musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Escape from Bangkok

I fled the scene. Abandoned ship. Got the hell out of Dodge. Whatever you want to call it, I’m out of Bangkok and on higher, dryer ground.
Yes, I’ve joined the thousands (Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?) of other Bangkok residents who have left town as the danger of floodwater descending on the central part of the city (where I live and work) becomes more and more real. People are frightened.
Thus far, both my home (right on the banks of the Klong San Saeb canal) and my bookshop have been spared from the floods. But that could change in the days ahead. Right now things are very dry and operating as normal in our part of town. Except for the fact that we aren’t seeing the normal daily traffic jams and locals have panicked by going on buying sprees: there are no bottles of water on store shelves, and other food staples have also vanished. People are freaking out. And the floodwaters keep creeping closer to the inner city.
I was scheduled to go to fly to Yangon, Myanmar on November 3, but I reasoned that if I waited another week I might not get out, so I changed my departure date. The past 48 hours has been a whirlwind of craziness: changing reservations, obtaining visas, juggling work schedules, making sure books on lower shelves at my shop are safe from harm, and hoping that everything would all fall into place and I could get out of town this weekend. Thankfully, I did. It’s Friday night and I’m safely in Yangon. Sweet relief!
I should feel happy and ecstatic to be here, but I have to admit that I’m feeling very conflicted. I really do feel like the captain that abandoned his ship. I’m now in Myanmar, happy and free from the floods, but my friends and employees back in Bangkok must stay and deal with the dangerous rising waters. I almost wish that I had stayed and seen through this ordeal. But then again, I’m not real keen on misery. All I can do now is hope that the inner city doesn’t experience the same watery ordeal that the suburbs of the city have been dealing with recently.
I’ll be on the road for the next 3 weeks or longer, at least until my money runs out. Hopefully, by the time I’m ready to return Bangkok will have returned to normal. I look forward to the stinky arrival of the sidewalk squid vendors once again.
I took the airport link to the airport in Bangkok, not wanting to take a chance on a traffic-choked highway. It was a quick trip and I found myself with plenty of time to kill before I needed to check-in. So, I exchanged money (the young woman at the SCB counter was extremely helpful in finding me clean banknotes to take) and then had some Gaeng Kiew Wan Gai and an iced coffee at a Black Canyon branch.
Meanwhile, here in Yangon (where there is also a Black Canyon branch!), the streets are dry but the air seems more polluted, no doubt due to the ever increasing amount of vehicles in town; lots of cars, taxis and buses, but oddly still no motorcycles. You read that right: no motorcycles allowed on the roads in this city. People are still spitting red streams of betel nut on the ground, vendors are shouting out prices, and laughing children play games of badminton under dim streetlights. This place is magical.
I stayed at my usual hotel, and the desk clerk excitedly told me about a new video he had been watching. No, not some porn flick or a lame Hollywood blockbuster, but “An Inconvenient Truth,” dubbed in Burmese. “He is a great man,” raved my desk clerk buddy of Al Gore. “Yeah,” I replied, “and he should have been president too!” I met my friend Win Thuya for breakfast this morning at Feel Restaurant. I had my usual bowl of Shwe Taun Kauk Swe and a cup of hot tea. Chatted with the usual crew of smiling waiters and all seemed right with the world. And then I remembered the precarious state of things back in Bangkok and I temporarily lost my own smile. I hope to have a wonderful, memorable trip over here again, but I can’t stop thinking about Bangkok.

 

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