This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Late last week I drove to Ayutthaya to see how the area was bearing up under the onslaught of flooding. I especially wanted to visit Wat Kasattrathiraj, the Wat reported as being underwater.
I went on Thursday, when the roads were still passable but waterways were starting to encroach onto highways, closing down bridges. By Friday, people were finding it impossible to get into the area. Today is Monday: Ayutthaya left in chaos (no longer online – it’s a Bangkok Post article).
It took us several tries to get across the river to the old city of Ayutthaya. We drove over many roads that were clear but the closer to the river we got, the wetter it became.
Warning signs were everywhere. In some officially closed off areas you could still get in by telling the police that you only wanted to see what was happening.
After what seemed like hours of driving, we finally come across flooding at a small community alongside the highway (I didn’t catch the name). They’d created a dirt embankment around the lowest areas, leaving houses and shops inside and out.
I read that the Thai government was handing out sandbags but there were none in evidence here.
A steady stream of locals were getting on with their lives, coming and going across the makeshift walkway.
Typical of practical Thailand, anything that would float was put to good use.
This little guy was having a great time on his Styrofoam island (but he didn’t appreciate my camera butting in).
Many brand spanking new boats were around. All blue. The trade in small boats must have been brisk.
Some bypassed available transportation, preferring to take their chances with snakes and… other critters lurking under the water. When this photo was taken the 25 crocodiles hadn’t escaped yet. A good thing.
Finally, the old city of Ayutthaya! The first ancient monument we drove by (after the elephant rides) was only partially flooded (and I’m not 100% sure if the standing water is normal in regular times too). You can just make out the tourists in that photo.
Continuing on, we came across a second flooded community.
The areas close to the encroaching water were dirtbagged (not sandbagged). Again, with houses and shops on both sides.
This is indeed an aptly named community.
While there I watched locals carrying out fans, dogs, anything of value. I asked Khun Pissout why, when a storm was announced the night before, they didn’t move their belongings when they had the chance? When the area was dryer? He explained that it’s not the Thai way. That Thais will wait until something happens and only then yell, “HELP! HELP!”
Almost ready to give up, we finally made it to a Wat underwater. Along the road to the Wat was a clay bank holding some of the flooding back. But, as most everyone was either boating or wading through the water covered road, into the wet we went.
I was sporting jeans and sandals and Khun Pissout was nicely kitted out in dress pants and black dress shoes. The closer to the Wat we got, the deeper it became. And before our adventure was over we were both drenched to our butts and beyond.
Many things I saw surprised me that day. For instance, dogs were being carried or ferried around by their owners. The Thais were soaking wet, but their pets were dry!
What didn’t surprise me were the many instances of Thais helping Thais.
Wading towards the Wat we passed boatload after boatload of families with their possessions.
Ok, this is clearly not a boat but it worked for him.
And again, Styrofoam to the rescue!
Some of the boats just had people. No stuff. But loads of smiles.
After 20 minutes of wading sloooooooooowly through the water, we made it.
And here you have it. The Wat under water. I tried to convince Khun Pissout to hire a boat to tour the grounds but he resisted. First he said that it was dangerous. And that we weren’t allowed to go in. That farangs could go in, but not Thais.
Then, when one boatload of Thai people paddled by, followed by more, I asked again. No reply. Ten minutes later, after I agreed that only I would be in the boat, not him, we looked for one to hire but they were all the flimsy kind. No thanks. While I am a proficient swimmer, if the boat went over I’d be fine but my 7D would drown.
Here’s yet another curiosity. They are removing the clay from the wall holding the majority of the river back. After they filled containers with the clay they took it across the street to shore up the walls around their home.
In parts it was deep, others not so much.
This traditional Thai house on stilts is high and dry, just as it should be!
Yet another dry dog, only this one is being taken for a walk around the wet Wat. When asked why he didn’t leave his dog at home, he replied that the dog wouldn’t be happy there on its own.
Ah. It’s Wat Chiawatthanaram (วัดไชยว้ฒนาราม)… no matter.
There were loads of smiles in my direction. I only found out later that Khun Pissout, often in front of me, was announcing to one and all that I was with the press. Gotta love him. And what an opportunist!
An official team of photographers were seen in the area (they had a proper boat), scouting around. I know because I briefly talked to the western photographer. He was staying dry by walking on the clay wall, while I was in the water, wet wet wet. Trying to convince him to have a real experience, I teased him. Just a little. And I’m still wondering if he did…
In the early afternoon the headman of the village brought in food for those sticking around.
I was hungry too, so it was time to go!
Again on dry land, I was faced with the final curiosity. The electric company arrived in the late afternoon to cut the power. As I mentioned, the storm was predicted for the night before. Plus, the community was under water for more than half a day by the time the electric company showed up. People going in and out getting their belongings all day? And for several weeks the newspapers had been reporting deaths from electrocution due to the flooding? Anyway…
Bangkok now bracing for floods…
So, what happens now? Well, the powers that be are predicting that Bangkok will flood (more) when the newly released flood waters from the north reach the city. So if you want to keep up with what’s happening, here’s a site that’s Mapping the Thailand Flood Disaster.
To prepare, the Thai government has already been mighty busy protecting Bangkok.
First, there was City Hall asking the Water Goddess for mercy (no longer online – it’s a Bangkok Post article).
And in case the Water Goddess doesn’t help, the government decided on a Chao Phraya armada to rush river water out to sea.
On twitter I found photos of Bangkokians raiding grocery stores for supplies, leaving many empty shelves. Not wanting to starve I took off for Villa Market but found business as usual. No lines, full shelves, no problem.
