This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Bangkok bracing for the predicted floods…
For weeks we’ve been reading conflicting news on whether Bangkok will flood or not. First the Governor states that “Bangkok is ready, come hell or high water” (Bangkok Post article no longer online). Then that very same day, Yingluck, the Thai prime minister, warns of floods threatening Bangkok.
Soon after we had an “expert assuring us that the capital was not at risk of being swamped” (Bangkok Post article no longer online). But following that statement was yet another switch, that we are losing the battle against the river (finally, a BKK Post article that has not been taken offline).
And yet another killer announcement is where “Yingluck says the city is ill prepared for floods” (Bangkok Post article no longer online).
Not to be outdone, this very morning I woke up to an alert that “evacuation plan readied, city close to losing last line of defence” (Bangkok Post article no longer online).
Today is the 13th of October, my mother’s birthday. I’d say “Happy Birthday, Mom!” but she doesn’t read my blog. Good thing because Richard Barrow’s 13 October update: Maps of flood risk areas in Bangkok would frighten her to no end.
In his updated post Richard quotes ML Sukhumbhand “Evacuation plan readied” (Bangkok Post article no longer online)”:
If the water keeps rising, I am not sure if it can prevent flooding. If not, we cannot save Don Muang. All zones in Bangkok stand an equal chance of being flooded because we can’t predict the water flow. Right now, everything is under control. If we can’t control it, we will let people know straight away.
That leaves me wondering just how much time Bangkokians have (to run?) after a warning comes. Under an hour for central Bangkok? Ok. But I’m to the north. So for those of us up this far, there’s sure to be less time between the dry and the rushing wet wet wet.
Smiles amongst the flooding crises…
Even with the seriousness of the situation, the flooding criss hasn’t been without its mild hilarity.
A leaked memo was all a twitter: “City Hall to ask Water Goddess for mercy” (Bangkok Post article no longer online). The ceremony was toned down when they took the tweets as criticism (ok, some tweets were not exactly complementary… but…)
Personally, I saw most of the twitter comments as comic relief. I mean, come on, human nature being what it is, the flood crisis is stressful for everyone so a bit of laughter is needed.
And face it, Thailand has been at the “if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry” stage for quite awhile.
Also receiving twitter laugher was the Thai government’s plan to use 1,000 boats to push flood waters. Seriously, who [wise edit]…
While I was writing, editing, and doing even more editing, @RichardBarrow sent out several tweets:
Here at Taiban there is a fleet of 30 fishing boats “pushing” water out to sea. 20 more at Paknam.
They say it’s “scientifically proven” the boats are making a difference. But surely only surface water?
You can actually see the [surface] water moving twice as fast compared to where no boats.
The latest bit of comedy came when we were told that the 100 escaped crocodiles are “not fierce”. The idea of tame crocodiles totally boggles the mind. So, no no no no comment.
Not even remotely funny is the Bangkok Post’s sobering advice on “how to protect against poisonous creatures during flooding”. Walking through flooded Ayutthaya recently, I was absolutely terrified of being bitten by snakes.
And it’s a real fear. Not a girlie fear. Every bump underwater, every submerged plastic bag brushing against my legs made me flinch.
Preparing for the possible flooding of Bangkok…
For days after my last post, Ayutthaya Underwater: Bangkok Now Bracing for Floods, I was living in my PJ’s, celebrating dry land.
Like the rest of Bangkok, I’d already stocked up on supplies and then some. I was ready. And with a drop in caffeine levels, I was willing to sit out the remainder of the flood at home. Ok, I can’t lie… I was mostly willing.
But then came the phone call.
You need a charcoal stove.
You know, one of those quaint stoves you see all over Thailand.
Because you won’t have a means to cook if you don’t have electricity. And if Bangkok floods, your electricity will be cut.
Nah. My neighbourhood is not going to flood. Not seriously anyway. Not enough to lose electricity for more than a day (if that even).
And if it does? What then? How will you make coffee?
