Oct 08 2011

Batton down the levees: Bangkok prepares for floods

Published by at 12:19 pm under Floods

The stars — and moon — are moving into alignment to bring Bangkok some of the worst flooding in fifty years. October 16 will see a spring tide (a tide that is higher than normal because of the position of the moon) that causes the Chao Phraya river to stop draining towards the sea, while over six billion cubic meters of water are making their way from wreaking havoc in northern Thailand to the capital region.

Flooded riverside park benches at Phra Sumen.

Flooded riverside park benches at Phra Sumen.

It’s not yet clear exactly how much of the water can be contained north of Bangkok; currently dams in Ayutthaya responsible for containing the flood waters are very close to capacity.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration maintains a partial series of levees on both the Bangkok (east side) and Thonburi (west side) of the Chao Phraya river — the areas around Khao San Rd and Democracy monument are well protected, however further south in Chinatown there are areas where the levees are not completed, as well as north towards Bang Sue.

With over 11 million people living in a city that is effectively at sea level, the effects of flooding will be dramatic and sobering. Prime Minister Yingluck said today, “This will have a direct impact on Bangkok.” She continued, “We have to admit this is more serious than in the past.”

End of the (flooded) road.

End of the (flooded) road.

So what’s a traveller to do? At this stage, well travelled bits of Bangkok are unlikely to be greatly affected — Sukhumvit, Silom, and Khao San Rd are not expected to be seriously inundated. Chinatown will be at risk, as will many riverside attractions.

Rules of thumb for a flooded Bangkok? We’ve got three.

First, while tap water in Bangkok is potable, switch to bottled water during flooding.

Second, don’t wade into flood water; SE Asian sidewalks are notoriously (ridiculously) booby trapped during a clear sunny day. Unimaginable horrors lay underneath that metre of brown water.

Finally, offer help where help is needed, but remember, sometimes the best help is to get out of the way.

More information
The Thai Highway Department has put together a Google map of flooded areas, it is only in Thai unfortunately, but Thai Travel Blogs has an embedded version of the flood map with the key icons translated into English, so if you’re planning on driving, be sure to check it out.

Also, the US Embassy has put out an emergency message regarding the floods.

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5 Responses to “Batton down the levees: Bangkok prepares for floods” ...

  1. DMon 11 Oct 2011 at 12:05 am

    Thank you for this alert, Brock. We have our tickets booked for Bangkok, leaving mid-November, and have been following this news a bit anxiously.

    I do have one question regarding what you said re: SE Asian sidewalks:

    “Second, don’t wade into flood water; SE Asian sidewalks are notoriously (ridiculously) booby trapped during a clear sunny day. Unimaginable horrors lay underneath that metre of brown water.”

    What do you mean by “booby trapped?” Do you mean the sidewalks are just in bad shape, or do you literally mean “booby trapped?” How? Why? By some…nefarious individual, or…?

    Sorry if this is a dumb question – we just hadn’t heard of this in our research and just wanted to clarify.

    Thank you!

  2. Brockon 11 Oct 2011 at 7:33 am


    No, the sidewalks are not actively boobby-trapped by any person, although I love this mental image. I just meant that they are often in bad shape, poorly designed, or in disrepair. It’s not uncommon to see drain covers missing, or pipes that protrude from the middle of the sidewalk for no reason, or for there to be some other obstruction (often low lying).

    With any luck my mid November the rainy season will be well and truly over and this will no longer be an issue! Thanks for your question!


  3. DMon 11 Oct 2011 at 8:34 am

    Thanks, Brock! That makes a lot more sense.

    Sigh. I knew it might be a silly question, but what do I know? :)

  4. Lathaon 13 Oct 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Hi Brock,

    Saw your post. We are travelling to Bangkok and Phuket mid of October, 2011. We are there till Nov 1. How is the floor situation? We would be travelling with 2 young children.

    Please send in your response.


  5. rajendra kelawalaon 15 Oct 2011 at 1:51 am

    we plan for bangkok and pattay from 21st october to 27th october.what your advise in this flood condition

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