A trip in Thailand around the Floods and Rains

26th March

The reports are that the boats from Koh Samui are cancelled, so my trip to Bangkok from Koh Samui, was in jeopardy, so checking with the local travel agent, eventually I persuaded him to contact the ferry company.  The result was that he said the road from Don Sak to Surat Thani was flooded, but if you wait for a short while they are looking at an alternate route so they avoided the flooding.  He came back and said they had found an alternative route, so the trip was on.

However the day’s weather was poor, with lots of rain in the morning, eased off around lunchtime.  I left at around 12.30 on the coach to the ferry port.

On the coach to the ferry port, the wetness of water started on me, with an air conditioning drip onto my coat and then the coach went through a heavy rain storm and the coach window leaked and I got even wetter, not a good start to the trip by being wet.

Arrived at the ferry port at around 2pm and we waited for around 10 mins then they wanted us to board the ferry just as the heavens opened with very heavy rain on us as we boarded the ferry.  The ferry trip was an uneventful, just a boring 90 mins seeing the dark skies as we approached Don Sak was a little ominous

I arrived in Don Sak and found the coach to take us to Surat Thani, I boarded the bus, and we started our trip, we went past some fields with flooding, which was to be expected from all the rain over the past 12 hrs, then we started to go up the main road toward Surat Thani and the road was flooded not to bad to start, but as we progressed up the road, the flooding got worse, it was up to 30 cm deep I places and the road was completely underwater, around 5 mins had passed and the road was still flooded, then I decided to get my camera out and see if I could get some shots of the flooding as it was getting worse as we went.  My fellow passengers also started taking photographs as well, we were all amazed at the flooding in the fields and roads around us.  We did not really realise the seriousness of the situation until after we had passed the flooded area.  I got some photographs of the flooding I would have loved to stop and take some clearer shots, but that was not possible, so they had to be taken through the window of the bus.

The coach I was traveling on was one where we had a good view from what was the 2nd level, the water was coming into the bottom of the stairs of the coach, this also meant that our luggage was getting wet, but when I got my bag from the rack it seemed dry, so went onto the next part of the trip.

We were dropped at a place in the middle of know where and were told the bus was going at 7pm, so got some supper and looked at the photos I got, there were some good shots there.

As we got off the bus the rain came down very heavy again and getting us even wetter, and I still had around a 11 hr. bus trip to go, but I went on.

They took us to the next staging post for the trip to Bangkok, well this was a little odd as they took us 9 of us on what must have been the smallest tuk tuk ever for those 9 people and their luggage, we went initially on a round trip as the driver either he could not understand or find where the place was where he was supposed to drop us at, so we ended up at the same place that we left from and the driver asked again where he had to drop us, eventually he understood, from the travel coordinator, as we had no idea where the next drop off was going to be. So the driver took us to the correct stop, but instead of going round the roads on the correct way, he decided to drive up the road on the wrong side of the road, on what was effectively the hard shoulder of the dual carriage way and this was in the dark and was raining again – that was a bit scary to say the least.

We again were dumped with the other people headed for Bangkok and around 20 mins later we boarded the bus to Bangkok.  The main problem was that the only seat I could get was at the back seat, and the air conditioning condensate was dripping onto the seat next to me, they supplied some blankets so I used them to stopped me from getting wet.  The journey started and the air con was dripping even more, so by then with all the rain my jacket and trousers were already soaked so trying to stop the dripping from the air con I was wet and cold to start a 11 hr. journey.  As the journey progressed the dripping got worse, but I coped with it.  I had time to sort out the photos from the flooding area en route to Bangkok.

I eventually arrived on the Koa San Road at 6am, a little tired from around 2 hours sleep on the trip as it was long, wet and uncomfortable.  I found the place where my friend was staying and waited till 8am, then she met me, the weekend started then. I had a nice hot shower and found some dry clothes as there were not many in my bag, as somehow during the trip almost everything was wet, luckily just before the trip I had some washing done and they were in a in a separate plastic bag so I had some underwear and 2 shirts left that were dry, but they were dry.

I spent a very nice time with my friend, and the next day I booked my trip back to Koh Samui, cost 450 Baht a bargain, and carried on with my friend looking around Bangkok.

My friend from Koh Samui, called me later that day and updated me on the current situation of the flooding, and basically it was not good news as there were reports of 3 meter waves, heavy torrential rain, Chaweng high street flooded etc. and it was not looking good.  So I went back to the travel agent and asked if the trip was still on they did not seem to understand my question, as all they asked me was did I want to cancel or go they did not seem to care about if the ferry was going, or the roads had been flooded all they were concerned was that they took my money and send me into a what I now know as a dangerous situation.  OK they did offer me a change of date etc., but they did not call or find out the road or boat situation, they did not seem to care.  In fact they when I showed them the photos of the flooding from Don Sak they refused to even acknowledge them as real!