Oh! COFFEE! Why didn’t you say?
Sigh. This is where some expats are nowhere near prepared as the Thais. My Thai friends already have access to cookers that don’t depend upon electricity. And in a previous house (set up by my Thai landlord) I did too. But I set up my present abode. Not good.
Charcoal stove hunting in Bangkok…
A quick call to Khun Pissout and we were soon on the trail of a cooker. When I asked KP how work was these days, he was a bit down. During the run up to a crisis people stay home and taxi drivers, street hawkers and all suffer financially. It’s something to think about, so yes, I might just get out one… more… time… before the deluge… or after… We’ll see.
Anyway, I haven’t [yet] seen any crocodiles, or snakes for that matter. But on my search for a charcoal stove I was able to find proof of Bangkok residents begin hoarding food, water on flood threat.
Pssst… I’m a water hoarder, as are my friends and neighbours, so count us amongst the list of hoarders too.
And another thing… apologies in advance. I don’t have one of those spiffy new iPhones so my photos inside the stores are cacca. And if you don’t know, grocery stores in Thailand have a NO PHOTO policy so my crappy iPhone camera was my camera.
My first stop was Tesco Lotus. The noodle aisle was empty of all but a few select brands.
Tesco’s water supplies, another dire necessity in a flood, were also cleaned out. Again, except for a few brands.
When it came to the supplies of rice, Thai shoppers were even pickier. From what I saw, they bought everything except for Tesco’s brand. And to add insult to injury, it was even on sale.
While I was in the rice section, flats to replenish the empty shelves began arriving. I asked the person in charge about the supply and she said no problem, Tesco replenishes daily. Giving her a thumbs up and a smile, I walked away relieved.
BTW: Chuvit is reporting dire problems with our food supply and while I don’t know who to believe, it was nice to hear a positive note from Tesco, regardless.
The noodle section in Villa market was half cleaned out. I don’t know if it was a price thing, or if Villa should take note of their more popular brands!
Again, the froo froo water was left but the inner lane (unseen here and usually stacked with water) and the shelves were emptied. I’m not lacking water (remember, I’m a hoarder) but I will go back to see if new supplies have appeared.
Please note that all through Villa and Tesco’s the other sections were stocked high. Fruit, vegetables, fish and meat were all in abundance.
Flooding in Bangkok… the little I saw…
I didn’t get to the main flooded areas in Bangkok yesterday. It’s a taxi driver’s job to keep their passengers out of traffic jams and that’s exactly what he did. It went something like that – and as that’s my story, I’m sticking with it.
I know I keep saying this, but I seriously do believe that where I live is relatively safe from floods. From Richard’s post (on the latest predictions of floods map), I’m not far from two iffy areas: Klong Sam Sen – Klong Bang Sue (2) and Chatuchat (8). There’s also the small waterway by the army base that floods (shown above) but they’ve been busy filling it in with muck for months. And for now, I do feel safe and dry.
Some of the smaller waterways are closed off. I was told that it’s due to the worry that a deluge would be ok in the larger klongs but would swamp the smaller ones. Makes sense.
Since I’m not familiar with this area I don’t know how much higher the water on the Chao Phraya river has become. But what you can’t ignore is the rubbish floating around. Some waterways are totally carpeted with plastic bags, discarded toys, whatever garbage that can float. Some are so thickly covered in trash they give the false impression that you really can walk on water.
That’s not all solid ground. These guys are watching a growing mess of rubbish floating in.
What you are seeing is the Chao Phraya river rushing by sandbags. Fast. Pity I didn’t take video to show you just how fast. Some of the river (or is it the rain) made it inside the sandbaged area but not enough to worry about. Yet.
As I was running around I noticed that some shops took extra precautions against the floods and shops right next door did nothing. This one thrilled KP so much that he backed up his taxi to take a real look.
Now here’s the second bit of good news for the day (the first coming from the Tesco lady).
