Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fantastic Trip - Part I

We just returned this afternoon and I am so glad that we decided to keep our plans and go to Chiang Rai rather than stay home in the event flood waters entered our community.  Nichada is still dry and today there seems to be a sense of optimism in the reports issued by the media and government that the worst of the flooding has passed by.  Only time will tell.  From the windows of the airplane, we could see that the areas North of Nichada and West of the Chao Phraya river were completely inundated - flood waters covered everything for miles.  After looking at those scenes, I couldn't imagine how it would be possible for Nichada NOT to flood and wondered if we made the right decision in leaving.  However, a few times during our trip, I texted my neighborhood friends but all reports back were that Nichada was still dry.  

Our trip was fantastic and I have a lot of photos to post!  I am going to post about the trip over a few entries as there is a LOT to write.  It was wonderful to get away as a family, especially since Kevin has a bit of traveling in November and December. 

The two photos immediately below were taken in Suvarnabhumi Airport which is the "new" airport in Bangkok.  While this airport is much farther from our home, I am so glad our flights were here as the closer airport, Don Muang, flooded and closed earlier in the week.  There were about 6 of these figures (all different colors) on display in the departures area.  They are quite tall (about 30 feet) with a lot of intricate carving and detailed painting.  In fact, when we walked by one of the figures, there were two women cleaning it with what looked to be rather large Q-Tips!
Our flight...
Waiting to board.
The airport in Chiang Rai was quite small so we were off the plane, through baggage check and on our way to the Anantara Spa & Resort (www.http://goldentriangle.anantara.comin very little time.  At first, we thought we would rent a car but it was easier and less expensive to hire a car and driver.  The drive was a little over an hour and took us through many small Thai villages and rice paddies to a very mountainous area in Northernmost Thailand called the Golden Triangle.  This was the view from the balcony of our hotel room...
The hotel is about halfway up a very high mountain and overlooks the Mekong River, Myanmar and Laos.  In the photo above, the Mekong River is off to the right and Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is straight ahead (covered in fog).  Laos is on the other side of the Mekong River so, even farther to your right.  You can see a small area of rice paddies in the lower left hand corner of the photo but the hotel is pretty much surrounded by jungle.  We arrived late Thursday afternoon so the kids and Kevin were able to get some pool time in before we went to Happy Hour!  We had a very nice dinner at the Italian restaurant in the hotel and then went straight to bed.  

To give you a little "teaser" about our activities on Friday, here are a few photos from our breakfast on Friday morning.  
I apologize for the "glare" that you will see in some of these photos.  Christopher was pretending he was the paparazzi with my camera and must have changed a setting or something.  I need to sit down with the instruction manual and figure out what happened.  

Have a great Sunday!  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Pros Outweigh The Cons

Wow, two postings in one day!

Nichada's management just posted this notice (in bold below) and it looks, to me, that we have reason to be optimistic about Nichada not flooding. As I said earlier, Nichada's management has been fantastic about reporting the current conditions and providing us with accurate and pertinent information. I am beginning to feel a little more relaxed about leaving tomorrow morning.

"As the second wave of floodwaters continue to flow down from the North over the next week, we still consider Nichada at risk so we continue to strengthen our defenses against the potential floodwaters. We urge our residents to also remain alert to the sometimes-fast paced changes to the local flood situation via the local media.

Some information we consider to be “cons” to our situation:

1. The sea tides are going to run high from today through the weekend.

2. The Chao Praya River water level reached 2.4 meters above sea level yesterday against the height of the embankment, which is 2.5 meters above sea level. The government is predicting that the level of the river could reach 2.6 meters, which is 10 centimeters higher than the embankment. Edited to add: After the events of the last two weeks, I am not sure how much credibility I give the government's prediction. This "con" might really end up being a "pro". 

Some information we consider to be “pros” to our situation:

1. We consider the threat from the Chao Praya river to be less than from Khlong Prapa as we are closer to the Khlong than to the river.

2. The government currently has Khlong Prapa under control and since this Khlong provides tap water to much of Bangkok, will continue to work hard to keep the flood waters from polluting the Khlong.

