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Travel Destinations: Chasing the Friendliest Weather and Avoiding Political Tension

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For five months — from June to October — I made no travel plans thinking it wouldn’t be fun going anywhere in Asia because it’s monsoon season, nor outside Asia where summer heat would only ruin my mood. I thought it was a good decision considering that our house was still undergoing renovations (we still haven’t finished re-furnishing) and I had to get my priorities straight as well.

Tasty Safari

But my weather-related reasons for not traveling for five months were all crap. And it turned out that no one even had to tell me that.

One day, probably a day when I was bored out of my mind and wishing I were somewhere else rather than listening to the pounding, the grinding and the sanding that come with every house renovation, I suddenly remembered that, in the Southern Hemisphere, June to October are the coolest months. Fall through early spring.

In the temperate zone of the Southern Hemisphere, it’s winter in July.

“The seasons in the Northern Hemisphere are the opposite of those in the Southern Hemisphere. This means that in Argentina and Australia, winter begins in June.”

How could I not remember earlier? That was in grade school geography. There were moments when I could have banged my head on the wall.

Too late though.

I always book flights and accommodations months ahead for practical reasons. They’re cheaper when you book early. Plus, I like having plenty of time to plan itineraries, and book classes and walking tours.

It may be monsoon season in Southeast Asia but September is the ideal month to visit Bali

As though I didn’t feel bad enough about not recalling the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, I read that the best month for visiting Bali (all the way to Yogyakarta) is September when hotel rates can go down by as much as 50 per cent.

And the weather?

“The average temperature this month is 27°C (81°F), the average low is 22°C (72°F), and the average high is 31°C (88°F). September begins with lots of sunny days filled with cool breezes, little to no rain, and a daily average temperature of 27°C (81°F), which stays this way throughout the month.”

Oh, my.

I could have gone to Bali and Yogyakarta with Sam in September instead of traveling to Hanoi with her a month after visiting Saigon with Alex. That would have been more schedule-appropriate because Sam’s birthday is in August. And she wanted to go to Bali.

See, the three previous trips were my birthday gifts to my family. Alex’s birthday is in January. We went to Saigon in February because we were still recovering from the holiday food coma throughout January.

Speedy’s birthday is in June. We went to Taiwan about two weeks ahead of his birthday because I was worried that it would be too hot in Taiwan by June.

I wasn’t supposed to take Sam anywhere until after her birthday in August. But I thought it was a bad time to go anywhere.

The thing is, when you live in the Philippines, it isn’t just the weather in your destination that you think about. Getting from the house to the airport is a serious concern too from August through September when the fiercest storms and typhoons lash across the country. And we get about 20 of them every year, on the average, with varying degrees of intensity.

And even when there is no storm or typhoon, because July through early November is monsoon season, it isn’t smart to drive from the suburb to the airport when a mere thunderstorm may lead to flash floods that will triple or even quadruple travel time. That’s like playing roulette and you’re betting on whether or not you will make it to the airport before the plane closes its doors.

For all those reasons, I stayed home and consoled myself that we were going on a long-ish family trip in November anyway. Just look forward to November, I told myself. But, still…

The Hong Kong protests

When a friend’s daughter got engaged, and I received an early invitation for a December wedding in Hong Kong, I jumped. I booked our hotel accommodations.

I might not have been able to go anywhere for five months but a November trip plus December in Hong Kong and Macau would be just lovely. Cool days and chilly evenings. Speedy and I would fly to Hong Kong, stay four days, take the ferry to Macau and spend three days getting acquainted with Macanese cuisine before flying home.

And then, the Hong Kong protests began. As they kept escalating, when the airport takeover happened, I started reconsidering. By September, I modified the bookings. I cancelled the reservation to the Hong Kong Hotel. Plan B was in operation. Fly in and out of Macau, take the ferry to Hong Kong for the wedding and take the last ferry of the day back to Macau.

And I just kept following the news.

By the first week of October, I cancelled the Macau hotel reservation. The whole trip was about going to a wedding but I had this nightmare of walking from the ferry station all the way to the wedding reception. And back. I sent my regrets to the bride’s mother.

Travel in politically tense destinations

Avoiding Hong Kong at this time is not the same as saying I don’t care about what’s happening there. I do. My country has its own issues with China. And so does Vietnam. I sympathize with Taiwan, its legal status in the diplomatic world and its predicament that it can’t even have embassies in countries, including the Philippines, which adopt the one-China policy.

And it isn’t just travel to Hong Kong that I’m deferring. I so want to visit India with Alex. She’s the only one in the family who’s interested in going there. I have a law school classmate who moved to New Delhi, married and raised a family there, and I could ask her to give us travel tips. You know, see New Delhi, and the surrounding areas, from the eyes of a local.

But the border war between India and Pakistan is worrisome. When you read about how a nuclear war between the two countries could kill 50 to 125 million people in a week, well… New Delhi is not far enough from the India-Pakistan border for my peace of mind.

I am not a journalist chasing after political stories. Neither am I a wannabe activist in search of an advocacy. I’m a retied lawyer who wants to see more of the world — safely and comfortably.

There will be another time to see Hong Kong again. It will probably be a different Hong Kong by then but the harbor whose history still thrills me will still be there. And so will people who cook and sell the most wonderful food. I just hope that the final stages of (what looks like an accelerated) transition from Special Administrative Region (SAR) to Chinese Hong Kong will be marked by reason rather than violence.

And India? I’m checking out Goa, India’s “pocket-sized paradise” where the blend of Indian and Portuguese food and architecture is often described with superlatives.