28th March

The day or so in Bangkok was coming to an end, so I said my good bye’s to my friend and I headed towards the travel agent to have a pick up to the coach.   This was a little uneventful, met other travellers and chatted.

As we were leaving Bangkok a friend who was on Koh Samui called me and updated me on the situation, that Chaweng high street was under water, they had been evacuated to higher ground, power was off for most part, and that the Military was coming to help.  She was very concerned about the whole situation.  I kept most of that info quite on the bus and did not reveal it until the next morning, as I was not sure if they could handle the info just before as 11 hour trip.

We then set off towards Surat Thani the first 5 hours was nothing special until we had a rest stop around midnight in one of the worst places ever, no hot coffee, everything over priced (compared to normal) again this place was all about getting money from us foreigners.  The food look and smelt horrible, I don’t think I saw a person get a hot meal, most of them just purchased soft drinks and snack food for the next 6 hours.

I sort of slept on the bus, but around 4.30 woke up and the dawn light was just about there, and the bus was a lot slower than usual, then I looked out of the window, OMG the flooding we were in around 30cm of water with fields and roads flooded, I became fully awake very quickly as did a lot of my other passengers.  This time I got my camera out early and put the ISO speed to Max (3200) to see if I could get some shots, I did, for the next 1.5 hours we travelled at around 10 mph through this flood, I was getting a little concerned about this water, as the rivers were flooded and the water levels around the bridges were very dangerous, I had an idea that they could collapse at any time.

After that I had heard that the driver was told not to drive us to Surat Thani just before we hit the flooded area, my question is why did he not take the local information from his own people and stop in a non flooded place, I will never know.  But you must remember while the people in Thailand are the land of the smiles, there is a dark side to them, as they will lie and try to cheat us foreigners out of as much cash as possible, in order to get a sale.  I have been told that there are no busses on Koh Samui and the only option was to use their mini vans at 150-200 baht, when in fact the local taxis charge around 50-100 baht to get to most places on the island.  They just want your money and don’t care when you try and complain, they come up with very odd answers.  These people need to change their way otherwise us tourists will not be coming back if we get cheated every time we go out to do anything.

29th March

We eventually passed this badly flooded area and got to the next staging post, where we were told to get off the bus.   They did not care for our bags as it was raining, and they just dumped them on a wet ground that got them wet, dirty, and in once case they were stepping on them to get other bags out of the luggage compartment.

The announcement at 7am was no boats to Koh Samui or Koa Tao today boats cancelled today and tomorrow, Due to the roads and waves.  When I asked what my options were and why they had allowed us to leave Bangkok when they knew this was happening, I got no real answer, in fact I got several answers all different, they said we could go to Phuket or Krabi, but initially they were going to charge us again for a new ticket, people started to complain then eventually they said that our tickets could be transferred free of charge, as result if you wanted to go there, but that was going in the wrong direction for me.  So I declined, they did offer us to go to a hotel in Surat Thani, I spoke with a few travellers and said lets get a room with enough beds for us and share the costs, we were taken on a taxi – songrate which is a ½ open truck used here, there were a total of 8 of us, squeezed into this thing and the journey was less than 10 mins, we arrived at the hotel, and eventually 4 of us shared a room at 200 Baht each, it had to be done as we were tired, wet and shocked at the situation we were in.  The room was a little musty due to the lack of ventilation, but it was dry and had a TV in it, along with a shower – Cold, toilet and hand basin, but more importantly we were safe for the next 24 hours, after we all got out of wet clothes and into something dry we went to have some breakfast as it was still only 9am.

There was an Internet card for 200 baht and between 4 of us that was 50 baht each and it was valid for 24 hours from first use.  I suggested that we get this as we could check emails, news websites and tell our friends and family that we were OK.  I am glad I had my laptop with me, as this saved us a lot of money all round, as in the lobby of the hotel the internet, as 10 baht / min, so each of us would have easily used 50 baht over a 24 hour period to sort out emails etc.

After breakfast, we returned to our room, as that is all we could do, as the rain was heavy and the boats not running, the saving grace was that we had a HBO and Showtime channels on the TV in English, so we watched a lot of films that day, just lying on our beds, every now and then checking travel web sites and chatting about the situation.

