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Post 359: Leaping forward ......

Bangkok Floods 2011 ....

Time flies. Maybe it was laziness or simply a case of too much good life …. But after leaving Thailand in May 2011, I’ve actually spent the summer in California. I returned to Boonville where my brother’s family home needed some finishing touches. Notably plumbing, electricity, windows, doors and a roof. Last year for me the ’Building’ part had been easy. Professor Steve Dewinski had been there to supervise my hammer-work and lets face it, nothing that I did would ever be seen on the surface. ’Finishing’ is slightly different because anything that’s done now will be visible for the life of the house. Ill fitting doors, windows that leak, hammer dents in the surface wood etc. Well, to cut a long story short, I spent the six months in California concentrating on enclosures for the growing stock of animals and extreme laziness …. So all in all, not a bad summer for me, but not too productive when it comes to my contribution for the family ….. ‘must try harder’

The ’Plan’ had always been to return to London, and from there to make plans for 2012. Well, the ’Plan’ changed. The news from my friends in Thailand wasn’t good. Severe seasonal monsoon rains had flooded the Central Plains of Thailand and the backed-up waters were slowly being released upon Bangkok. Bangkok is built on a flood plain (bad planning) and usually a combination of rivers and canal systems drain the waters from the Isan region through and around the Capital without a problem. This year however, the Northern water levels are far higher and the escape systems are proving to be grossly inadequate. The new Thai government has promised that Bangkok will be saved from flooding, but the last person to utter those words was King Canute …. and that really didn’t end well. And so, my ticket was changed and I arrived back in Thailand …. 28th May 2011.
At Suvarnabhumi International Airport the public taxi’s were reluctant to take me to the district of Lak Si. They offered alternatives, all of which involved massage parlours, dancing girls, gem stores and golf courses, but as I was renting an apartment in Lak Si, I decided to use the recently opened rail link.

Dropping my bag at my clearly unflooded apartment, it was difficult to see what all the fuss was about. There was no sign of flooding anywhere. So, I decided to visit the font of all local knowledge, the monks at Wat Lak Si. (’Wat’ = Temple). For an hour we drank tea and chewed the flooding fat and I left them feeling enlightened. Lak Si is apparently now an island and I can either walk a few hundred yards to see the extent of the flooding, or alternatively, wait a day for the mountain to come to Mohammed.
Well, I’m not good at ‘waiting’, so I wandered off in the general direction of the missing floods. Crossing the main highway via the footbridge, there was no sign of unwanted water, but the sides of the highway, the ‘high ground’ had become something of a car park. True, I could see large puddles in the distance, but surely this was a simple case of over-reaction?
With no obvious sign of the approaching flood, I wandered back towards my apartment and noticed that the local bike shops were doing a roaring trade in scooter modifications. Modified inlet and exhaust systems seem to be the order of the day. I’m no expert but I don’t remember seeing plumbing pipes featured in the manual of motorcycle tuning. Maybe it was a compliance issue for new Thai emission controls but I fear that it’s more than just the monks who fear flooding in Lak Si
So, the Taxi’s, the Monks and the Taxi Bike Riders all think that the flood is coming. Information from independent sources usually leads to the truth, but when you see a major Bank spending your money on anything other than bonuses and jollies .. maybe it really is time to start believing.
I popped into the local market, which since the opening of a Tesco Store at the end of the street, is now actually a few hundred yards away. Six months ago there were four grocery stores along the street, but since the opening of Tesco four months ago, two have already vanished. I hope it’s not a sign of things to come here in Thailand, but why should Thailand be any different to any other country? The closing of my favourite store was something of a shock, but the contents of the next most local store, and the next, was even more shocking. Aside from an ample supply of shampoo and condoms, everything else had gone.
Leaving the store empty handed, on the walk back to the apartment I noticed water bubbling gently up through the breather holes in the drain covers at the side of the street. Not usually alarming, but possibly a sign that the majority were actually right. Then, the sight of families moving South. Trucks, 4x4’s and even taxi bikes all loaded to rafters and heading South. If there is going to be a flood, then you head towards higher ground, it’s obvious. However, the water has accumulated on the higher ground and everything that stands before it is lower. The only high ground in Bangkok is man made and Lak Si stands between the mounting water and the ocean…… time to buy some boots .. mai pen rai kap

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