Author: Brian W Fisher
Date of Trip: November 2011
(City of REAL Angels)
Having spent a considerable number of days in Bangkok during October and November, I have witnessed a stoicism by its citizens never before experienced in any of the 40 plus countries I’ve also toured.
Having searched my vocabulary for a single word, which would accurately describe the overt mental and physical ‘acceptance’ by those millions of city dwellers….I have failed!
Everywhere north, east and west of the city’s vibrant centre, there was water — not just in the rivers and canals, but covering hundreds of square miles — many of them to a depth of over 1.5 metres.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in 1797, wrote his epic poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, a line of which read…’Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink’.
I wonder what he would have written had he been my companion in Bangkok?
Billions of cubic metres of rain water fell upon Thailand’s Central Plains Region, at the southern tip of which, lies its capital city, home to some 12 million people. That unstoppable and unimaginable flood of water began its journey — by the force of gravity — towards where nature intended — to the sea.
King Canute convinced himself, that he alone, could stem the sea’s tides, a belief that ended in tragedy.
Thailand’s government and its agencies have — and still are — employing similar tactics. Countless millions of sandbags have been filled — each by hand — and piled into miniature mountains. Miles of ditches have been dug, canals frantically dredged and sluice gates manipulated in both directions in an attempt to stop the alligator and snake infected water from overwhelming the capital’s commercial and most visited centre.
By and large, that tactic can be said to have been successful, meaning tourists and establishments catering for their needs, have been unaffected….BUT at the expense of all the surrounding districts, which are still inundated.
Here are a few HARD facts that readers of Trip Advisor can rely upon, rather than be influenced by somewhat ‘histrionic’ warnings not to visit Thailand and to switch holiday plans to another country.
TRUE…over 500 Thais have lost their lives. TRUE…more than 10,000 factories (such as Toyota) have been swamped and shut down with the loss of millions of jobs. TRUE…a colossal amount (one third) of Thailand’s entire rice crop has been lost. TRUE…hundreds of hotels are almost devoid of clients. TRUE…hundreds of thousands of homes have been swamped. TRUE…the Thai people are suffering greatly.
Despite all of that, the people smile…yes smile! They wade up to their necks in foul smelling and disease-carrying water, their heads loaded with what few possessions they have salvaged, searching for a piece of dry land or the roof of a house on which to squat.
Thousands of volunteers, from all classes of Thai society, have ‘waded-in’ (no pun intended), reinforcing the efforts of the Thai army and police to deliver aid in many forms. Large plastic bowls are now being used as BOATS (long live the coracle) and the ingenuity displayed by folk deserves applause. For example, the owner of the hotel in which I was staying, (the Bel-Aire Princess) had his chefs prepare over 2000 bags of food, both cooked and uncooked each day — and off duty staff volunteered to distribute them to the areas worst infected by the flood (see attached photograph of one day’s group).
All that I witnessed certainly affected me. I felt most humbled. I have nothing but admiration for such people…yes, the word ‘humble’ is the best I can come-up with to describe my feelings.
So, folks, now comes the BEGGING section of this piece. PLEASE don’t put off going to Thailand. The people need your support and thoroughly deserve it. Ninety-nine percent of that country’s major attractions and areas most frequented by tourists, such as Phuket, Ko-Samui and Krabi are unaffected.
Those stoic people (who would NEVER ask for your help) now need you to visit their wonderful country, enjoy their hospitality and spend just a little of your hard-earned money in return for what they offer.
Written by Brian W Fisher
Independent Travel Writer