Weather: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos

Although all of Vietnam sits within the tropics, there are dramatic weather variations between the north and south ends of this ribbon-like nation. Warmth is more or less guaranteed year-round across the southernmost delta surrounding Ho Chi Minh city, while northern Laos and Vietnam – adjacent to southeast China – can get surprisingly chilly in winter. The southwest summer monsoon brings buckets of rain to most of Vietnam from May to October, with the torrents (2 out of every 3 days in the south, about every other day in the north) typically interspersed with sunshine. The monsoon also hammers the westward slopes of the Annamitique Mountains, giving Laos and eastern Cambodia similarly soggy summers and often making roads impassable. The central Vietnam coast, around Da Nang, is a relative dry spot early in the summer, but it gets drenched in autumn (along with points south, into Cambodia) as the monsoon begins to retreat. Several typhoons may strike the Vietnam coast in a given year, with the landfalls typically shifting further south from August into October. Winter brings a string of gorgeous days to Laos, Cambodia and south Vietnam, with light rains only once or twice a month. Temperatures are usually close to ideal in Laos (although there are wide daily swings, and it can turn either chilly or hot), while conditions get increasingly muggy into spring across the south peninsula. The central Vietnam coast is at its driest from February to June; further north, the crachin (“spitting”) rains bring 3- to 5-day spells of cool drizzle every week or two around Hanoi, where temperatures can dip below 7°C/46°F.