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Andy’s Travel Diary

Friday, 10 Nov 2006

Location: Sukhothai, Thailand

MapSUKHOTHAI - NEW 'NEW ORLEANS'?
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Northern and north/central Thailand have recently experienced torrential downpours leading to massive flooding, numerous missing persons and a number of deaths. In Nang state the situation is the worst in over 40 years. Some areas of the province are submerged under nearly 2 metres of water. (I advise the Thai government to send FEMA and George W to sort out the mess, Iíve heard they worked wonders in New Orleans).

Anyways so I arrived in Sukhothai yesterday from Ayutthaya. Dumping my bags i immediately set off on my now ritualistic exploration of the surrounding area and stopped in my tracks upon sight of the river. It is incredibly swollen. The water level is at present above the bottom of the main bridge and the river bubbles up violently from its exit under the road due to the sheer volumes being forced under it. The currents are extremely rapid and burst onto the surface with some force while large whirlpools form, merge and then disperse. Watching the water rage one feels quite insignificant!

Sukhothai is a low-lying small provincial town. All that prevents the river from submerging half the town is a precarious looking metre and a half tall levee. Now iím unsure how much funding has been pumped into maintaining these concrete walls, but we all know what happens when small-state conservatives reduce funding for important flood control construction works by 44% either because they are neoliberal, market fundamenatlists (supposedly!), or they have an unpopular and unwinnable foreign war in progress - or both. All this in spite of academics, engineers and experts all concluding New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters to befall the United States. Thailand isnít currently waging any war on foreign soil as far as i know, so i can only hope the government isnít blinded to essential public infrastructure works by free-market ideologies.

Even if these walls hold (and i hope they do as my Bungalow is 20 metres away from the river and currently below the waterline) the volume of water flooding down the river is so great that it threatens to spill over the top. Sand bags nestle insignificantly on top of the levee but in some areas the river is already leaking onto the roads. Eek.

Last night a group of men with sticks poked and prodded the trees, logs and other debris which are becoming stuck under the bridge while commuters in their cars and those walking home stopped to stare, usually with mildly worried faces. For one group of boys it has become the main attraction in their day. They sat on the banks for hours. Sukhothai is not particularly vibrant it should be added.