Surviving the Great Floods of 2022 in NE Thailand (Part 1)

It’s been six weeks since my last post…

On October 5th, at around 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon, I wrote about how the whole country was flooding from heavy rains of the past week and how our neighborhood usually floods, but that this time the drainage systems in our area were working really well.

Later that evening, Nam and I gathered shovels and twine and started helping people from the neighborhood fill sandbags just down our street in an effort to block off rising waters from the rear of our estate, where there’s marshland on an open property. Our entire housing estate (which has expanded greatly since we built our house 13 years ago), was originally all rice fields and open land. Nam’s mom warned us that it was a low area that was prone to flooding, but the worst it ever flooded was just enough to wet our driveway and barely reach the house. </foreshadowing>

After an hour of filling sandbags and lifting them onto trucks, we were beat, and it was getting obvious that this flooding might get bad. Still, it didn’t seem too bad, but we decided to take Nam’s car to her mom’s dormitory on higher ground, about ten minutes away. On the way there, Nam asked if I wanted to turn around and get my car out of there as well, but it didn’t seem like it would flood so badly, so I said no, wondering if I was making the right decision. When we got to my mother in law’s place, Nam’s younger sister gave us a ride back home. The street in front of our house was slightly flooded, but no big deal. A couple hours later, it looked like this, which is the highest it had ever been.

Throughout the course of flooding, which was extremely bad but shorter than anticipated – in our neighborhood (they predicted our hood would be flooded for a month or two, but it was pretty much dry in less than a week – we never lost power, so I have chat logs all through out our time spent inside the house, even though we were completely surrounded by water. In fact the last message I sent out to the family on the night of the 5th was, “there’s no rain or wind, we have internet and aircon, but the water is silently rising. Weird.”

In the photo above, the water is only a couple inches high in our driveway, which is sloped towards the street. However, that means that the water is more than a foot deep in the street, which is high enough to bog down my car. It was too late to drive out of there without risking the Crown’s engine and blocking the road for trucks and lifted vehicles, so I pulled the battery cables, chocked the wheels, and pulled everything I could out of it… I didn’t have time to pull the amps or any of the audio system.

After I took that photo around 11:20 PM, the water started rising very fast. Unbeknownst to us, officials in Khon Kaen had decided to open flood gates to relieve pressure on the over capacity Ubolrat Dam, which in turn caused earthen holding walls to break at the nearby reservoir at Gang Lern Jaan. This caused a rush of water from streams and creeks that had never caused flooding in the recent past. The resulting flood was, in fact, the worst in 45 years. When the flood rose about another foot higher than shown in the photo, we decided it was time to bug out. We hurriedly gathered the most important stuff together, put Mina’s cat, Pickle, in a pet carrier, turned off the main house breaker, and ventured out into the dark waters in the driveway, where we waited for a truck to pass by (normal cars and motorcycles had completely stopped coming down the street hours before).

A black Vigo came by a couple minutes later, and the guy was happy to give us a ride out of there. We jumped in the open bed and stopped again just down the street when a couple of uni kids waded out in the street asking for a ride. As we drove down the street just down from our house, a couple yelled at us to slow down from the open window of their brightly-lit house, but it was too late. The wake created by our truck passing by in the flooded street crashed through their open front door (which was only a couple inches above the water line) and rushed into the living room, bouncing off the far wall and rippling back again. The woman sat on the couch and got splashed a bit and the guy went to close the door, much too late to accomplish anything. They both cursed as we passed by, a surreal memory burned in my mind, as adrenaline coursed through my veins. That pattern of adrenaline rush and subsequent dump would stay with me though the next few weeks.

UPDATE Dec. 1: It’s now been a couple weeks since I started writing this post. My words are all jammed up and I’m just… busy. Or maybe tired, as I never really spun down from the mad times that resulted from the flood. I have decided to write about it in installments, for fear of never publishing anything on this blog again… I’m hoping that publishing one post clears the logjam in my mind, so here goes…

VIDEO UPDATE: I’m adding this short video just to show the level of the water on the first night on our front stairs, which were the standard for gauging the severity of flooding throughout the following week.

Highway rest stops in Thailand

Coming from Japan to Thailand 15 years ago, the state of the roads here was lamentable, and many of the streets/rural highways in the Issan region and around our city weren’t even paved – or had big enough holes to break wheels and axles, a common sight back then.

