Friday, October 21, 2011

Fleeing the flood?

Nut on the sidewalk in front of Tang Hua Seng
Homer  friend Albie and I are about to flee Bangkok for the safety of Udon Thani. The flooding we've been worrying about for the past few weeks seems unavoidable at this point.

The Thai government has up to now sacrificed the outlying communities in an effort to preserve Bangkok, the economic heart and capitol of Thailand. Some places just a mile or two north of here (Banglamphu) have had chest high water for over 2 weeks. The city center is protected by dikes and flood control gates on its north side. As the water continues to rise so too does the political pressure to open the gates to allow this part of Thailand, the only part in the southern region still above water, to slowly flood. Yesterday the PM formally requested the mayor of Bangkok to open those gates. If we get 1-3 feet of water here this area could make New Orleans and Katrina look like a  backyard pool party by comparison. There are 9 million people in Bangkok proper, 15 million in the greater Bangkok area. It could get very ugly.

Phra Sumen Fort on a cloudy evening

I've been torn about leaving up to now because Nut refuses to come along. Her entire family is here, several of them are already flooded out, and she wants to protect her/our stuff. Her daughter is pregnant and their place also is flooded already. If I can get out of here today, her daughter and boyfriend, or her sister, can retreat to our place and they'll stay together. I tell her if the floods actually come it could become very difficult here for a long time -- no electricity, no water for drinking or showering, and food will become scarce as well. But she remains adamant about staying. Knowing that I'll do some good by leaving her here, I finally made the decision to get out if I can. She will come north to rejoin me when the crisis is past. It remains to be seen if we can get out by train. As of yesterday the trains were still running but many highways are already closed.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I finally got implants installed the other day. I put it off for a month because I was dreading it --- I felt like a real wuss around it. I hemmed and hawed about getting implants vs a less expensive and less invasive bridge because of this apprehension. I guess because I've been going to the same dentist in the same office in Homer for 20 years, I had a hard time being able to trust some unknown, unproven, and foreign, dentist with the delicate job of drilling into my jawbone. But the guy I picked is very experienced, with over 2,000 implants done to date, seemingly competent, and he used some super sophisticated CT equipment to help him place the implants. Nut's niece has been going to his clinic, the Phetburi Dental Clinic, for years -- that's how I learned about him.

So, I finally decided to just figuratively grit my teeth and get it done. I had come prepared to spend a couple of hours in the chair but the entire "ordeal" was over in 30 minutes flat! I never felt the slightest twinge of pain, just a bit of pressure when he did the drilling. I'm to go back in 2 months for the actual crowns to be placed. Cost for 2 teeth: about $4K. I chose American implants for an additional $500 each as the dentist said they were better than the cheaper ones from Korea. Whether that's really true or just some Thai feeling about Korea I don't know but I decided to spend the extra money. It will sure be nice to toss these temporaries, these fucking "flippers", into the trashcan.

I've been reading some great books lately. My Thai studies have been pushed aside temporarily by motorcycles, Nut, flooding, and reading, not necessarily in that order. I just finished a novel by Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong, about World War I. An excellent read and one that makes me want to sample some of his other stuff. I'm almost through Amitav Ghosh's The glass palace, a novel set in SE Asia during WWII, and another great read.

I bought e-book editions, Kindle editions actually, of several other books from that I'm reading on my Netbook in the Google Chrome browser. I never thought I'd like reading that way but it works surprisingly better than expected. I can carry some otherwise heavy tomes along on my travels without adding an ounce to my pack.

It will be good to get back into the cooler weather up north. Usually by now the dry, winter season is governing Bangkok's weather but because the rainy weather has persisted into late October it's been consistently too warm and too humid for this farang. But of course I'll miss Nut. And I'll worry about her. But her family is close and they'll stick together through this. I'm sure she will do her best to protect our stuff and her turf. I hope the crisis passes soon and that there will be no flooding in our apartment.

An evening at the Gecko Bar with friends - Henry, Albie, Nut and Al