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Thai Floods: Returning to Flooded Ayutthaya

Returning to Flooded Ayutthaya

Returning to Flooded Ayutthaya…

On October 6 I visited Ayutthaya to see the extent of the flood. If you haven’t read the post, go to Ayutthaya Underwater. Areas located by waterways were difficult to get to by car but with perseverance we finally made it to our planned destination, Wat Chiawatthanaram.

Photos of four separate areas were taken that day: A small (still unnamed) community alongside the highway, Klong Sabua floating market, Wat Mahathat (famous for the Buddha head wrapped in the tree), and Wat Chiawatthanaram (which also had a floating market community).

After I left Ayutthaya, the floods increased. Newspapers reported transportation going from wheels to waves. For weeks after, the only Ayutthaya updates were made by rescue crews or a few hardy photographers and news teams. With boats needed to get supplies into the region, unnecessary visits were ill-advised.

Over a month later, on November 17th, I returned to Ayutthaya to see what progress, if any, had been made. Below are photos comparing both visits.

A small community in Ayutthaya…

Bridges especially were difficult to access so it took many stabs before we finally made it to Wat Chiawatthanaram. This was the first community we stopped at. It was impossible to go on so we turned around, to try again from a different angle.

OCT 6: This video shows how far down the highway the flooding went.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: Compare this before photo with the following after photo.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: During 40+ days the water rose to further swamp the area, and then subsided, allowing the community to clear mud, muck, and garbage from the intersection.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: This before photo shows the right of the intersection.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Fairly dry, check out the watermarks on the Family Mart. And unless the mud wall was raised, I doubt the community outside these walls stayed dry.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: On my various trips I came across flooded sois similar to this one. Many residents chose to stay in their homes, guarding against robbery. To access their homes, a few built walkways, others waded in or went via some sort of floating contraption. Due to a shortage + crazy prices, boats became optional methods of transportation.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: As you can see, the road isn’t totally dry but it’s only been a few weeks since the water started subsiding.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: This sign was posted across from the Family Mart. During the floods many people lost their livelihoods. No work = no pay. After no income for weeks (months?) those with cleaning skills have it made. For now.

รับจ้าง ล้างบ้าน /ráp jâang láang bâan/
โทร 08-025619940 /toh/

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: In front of shops and houses are piles of refuse waiting to be taken away. The piles, some quite high, consist of ruined clothes, furniture, floors and interior walls. Similar sights are found on the edges of Bangkok.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: When you compare the flooded photos to this one, you can see just how hard the communities in Ayutthaya are working to clean up their city.

But Ayutthayians are not alone in this mess. November 10 was the first official cleanup day for the ancient monuments. December 5 is the next. For more about the clean up days, read We Care Ayutthaya Project to Clean the City.

Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya…

By my visit on October 6 the flood still hadn’t arrived at Wat Mahathat. There was a bit of standing water but that’s it.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: The before and after photos from this angle are almost identical…

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: …That is, until you notice the bleached out bricks and the vegetation now missing from the lower walls and fences.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Due to the flood damage you can barely read the sign for Wat Mahathat. What’s apparent is that the entire sign was under water for awhile.

Now, check out the house across the street. From this photo the house looks to be lower than the Wat but when wandering through the grounds at Wat Mahathat I came across watermarks many feet higher than my head. And I stand around 5′ 3″.

A closeup of the watermark on the house can be seen below.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Hindsight – There’s nothing in this photo to show scale. Pity. But you can better bet that everything on the ground floor of that huge house was ruined.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: A ticket seller at Wat Mahathat points out how high the flood got. Twenty feet to the left of this photo, where the ground dips into a small lake, it was higher still.

Note: During my trip there was no entrance fee’s at the Wats. So no 10 baht for Thais and 50 baht farang fees to get into the monuments.

I’m not sure how I feel about the decision to forgo entrance fees. The Wat’s gardeners mentioned that they’d been off work for weeks without pay. And while I didn’t see many tourists, the monies collected do add up. And well… you know.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Only last weekend Richard Barrow had to wade to get to the famous Buddha head. By the time I got there, it was standing water only. Did you notice the watermark?

To get an idea of the height of the head, scroll down on this page to the last photo: Buddha Head in Tree Roots, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Note the watermarks on the bricks at Wat Mahathat.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: All three Wats I visited had watermarks. This photo shows watermarks at Wat Phra Si Sanphet (ancient royal palace).

Klong Sabua floating market…

This floating market was discovered during yet another abortive attempt to locate Wat Chiawatthanaram. The Wat was close, merely further up the road and across the river to the right. But without a boat, we had to backtrack. Again.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: The flooding in this area was recent – take note of the pristine white sandbags.

Market Water Ayutthaya Klong Sabua
ดลาด น้ำ อยธยา คลอง สระบัว
dà-lâat nám a-yà-tá-yaa klong sà-bua

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Between the two visits the sandbags either slid down the mud banks or were carted away. A bit of both? Note the different water levels under the bridge.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: I took two different angles of this house but you can easily see the contrasts in the water levels.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: If I were to build a house in Thailand, it’d be on stilts!