At 6pm ish we were getting hungry, yes we had snack food and drinks during the day, but now we needed something extra, the only real thing on offer was KFC, so we got the bargain bucket, between 4 of us and it was only 100 Baht including a drink each.  After supper we made our way back to the hotel in the heavy rain wondering when this rain may stop.  We watched even more movies that evening.

30th March

2 of my fellow travellers left us today, as she looked on the internet and they said that there were flights going, I am not sure if she booked anything, but they headed towards the airport that was around 8.30am, but at 9.20 I had a phone call for her as I let her use my local phone saying that the Air Asia flights had been cancelled for that day.

This now left myself and Robin from Canada alone, we could not afford the room we were currently in as it was a 5 bed room, we asked at the desk and they had a room for 2 at the same price we were currently paying 200 baht / person.  We switched room after breakfast and watched movies all day, this seems to be getting a little repetitive now.  But we are now getting out 2-3 times per day to look ay the local shops and get food when the rains ease off.

I have another friend on Koh Samui who has a 2 bed villa on a hill, I asked her can I stay there, she said yes, as the place I was staying at in the main Chaweng high street is locked up and I have important stuff there, as I was planning to return, but I do have a key, so hopefully by the time I get to Koh Samui the flood waters will recede and I can get into the place to see what damage has been done, take photos and report back to the owner.

31st March

I went to check emails (my friend said I could stay at her place as it is on high ground and a hill – that’s if I can get there) and see if there were any boats running today, I got mixed messages as again they said my ticket was not valid on the express boat, I said what about the ferry, she said she will call which she did and then I have no idea of what she was saying as some parts said the boat is NOT running, but if I paid again they were, mmm I still have a ticket that was unused as we were told that they were valid, all she wanted again was our money, this is getting a bit boring now, they don’t seem to want to help us travellers along with anything, they charge for everything, so be warned if you come to Thailand.  I will have to ask again to try to get an answer to see what is happening, perhaps I will try a travel agent this time, instead of the hotel, luckily I took a copy of the ticket with my camera and can show the original ticket to them, as this ticket is taken when you first get on a bus and never seen again, you are given a sticker and that somehow gets you to your destination, exactly how I do not know.

Yes, in comparison to the western world our wages are very high, but so are some of the things here for example the camera kit is around 20% dearer than in the UK, even thou it is made in Thailand.  When you look at items in a store e.g. Tesco Lotus, Home pro, (fixed prices) they are more expensive for a lot of things than in the UK, and the quality of tools is low, so they are charging top prices even to locals, as these are set prices, so the cost of living is sort of expensive here, OK street food and some restaurant food is very cheap, but everything else seems to be either expensive or very poor quality and they get away with it some how.

31-3-11  11.30am

I eventually got some sense out of the hotel receptionist, as she said go to the travel agent, just outside the hotel, I went – it was closed, so I started to look for another one, could not find one, so went back towards the hotel and someone was in the agency, I asked her to help me she did, she called the company when I explained that I had to get back to Koh Samui and she said she will call back in 5 mins, I gave her my number for that company to call me back on and headed back towards the hotel, by the time I almost got back in the room on the 4th floor, I had a phone call with a message saying that I needed to be in the hotel lobby in 10 mins, I agreed, ran to my room and started to pack very quickly, apologising to Robin that I had this little window of opportunity to get to Koh Samui within the next 10 mins, I gave her my card so we can keep in touch via face book.  I had packed in record time, and headed down to the lobby, I saw a van waiting, but it was not mine, so another couple of minutes past by and then a van just for me appeared out of the rain, it was my transport to the typical first stage to get to Koh Samui.  I was taken to the staging post waited around 10 mins and the coach arrived to take us to Don Sak.  For once the exchange of ticket went without a hitch and they did not even complain and I just got a new ticket.  We boarded the bus to Don Sak; there were a total of 7 of us, me and 6 Thai’s.  We had to take an alternative route to the ferry port, due to the flooding and washed away roads, the Police kept us well away from these roads, shame, as I wanted to take some photographs of it.

I arrived at the ferry port in a timely manner, and found my way to the passenger entrance, as I did I looked out onto the sea and it was flat calm, no waves or wind of any kind.

I showed my ticket it was scanned and I was allowed to pass onto the ferry to Koh Samui.  There were no officials asking why I wanted to go there, it was just business as usual, which seemed strange as I had expected something official as I left the mainland for Koh Samui.

I think there were only 4-5 foreigners on the boat, the rest were Thai’s.  So I got a cup of coffee and noodles and settled down for the 1 hr 30 min trip.

