Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia in the tropical zone, just 10-13 degrees north off the equator. Like most of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is warm to hot year round and the climate is dominated by the annual monsoon cycle with its alternating wet and dry seasons. The monsoon cycle is driven by cyclic air pressure changes over central Asia. As the pressure drops during the summer months (June through October), moist air is drawn landward from the ocean bringing the southwest monsoon rains to Cambodia and much of Southeast Asia. Come the winter months (November through May), the air pressure over central Asia rises, driving cool dry air back across Southeast Asia and bringing on a largely rainless dry season to Cambodia. The mean daily temperature also rises and falls with the winter and summer months, but not exactly in time with the wet and dry season, effectively creating four annual seasons in Cambodia….
The Rainy Season
Many travelers understandably try to avoid visiting Southeast Asia during the ‘monsoon season, assuming that the rains will spoil the visit. There are obvious disadvantages to visiting during the rainy season, but personally its my favorite time of year in Cambodia.
During the rainy season the temples of Angkor are at their most beautiful and most photogenic. The reflecting pools and moats are full, the vegetation is deep green and the wet stone of the temples is at its most colorful. Also of photographic note, the rain-washed air of the wet season is particularly clear as compared to the hazy, smoky skies of the dry season, making those long shots of the temples and rice paddies that much clearer. (If you always wanted that shot of from the top of Phnom Bakheng of the distant Angkor Wat in the jungle illuminated the light of sunset, this is the best time of year to bring your 400mm lens and give it a try.) Outside the cities, the rice paddies are full of water and green with new rice, the jungle is lush and the countryside is picturesque and alive with growing season activity. The river and lake levels are high making boat travel easy. (It’s the best time of year to take the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang, reputedly one of the most picturesque boat trips in Cambodia.)
It must be said that there are fewer tourists in the country. The temples are less crowded, prices are lower and the bars and restaurants are all happy to see you. And, practically speaking, it does not rain all of the time or even every day during the rainy season. When it does rain it usually starts around 2:00PM or 3:00PM and lasts a couple of hours, making it easy to plan around in most cases. Toward the beginning and the end of the season the rains occur with far less frequency.