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: This and the following photo was taken with different camera settings, skewing the perspectives. Here I’m standing on dry ground but in the below photo I’m well into the previously inundated road.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: This community lives close to the river so the floods will be around for awhile.

Wat Chiawatthanaram, Ayutthaya…

And we finally make it to Wat Chiawatthanaram! A mere two days before my first trip the Wat flooded.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: Tough going, it took us a half hour to wade from just within the entrance of the soi to this point.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Note the lower water level and the now dead shrubs. In Aytthaya’s cleaned up areas the dead hedges and brown shrubbery are a dead giveaway that they were once under water.

OCT 6: This isn’t exactly a great video but you can see the water level, the mud dykes, and the still green trees. Also shown in the video is a sight I saw often – a dog rescue in progress.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: In a bid to limit the damage, the pumps are slowly draining the Wat. Because if the Wat dries out too fast, the ancient bricks and mortar could crumble. A real fear.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: The comparison photos were taken at different times of the day, with this one being around 3pm and the following trip around noon.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: The biggest difference (that I can see) between the two photos is the appearance of the shrubbery in the foreground and the sign partially submerged. If you look carefully, you can barely see the change in water level on the door.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: These girls were having fun goofing off.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: And here’s the same spot, only further away. The motorcycles mark the spot where the gals played.

Ayutthaya Underwater

OCT 6: A practical Thai house on stilts.

Ayutthaya Underwater

NOV 17: Same house but it’s now weeks later and not much damage, if any, is visible.

On the way back from Bangkok…

The way back to Bangkok on the second Ayutthaya trip got really hairy. Khun Pissout often asks locals about flooding conditions and this time he was given incorrect advice. Someone mentioned that the way we’d come in the morning was no longer an easy return so we went a different way. Smack into the heavily flooded Wang Noi.

At several points the water was too high so we were forced to backtrack along major highways into oncoming traffic. Scary. There were trucks, vans, and tractors. We were the only taxi.

More than once the car sputtered in the deep water, coming close to a complete stall.

Ayutthaya Underwater

Ayutthaya Underwater

Ayutthaya Underwater

Ayutthaya Underwater

Even with the mostly cleared off Don Muang Tollway, it took us more than three hours to get to Aytthaya. The way back? Almost five.

Thai Floods: 2011…

The Thai flood posts keep marching on:

Ayutthaya Underwater: Bangkok Now Bracing for Floods
Bangkok is STILL Bracing for the Thai Floods. Barely.
Thai Language Thai Culture: Primer on Thai Disaster Words
Thai Language Thai Culture: Basic Thai Flood Phrases
Bangkok Flood Info: Preparing for Floods in Bangkok
Thailand’s 50 Million Blue Whales Flood Bangkok
Karn.TV Cartoons: Flooding in Thailand
Thai Floods: FROC’s Highway to…
Thai Floods: 1000 Boats? Nope. Just 6 Boats Pushing Flood Water

What’s next? Well, as I mentioned in a previous post, there’s still the Big Bag Barrier… we’ll see.

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

18 Comments

  1. Excellent post! Thank you so much, Cat, for sharing all these pics. They show not only the scale of the flooding and the resilience of the people, but also the fact that water, as life, goes on.
    –Cheers

  2. Thanks Kaewmala :-) It was tough deciding which photos to share from the two trips. There were many comparisons (and many more videos).

    As I drove through mile after mile of previously flooded Ayutthaya I could see evidence of the enormous amount of cleanup already completed.

    The cleanup project, stretching all the way to the North of Thailand, is huge. Massive. Unreal really.

    When I came back I looked around my home to imagine what’d be salvageable after two weeks plus underwater. With no advance warning, not much would survive. Pretty much everything from the kitchen to the living room to the bathrooms would need to be gutted and redone. Being faced with that tedious chore on top of everything else that happened during the floods would be heartbreaking.

  3. Cat, amazing photos once again. I must admit I thought the flood waters at Ayutthaya would have been long gone by now. Bad enough that people are left with cleaning up such an awful mess, but the water subsiding at a snails pace must make it all the more frustrating.

    I hope you kept your feet dry? I do worry about those lovely ladies playing in the water…but then again, I am a worry wart about these type of things.

  4. Thanks Snap. There is a LOT of water sitting around Thailand. Koh Kret is still underwater and might be until after the new year. But Koh Kret is one community that prepared properly for the floods so they are mostly ok. Even before the water arrived, they’d constructed elevated walkways while other communities long flooded are just now putting in theirs.

    My feet are dry now (and almost finished peeling). Bangkok has a wild array of footwear so getting soaked is no longer necessary. Last week Khun Pissout brought over waders that go all the way to my neck! Guess I should take up fishing once this is all over ;-)

  5. My wife and I visited Ayutthaya in August so I have folluwed the flood news with interest and sadness. I have photographs of both Wat Mahathat and Wat Phra Si Samphet and hope these impressive heritage sites are soon restored – and that the people of Ayutthaya are able to return to a normal life.