I used to go on university trips every term and we would often take the uni bus or minivans on long road trips, ostensibly for work, but more just to get out and travel. This was always a nice perk for government university work, because we could often take the whole family, as well. It also made me very aware of the lack of highway rest stops in Thailand.

Actually, the default highway rest stop in Thailand is fulfilled by large gas station facilities, most notably those run by the PTT group. PTT stations come in all sizes, from a few pumps and a convenience store to larger mini mall-type complexes. However, on the toll roads around Bangkok and central Thailand, there are a few privately run rest stops, most notably the huge one between Bangkok and Chonburi located here: ศูนย์บริการทางหลวง กรุงเทพ-ชลบุรี มอเตอร์เวย์ ขาออก. That ones been around as long as I can remember, and it’s huge (long, actually) and chaotic. It’s also got the most foreign food shops of any highway rest stop in Thailand, with a lot of western fast food joints like BK, McD’s, KFC (maybe even 2 branches IIRC), Indian food, pho, dim sum, sushi, etc. As a side note, it’s also very easy to miss the turnoff if you are speeding along the toll road there.

On our recent trip to Hua Hin, we happened along another private rest stop in Samut Sakhon called Porto Go. It was not as big as the rest stop mentioned above, but it was newer and cleaner (there’s also one in Ayutthaya, apparently). These new rest stops with clean facilities make road trips a lot more convenient than they used to be!

Tong Peng

At the beginning of our trip to Hua Hin last week, we boarded a plane for the first time since the pandemic started, and flew into Don Mueang. Nam’s older sister picked us up and we went to see a van we would pick up on the back end of our trip and have lunch. She took us to Tong Peng, a family-oriented Chinese restaurant in the Chok Chai area of Bangkok, south of Lad Prao.

As a sidenote, it feels good to blog about travels again – it’s been too long.

I’m always a sucker for roast ducks and meats on display.

So, no screwing around – the roast duck on rice was good but not great. The sauce/gravy was too sweet and… fruity.

Shu mai, yes! Delicious!

Pork + quail eggs + shiitake = Yes, I ate both.

Included to document the Saran-wrapped chopsticks that were legit a pain to unwrap.

The crispy pork was a visual disaster with the same fruity sauce. It tasted, again, disappointingly good, and not great.

“Tong Peng”

Included for future ordering purposes – we will be here again, but for something else, maybe a family dinner.

Google Maps link: Tong Peng ภัตตาคารตงเพ้ง

Loi Angkarn – Scattering of Ashes at Sea

We just got back from a weeklong trip to the Hua Hin area. We thoroughly enjoyed being at the beach for the first time in a few years, and always love HH, but were there mainly to spread Nam’s grandmother’s ashes and a great uncle’s ashes on the water. This is known in Thai as loi angkarn (ลอยอังคาร ณ ปราณบุรี).

In a weird twist of fate, it was arranged to do this at the very harbor in Pranburi/Pak Nam Pran where we set off on a honeymoon cruise with family and friends who came from overseas to our wedding in Thailand 15 years ago.

I wish to cover this more thoroughly and post pics in upcoming posts, but for now I’ll leave the video that just finished processing (our Osmo Pocket finally got some use since the start of the pandemic).

Linkdump AF 2022

Across the Multiverse: A four chapter story with an epic revelation at the end.

I did not get that far, but I got a lot of chill.


Technicolor Tokyo: Screenshots from CyberPunk or real photos?


Phra Rahu: This week I learned of Rahu worship in Thailand, which is extremely interesting and apparently widespread, and although I’ve seen images and statues of Rahu before, I never really knew his story – it’s interesting!

