24 March 2016 by Gary Stevens
Vietnam – lining the full length of the Southeast Asian jut – is known for its weather’s variance. From its cool mountainous north to its central beaches and the rich verdure of the Mekong Delta in the south, the country is bursting with a diversity of ecosystems all with their individual microclimates. And, of course, all bow to the irrepressible might of the region’s monsoons. Thankfully, in between rainy seasons, May is definitely a good time to go, but there are some details that are well worth bearing in mind. We've also included links to information on the climate so you can plan your ideal trip.
In the north, Hanoi's tumbling French colonial architecture will have fully emerged from its winter shell with temperatures averaging 29°C – the best weather of the year – before summer rains cool things down. Tuck into steaming pork buns from a roadside hawker and escape the bustle with a stroll round its central lakes and parks. Don’t forget to pay a visit to Uncle Ho’s mausoleum as the city retains a firm grip on its communist hangovers.
As you head further north into the mountains, the climate becomes increasingly important. Thankfully, the stunning terraced rice fields of Sapa are at their most temperate in May; experience plunging valley views framed by raking mountains from what was a 1920s French hill station. Watch out for showers towards the end of the month as the indigenous hill tribes don their famed multi-coloured hats.
Sapa's rice terraces are enthralling at all times of day
Moving down the coast to the golden sands of Da Nang, you’ll be greeted by glorious sunshine and an average temperature of 30°C. The former is perfectly positioned to uncover the riches of Hue; an imperial city, its regal tombs and pagodas date back to the 19th century while its moat-ringed citadel is even older. Then, travel down to Nha Trang for luxury beach resorts and excellent nightlife.
In central Vietnam, you’ll also be far enough away from the rainy winter to all but guarantee a precipitation-less getaway. Make full use of the good weather by visiting UNESCO-listed Hoi An whose old town is a carefully-preserved example of a traditional 16th century trading port, complete with temples, shrines and covered bridges. Perhaps book onto a cooking course to learn how to make the perfect pho.
Hoi An's Japanese covered bridge at sunset
At the country’s ankle, Ho Chi Minh City starts to cool off thanks to late-month rains ushering in the summer monsoon. However, as it’s often said, you can set your watch by the downpours, meaning that it’s a simple task to dodge the short but heavy afternoon bursts. Once you do, you’ll find a city brimming with energy, best realised in its atmospheric markets, tucked away between the glass and steel of its skyscrapers. What’s more, pleasant averages of 28°C make for ideal weather to explore the guerrilla tunnels at Cu Chi, just to the city’s north. For some respite, the waterways and lush rice paddies of the Mekong Delta to the south usually enjoy less rainfall. Catch your breath on a cruise to its floating markets beset on both sides by the bright green of the region's rice paddies.
Trip along the Mekong Delta in a traditional boat