Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with the Surat Thani floods

Yesterday I finally found a way to get out of Surat Thani. I’ve moaned about how boring that town is already, but now after my trip to the airport all my white whines have been put in perspective.

Local media says that almost two million people (including me!) have been disrupted by the flooding and landslides in Surat Thani and the rest of southern Thailand. Luckily for a small fraction of those (including me), the disruption meant a few days waiting around in a town I didn’t want to be in, rather than having to completely rebuild my life.

After my bus to Bangkok was cancelled, I got a bit disheartened. Mainly because I spoke to other people who had been trying to leave for days and they were all getting very pessimistic about things. As you know now, my hopes were then raised by the greatest person on Earth before being dashed after meeting up with a friend (who just happened to be stuck in the same Surat Thani hotel) who told me that he’d tried to get to the airport that day and they’d had to turn back because the water was just too high.

I drunkenly made a bet with him that I’d get out and to Chiang Mai before him (which I’ve totally won, by the way) and ordered an alarm call. That call came 45 minutes early with a woman eagerly telling me to get dressed because the route to the airport was open.

Open was perhaps a kind term. The streets, for what I was told was about 10km, were still hugely underwater. In some areas up to what I’d guess was shoulder height. Luckily we had special army carriers to transport us and we were fine. The water was higher off the road, and sadly not everyone else was okay.

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As you’re all very well aware, natural disasters haven’t been far away during my travels. Apart from the Christchurch earthquake, though, which I only saw the effects of very briefly, this is the first time I’ve properly seen the consequences of a disaster like this. People have lost their homes, their businesses, everything they’ve ever worked for. Some have even lost friends or family members. With the amount of water we drove through, nevermind the rest of the effected area, I have no idea how long it’s going to take before the water’s going to drain away and everything’s going to be anywhere close to normal for these people again.

The most surprising thing? So many of them looked happy, like they were enjoying the floods. I lost track of the number of people who waved, smiled, cheered and gave the peace sign as we drove past. I do wonder if they saw the trucks, predominantly populated by Thais, and thought maybe salvation was on the way. Maybe not, maybe they were just happy to see that some people were being taken away from the problem area.

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As well as that, people were playing in the water. The same water that had destroyed so many of their lives, was giving pleasure to them as well. It wasn’t just kids going for a swim, but there were teenagers and fully grown adults mucking about in it as well. Other took to fishing in the streets and seemed to be having success. Talk about making the best of a bad situation.

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Flickr’s being a dickr right now, but when I get all my Surat Thani flood photos uploaded I urge you to take a look at them. I’ve only seen sights like this on TV or in papers before, and although you’re only going to be seeing them through my photos, maybe the half blurry shots of a rubbish photographer driving through the area will mean something more to you as well. I did wonder if taking so many photos was in some way inconsiderate, but the joy it brought to some faces and the fact that so many of them were taking photos of us seemed to make it okay for me.

If anyone decides they want to give money or help in some way, there are details here for a Surat Thani/Thailand flood appeal.

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6 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    Wow, I had no idea things were that bad – I feel a bit bad for joking about it now.

    …Though it was still a little bit funny how you got all trapped while I’ve (inexplicably) been totally unaffected!

    It definitely isn’t disrespectful to take those photos, you’re out local news guy.

    • Oliver says:

      I had no idea either until I actually tried to leave. Although it rained a lot, the centre of Surat Thani, seemed fine (apart from the morning the water temporarily went off). The worst I saw up until that point was a road with maybe ankle-covering puddles and all that did was impede me as I wanted to cross.

  2. I think all these that you’re experiencing is teaching you a lesson hey? Seems like you’re not immune to it anymore and the immunity was passed to Dave maybe when we were in Bangkok…Hmmm? interesting…

    Btw, I haven’t gone through the signing up process to the links you gave me but I will very very soon…Backpacking have made me a little lazy…lol

    • Oliver says:

      I was never immune, always the cause. I noticed it was getting closer and closer until it finally got me. Luckily the curse’s power had either faded or was never strong enough to actually kill me, just hundreds of others along the way to teach me a lesson.

      Luckily I’ve now taken steps to prevent any of this happening again.

      • Oh good, I mean, it’s good it wasn’t strong enough to kill you, but I wonder what was the lesson it taught you?

        Good to hear you’re thinking better now after all this… I don’t really know what to call.

  3. […] traveler. Since leaving his office to explore the world late in 2010, he has been trapped by the Surat Thani floods and narrowly avoided the flooding in Brisbane and Melbourne, the bushfires near Perth, the cyclone […]

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