People on twitter have been reporting sandbags going for an astounding rip-off price of 60-100 baht. Do you know the pre-flood prices for sandbags? I don’t. But these guys have sandbags for sell at 30 baht, not 60 or 100.
And as I left they too got a thumbs up.
Hunting down a traditional Thai coal cooker…
Ok. finally! The promised coal cooker! Practical coal cookers are everywhere in Thailand. But unless this crisis has given me the wrong impression, you won’t usually find them in stores such as Tescos or Villa (I looked). But some of the smaller mom and pop shops keep a supply.
Not thinking about the realities, I bought a large version of the coal burner plus two plastic bags of coal. KP then got a chuckle when I asked, “ok, now what do I do with it all?”
He went on to explain that first you dump the coal in the top, then you get sticks of wood and paper to ignite the wood. So it’s just like making a camp fire (which I do have experience with).
But then he paused and said that my neighbours would object to the smoke coming from my balcony.
When I asked how he got around upsetting his neighbours with coal smoke he replied that he doesn’t use coal. His fire is gas driven.
And then he thought a bit more and corrected himself by admitting that if no one in my condo had electricity, then they wouldn’t complain. And how could they? Because to Thais (and to me too for that matter), being able to eat is… a must.
Ok, so now I have the smoke problem solved but there was another. Pans. Actually, I have two problems to solve.
1) How do the pans stay out of the fire, and…
2) Where do I get the appropriate pans?
Because yeah, my froo froo expat pans are not made for high heat.
So off we went to a cooker supplier who fixed us up with a grill. After that we stopped at Tesco Lotus where we struck out but [drum roll] Villa Market had pretty much everything I needed.
As you can see in the photo there’s a coal cooker, two plastic bags of local coal, two bags of farang coal (no lighter fluid needed), a metal kettle to make coffee (yeah), a metal pan for cooking, matches galore, and for emergencies, lighter fluid.
And this should be pretty much all is needed for the cooking aspects of flood emergency supplies. All excepting for the food. And the water. And the whiskey and wine.
And if I’m wrong, you’ll let me know. Right?
24 thoughts on “Bangkok is STILL Bracing for the Thai Floods. Barely.”
Hi Terry. If you are going into Ayutthaya you’ll need a boat. I walked into flooded areas (taking care where the current was strong) but I would no longer advise it because of the crocs. They are rare but it only takes the one. If I were to go back at this time I’d attach myself to a group distributing supplies. A group going in via boat.
Thank you for the offer, but I’ve reached my frustration level (I’m now waiting for it to subside). I have thousands of photos from recent trips to flooded areas (most are fully under water now) but I no longer have the drive to share them. Perhaps later.
During each Thai crisis I try to keep a positive view but eventually the weight of the backbiting, squabbling, finger pointing and unbelievable incompetence overwhelms me. When that happens, I go quiet for awhile.
I am in the process of penning a survival post. But even tanked up on caffeine I’m spending most of my time staring at a blank sheet, so it might not be ready until tomorrow. Heck. At this rate, it might need to be retitled “what I did during my flooding holiday”…
Hi Catherine, I am traveling to Bangkok and surrounding area Oct 31. I wanted to prepare for the floods so i did some research online and came across your blog posts. They were very helpful. I enjoyed your humorous and honest reflections on what is happening in that country. The photos looked great too. Keep the world up to date!
I’m an adventurer and flood or not i am adamant on seeing Ayutthaya and putting myself in the thick of the floods. How were you able to get around? Were you serious about the snake and croc hazards? I know your posts are dated Oct 11 and 13, but i’m sure a lot has changed since then. If you were to make the same trek today would you need to change anything in terms of logistics and preparation?
I will be landing Nov 1 at Suvarnabhumi. If you’re up for it and perhaps by then you’d like to update your posts on the flood, we could make the trip together. my email is [email protected]. thanks.
That, I couldn’t imagine (I wear glasses). All of the young students now suffering from various problems during this flooding crisis has been on my mind a lot this weekend. So thanks for donating Jo! Every bit will help.