The Story of Phra Rahu
There are many variations of the story of Rahu, which stem mainly from Hindu, Buddhist, Tamil legend. The most common legend is the Hindu one which describes Rahu as an Asura (demon deity) who was transformed into Rahu after drinking an elixir which would assure his immortality. The legend goes on to say that Rahu stole the elixir from the Hindu Deities, but he was seen by Chandra (the moon god) and Surya (the sun god). Chandra and Surya informed Mohini (the female avatar of Vishnu) who promptly chopped off the Asura’s head.
A small amount of elixir had already been sipped by the Asura before Mohini could chop off his head, so his head and upper body had already attained a state of immortality and became Rahu.
Rahu takes his revenge upon Chandra and Surya by swallowing the moon and the sun every time he sees them, thus causing an eclipse.

https://www.pattayaunlimited.com/thailand-deities-phra-rahu/

Toyota 2000GT in Thailand

Tucked somewhere in between a bunch of other cars in an underground parking lot in Bangkok, a true legend is waiting for Sumitomo/Dunlop brake seals that are probably impossible to find… Reading this forum post from 15 years ago reminded me why I had to change out my entire brake system for the Crown. There simply were no replacement parts to be had. My calipers were also marked Sumitomo, and I sent all of the parts to someone who needed them online.

It would be a real dream to see the king of Toyotas cruising down the tollway in BKK. Just like this:

(Photo borrowed from 70-80’s Thai Retro FB Page)

Yam Pla Muk and Larb Moo

Just feel like posting some old food photos that have been sitting patiently in a folde called “blog” on my desktop for a couple years.

This is Yam Pla Muk, or Thai Squid Salad. I don’t remember exactly where we ordered this one. “Yam” is a type of Thai salad that’s spicy, sour, and kick-ass: Thai salads… These are among my favorite foods here, and we eat them all regularly.

This one is larb, which is also one of the Thai Salads mentioned in the link above. Specifically, it’s larb moo, or pork larb. Larb is also known as a meat salad (which is obviously the best type of salad). This plate of larb is from a restaurant specializing in it and other meat dishes in Sangkha, Surin. We visited there last year when Mina’s great grandmother passed. It was the first time we’d been to this restaurant, even though we’d been going to Sangkha quite often to be with relatives for new years. I’m not sure if we’ll visit there again any time soon, although some of Nam’s aunt’s are moving into her grandmother’s house.

Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University

You should see their t-shirt!

Otherwise known as MCU, this is the oldest higher education institute for Buddhist monks in Thailand and the main campus is located on the temple grounds of Wat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit, one of the ten “royal temples of the highest class” in the country.

The length of the name is interesting and is compounded by the choice to leave no spaces between individual words of which the name is comprised. I had to break it down in the following way to make any sort of sense of it, otherwise it just looks like a keyboard accident:

Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya = Maha / Chulalongkorn / Raja / Vidyalaya

Maha = great

Chulalongkorn = the name of the 5th king of Siam (reign: 1868-1910)

Raja = royal

Vidyalaya = an older-style anglicization for “college”

So a rough translation might be “Chulalongkorn Royal College.” I think that sounds really cool, although “MCU” is easier to remember!

MCU has the coolest official seal:

Some bonus links:

Atlas Obscura article on MCU: Buddhist university that allows English-language speakers the opportunity to study with monks in Thailand

Dhammathai page on Wat Mahathat (temple)

Thailand’s Happy Pizza

There is currently an explosion of CBD cafes and edible hemp products/companies all over Thailand. This is kind of the second wave of not-really-pot popularization. The first wave was semi-legal CBD oils and tinctures (although the most sought after ones were straight up black market products that claimed to cure cancer). Now we are to the point where the most popular pizza chain in Thailand, The Pizza Company (revenue over 7 billion baht in 2020 – half of the Thai pizza market), are using it in their ads… Mainstream popularization is a good thing.

My Dream Meal

A friend sent this to me. I don’t know who made it, took the photo, or ate it, but I want it.

I don’t know if I’d be more excited selling this or eating it – it’s damn near the perfect triple order of Thai Basil Stir Fry with Crispy Pork topped with Star Eggs. I spent a whole month perfecting this dish during lockdown, making the crispy pork from scratch with a different recipe each time. It was epic, and this is truly one of my top 10 favorite Thai dishes (of which basil stir fries occupy two or three spaces).

Online learning

Saw this in my feed and it made me smile because my daughter had to sit next to me and take a swimming class online last term. The current term ends this month, and the kids in Thailand may be going back to school from next term, but who knows? A lot of it depends on if they actually get vaccinated or not (there’s still not enough of any kind to go around and the only one proven safe for kids is still Pfizer – which is in very short supply), but it’s been a while now.