You never know what adventures you’ll experience when travelling through south-east Asia. Maybe you’ll taste some exotic dishes that will have your friends squirming back home, maybe you’ll see a UNESCO world heritage site and uncover some historical secrets or maybe you’ll unexpectedly get stuck in the middle of a monsoon. Darkened skies, heavy rainfall, overflowing gutters and intense lightning is sure to scare any traveler, especially if, like me, you’re not used to torrential rains and extreme monsoons. After braving my way through a monsoon in the Guangdong Province, I’ve managed to jot down a few tips and tricks. To be honest, I wish I had thought up some of these before my unexpected experience. To help myself (and of course you) be better prepared, here is a simple traveler’s guide to surviving an Asian monsoon.
PAY ATTENTION TO WEATHER REPORTS AND THE NEWS
There’s no quicker way to prepare yourself for an impending series of storms than by checking weather reports and listening to the news. If you’re not in an English speaking country then this might be challenging but there are many ways around this. Check the weather APP on your phone and follow a range of social media groups on popular networking APP’s like WeChat or WhatsApp. They post regular updates on many issues. Be sure to like and follow helpful pages on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Not only will they be in English but you’ll also be able to translate them if they’re not. Many local mobile network providers send out public messages when weather alerts are on but these are usually in the language of the country you’re visiting. Be sure to always Google translate the messages you receive just in case one of these is a weather warning.
WALK IF YOU CAN
Traffic in major Asian cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, Bangkok and even Mumbai is crazy on a normal day so you can only imagine the chaos on a rainy day. While it might seem like a good idea to jump into a tuk tuk be wary that road conditions rapidly decline especially in monsoon-like weather. You never know if there’s going to be a sudden torrential wave, unexpected road accidents or heavy traffic. If your destination is nearby and you can’t seek shelter in a shop or café, rather walk.
CHECK YOUR VEHICLE OR USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
If you can’t wait the storm out or walk the distance, your next option is public transport. Taking a private taxi or tuk tuk or even renting a car may seem like a more comfortable option but they can be more dangerous too. Try to do a quick check of the vehicle you’re about to travel in and see if there are hazards you can spot immediately. If you have rented a car, ensure they are in good working condition and that the wipers, brakes and horns are functional. If not, get out as soon as you can.
A slightly safer option would be to take public transport. While there will be more people around and it may be more uncomfortable, you can be certain that should any major damages to surrounding roads occur, they will be the first to know about it. Also, should there be a need to pull over, public vehicles will usually stop at a station that where you can get shelter and hopefully a snack while you wait.
The uncontrollable rain is sure to bring some unexpected delays. Leave home at least an hour earlier and account for traffic jams, accidents and complete road closures. More so if you have no idea of what’s going on outside and when the storm is expected to pass.
WEAR THE RIGHT CLOTHES
If you know that the weather outside is going to be pretty bad then be sure to dress accordingly. Avoid wearing cotton, linen or open shoes. Being stuck in a place with wet clothes and cold toes is a pretty horrible feeling. Rather slip on some rain boots and wear nylon because they will dry faster.
UMBRELLAS & RAIN COATS
Umbrellas can be a life saver in sweltering rain but remember that they can also be conductors of lightning. If you’re visiting a city that is known for monsoons or even just unexpected showers then purchase a cheap rain coat or even a poncho that you can stick in your bag. You’ll never know when it will come in handy.
STAY AWAY FROM FLOODED AREAS
Try your best to stay away from excessively flooded areas as you have no idea where the water is coming from. It could contain a range of hazardous chemicals, garbage and wastes. As dangerous as it can be to wade through gushing water, you may just have too. In this case be extra careful and try not to fall in. Consuming any bit of this water could potentially be hazardous to your health.
PROTECT YOUR ELECTRONICS
Investing in a good waterproof backpack will do wonders in torrential rains but if you don’t have a waterproof bag then protect your electronics by placing them inside a plastic bag and sealing it well.
DO NOT SEEK SHELTER UNDER TREES
Trees are known to attract thunder and seeking shelter under them may actually lead to a nasty shock rather than protection. In fact it’s better to avoid any form of open space or standing near metal objects like electric wires or fences. All of these can serve as conductors so rather look for a house, shop or something with a roof that will provide better protection from the storm.
TELL SOMEONE WHERE YOU ARE
Nothing and I mean nothing is more nerve wrecking than realizing you’re in a dangerous situation miles away from home and in a city where less than 10 % of the population speak English. One of the biggest things I learnt while traveling is that I need to tell someone where I am at all times. Whether it is my roommate or a quick instant message to my sister back home, someone always knows where I am and what’s going on. Be sure to always send a quick text message to a friend or colleague that is in the city you’re in and a family member back home. It’s also a good idea to give family members the contact details of your friend or colleague so they can be in touch. That way, should something happen and if they haven’t heard from you in a while, they can at least contact each other and find out what’s going on.
Do you have any tips for surviving Asian monsoons? I’d love to hear them! Leave me a comment down below.