It’s a great cause. Imagine you have poor eyesight and not enough money to buy glasses 🙁 I just donated. Thanks for keeping us updated Cat!
Hi Lani, ta! Bangkok is mostly ok. It’s the outer edges and much further out that’s the worry.
I love the rain but it’s starting to make my heart hurt 🙁
I’m DYING to get updated too! But I won’t be able to get out until tomorrow (earliest) to see what’s up. I’m babysitting a sprained ankle (not mine) so I’ve been fetching pots of tea, hot chocolate, glasses of water, bags of frozen peas, trays full of food, channel changers, pillows… did I forget anything? I sometimes do.
Love the pictures 😀 and I hope BKK is okay? I suppose this is not the time to share that the weather has been sunny and lovely this past week? Today is the first day in awhile that we’ve had rain. I’m sure the folks who got flooded out are delighted.
Keep us updated! Hugs!
Here we go again…
“More than 1,000 boats speed outflow of three rivers into sea to brace for coming flood water” via mcot.net (post offline)
… and apparently it’s being serenaded by the Best of Kenny G.
Jo, I know you are worried about your friends and family in Thailand, so I’m glad to hear that I was able to give you a smile 🙂
Bangkok looks to be ok so the big worry is everywhere but here. And on a sad note, I’ve been in contact with Peter from the SET Foundation. Anyone reading my blog will know that I hold Peter and his foundation in high esteem. Unlike other organisations, the majority of the money donated to SET gets to the kids.
The Kiriwong Project is just a small part of what Peter has accomplished.
When I asked Peter for details, he admitted that it’s not going well. His home/office is under water so he’s been evacuated to Wat Kiriwong along with other people in his area.
He has limited Internet so I’m waiting to see what we can do to help. Also, he won’t know if he’s lost everything until he can see it for himself.
Peter has changed the lives of Thai students forever and as soon as he can, he’ll get back to it. And if he needs help getting back on his feet, I’ll let everyone know.
In the meantime, if anyone wants to donate to the SET Foundation now, please do.
Haha, thank you this post has put a smile on my face. Oh yes, emergency coffee may not be forgotten! 🙂
It is funny how in times like these you start to realize how comfortable we have become with our running water, power and heat / air con.
I’m rather optimistic now about the whole situation when it comes to Bangkok. 2-3 more days and then the worst might be over.
I hope those parts of Thailand that are flooded since some weeks / months already will also be finally dry again as soon as possible.
Living under such damp and wet conditions must be awful!
I think way less escaped in Pattaya and they caught most of them but now many more (the 3000) have escaped at farms upstream. Not many were captured and I doubt they will. I hope those poor families living next to the river will not have to pay the price for that in the months to come :/
The scientist did get back to say that 1000 boats cannot make that much of a difference, but they’d be handy for rescuing people so once rounded up, not all would be lost.
There’s 3000 crocs on the loose? Wow. I just read about the snake bites but not about the new release of crocs.
Here’s a recent bit of news about the sandbags (sad): “DIT finds overpriced sandbags in flood-prone areas” via thainews.prd.go.th (no longer online).
And what we’ve been painfully aware of: Flood threat keeps capital on red alert – Bickering over who’s in charge confuses public
“They just sit there tied at the doc, pushing away” That’s an even stranger picture (in my head) than the first one I imagined 😉
“..would not be higher than 2.3 to 2.4 metres. But the floodwalls in Bangkok is 2.5 metres high, therefore, Bangkok is safe” I read that too…I’m not liking that 10 cm ‘if’.
Re: the crocodiles…did anyone ever hear about what happened to the near 3000 crocs that escaped when Pattaya flooded? At last count they’d reported 28 recaptured! Not that I’m worrying, I’m sure there the friendly type also.
Breaking News: Pracha: Bangkok won’t be flooded
He insisted that Bangkok will not be severely flooded because the amount of water running down from the North into the Chao Phraya River in Nakhon Sawan and Chainat was lesser than earlier projected.
