Today and tomorrow are holidays here, but deadlines wait for no woman so I am sitting at home gloomily drinking coffee and researching national energy policies in the Balkans, wishing that I had remembered to go shopping yesterday (current food supplies for the next two days consist of a bag of sunflower seeds and some dried apricots). To cheer myself up, I am sharing one of the best pictures I found when digging up information about natural disasters in these parts:
If this doesn’t convince you that climate change is a bad idea, then I don’t know what will.
This is from 2010 when a private zoo in Montenegro was flooded and Nikica the hippo went AWOL. She spent several weeks lurking around the village looking baleful before being lured back into her enclosure when the floods subsided. According to her keeper she is “very peaceful and friendly”. I’m not sure I’d be entirely convinced of that if she was hanging out in my garden.
Just because you can't see the crocodiles, doesn't mean they're not there.
Flood warning of the week: “If you see a crocodile, do not eat it”. This approach would not immediately cross my mind should I encounter a crocodile, but it’s good to be forewarned. Apparently, what you are supposed to do is call the Ministry of Fisheries. Civil servants in Thailand obviously live more exciting lives their British counterparts (although quite possibly if crocodiles started showing up in the Thames, DEFRA would show hitherto unknown levels of intrepidity). Anyway, the flood waters are going down almost everywhere in Bangkok. I took this at Mo Chit BTS this morning: last week the water was nearly three feet deep here, while it can’t be more than eight inches now. I was briefly tempted to go paddling, but the water was kind of green, and leptospirosis reputedly isn’t fun.
Huh, Thai civil servants really do live on the edge. This article about the government snake-catcher and his work during the floods is pretty awesome.
Ten thousand lanterns fly. Photo by Nish, because my camera battery gave out at the crucial moment.
When I am overseas, I try and make a point of not being a slave to the guidebook, but occasionally it cannot be helped and I find myself lured in by a flowery write-up or artfully lit photo and on a bus to somewhere quite out of my way just to see a particularly good waterfall or something. This was evidently due to happen at some point here: for the past two months, I had been preoccupied by the front cover of the Thailand Lonely Planet guide. The bible of the dreadlocked masses’ 2009 edtion is adorned with a photo of blissfully happy people launching huge paper lanterns in what seemed to me to be an excessively picturesque manner. This, the caption briefly informed me, was the Yi Peng festival held in northern Thailand in October or November each year. Further research unearthed online writeups of the festivities which dwelt lovingly on the majestic sense of awe that accompanied the sight of thousands of floating lanterns drifting upwards into the night. The phrase “like a school of luminous jellyfish” put in an appearance. When it became apparent that the festival would happen over the long weekend granted to us poor indundated (or yet-to-be-indundated) Bangkokians, I knew that come hell or high water (and of course there was plenty of the latter) I was going to be up in Chiang Mai letting off skylanterns. So thus it was that while back down south central Bangkok was busy Not Flooding in the most frenzied, dramatic and media-friendly way possible, I was squeezed in the back of a pickup truck with sixteen couchsurfers and a baby, trying to locate the right filed in the right suburb of Chiang Mai to set the sky on fire.
Is this the right way to panic-buy? I'm not very used to shopping for emergencies.
After weeks of false alarms, panic-buying and twitter hysteria, it looks as though central Bangkok will in fact be flooded this weekend. Observing the media reaction, one could well be forgiven for assuming that this means that residents should be fleeing a towering tsunami bearing down on the city, laden with a cargo of venomous snakes, poisonous chemicals and escaped crocodiles; in reality, as Bangkok-based journalist and blogger Richard Barrow (who has been doing sterling work on twitter sorting out facts from hysteria) points out, calling the ankle-deep tidal surges currently assaulting parts of the centre of the capital a flood is an insult to those parts of Thailand (including many Bangkok suburbs) where people have lost houses, lives and incomes under two or three metres of water.