Geography, Climate, Weather in Southeast Asia

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SE Asia Geography, Location, Demographics

se asia area mapSoutheast Asia is a tropical sub-region of Asia, with an area of some 4.5 million square kilometres (1.6 million square miles) straddling the Equator (0 Latitude) between the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 North) and about halfway towards the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 South). Indonesia is the only country in SE Asia through which the Equator passes.

The Tropic of Cancer passes through the East Asian island nation of Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, the capital of which is Taipei.

 

South East Asia is the area south of China, east of India and north of Australia. Apart from some islands and archipelagos belonging to different nations, the region contains eleven countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor) and Vietnam. Apart from East Timor, these countries are also members of ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations.

ASEAN member country flags

Climate and Weather in South East Asia

The climate of Southeast Asia is mainly tropical and this tends to mean the weather is hot and humid most of the year. There is a lot of rainfall during the wet, monsoon season, due to seasonal shift in winds and the effect of the tropical rain belt. In mountainous areas of the northern region, where higher altitudes lead to milder day temperatures, colder nights and drier landscape, generally warm or hot days are followed by some overnight cooling. Several factors affect temperature and prevailing weather conditions in particular places.

Apart from location, (Singapore for example is only one degree North of the Equator 70 mi/110 km), climatic conditions for an area are influenced by distance from the ocean or sea, whether it's a mainland or island location, ocean currents, prevailing winds, large rivers, lakes, dams, mountains, movement of upper air systems like hurricanes, cyclones, monsoon rains etc. Seasonal changes differ, and day and overnight temperatures can vary greatly at different times of the year. Variety is the spice of life. But in the tropics it's never cold for long, and even when it rains, it's still warm!

Northern Thailand and much of the Lao PDR have two basic seasons: from May to September is the main rainy season and from October to April is the dry season, although there can be occasional rain or showers throughout the year. The average temperature is 29C (84F), but it can rise to over 40C (100F+) in some areas at times. Temperatures usually drop to 15-20C (58-68F) overnight in the cooler months of December and January, and it can get considerably colder in higher elevations, like Luang Prabang in the Lao PDR, even dropping to below freezing at night. But even in this 'cool' season, days are usually warm and sunny even hot.

Living more comfortably in hot climates

When choosing long term accommodation in a warmer climate, appreciate the fact that the sun is stronger between the Tropics, and there's usually more of it (hours of sunshine per day) than you may be used to. When staying in hotels and resorts, you want to take advantage of the local scenery, whether it's the beach or panoramic mountain views. Rooms usually have heavy curtains and efficient air conditioning systems to keep you cool both day and night and the cost is included. So you can watch the sun go down in comfort.

However that afternoon sun is very hot and beats down on buildings that retain the heat long after the sun has gone often throughout the night. Natural breezes may not be enough to keep you in your 'comfort zone' and air conditioning is likely to be essential at certain times of the year. When the rains come, it's still hot, and this results in high humidity.

For a long term stay (especially retirement), consider what is more important: having a westerly aspect and "sunset view" every day, or a house or even bedroom which faces away from the sun, i.e. towards the nearest Pole rather than the Equator. You will have much more natural shade and therefore the cost of cooling will be less. The sun streaming in through picture windows can be oppressive too. Air conditioning can increase monthly cost of living expenditure considerably, depending on where you choose to live. For example, the cost of domestic electricity in Laos, which produces its own hydro-electric power, is much less than neighbouring Thailand or Vietnam.

There is a big difference between living in a high rise apartment or condo especially in a heavily built-up area, and which gets direct sun all day, (especially the top floors) and a single or two-storey house in a  garden with big shade trees.

If you choose to live permanently near the coast or by the sea, then the salt in the air is likely to affect you too. Combined with humidity, it is very corrosive and vehicles and appliances tend to rust more quickly than away from the sea or up in the mountains. It can also make the weather seem more clammy and uncomfortable; for example laundry doesn't dry properly when hung outside and towels always feel a little wet.

Another possibly minor consideration is the choice of colour for your car. While most modern transport has air conditioning, if the vehicle has been standing in the sun for a few hours, it takes time before it gets cool inside. You can compare the difference in temperature between a black or dark coloured car and a light or white one just by placing your hand on the roof. Be careful as you can burn yourself (even fry an egg) on a black one! Simply put, white is best as it reflects the sunlight, while dark colours retain the sun's heat. The glass area is also important as this is how most of the heat is absorbed and the colour of the interior has an effect too. Black cars with dark, especially leather upholstery heat up more quickly when the vehicle is left standing in the sun.

Here are current weather conditions and local time in popular tourist and ex-pat residential locations in SE Asia. For more detail and 5 day forecasts, use the Click for Forecast link below each city, or click the City name for general information.

Click for Bangkok, Thailand Forecast         Click for Chiangmai Weather Forecast        Click for Vientiane Weather Forecast
   Bangkok, C Thailand                 Chiangmai, N Thailand             Vientiane, the Lao capital


    Click for Luang-prabang, Lao Peoples Republic Forecast      Click for Singapore, Singapore Forecast      Click for Bali Weather Forecast
   
  Luang Prabang, capital                Singapore city                 Denpasar airport, main
       of the old Lao Kingdom                   and island state                    city for Bali, Indonesia


    Click for Manila, Philippines Forecast        Click for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Forecast       Click for Penang, Malaysia Forecast
            Manila, capital of                     Malaysia's capital                       Resort island of
            the Philippines                           Kuala Lumpur                      Penang, Malaysia


Compare the SE Asia weather with London, New York & San Francisco:

    Click for London, United Kingdom Forecast        Click for New York, New York Forecast        Click for San Francisco, California Forecast

 

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 Updated: Oct 22 '14

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