I arrived no problems and found the local taxis and hopped on, we went of towards Chaweng, I had expected to see utter devastation on my way, but all I really saw was a some flooding of a couple of buildings in low lying ground, lots of rivers that had burst their banks, and roads turned into rivers from all the flood water and lots and lots of sand that had been washed down various hills on to the road side.

People were trying to sort out the ness from the sand and dirt washed into various premises.  When I got to Tesco’s (my stop) I got off and paid, and walked towards the house I was staying in, it’s up a hill, yes you can see where the water was flooding down the hill side.

I got to the house, made contact with a friend who is living next door and dumped my stuff and went directly to Chaweng via a local taxi.  The usual route was blocked (due to flooding) and we had to find alternative ways round Lamai and into Chaweng.  As we went through the worst flood impact damaged areas, the full extent of the flooding started to become aparant as you saw people trying to salvage some items from the mess, but in some other instances there were people getting their hair cut, life has to go on I presume.

As we neared Chaweng the last part of Lamai, was totally flooded I signalled the driver of the taxi to stop, paid and got out, I had mentally prepared for myself getting wet up to waist level if necessary.  I initially did not get wet picking my way around the debris, water and using the highest ground available to me long the roads.  I headed towards the Chaweng high street.  From the reports I heard from friends, I was told that the whole of the high street was underwater, when you looked around it was only about half as those business not affected by the water damage were open and trying to do business – what they sold is anybody’s guess as there was no body around at 5pm.  The bottom half of the high street was most affected with businesses being completely washed out, and the roller shutter doors of the lock up shops buckled under the strain of the water.  The light was going and I needed to start heading back as I was going to be up a very unlit road, would be completely dark if the power went out again.

On the way home I had to walk through flooded areas that were around knee deep, the worrying thing was that when you were walking through the water, was that you did not exactly know what you might be standing on was it firm or was it a hole or would it give way at any time?  So walking through the water was a little tricky at times.

I got some supplies of noodles, water and milk on the way home, got there totally exhausted, but safe that was the main thing.  I could not wait to look at the photographs I had taken and to see what I could potentially sell to newspapers and magazines.  I had taken around 293 for the whole day.

1St April 2011

The next day it initially started as a nice ish sunny day, so I got up and headed for Chaweng, this time I walked as I wanted to see the devastation as I did so I could take photographs along the way.  Again I was prepared to get wet as I wandered through the flooded street, you saw people trying to get their lives back to normal, by washing their clothes, shops and stalls down with water, quite why they were using the flood water beats me, but I presume initially to get the dirt off, Ok then was OK in my books.  As I did not stop to see them finish the cleaning I had no idea of what they eventually did.  But everywhere I saw smiling faces and waves as I walked past with my camera, I thought probably I was an idiot by doing this, but it was once in a lifetime opportunity to be in a disaster zone.

I eventually got to the hostel I used to stay at, there was water damage from the roof and that made the top dorm wet and it already had some mould starting to grow on the lockers.  I checked the locker that had my stuff in it, it was damp due to the amount of moisture in the air, but not wet, and it was all safe as I had some electronic items that I had hope had not been water damaged.

I met with the manager of the hostel (Tent) and we chatted for a while, as I had to go to a friends place to sort out her hot water which was a none event, as the water pressure had dropped below the level that the unit turns on the heating element.  A short while after I was there the pressure rose enough to allow her to have a hot shower.  We chatted about the situation etc., as she really wanted to go to Bangkok or at least out of here, as there was a small risk of the hill behind her going into a landslide.  I left and went to find an Internet café to see if I can upload some of my photographs and get them sold via newspapers etc.  I will have to wait and see if any want them, but from the very little reporting of the flooding of this area on any national news I am not holding out much hope so I tried a couple of UK newspapers and a couple in the USA.

2nd April

Today I decided to rest from all the activities of the past few days, and go to Tesco’s to see what supplies I can get for food and drinking.   Well the usual stuff bread, eggs, fresh meat, and dairy products were non existent on the shelf’s of the supermarket, you don’t realise how much you depend on the basic items that you buy daily or weekly and when they are not there you are stuck for things to make.  I eventually found some pasta and suitable sauce, a few biscuits and water which they had plenty of in bottles, I got what I needed for a couple of days and by that time I hope that the deliveries will be coming from the main land to restock the basics.  There were not many people in the store; it was very quite compared to when I have been there with friends in the previous weeks.  On checking my emails there had been no responses from the news papers, UK, USA or Reuters, why don’t these people even acknowledge the pictures I sent and say no thanks, or did they even get them?  I am amazed at Reuters, as they have not even answered my email I sent them a couple of days ago through the ticketing system.

 

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