Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday...Oh yeah, it's Monday!

I woke up before my alarm this morning, which was good. Got ready for work and got out the door about 5 minutes quicker than normal. It had been raining for a few hours before I went to sleep so I figured an early start would help me to not be late for school, which often happens when it rains.

I got a taxi right away and thought I was on my way...Then I got to the end of our soi and what used to be Ladprao Road had transformed over night into Ladprao River! Traffic was moving along like it normally does when the roads are flooded, so I figured I'd be a few minutes late for school at most...It's only 9-10 kilometers to school, so how bad could traffic be. Our area of Ladprao usually floods with just a few hours of rain due to poor drainage, so I figured a few blocks of heavy traffic and we'd be out of the roughest part of the flooding. Boy was I wrong!

Turns out that it had rained all night and the rivers were swollen. Add to this the normal drainage problem, clogged sewers bubbling up through the gutters and normal Bangkok rush hour traffic and you end up with a "True Monday".

After sitting in traffic for a half hour, no more than 700 meters from my apartment, I began to see hoards of commuters sloshing through the "surf" down Ladprao Road (river). The meter was going up and the taxi was going nowhere so I decided to hoof it to school, or at least far enough to where I could find a motorcycle taxi to take me the 9 kilometers to my destination.

I walked along with the 400-500 other wet people for a while with no motorcycles in sight. Traffic still not moving, the roads looked like a scene out of an apocalypse movie, where the cities are devastated by bombs or something and the thousands of survivors are walking like zombies towards who knows where.

Women in skirts had no problem outside of trying to navigate the obstacles under the often knee deep water wearing heels. The men rolled up their slacks and either trudged through the murky sludge (translation: rain water mixed with sewer water mixed with "river water")...("River water" = sewer water...sorry for the redundancy) in their works shoes, like me, or took their shoes and socks off and went barefoot. Shoes, you have soggy leather and insoles all day...all week. Barefoot, you risk glass, nails and all manner of random slicy thingies under the water. My shoes are drying outside of the teacher's room right now. I washed them in the bathroom for ten minutes, but there is still black juice dripping out of them!

As I walked, I passed several klongs or small rivers. There are plywood shacks with aluminium roofs all along the klongs. I usually pay them no mind as I commute to and from work either in a taxi or a bus. But today the brown water of the klong was probably half a foot above the bottom of most of these shacks, and certainly flooding the inhabitants of said slums out of their homes for at least the first half of the day.

The businesses in the last few kilometers of my walk to work were all sandbagging their front doors and bailing the water out of their stores with cups and buckets. But every time a bus or truck got up a good head of steam it would send another wave of dirty water crashing over their makeshift barriers.

This happens all the time in my area, say, about 500-750 meters of the main road will be under water for a few hours, but this is the first time that it has affected the length of my commute, from my soi all the way to the schoolyard. As I look out the window here, already lunch time, the water still hasn't drained out of the two roads that border our school. The restaurants aren't open today so everyone is ordering pizza for lunch. The sun has begun to penetrate the heavy cloud cover though and it looks like the rest of the day will be fine...or at least until the final bell rings and I have to make my way luck, and being Monday and all, it'll start raining a 4 o'clock and I'll have to walk home! I think the rivers and klongs and sewers could use a few days to drain and get back to normal.

Probably the most interesting thing I saw this morning on my soggy walk to school, I was an hour late for school by the way, was the intersection of Ladprao Road and Ratchada Road. This is a major intersection of a north to south and an east to west road. It connects four major parts of the city really. As I reached this intersection, the oncoming traffic light turned green.

For as far as I could see, there were mopeds driven by men in orange vests. This is the uniform of the motorcycle taxi drivers in this part of the city. Hundreds of bright orange vests formed a virtual sea of orange at all four sides of the intersection. The oncoming mopeds and motorcycles, 90% ridden by motorcycle taxi drivers, numbered more than 200 vehicles, the most I've ever seen at once here. This light stays green for about two minutes. The last few mopeds zoomed through the intersection before the buses and cars that were behind them got caught again by the red light!

I'd estimate that at that moment, as the light first went green, there were upwards of 400 orange clad drivers carrying their wet and tardy commuters through the river that is Ladprao that one intersection alone. This tells me that it wasn't just Ladprao that was flooded this morning.

I didn't bring my camera, so there is no documentation of today's super flood. We do get stuff like this often, especially in rainy season. Here's an old blog showing a video of some of the regular flooding we get here. Life does go on though. Outside of the fact that traffic is moving in this video, it is pretty representative of my Monday morning! Well, add Bangkok morning rush hour traffic, thousands of people walking, and 86 the rain and then you get the picture!

Hope your day is sunny and dry!

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