Flood Fatigue

Dear Reader, you may be wondering why I posted frequent updates on the flooding in Bangkok in October and then stopped suddenly in November. Well, there were a few reasons for this.

One, the situation in Bangkok has not changed significantly since the waters first doused the inner city in md-October. In October, we were far less certain about what was going to happen. Now most residents have settled into a routine – if it can be called that when many streets are still flooded and neighborhoods evacuated. The floodwaters have receded a bit, but it will take weeks or even months for the water to disappear. Of course, the flooding is still there and affecting a great many people. Relief efforts in many quarters are still underway, such as this one at an international school in Bangkok. A big congratulations to everyone pitching in all around the country to do their part to help the hundreds of thousands of people impacted by flooding.

Two, I needed a break. I was posting frequent updates to help expats who were impacted by the flood. Unfortunately, by the end of October I was starting to develop a bad case of “flood fatigue.” We were living in non-stop flooding, and I have to admit that I needed to do something else for a change. Anything to get my mind off this disaster. The risk of flooding still exists, but it’s decreased for most of us, and we’ve learned to cope with it. Life is slowly getting back to normal. I will still post updates if they’re important, but like most people, I just want the flooding to go away.

Three, I spent the past two weeks wrapping up my first published e-book now available to purchase from Amazon.com and other websites. It’s called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. Check it out in my previous blog entry.

So, I’m back now. Let me see what else I can blog about that will cure my flood fatigue.

Bangkok Flooding: Video Near Grand Palace and Sanam Luang

These video clips were shot while driving on Ratchadamnoen Nai, the main road in the center of Bangkok that passes the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang (park). Based on earlier television coverage, the floodwater seemed to be as high as it’s been for the past few days. That’s a good indication that it won’t get worse.

Ratchadamnoen Nai, Bangkok, Thailand. October 30, 2011.
Ratchadamnoen Nai, Bangkok, Thailand. October 30, 2011.


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Bangkok Flooding: Video Near Grand Palace

This is video footage taken October 30, 2011, across the street from the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. Water is seeping through sand bags on the Chao Phraya River and from pipes and drains. This seems to be one of the major feeders of water to the area just south of the palace.

The palace’s perimeter is sandbagged and was still open for business on the morning of October 30. Local continue to do as much business as they can even with the flood. Most don’t seem to mind standing in or working in the floodwater.

Thanon Maha Rat (street) next to Grand Palace. October 30, 2011.


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The Giant Swing

September 25, 2011

My family and I paid a visit on September 25 to Sao Ching Cha, also known as the Giant Swing.

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The free-standing structure stands in front of Wat Suthat temple in the middle of a busy traffic circle on Bamrung Muang Road in central Bangkok. Built from tall teak wood beams with an ornate wooden crown on top, it stands more than 30 meters high (almost 100 feet) and looks like an inverted goalpost.

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Sources indicate that the original Giant Swing built in 1784 by King Rama I was used to celebrate the year’s rice harvest, to thank the Hindu god Shiva for a bountiful crop, and to ask for his blessing on the next one. The Swing is based on a Hindu epic that tells the story of Shiva’s descent to the Earth; its pillars symbolize mountains, and its base depicts the Earth and the seas.

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During an event known as the Swing Ceremony (Triyampawai), Brahmins would swing on a platform suspended between the pillars of the Giant Swing and try to catch a bag of silver coins dangling from the Swing with their teeth. The ceremony, performed during the reigns of King Rama I and Rama II and again from 1920 until the early 1930s, was discontinued after several fatalities occurred. The swing was renovated in 1920 and 1959; its most recent incarnation was dedicated in September 2007.

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On our way to the Swing, we walked from Wat Saket (also known as the Golden Mount) about 1.5 kilometers along Bamrung Muang Road in the Banglamphu neighborhood of Bangkok. One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Banglamphu has some charming and historic buildings. Unfortunately, the area where we walked was gritty, chaotic, and forgettable.

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Another 1.5 kilometers on the same road takes you to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, two of Bangkok’s most prominent and popular sites. We decided to cut our journey short at the Giant Swing in midafternoon and to save the palace and temple for another day. The hot, muggy day had left us exhausted and tired of touring.

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What should be a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare that links major attractions, Bamrung Muang Road is actually an exercise in accident avoidance for tourists who opt not to travel by taxi or tuk tuk. We walked on narrow sidewalks along streets choked with cars that spewed smoky exhaust and dodged vehicles fighting to make their way through heavy traffic. We abandoned Bamrung Muang Road after one block and fled to a side street. Although this street was just as busy, idling traffic dampened the noise level.

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I enjoyed browsing shops that catered to local tastes. One shop sold fans galore, another oversized Buddhist icons that reminded me for some reason of FAO Schwarz, and another was crammed wall to wall with old compressor components, dirty rags, and newspapers. I was surprised that anyone could navigate through a place so jam packed with stuff.

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Banglamphu looked as if it had seen better days and had deteriorated into one of the poorer areas of inner city Bangkok. However, it was not a slum by any means.

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For those adventurous enough to get lost in its labyrinthine streets, one can find some hidden gems, such as antique furniture stores and artisanal shops, lurking in the shadow of some of the city’s most popular attractions. The neighborhood is definitely worth a visit.

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