Dude, Where’s My Province…

We are bracing in Bangkok for the waters. The country looks apocalyptic. I went to Chinatown on Thursday, literally, when it started to flood.

People everywhere have worked to fill and place sandbags to stem the flood. But the river is so high, that the piers that are usually pointing down are all pointing upward and the banks are flooded.

The little restaurant at the Peninsula Pier is knee-deep flooded and now provides free foot wash and leg cooling.

Since the area behind the sandbag was only a little wet, I ventured deeper into Chinatown. About 100-200m further east the flood started coming in pretty heavy.

This was Thursday, Oct. 20th 2011 afternoon. Friday, Oct. 21st 2011, I drove up to Ayutthaya to provide some relief and supplies to the people at our plant. Basically, from Sukhumvit to Chatuchak/LadPrao the only difference is that traffic is very light – no traffic jam, what-so-ever. Past Chattuchak, trek highway starts to serve as a parking lot for cars that were brought to safety on the evaluated highway. Coming off the highway into Rangsit, severe flooding starts.

People wander around on floats, trying to salvage what is salvagable and looking for refuge. It has not rained for the last few days, except for a sprinkle in the late afternoon. Other than that the sun is beating down, which makes for brutal humidity on the ground. In terms of help, the further north we drive the less official help we saw. There was no police at all – at least we did not see any. The occasional army truck that transported aid and people, but that’s it.

Of course, there are always people who manage to make lemonade when dealt lemons. He appears to enjoy himself watching people go by.

Among the many cars and people stranded on the highway was a pig transport. The driver let the animals out. They are naturally corralled by the water. In the afternoon, there was a tarp, that the pigs found shade under. Now, I wonder, for how long the pigs will be there unscathed. There we about 20 pigs in total, that would make for one hell of a barbecue.

The further north we went, the more people were just camping out on the few dry patches of the highway. The highway between Rangsit and Ayutthaya is passable only on one side of the road. I have not been further north, but I assume the situation is similar in the other flooded areas.

This is irrefutable proof to all you Red Bull drinkers, that Red Bull does NOT give you Wiiiings! – ever.

Finally we made it to our destination in Ayutthaya. We had driven from Rangsit continuously in Water between 10cm to 70cm deep. Since the highway is slightly raised, the water over the rest of the province is easily 1m high. There are locations where the water is up to 2m high. On the way to Ayutthaya, there were only a few companies that had built sufficient protection for their plants. One was Singha – the beer company, another was my company. We are absolutely dry. I give our people a lot a credit for working tirelessly on holding the plant and keeping it save.

Finally, I had to take this image, because it is so being about the situation in Thailand right now.

Overall, I am impressed with how people cope on the outside with this catastrophe. You can still hear laughter. People help each other and most importantly no plundering or extraordinary crime. I hope that it will stay as disciplined as it is right now. For that to happen, I think police must make an appearance and start t contribute by helping out as well. From what it seems to me, a situation could arise where distributing help become a problem. Finally, I hope that the government rises to the occasion and starts acting competent. In this disaster lies a great opportunity to unify the country again and heal the wounds that have been caused during last year’s riots.

That’s it for today. Stay sharp and save. So far I have not heard about any donation accounts to help the Thai people, but I will let you know as soon as I hear something. Example: One of my engineers just made his second payment of his brand-new house – it is now completely flooded. Insurance is not as comprehensive in Thailand as it is in Europe or the US.

Markus \m/

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Himalaya High

We went off the grid for a few days – needed a break, desperately. We went into the Himalaya – because we thought there was no cell phone reception. This turned out to be a naive wish, because – yes – there is cell phone reception (c’mon this is India. Indians are born with a cell phone attached to their ear), I just didn’t have my turned on – bliss, try it, that is the foundation of perfect relaxation.

We went to let in Ladak, which is in the Jammu Kashmir region in north-western India – the little triangle that is bordered by chinese occupied Tibet in the east and by Pakistan in the west. The place is an arid, dry high plane with  base of 3000m and then moving up to about 7000m.

A little on the math – Bangkok, 3m above sea level – Leh, 3500m above sea level – accommodation in Leh 3600m above sea level = you huff and puff and at night you have a bit of a headache. I know this does not sound appealing, but the plea is absolutely gorgeous.

A little background – In addition, you only have electricity in the evening after 16:30, warm water in the morning until 10:00 and still , we loved every minute of it.

As you approach Leh airport and look out your window, it will probably look something like this:

Once there you will see the Leh Buddhist Monastery (top) and the old Royal Palace presiding over Leh – these are some of the first sights any visitor sees when coming to Leh.

Next – and I may be partial or unique in that aspect – there is the main mode of transportation in the region besides walking. Motorbikes – the ancient English brand of Royal Enfield continues to live with bikes built in India. Simple, mean single cylinder engines “Thumpers” that come in 350cc and 500cc. They sound meaty and even if they are loud ad don’t really fit the pristine mountain scenery, they still make me smile and somehow happy.