“The level of the flow in Chao Phraya which will arrive in Bangkok on October 15-16 would not be higher than 2.3 to 2.4 metres. But the floodwalls in Bangkok is 2.5 metres high, therefore, Bangkok is safe”, said Mr Chalit.
Thanks Kaewmala 🙂 No, I don’t know who’s idea it was… but… hmmmm… I actually know a scientist who specialises in the field. He’s in transit at the moment so I’m waiting for his return. But thinking on the red rice issue (I don’t like it either) it might not be a good idea to post his views… darn it.
Cat, another nice one.
On the 1,000 tugboats idea, can’t see how that really works myself but that is just my non-expert common sense. You really don’t know whose idea it was? Don’t ask me,though. I don’t wanna eat red rice! 😉
When my site was offline (long story) I’d forgotten all about including this forum post on flood tips: วิธีป้องกันน้ำเข้าบ้านโดยไม่ต้องใช้กระสอบทราย
It’s not just about preventing flooding without sandbags. It also includes other useful tips.
Here’s an article about the rising prices: Thai MP warns shortages could lead to looting
The article is stating that sandbags are going for up to 100 baht each. I don’t know what the actual figures are all over Bangkok, but I’d like to think that the 100 baht hike is rare and not the norm.
Does anyone know for sure?
Mary, glad to entertain 🙂 keeping a sense of humour in times like these keeps the Whiskey at bay.
Snap, I’m keeping close tabs on the news but I still can’t make sense of anything. And those 1000 boats, well, they make no sense whatsoever! Oh, and from the photos, I gathered that the boats don’t go up or down or anywhere. They just sit there tied at the doc, pushing away. Yeah. The extremely odd just got odder (if that’s ever possible).
Pre my move here I’d get the table top cookers (warmers) to take back home. The small ones. So this is the first time I’ve had an honest to goodness coal cooker. Makes me almost wish for the electric to go off. Almost.
Heres hoping BKK doesn’t suffer the worst in the next few days and it’s all over soon. 1000 boats does sound impressive, but somehow I just don’t see it working…well maybe one trip down river. Then what happens? Do they push some water back inland on their return voyage????
Off topic! I LOVE those BBQ cook tops. Have sent two back home already, less the clay bottom half.
Catherine, in the midst of something that could be pretty serious you have managed to keep me rolling on the floor laughing! Very informative, even with your crappy little camera :>) Thanks!
Amy, it’s quite something to see empty shelves in Villa. I’ve seen (and read about) empty shelves in other stores but not there. The third floor is indeed safe and after I purchase Marcus’ suggestions I’ll have it covered. As for the hype, I’m not sure. My head says no way for Bangkok but my fears say otherwise. And where do the laughs come from? My every smiling soul 🙂
So please keep watching with us, because until it dries, we’ll be nowhere else but (around) here.
Cripes man! Those empty shelves are freaking me out… Glad you don’t live on the ground floor. It looks like you’re prepared now, esp. after MarcusBurtBKK’s advice. What an intimidating picture of the river rushing by all grey-brown and swollen. Yikes. We’re keeping up with you guys on the other side in the USA and our hearts go out to you. I hope it’s all hype and that nothing comes of the floods… Keep up with the laughs, glad there’s plenty to go around…
Oh! Great suggestions. I’ve been without water for 8 days before (Brunei snafu) and toilets that can’t flush… ughhh… it’s an awful stench.
In a condo I have tin openers galore but NO cable ties, wet wipes, or extra paper towels (I’m almost out) and ditto with plastic bags (almost out too).
So, I’m back shopping. Tomorrow. Ta!
Tin opener, plastic cable ties, wet wipes, paper towels, and plenty of plastic bags.
That water pump which fills your toilet after you flush? It runs on electricity. Not pleasant I know but a necessity all the same.
I’d like to apologize for the length of this post. My site went down at a critical moment and instead of taking the time to create two posts out of this one, I… pushed send…