Bangkok, and all of Thailand for that matter, is full of surprises. One of my constant sources of amusement, especially in the last few years, has been Western expats who are sure they know what’s what in Thailand. They’re usually fooled into believing this because they’re married to a Thai. I’ve been here long enough to know better. Any time I’m foolish enough to think I know what’s going on, reality slaps me in the face and shows me just how wrong I am.
The latest lessons came via the current flood situation. Some flooding in Bangkok and the surrounding area is a more or less annual occurrence, when runoff from the monsoon rains in the north of Thailand make their way to the Gulf of Siam. The situation is exacerbated by the fact the arrival of the waters usually coincides with semi-annual king high tides in the Gulf. What’s unusual this year is the extreme amount of flood water coming down from the north.
The part of Bangkok I live in managed to remain dry for quite some time, and when the king tides at the end of October passed with no flooding, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I had escaped.
And that’s when I duly received my much-deserved slap in the face.
I woke up on November 4 to find the main street nearest my home flooded to curb height. I made it out to the gym and back home that day, but over the next several days the water crept higher and deeper into the streets surrounding my place.
I did consider leaving when the water first appeared, but I had food, water and electricity, so it seemed reasonable to hang in there and ride it out. I somewhat foolishly thought it would be a good opportunity to get lots of work done. But it’s hard to focus when you’re checking the water level every five minutes.
After four or five days the food was starting to run low, and the boredom level was reaching dangerously high levels. I had ventured out a couple of times, and found a few shops and food stalls bravely trying to carry on, but the pickings were pretty slim.
So, on 10 November I decided to leave and seek out temporary accommodation in a drier part of Bangkok. This meant packing what I could in a backpack and wading through knee-deep water to the nearest subway station, which was still open.
I’m now hearing that Bangkok may be dry within two weeks, but one of important lessons of this has been that you can’t believe anything you hear from supposed officials. More king tides are expected in the next few days, so my current thinking is to return home after they’re finished. Until then, I’m enjoying life in a different part of Bangkok.