Rain is one of Vietnam’s defining characteristics. It floods the streets, feeds the fields, cleans the cities and provides a soothing soundtrack at night. Some days we curse it, some days we embrace it, but it’s a vital part the way of life in Vietnam.
Every year is defined by two distinct monsoon periods. The southwest monsoon extends from April to September and is accompanied by warm weather. The northeast monsoon marks the colder weather months of October through March.
The rain is hardly predictable. It can last for a few minutes or for days, but regardless, the Vietnamese have adapted and seemingly take it in stride.
When I arrived in Vietnam I was sporting a pair of white sneakers. I noticed the locals wearing sandals or flip flops pointing at me and assumed they were admiring my shoes. After a week my sneakers turned gray, and I too learned to appreciate flip flops.
At times rain can be a huge challenge to the infrastructure turning streets and alleys into small rivers. Buses and taxis offer some refuge from the rain, but most motorbike riders prefer their personal transportation. Donning body-encompassing raincoats, they go about their business undeterred.
The inconvenience is small in relation to the benefits the rain provides for Vietnam’s economy. Rivers from China, Laos and Cambodia that begin as melt from ice of the Tibetan Plateau are continuously reinforced by heavy rains as they snake their way south and empty out across the Mekong Delta. The soil rich deposits in the vast region have helped make Vietnam a top agricultural exporter. Agriculture is a huge source of employment and makes up over 20% of Vietnam’s GDP with exports of coffee, cotton, peanuts, rubber, sugarcane, and tea to countries around the world.
There are plenty of moments when I shake my fist at the sky after a solid week of rain. But in the end, I realize the benefits far outweigh the slight personal inconveniences.