Sudden downpour in Angkor Wat

The Chinese coastal city of Qingdao is famous not only for its beer, but also its beaches.

The imaginatively-named No. 1 Bathing Beach, for instance, is touted as the No. 1 beach in Asia (pleasant enough but definitely not number 1).

The problem was, we visited the city in early Spring, and the temperature was definitely not condusive for lazing around on the beach or taking a dip in the presumably chilly waters.

And walking to the city’s famed Zhanqiao Pier, which juts out into the sea, wasn’t a pleasure either, as we were faced with strong winds and an incessant drizzle.

Qingdao

So even though the seafood in Qingdao was lovely, I didn’t like the city.

But maybe, just maybe, I would have a better impression of the city if I had gone in better weather.

After all, my friends who visited Qingdao liked the place.

Sumptuous seafood in Qingdao

So should we be checking the weather charts before we plan our vacations?

I think it’s kinda important, especially if you want to avoid certain weather conditions.

For me, the rainy season is a no-no.

The last thing I want is to be trapped indoors or have to hold an umbrella or wear a raincoat when I go out.

Typhoon season in Manila (yes, that’s me running in the picture)

Flooding in downtown Bangkok during the rainy season

I don’t like hot weather either, but I’d take it over the rains anytime.

But more than just avoiding certain weather conditions, checking the weather also helps ensure that you can see the city in its best light.

Cherry blossoms in Kitakyushu, Japan

For instance, people flock to Japan to see its famed cherry blossoms in Spring.

And there are certain highlights which are absolutely dependent on the seasons.

Like Harbin’s Ice Festival.

I had visited Harbin before, in early Summer, and I thought the city was a little boring.

Church of St Sophia, Harbin

My friend and I were there for three days.

But after we had visited the Church of St Sophia, seen the many Russian buildings and witnessed tigers tearing live chickens apart at the Siberian Tiger Park, we were left scratching our heads over what to do.

And on our last day in the city, we decided to sing karaoke because we were that bored.

Harbin Siberian Tiger Park

But in Winter, the entire city comes alive.

The main pedestrian street, Zhongyang Dajie, was filled with people despite the minus-20 degree chill.

And the frozen Songhua River was abuzz with activities – from ice slides to dog sleds and horse-riding.

There were even people swimming in a pool which has been carved out of the river!

Performances along Zhongyang Dajie, Harbin

Winter swimming on the Songhua River, Harbin

But of course the highlight remains the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which astounds with its size and scale.

There were amazing fairy tale palaces and towering pagodas all carved out of ice.

Ice and Snow World, Harbin

Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair, Harbin

Not checking the weather before you book your flights could also be to your detriment.

My ex-boss went hiking in Nepal a month before I arrived, and she told me about the heavy rains and leeches.

But when I went there, the weather was nice and clear.

Dhaulagiri range, Nepal

Each morning, as we started our hikes, we had fantastic views of the Himalayas.

Watching the sunrise from Poon Hill, in particular, was unforgettable as we had stupendous views of the mighty Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Ranges with peaks over 8000m high.

Watching the sunrise from Poon Hill

But unfortunately, those unobstructed views only lasted till around midday for us on every day of our trek, as after which, the skies would cloud over.

Our guide told us that climate change was the culprit, as the November skies were supposed to remain clear.

Climate change, however, is beyond the scope of this article.

View of the Dhaulagiri Range in Nepal

So do you normally check the seasons before you book your flights?

Or do you not mind taking your chances?

Heavy downpour in Tagbilaran, the Philippines