On Thursday evening, Theresa and I went to the Chao Phraya to celebrate Loy Krathong. Loy Krathong is a popular annual festival celebrated throughout Thailand and it occurs during the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar on the evening of the full moon.
Thais celebrate by floating a krathong — a small vessel covered with banana leaves and containing flowers, a candle, and joss sticks (incense) — down a waterway. The small raft is meant to pay respect to the water spirits, hence the candle and incense. When one lets the krathong float away, it symbolizes letting go of resentments, grudges, and problems. By doing so, there is a new beginning and, of course, good luck.
Because of the ongoing flooding, this year’s celebration was very low-key. The government cancelled the fireworks, raft competitions, and beauty contest that are normally a part of the festival. Nevertheless, many people still made their way to the river to float (Loy) their small rafts (Krathong.) Others, who could not get to the river, floated their krathongs down the flooded streets outside their homes. If anyone needs good luck and a new beginning, these people surely do.
Getting to the river was a bit of a challenge for Theresa because she is using crutches while her broken ankle heals. Our driver was able to get us to within two blocks of Sathorn Pier, and the walk down the street to the pier was slow but manageable. (I offered to get her a ride on a motorcycle taxi, bus she demurred.)
We bought our krathong as we made our way to the river from a vendor who had many krathongs in different shapes and designs from which to choose. The underlying hulls of these krathongs are made from bread, which will ultimately be eaten by the fish.
The pier, like so much of Bangkok nowadays, was surrounded by sandbags — not the easiest surface over which to move with crutches. However, Theresa simply sat down on the sandbags and then scooted herself over and around. Not real ladylike, but quite effective. (You will not see pictures of her crab-like moves, but please fell free to use your imagination!) We chose not to go on one of the small boats that could take us onto the river since Theresa’s maneuverability was so limited. Instead, we made our way to the side of the pier, lit the candle and incense, and let the krathong float away on the Chao Phraya. As we watched it drift away, we could see a number of very small dark fish circling around it ready to nibble away.
On Saturday, I took the SkyTrain to Mo Chit, the northernmost stop on the Sukhumvit line and the stop for the Chatuchak market. From our apartment (point A on map below), Chatuchak (point C) is about 6 miles due north. On a normal weekend day, thousands of people, locals and visitors alike, descend on Chatuchak to purchase just about anything from the thousands of vendors who have stores and stalls at this 35 acre market. However, in anticipation of the flood waters, most vendors emptied their stores weeks ago to protect their merchandise.
I had heard earlier in the week that water had reached Chatuchak, and I wanted to see for myself what the flooding looked like. From the SkyTrain station, I could see the flooded roadway below. As I looked down, I could easily see that anyone who went down from the platform would be in water, albeit not very deep. Buses, pickup trucks, SUVs, and motorcycle taxis were driving through the water; I did not see any passenger car or taxi even attempt to pass through.
We remain dry and unaffected by the flood, although the water is still moving our way. The government has told people who live near Victory Monument (point B on the map above) that they should expect flood water later this week. Victory Monument is about 3 miles from our apartment.
I thought that the graphic below provided a good visual of the current flooding situation in various parts of Bangkok. The Ratchaprasong area (depicted on the far right side of the graphic) is the major shopping and hotel area in central Bangkok, home to the Siam Paragon and Central World malls and to the Grand Hyatt, Four Seasons, Intercontinental, St. Regis and Renaissance hotels. It caters to wealthy citizens, tourists, and expats, and it is just down the street from my office.
The government has announced that it will provide 5,000 baht (about $165) in compensation to families whose homes were flooded for at least one week. I do not understand the one-week qualifier since the flood can do its damage in far less time. Nevertheless, in order to qualify, the government has constructed the following process:
Based on this process, I think that this is as much a government jobs program as it is a compensation scheme. Many companies are also providing compensation to help employees whose homes were flooded. From what I know, these programs do not have a flood time requirement attached to them.
Over the past couple of weeks, there have been a lot more warnings about waterborne diseases including leptospirosis (a bacterial infection that is spread by animals), diarrhea, and dengue fever. Some local governments are making and distributing EM (Effective Micro-organism) balls (also called Dasta balls) to treat the polluted water. These balls are made from a mixture of micro-organisms including lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and phototrophic bacteria. The claim is that each ball (2.5 cm in diameter) can treat 10 cubic meters of polluted water for about one month. These balls apparently are effective in getting rid of the stench from polluted water, but there seems to be little evidence that they actually clean the water. I think that I will simply avoid the polluted water and wear long sleeve shirts and pants so I have less chance of getting bitten by mosquitoes that carry dengue fever. At least it hasn’t snowed (although that might help control the mosquitoes!)
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2011 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.