Monday, October 31, 2011


Bangkok held its breath as the Chao Phraya River continued to swell.

Then Saturday passed.

And Soi Rambuttri and Khao San Road were still dry.

For a tourist ghetto that was sparsely populated due to the exodus of both Thais and tourists to higher ground, Banglamphu sure made a large, triumphant amount of noise on Saturday and Sunday nights. And then tonight, Thai teenagers roamed the blocks, appearing to thoroughly enjoy themselves—even though the only people wearing Halloween costumes were the vendors and little kids out with their parents.

There had been panic-buying, evacuations, and a lot of quick-studies in water control. The low-lying neighborhoods alongside the river had gotten walloped. Even Chatuchak Market had closed this weekend. (No new zebra shirts for me. Boo-hoo!)

But we were unscathed over in backpacker central.

This doesn't mean it's over—something could break. Something unexpected could happen. No one has dismantled their retaining walls yet, or thrown away their sandbags. But there is more confidence now that barring an unexpected catastrophe, those who are dry now will continue to be dry.

I'd been reading on Intrepid's website that their Samsen hotel was in deep water, so I headed across the canal on Sunday night to have a look.

The hotel was fine, but I suppose it had been on the front lines. If the water had risen a bit more on Saturday, it would have gotten there eventually.

I walked on up the back streets to the soi where the bike shop is. I glanced in—VeloThailand staff was fitting some clients with bicycles. They didn't spot me as I walked on.

A few more blocks up and the street was damp. Another block and I could see that the blocks towards the river were under about a foot of water.

Thais rode through the water on cycles, motorbikes, car, and on foot. The flood didn't seem to have stopped people from using their homes within the wet area.

I headed back to the park, where nothing had changed since my last visit. Kids still swam in the makeshift pool where the aerobics had been. I passed two small groups of evacuees as I walked. They each carried a small bag as they got out of the back of small fire department pick-up trucks. Two of them were soaked in water.

And they were taking it well.

I passed a truck that was delivering bottled water on my way back home, and then spotted the coconut-seller with the mohawk who dresses in red. He was pushing his cart down the middle of the road, drinking a beer as he walked.

He'd worked every single day throughout the entire crisis. I'd seen him set up shop every morning.

I wondered what kind of hit he'd taken from the lack of tourists. And what the shortage of customers meant to every merchant, waiter, and foot massager on Khao San. And what would the businesses do after losing a week's revenue, a week's productivity? And in the bigger picture, how catastrophic was this flood to Thailand overall?

Very, I think.


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