3. If water seeps from Khlong Prapa, the majority of the water should run east towards the city, as it will be seeking lower ground. As Nichada is located to the west and sits on higher ground, we anticipate receiving much less water than the east side unless something unforeseen happens to the Khlong embankment.

We would like to thank those of our residents who have shown their appreciation for the hard work of the Nichada staff in their efforts to protect our community and for also showing concern for their welfare during this trying time. We are also are proud of our staff and concerned for their welfare and for this reason they have been offered housing within Nichada for both they and their families as well as three meals per day. About 80% of our staff has taken advantage of this offer. Those that do not want to leave their homes or who cannot commute to work due to the flood have been allowed to take holiday. As most of our staff’s efforts this week will be focused on flood preparation, please understand that other projects such as minor repair work will be put off until the risk of flood has decreased significantly."

Edited to add my personal comment: In their articles and statements, the media and the government use metric system measurements to report the flood water levels, i.e., 10 centimeters, 50 centimeters, 1 metre, etc. It was a bit unnerving at first to hear flood water levels near us reported to be at 80 centimeters. Eighty is just such a large number! However, in trying to figure out how high the flood waters would need to be to enter our home, I converted the 80 centimeters to the American system and it was only 31 inches. That is still a lot of water but it was easier on my ears and wouldn't even reach the front door of our home! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


For a change, I will begin the post with a subject other than the flood... 

I was feeling a little French fever on Monday afternoon so I decided to make "baguette de tradition francaise".  Oo la la!  In France, in order to be called baguette, the bread must contain only flour, yeast, water, and salt.  However, my recipe called for the addition of sugar to the proofing liquid.  The sugar acts like food for the yeast cells and then the cells release ethanol and CO2 bubbles which help the bread to rise.  From what I have read, the sugar isn't really necessary but it does hasten the the yeast's activity.  So, I guess my baguette wasn't truly baguette but, hey, we aren't in France and it did turn out perfectly!  I realized how much I missed my bread-maker as making the baguette tied me to the house ALL afternoon - 10 minutes for the sugar/yeast/water to react, 30 minutes for the first rising, 10 minutes of kneading, 45 minutes for the second rising, 15 minutes for the shaping, 30 minutes for the final rising and then 25 minutes to bake.      
As far as the flooding is concerned... there is still a tremendous amount of water to flow down from the North and every day there are more and more reports of new flooding around us.  However, Nichada continues to remain completely dry, an island in all of the flood waters.  Nichada management is doing a great job of monitoring the water levels nearby and reporting  to us on a daily basis.  It is unbelievable to look at some of the flood maps and see how much water is closely surrounding us and yet we are still unaffected.  School has now been cancelled until November 7th.  Since almost all of our district (Pak Kret/Nonthaburi) is flooded, I imagine busing and transportation issues necessitated that decision.  

Monday was a Thai holiday and with Kevin being home, we decided to take a drive toward the river to explore a bit.  We drove West on Chaeng Wattana Road which, after a few kilometers, turns into the Rama IV Bridge over the Chao Phraya River.  The bridge is three lanes but there were cars parked three deep which left us a very narrow lane to drive in.  As we drove on the bridge, we could see that all of the riverfront homes, temples and restaurants on both sides of the river were about 3/4 submerged.  In some places, you could only see rooftops.  As we approached the other side of the river, we were shocked to see the road immediately disappear into flood waters as far as the eye could see!  Fortunately, the locals had knocked down an area of the barrier so we were able to make a very sharp U-turn onto the East bound lanes of the bridge.  It was a very surreal scene.  There were army trucks distributing supplies and people were loading them into boats, canoes, rafts, and whatever else would float before heading farther out West.  I managed to get a couple of photos before we went back over the bridge.  
On our way back into Nichada, there was a family of water buffaloes grazing outside the back gate.  
We are going to go on our trip to Northern Thailand tomorrow as planned.  Depending on which report you read or which official you listen to, the worst flooding may or may not come this  Friday and Saturday - but we have been hearing reports like this for almost 10 days.  Last weekend we were told to expect the worst because of the high tide and the full moon.  Based on that report, many families from Nichada moved their household items to the second floor and then spent the weekend in hotels downtown.  Some are still there because each day, there is at least one report that makes it sound like the flooding is inevitable and will be immediate.  Kevin and I spent a lot of time talking about whether or not to go and what our options are.  While there is a chance Nichada could still flood, we feel like we have been sitting around waiting for the flood waters for the last couple of weeks and yet we remain unaffected.  I know we would be upset (plus out a lot of $$) if we cancelled our hotel and flights to stay home and Nichada continued to stay dry.  So, off we shall go.  I will spend some time today either moving things to the second floor or putting them up on tables and counters on the first floor.  I figure that we would need at least 3 feet of flooding for water to enter the house and another 3 feet of water  to reach the tops of the dining room table and kitchen counter tops.  Two of our neighbor families will keep an eye on the dogs as the dog-sitter I had originally booked them into has been flooded.   