  6. The photos really capture the complete horror and misery of the Thailand flood problems, but I personally think the Thai people have dealt with the problem with sheer determination, dignity and a positive force for future recovery. I have written also in praise of the Thai people over the last very trying 3-4 month period.

    http://engagingthailandtips.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/thailand-floods-in-praise-of-the-thais/

  7. Hi Iain,

    Ayutthaya is a main tourist attraction so will get plenty of attention from the government and charity groups. I’m thinking that those further out will either be ignored or just have a passing effort made at restoring them. I read that there’s a budget… but…

    Hi Trevor,

    “I personally think the Thai people have dealt with the problem with sheer determination, dignity and a positive force for future recovery.”

    Nice sentiment and I sincerely wish that I could wholeheartedly agree with you. But I can’t.

    The Thais for the most part are a lovely people and deserve change for the better. Here’s hoping they won’t let this disaster slide away like is their habit to do – that they’ll insist on lasting change. Thailand has had her fair share of crisis. Enough already.

  8. Catherine I have to repeat Kaewmala’s words and say what an excellent post and some wonderful pictures too.

    Ayutthaya is slowly drying up but the words from your post which really hung in my head were these:

    ‘Because if the Wat dries out too fast, the ancient bricks and mortar could crumble..’

    That would be a very cruel and unjust blow not only to Ayutthaya but Thailand as well. Let’s pray that doesn’t happen.

    Kinky rubber boots or fishing waders?

  9. Ta Martyn :-) “Kinky rubber boots or fishing waders”… weird in a quirky way, I ended up two of one and one of the other. Two pairs of boots and one set of waders with feet attached (or is that what waders are). I aim on fishing so the waders (if I can find fly fishing near Bangkok) will have a future.

    Ayutthaya (from what I saw) is well on the mend. But not far away there are hundreds (?) of communities under water. Stinking water. I’m not a water expert but I can’t see how releasing the big bags will make that much of a difference to Bangkok. Aren’t our khlongs fairly empty? And what’s a bit of ankle deep or more water anyway? It’s just so sad to know that many are being forced to deal with this mess of rotting water in their homes until… when? And then what? It’s a mess…

  10. @tulsathit tulsathit
    TR @noppatjak: Asked a big bag destroyer if he wasn’t afraid of going to jail. He replied “dry jail’s better than this.”

    @tulsathit tulsathit
    Athit Ourairat, former House speaker, has threatened to lead blockade of Vibhavadi Rangsit if nothing’s done to ease Muang Ek suffering

    @TAN_Network TAN News Network
    Unsatisfied Pathumtani locals blocking tollway at Zeers Rangsit, wants BigBag barriers taken down

    @TAN_Network TAN News Network
    Residents of Garden Home housing project unsatisfied with BigBag barriers, bringing down the barriers at Air Operations Control intersection

    And this is just in the past few minutes on twitter. People are fed up.

  11. The photos really captures my emotion. Its like a nightmare to me. I can’t figure myself, if I will encounter that. Hope not! This flood is very devastating. You capture an unforgettable events.

  12. Hi Catherine,

    In my article I was coming purely more from a cultural and human kindness perspective. The Thai people do deserve better, but through hardship and adversity have shown compassion, generosity, consideration, concern and support for the fellow-man in abundance. I feel the showing of (Nam Jai น้ำใจ) a flowing ( kind) heart has been very much in effect. I feel this is an area where the rest the rest of the world could learn a lesson from.

  13. Trevor, I just rechecked your post and you weren’t even here for the floods… and trust me, watching an event on TV is not a substitute.

  14. Catherine,
    I think we are talking at cross purposes here. Anyway I was actually in Thailand at the start of the event and have been in constant contact with friends and family in Nakhon Sawan and the majority of the flood hit areas throughout.

  15. Sorry missed a bit off, as I too was merely remarking about the resilience and determination of the people to get through this devastation. Anyway excellent post.

  16. Thank you so much for posting these. It is very different from what we see on TV and we are always searching for more Ayutthaya area-specific information as we have close ties to the area.It is as bad as we have imagined and we can only hope that things here and in all affected areas are able to recover as quickly as possible.

  17. Great pictures Cat…really brings home just how devastating the flooding has been…it looks like they will have quite a bit of cleanup to do.

    When I was going to Petchaboon earlier this month we passed through heavily flooded areas and made many detours. I was amazed at all the houses I saw under water and the many rice fields that were flooded out, the floods will definitely have a long term impact on the entire country.

  18. Hi Trevor, I do know where you are coming from… but rather than repeat myself, I’ll leave it at that :-)

    Marie, you are welcome :-) Ayutthaya is a special place and I know I’ve been lucky to live so close by. Btw, here’s a video you might enjoy: US marines join big cleaning day in Ayutthaya

    Talen, as you can see, I took your advice. Ta! Oh, and I hope you took photos of your trip back? I’d love to see them… I’ve never been much into lake/ocean photos but water covered ground does have a special luminance. The colours are quite impressive.

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