systems, but you should know what to do if dangerous weather is approaching.
Traveling During the Monsoon Season
So there seem to be more rainy places around Asia in September than dry and sunny, but that's not as ominous as it sounds.
Traveling during the monsoon or "green" season as it's sometimes optimistically called has some advantages: smaller crowds, discounts for accommodation, cooler weather, and better air quality. Rain cleans the air of the dust, smoke particles, and pollution that plague much of Asia.
Travelers with strict itineraries may find rainy days interfering with plans. Yes, the one day allocated for snorkeling may get rained out. If there was ever a time to build buffer days into your itinerary, it's when traveling during the monsoon season. In worst case scenarios, transportation can end up delayed because of flooded roads or railways.
Some outdoor activities such as trekking or island hopping become more difficult — if not impossible — during heavy monsoon rain. Enjoying attractions such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia is more difficult in the pouring rain.
Adding to the frustration, especially for rice farmers, is that the monsoon season doesn't begin on a set, magical date. Some years it comes early; some years it runs late. The weather in Southeast Asia is not nearly as predictable as it was even a decade ago.
The Islands in September
Peak season in the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia), Tioman Island (Malaysia), and the Gili Islands (Indonesia) is beginning to wind down in September. Seas may be getting a bit rougher, but the weather remains mostly sunny, making September a good time to enjoy popular islands that are usually crowded.
Australia and the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying pleasant weather; residents aren't as in a hurry to escape with cheap flights to Asia as they are during winter in July.
The rowdy islands famous for parties such as Bali, some of the Thai islands, the Perhentian Islands, and the Gili Islands become a little quieter with so many backpacking students back home studying.
Some islands in Thailand such as Koh Lanta are practically closed down during the month of September because of seasonal storms. Many restaurants and hotels shut down to do seasonal maintenance. The beaches don't get cleaned. Although beaches will be quiet on sunny days, there will be fewer choices for eating, sleeping, and socializing.
The Weather in Singapore
The weather stays relatively consistent — warm and humid — in Singapore throughout the year. Afternoon showers pop up all the time. September is pretty well as good a month to visit as any. The rainiest months are between November and January.