Come hell or high water, after overstocking at Villa I’m ready for whatever comes. I now have plenty of Whiskey, water, and wine. Also, in case of a power outage I have candles. And in case of another flood photo opportunity, Khun Pissout is standing by.
14 thoughts on “Ayutthaya Underwater: Bangkok Now Bracing for Floods”
Catherine and Jo
I followed the link to the pictures and I think Catherine may have missed a couple of WOW’s off her reaction. Fantastic is hardly the appropriate word but the photographs really are awesome.
Martyn, thank you for seeing into the post. The snakes were indeed frightening. I can be oh so tough but snakes, ughhh! And now that I’ve had time to think about it, the pampered dogs were sort of a window into the villagers’ handle on normality. Homes were flooded but their cherished pets would continue to be ok. It was like if their dogs were ok, then they had control over what was happening. Perhaps.
Jo, WOW WOW WOW! Those are the best photos I’ve seen so far. Impressive.
Snap, I can see what you are saying – and I agree. Staying home is often advised during a crisis but if everyone sits back to observe, who’s left to share? And no, the stories won’t always be ‘pretty’. In addition, the sharing reveals the characters from both sides of the camera. And in writing, often what’s left unsaid, what’s supposed to be read between the lines, is just as important as the rest.
Whether a disaster is man made or is the result of mother nature unleashing her wrath, or a combination of both, documenting (and sharing) it is a must. You’ve done a wonderful job of doing so with this series of ‘hands on’ photos and account of what you observed.
Some aspects you’ve pointed out, does leave one scratching their head a little though.
However tragic these events can be, some photos can be quite up lifting, illustrating the better side of human nature, while others may be able to highlight any failings of politicians and planning, and hopefully prevent history from repeating itself.
Just came across some more pictures here:
Catherine having viewed the photos once again and read your commentary on Ayutthaya’s dire situation I’d like to say what a brave lass you are for wading through the water…..with snakes and other critters lurking under the water…..I guess a girl’s gotta get her story.
I love the photo of the white terrier type dog sat in the boat with a rather bemused look on its face.
A fantastic account of what is an appalling situation in Ayutthaya and one which is similar to many other parts of the country.
Hand on my heart…without doubt the best Thai blog post I have read this year and that’s saying something because that white bearded bloke and his reindeer are just around the corner.
Best wishes from…….the UK.
Hi Martyn, thanks! Are you already back in the UK? If so, that was fast!
Brilliant…absolutely brilliant….pictures and commentary.
You’ve just kicked my arse out of jet lag mode and back to reality.
I’ll pop back later with a fuller comment. Best let the beers and JD’s settle first.
Is 41 winks a proper phrase?
Jo, good tip! I didn’t think of the toilet dilemma. That could have some nasty repercussions if not taken care of.
I asked KP about his klong during these recent floods and he said that the water has improved (so some good has come from this). Normally, the klong where he lives stinks (a heath hazard) but the flood waters are washing the bad away. When he built his houses many years ago the klong was free of pollution. His family could swim and fish. Now they have to stay out of the water and the fish are no more.
Oh and to everyone who might get flooded put sandbags in your toilets! You don’t want to have all that’s coming from down there in your house…
Dan I also feel sorry for those in other provinces. It seems a bit that those who rarely suffer shouldn’t suffer and those who already have a hard life should just get used to it. 🙁
After Jo mentioning sandbags, I just now read on twitter that sandbags are 60 baht? Crazy.
Hi Jo, apologies for your comment taking awhile to go live. Links are automatically held for approval (it’s a spam setting. Thanks for sharing his flickr. Only a few people are posting photos and they are a great way of keeping up with the different areas.
“You are awesome for getting out there! Looking forward for way more to come!”
Thanks! I’m a regular visitor to Ayutthaya (I love that place). When guests arrive I’ll try and pass on the sights around Bangkok but I can be convinced to tag along to see more of the ancient city. Am I going back soon? I won’t go back until the cleanup – that’s when the real longterm work starts. Many times after a disaster it’s briefly reported and then people are ignored, left to fend for themselves.
I hope you and yours are safe in Nonthaburi! I couldn’t imagine having to move an entire household upstairs. Some of my friends in Bangkok have been doing it these past weeks (those who have an upstairs anyway).
Maybe this flood will bring on a revival of old-fashioned Thai homes? Only taller? Many of the concrete houses I saw in Ayutthaya were flooded (no stilts). One wasn’t even finished being built yet (both good and bad I guess). In the case of flooding, seems the old ways are the best ways.
I’m hoping that the government’s plans pan out too. But I fear for those who’s homes are already wet.
Pak Kret and Sai Ma is really flooded since today. This guy posts updates of flickr
You are awesome for getting out there! Looking forward for way more to come!
We just fortify our house and the house of my family as good as possible. Its so much to move upstairs… I hope we have another 1-2 days before we get flooded (in Nonthaburi).
The showdown in downtown Bangkok will be interesting in a few days… they already now have to buy sand sacks from private companies. I hope everything works out as they have planed!
Will you go to Ayutthaya again?
Jo, I’ll do my best to stay safe but I’m getting bored waiting for the floods to either get on with it, or go down already. Tomorrow I have an opportunity to get back out there – I mean, a gal can’t cancel a facial, right? So I might be reporting sooner than expected. Photos and all.
Thanks for the reminder of the far side of the Chao Phraya. I haven’t seen many photos from over there either so maybe it’s high time they were represented?
Stay safe Cat, thank you for the pictures. Somehow it seems so little pictures and news about the situation get to the public.
I think we are in for a week full of “surprises”. As far as I can tell it seems the western side of the Chao Phraya river will be the side that will suffer most.
I hope everyone stays safe and all those affected by the flood will find a way to move on with their lives.