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29 October 2011 / leggypeggy

Bangkok—a disaster on the way (28 photos)

The water is rising in Bangkok.

By the time you read this, Bangkok’s central business district will probably be up to its knees in water. Much of Greater Bangkok is already under water. High water levels caused by heavy rain during the monsoon are flowing toward the city. Officials hoped to avoid—or at least postpone—the worst, by letting water flow into the suburbs. But the sheer volume of water and continuing rain have meant the inner city is doomed.

We arrived in the city on Wednesday, about the time the mayor declared a five-day holiday so people could prepare their homes and businesses. A lot of the businesses that were open when we arrived have since closed and remained shut.

In order to fend off the coming deluge, people have used plastic, sandbags, concrete walls, plasterboard, caulking guns and a combination of any and all of these. From hole-in-the-wall shops to huge shopping centres, the race against the water is on. Shops that are opening each day have tried to make it easier for customers to enter and exit by creating steps out of sandbags or concrete blocks. Fashionable young women haven’t yet given up their short skirts and stilettos and totter over the makeshift stiles. The Royal Thai Army has an existing four-foot concrete wall surrounding their base in town, and they’re adding another two feet to that. Last night there was about an inch of rain in an hour—just what they didn’t need.

Most supermarkets and convenience stores have run out of bottled water. The food shelves are becoming bare. We’ve seen people extending their vehicle exhaust pipes, buying supplies in bulk, blowing up rubber dinghies, carrying boats home on the roofs and back-ends of cars. Today we saw an ambulance carrying people wearing lifejackets, and assumed they had been rescued.

I’ve taken these photos over several days. I’ve been constantly impressed by everyone’s good humour. Not one person rejected my request to take a photo, although a group of girls carrying sandbags got the giggles so bad, they could hardly stand up. I could post another 50 pics, but I won’t.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Derrick / Oct 29 2011 11:53 pm

    Been to Bangkok lots of times, was there when the riots were on, no matter what happens to this place, manners and smiles are always around, I guess it must be a Thai thing (LOS=Land of Smiles)
    How is the Patpong market area getting on ? (a lot of tourists visit there, I was one of them)

    I stayed at the Amari hotel a couple of times (not the airport one) niceplace I bet the rugs arent still on the floor now though

    I saw on Sky news that the airport was quite badly flooded, but some planes were still taking off, smaller, light aircraft had ben moved (I would have thought they would have been moved to unaffected regional airports

    I think wellies arent going to be much cop here, just flip flops or bare feet

    How is the truck fareing with this flooding ?

    I would guess that tents wont be used here then 🙂 a high rise hostel maybe ?



  2. leggypeggy / Oct 30 2011 2:43 am

    Hi Derrick —
    We moved on to Kanchanaburi today, so are beyond the water issues. In Bangkok, the domestic airport is flooded, but the international one has been okay.
    As for the truck and tents, we haven’t used either for several weeks. The truck couldn’t enter Vietnam, so we’ve been staying in hostels. We only rejoined the truck today.
    I really must do a blog item about that. Thanks for the idea. 🙂


  3. Derrick / Oct 30 2011 3:20 am

    Ah, I thought it had reached the international airport
    A shame about not getting into Vietnam, was that closed ?
    (big sign at the border, Vietnam Closed Till Further Notice)
    That would have been a great photo 🙂


    • leggypeggy / Oct 30 2011 10:37 am

      Oh we got into Vietnam, but the truck didn’t. We used public transport in both Vietnam and Cambodia, and will do so again in Indonesia. Changes the dynamics of the trip, but complies with the laws of various countries. Like I said, I’ll do a blog item about it, so I can give more detail.


  4. Louise M Oliver / Oct 30 2011 6:39 am

    Hi Peggy,
    I’m so relieved to hear that you and the other overlanders are safe! I was worried about how you would get on when you reached Thailand. The photos were good to see because you don’t get the full picture on the evening news. And it’s great that the Thais are so positive and relatively calm in the face of such catastrophic circumstances. Stay safe and I look forward to the next instalment about your travels.

    You and Poor John will be interested to know that Alan Joyce, for all intents and purposes, closed Qantas at 5.00 p.m. yesterday. There has been a lot of industrial disputation over the last few months and many disruptions to people’s travel plans. I think this move was very strategic because it pretty much guarantees the Australian Government’s involvement. As there is no other airline operating between here and Sydney, I think the relevant unions will be instructed to come to the party. According to Mr Joyce’s statement yesterday, some of the different unions’ demands were impossible to countenance. For example, the demand that Qantas build hangars for aircraft that it doesn’t yet have and might never buy; the demand that out-of-date work practices be guaranteed for all time; and the demand that Jetstar pilots receive the same salaries as the full-fare service pilots. This would, according to Mr Joyce, mean that Jetstar would have to close because it wouldn’t be financially viable to keep it going. Mr Joyce also said that if the industrial disputation continued at its current level, Qantas operations would be cut by 50 per cent by next year. On the unions’ side, many of Qantas management’s proposals seem geared to make Qantas a semi-Australian company by outsourcing overseas most of its maintenance and staffing.

    Here endeth the update.

    Best wishes


  5. Sy S. / Oct 30 2011 1:17 pm


    When you travel overland in many countries, there are risks, dangers and now flooding in Bangkok.
    Plus your change in plans when the truck could not enter into Vietnam, so you continued your journey overland by local transportation. However, so far on balance you are doing great to cope with these situations. I would think that drinking water and food and shelter is the most important and it seems that this is not a problem in Bangkok or Kanchananburi (“… We moved on to Kanchanaburi today”). I hope the flooding won’t be a problem for you and John… and I feel sorry for many of the Thailand people who have to deal with the flooding, even though the put on a “smile”. Also, Nikon had a major manufacturing plant in Thailand that recently got flooded…

    In NYC we got over an inch of snow/slouch today and it is Oct.29th… (and snow conditions in the Northeast USA). We usually don’t see snow until the day after Christmas (that is the end of December). And last year we had one of the highest record of the most snow in one winter (since recorder history). It seems in the northern hemisphere we are all getting “Wacky” “Crazy” weather!

    Enjoy the balance of your trip…. great experiences you have had so far… and more to come I am sure.

    Peggy, You and John stay safe,

    Sy S.

    P.S. Nice to see all the flood photos… puts things into perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Annabel Blesofsky / Nov 6 2011 11:41 pm

    I am always excited to visit this blog in the evenings.Please churning hold the contents. It is very entertaining.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jeanleesworld / Mar 18 2017 10:12 pm

    Glad I found this! So curious about cultures–these folks take the coming disaster in calm, but Americans are always so “BEEYAH END OF THE WORLD RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!” over everything. We’re such drama queens, we are. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 18 2017 10:46 pm

      I think the most remarkable facing-disaster reaction was in Hoi An in Vietnam. It floods there all the time. Houses near the river have two storeys with the ground floor being concrete. They just move everything upstairs when a flood is on the way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jeanleesworld / Mar 19 2017 2:13 am

        Wow! To treat epic floods like a snowfall…so hard to fathom.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 19 2017 1:50 pm

        Yes, the fellow who was telling us about it and pointing to the high water mark in his downstairs was completely blasé about the whole thing


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