I am taking my laptop on our trip and will try to post as time allows.  

Early wishes for a great weekend!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Still Dry

We are so incredibly fortunate in that we continue to escape the flood waters.  There is flooding immediately North, East and West of us and and "they" are saying downtown Bangkok, just South of us, will begin to see some flooding soon.  Somehow, Nichada has remained a dry "island" in all of this water.  Knock on wood.  

Late Friday morning, we had a bit of a scare as Nichada management warned us to expect the flood waters to enter Nichada about midnight. They assured us the water would be slow moving but we needed to be prepared.  Immediately after that warning, the kids, our neighbor (and her three little ones) and I went for a drive to see exactly what was happening and where.  As Kevin had reported, there were cars stacked parked three deep on all of the raised bridges and overpasses, leaving one very narrow lane for moving vehicles.  We didn't get near enough to the Chao Phraya river (West of Nichada) to see any flooding but did drive just East of Nichada to the edge of the Khlong Prapa, a canal that had been reported (correctly) to be overflowing its banks and flooding the street.  It was a little scary as this was only my second time driving outside of Nichada and we were driving on dry road and then, all of a sudden, the water was right up to the bottom of the car.  Thankfully, I was able to make a very illegal U turn and we went back home.    No more "investigating" for me!

We have given up trying to figure out where all of the most recent breaches of flood barriers and reports of flooding are in relation to Nichada.  Since we are so unfamiliar with Bangkok and the surrounds, it is confusing to find the roads, landmarks, etc. on a map (especially when the names can be spelled two or three different ways!).  Add that to the fact that I will receive emails or visit two or three different websites and get two or three different (and often conflicting) reports or information about the flooding . Also, a few of the websites do not provide any coverage or updates for VERY long periods of time.  For those of you that are in the U.S., as sensational and overblown as it may be, please appreciate the fact that crisis/disaster news coverage is pretty much accurate and always current.  

We are supposed to leave on Thursday for our trip to Chiang Rai in northern part of Thailand and I think we are going to wait as long as we can before making a decision to cancel.  Preparations for the flooding first began October 7th and we have yet to see any water so it seems kind of silly to cancel; however, there is still a very real possibility it could still flood.  

In preparation for the flooding, Kevin put the grill together last weekend and we had the propane tank installed this week.  Since the grill was all ready to go, he grilled pork chops for our dinner this evening and I steamed broccoli and made baked potatoes.  I also made homemade focaccia which I topped with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary.
It was delicious and it felt so good to bake something!  Usually, I use my bread maker to make the dough but, today, after I got all of the ingredients measured and ready to go, the paddle wouldn't agitate the dough properly and then the machine just died.  Oh well, I had it for over fifteen years and used it all of the time so it just might be time for a new one!

I hope you are all having a great weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quick Update

An "at risk" flood warning was issued last night for parts of the Don Muang and Laksi districts as the waters are overflowing the banks of the Khlong Prapa and there are leaks in the flood barriers.  The flood barriers at Don Muang are our last line of defense so this is especially concerning.  In addition, Nichada Management sent an email out last week and noted that any overflow of the Khlong Prapa should be one of the indicators that the flood waters are in close proximity and we should prepare accordingly.  AGH!  One of the areas identified, Thong Song Hong, looks to be not very far from the back gate of Nichada so I might take a drive by later today just so we can get a better idea of where we are relative to these areas.  It is a challenge to read these warnings and then try to locate them on a map or google earth to figure out if we are/aren't affected or have cause to worry.   Each day the waters have been getting closer to us and I have a very uneasy feeling about today and tomorrow.

