Oct 29 2011
As the tide swells and Bangkok empties of noodles, condoms, and now people, tourists have been advised to plan around the floods. The US Embassy issued a travel alert on Thursday, while the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now advised against all but essential travel to Bangkok (see our thoughts on that here).
In the country’s worst flooding since 1942, the authorities have flip-flopped on the severity of the floods and their plan of action. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has remained seemingly calm and unfazed until yesterday, has pleaded for “fresh ideas” in managing the rising waters. She advised work crews to cut the channels in five roadways to drain the floodwaters heading towards north of Bangkok, but the plan was vetoed later for dredging canals and using pumps.
Friday afternoon, Sukhumvit Soi 48 and 50 were reportedly flooded, as a section of the dyke along Phra Khanong canal collapsed. The knowledge that Sukhumvit area is finally in danger increased the flood panic for some, though the water is far down the soi and nowhere near Sukhumvit Road proper or the BTS On Nut station.
Chatuchak Weekend Market has closed this weekend as many of the vendors try to protect their wares. Illustrating how the flood is touching everyone, the Bangkok Post had a story on fish vendors and how they are debating saving their tropical fish from the oncoming inundation.
In fear of non-working ATMs in flooded areas, some citizens have started to take out money and leave for drier pastures. The exodus from Bangkok has made the notoriously bad traffic even worse, with miles of back-to-back cars looking for new routes to avoid flooded roads and trips taking three or four times longer than usual.
All flights out of Don Muang have been cancelled since the airport was closed Tuesday but Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok’s main travel hub, remains open for business and a temporary home for Nok Air and Orient Thai Airlines.
Many bus and train routes heading north have been suspended (while some companies have increased their schedule to accommodate fleeing citizens), and portions of the highway have been closed off. As for finding a taxi, it may be more difficult as an estimated 50% of the cabs are missing from the city streets.
Hua Hin, a seaside resort town 200km from Bangkok, is now a popular flood-vacation destination. There have been rumours of food shortages and over-occupied hotels, so check online ahead of travelling there.
Please note, not all citizens in Bangkok are evacuating. Some, including myself and fellow Bangkok correspondent Brock, have decided to stock up on water, snacks, and good movies until further notice. Even those flood victims whose houses are partially submerged have sought refuge a floor higher. In an ongoing familial theme, many young Thais have simply been unable to convince their parents to move. The award for the bravest (and most headstrong) in the face of disaster goes to the elderly Bangkokians.
For a city of 9 million people, the streets and public transportation do feel eerily empty, but people have continued to go on with their daily lives. We are still going out to eat som tam, get our nails done, and shop till we drop in typical Bangkok fashion. The BTS and MRT are both running normally. If it weren’t for the sandbags and newly-arisen cemented walls in front of stores, one might not know Central Bangkok is in crisis.
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