In Ladakh you are in India, yet, you are also among people who practice Tibetan Buddhism. There is a large community of first, second and third generation refugees from Tibet, that fled the illegitimate and brutal Chinese invasion in 1959.

Anyway, people practice Buddhism and due to their proximity to Pakistan, there are also three Islamic mosques in Leh. When I asked the Buddhist residents we encountered about their life with the muslims, they were evasive. The usual answer I got was:”It’s alright, for right now.” One thing that would irk me is the Muezzin screaming for the morning prayer at 5:00 using a PA system, that is insane. But the muslim population in Leh makes great bread, clearly a big plus.

Local women walking home.

Local woman coming through a passage.

Now the altitude does funny stuff to a person  – especially in the first few day. I fr example was very mesmerized by the freely-through-the-city-walking-cows, an homage to hindu India. Indeed, for this trip it occurred to me that “extreme”close-ups of larger (non-dangerous – a snow leopard will have its way with you or me. And a Himalayan eagle can likely also do scratchy damage if provoked by me taking picture very closely) animals would be interesting.

Cow taking it easy in the middle of the road – regurgitating from one of her 7 stomachs.Horse sniffing my iPhone.

Other horse being curious.

Finally, when we landed, due to the extremely quick altitude change, the engines on our plane turned all psychedelic – “Dude, like the magic mushrooms in my neighbor’s yard, whooa.” (see blog entry May 2010)

In summary, Ladakh is the place for an excellent vacation. It is not the Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott – for me it is way better. The area gives the visitor as much as the visitor os willing to put in. You need to get used to the altitude, you need to explore on food, you need to trek with a guide, then Ladakh will reward its visitors with beautiful lifelong impressions and fantastic memories and its fingerprints on your soul.

I will post a few more reports from this trip in the next few days.

Until then – as mentioned in the previous post – Stay Sharp World….and by golly stop bashing in each others heads in the name of liberation, pre-emptive strikes, religion or what it always comes down to natural resources – One Planet, One People!

Markus \m/

Lake Ayutthaya

All, I flew in to Bangkok on Saturday evening, just as the sun was setting. As I looks down to see if I could recognize certain areas, I realized, I couldn’t. Because where I was expecting land – fields, roads, company buildings – I only saw water. The province of Ayutthaya has turned into Lake Ayutthaya. Where a few months ago, you could walk past ancient ruins, you now paddle. The reclining Buddha, looks like he is floating. I do not have any images of the area myself, but I have a few images of the rain storms I saw as I was approaching Suvarnabhumi Airport. If you want to see reports and images from Thailand’s flooded regions go to: http://www.bangkokpost.com.

So here you go with a few images of the thunderheads that have inundated the country over the last few weeks and months.

Unfortunately, odern planes do not allow you to crank the windows down in order to hold the camera out and take a few more images looking down – a clear design shortfall.

We have not seen any flooding in Bangkok, yet. Supposedly, it’s coming. Either way, I think the people who live directly by the river will lose their homes. The mayor of Bangkok has issued two requests to these people to evacuate the homes.

I will go down to the river and see the situation for myself tomorrow.

Until then stay sharp.

 

Markus \m/

 

This Time 20 Years Ago And A Little Bit Of The Present

September 1991 – what happened? After years of waiting for a new album, Guns’N’Roses released two double albums – “Use Your Illusion I/II”….and Jeff was only 9 years old.

Yes, I know it’s not “Appetite For Destruction”, which blew the doors out the barn. But “Use Your Illusion” had You Could Be Mine, which became part of the Terminator2 soundtrack. It also had two great covers Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and Paul McCartney’s Live And Let Die, also a soundtrack for the James Bond movie bearing the same name. And the there was the fifth song on Use Your Illusion II – Get In The Ring. This song expanded my swear word vocabulary by orders of magnitude. But I won’t dwell too much on the past. I just thought I should mention that this was also the farewell of the band. Bummer, very regrettable. Because, I remember how Paradise City, years earlier just blew me away. Similarly to Metallica’s Opus Master Of Puppets, sometimes there is a song that is just a natural force, that just touches something deep and hidden in man. Alright, now I did dwell.

Moving on. I have a few more images from the present. As a Westerner, it is sometimes hard to adjust to Thai time. Not because of the time shift, but because of the rhythm of life and how that rhythm transcends everything.

When you are selling cold drinks in a perpetually hot city, you need to have a lot of faith in the honesty of your below man.

I have mentioned in earlier entries, that at work we have a few ponds with Lotuses. This time, I saw in the root of a lotus leaf and I saw a heart.

Finally, I will share a few shots from the forty-third floor of my condo at sunset. We are looking south the long way and south the short way, towards Thanon Rama 4 along Thanon Rama 3.

This is the road that goes two blocks in front of my condo. It turns into Thanon Rama 3.

Just to show what a great night it was yesterday for photographing I need to show this image with a waning moon. I, indeed was able to restrain myself from pasting a giant pizza-pie full moon into the image and just leave in what was naturally available.

The Helipad, where I touch down gently in the evening with my Jetson Jetpack after a hard day’s work.

Take care…

…and try it – one small, unselfish, good deep a day.

Markus \m/