We have a function at Kevin's office this afternoon and I hope we are able to get downtown (and then back to Nichada) without too much trouble.  

Well, I am going to go out for a long run with the dogs and will see what is happening in the streets of Nichada.  Who knows, it might be my last time running on dry ground for a few days. 

How Not To Manage A Crisis

Bangkok Post, Saturday, October 15th:

PM: Bangkok is well protected

15/10/2011 : Bangkok is well protected and the capital will not be flooded, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told people on Channel 11 on Saturday morning.

Bangkok Post, Thursday, October 20th:

PM: Bangkok floods inevitable

20/10/2011 : Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Thursday that it was impossible to protect all of Bangkok from the country's worst floods in decades, describing the situation as a "national crisis".

Enough Said.

Thankfully, nothing has really changed since yesterday.  Flood preparations continue.  I must sound like a broken record but there is still so much activity in Nichada and all of the barriers and flood walls that have been put in place continue to be heightened and strengthened. Caitlynne and I went out in the golf cart today and I took some more photos.  

The Embassy has located about six buses in Nichada to provide transport in the event we need to evacuate.  Since everyplace seems to be either flooded or threatened with flooding, I wonder where we would even evacuate to.  There is very little dry ground left in Thailand.
The photo below is interesting in that, at first glance, it appears to be cars stopped in traffic.  However, Kevin reported to me (after his drive downtown this morning) that there are literally thousands of vehicles parked on the expressways to keep them out of flood waters.  In some areas, there are cars parked 3 deep!  
Edited to Add:  This was just posted on the Bangkok Post website...
When Bangkokians panic...
  • Published: 20/10/2011 at 06:30 PM
  • Online news:
Normally it takes about 10-15 minutes to travel from Chaengwattana expressway entry (note: this is where we enter the expressway) towards the toll gate at Ngam Wong Wan, this afternoon it took 1.05 hours as there are thousands of cars double parking or even triple parking on the expressway to escape the possible flood in Bangkok.

Back to our reality.  Last week, I posted a photo of the concrete block/sandbag barricade that was constructed on the street outside of our neighborhood in Nichada.  Yesterday afternoon, a dirt berm was added as fortification...
Then, this morning, the berm was raised by about 1 foot.
One entry to the road that encircles the lake has been blockaded.
The photo below shows a barrier (under the blue sheeting) that has been constructed to prevent flooding from that canal into Nichada.  
Barriers that now have been heightened.
And reinforced.  I think they must have used all of the bamboo poles from the paint scaffolding.
A low lying entrance to a neighborhood in Nichada that has been closed off.  You can see the guard house behind the barrier.  
Another berm...
And another.  Since this photo was taken this morning, the berm has been heightened considerably.
So, although nothing has really changed as far as our chances of being flooded, protections are still being installed.  School was cancelled for today and tomorrow and the kids were happy to have the extra days added on to their Fall break.  

Yesterday, I attended Christopher's presentation of his group's synchronized swimming performance.  This isn't a great photo but it was all I could manage... it also wasn't very synchronized but the PE teacher said the purpose of the project was to develop teamwork.
And teamwork they had.
This was our dinner last night.  I really wish I knew the names of these dishes.  PeePorn tells me the Thai name but it does not always translate into the English name.  I have been looking through my Thai cookbooks trying to match recipes/photos with what she makes but haven't been too successful.  My Thai cooking class is in November so I will take the photos and show the instructor to see if she can identify.  This is an omelet with a ground beef/tomato/onion filling on a bed of cabbage.  It was so good! 
Again, no idea what this is called but it was delicious.  PeePorn left this broth/veggie mix for me to bring to a boil and then...
I added it to this bowl of shrimp, calamari and herbs.
This was the end product. 
That is all for now.  We ordered takeaway for dinner and the doorbell just rang!  Have a great Thursday!