Sunday, October 27, 2013

Slum Fires

One of the unfortunate realities of life in Bangkok is the threat of slum fires.  Bangkok's shanty town slums are tightly packed with makeshift houses allowing fires to spread rapidly.  The lack of streets through the shanty towns also makes it difficult for emergency vehicles to access these areas.  Recently there have been two different slum fires close to our condo.  Those affected by the fires are some of the poorest people in Bangkok to begin with, and many people lost their homes and all their belongings in the these fires. Fortunately nobody was killed.

The first set of pictures is from the Pai Sing Toh slum fire.  This is about a 15 minute walk from our condo.

The second fire was in the Rum Gao area of the Khlong Toey slums.  This was a much larger fire, but was also farther away from our condo.  The close up photos are from Coconuts Bangkok news site while the distant photos are taken from our condo.

Keep those affected by these devastating fires in your prayers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Eid Al-Adha

One of the inquiry themes for the Year 1 students at AISB is Celebrations. Instead of taking 6-8 weeks to learn about different world/religion/family traditions in isolation, we take them as we come and make it an integrated part of our year.  At Meet the Teacher Night, I encouraged parents to let me know when their families would be celebrating different holidays or events. Today was the first day someone has taken me up on it.

Today was the Muslim Holy Day, Eid-Al-Adha. One of my Muslim student's mom thought it was important for her daughter to understand about the day in her own setting. The giving of gifts is very common as part of this celebration as well as a shared meal so, we had a special Eid-Al-Adha cake for lunch. It was a teachable moment for me for a few reasons: 1) I was able to explain that it was not a birthday cake, but a cake to celebrate an important day. 2) Celebrating Eid-Al-Adha fit right into our week's theme of studying Egypt, where today is a national holiday. 

 My student was quite proud to share about the day and I think her mom deserves credit for helping her celebrate at school. 
Our Cake
Eid Mubarak is the traditional greeting for today. It translates as, "Have a blessed Eid"

Here is a good article I found that helps explain how this day is celebrated and why. Link

However, the celebration did not stop there. At the end of the day I was brought a special treat of Beef Curry for Greg and I to have for dinner. She explained that this would be on the table for their big celebration tonight with friends. She also explained that in Muslim areas that there is no beef, camel meat is a good substitution. Can't say I've had Camel Curry before. I confirmed this was beef.

Greg and I served it on top of rice, along side string beans with bacon and street food sweet corn. It was amazing! I'm hoping that the mom bought it from a local restaurant (as opposed to making it homemade) because Greg and I would love to have it again.

To any Muslims reading this blog, Eid Mubarak. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Flood of 2013?

A number of concerned people have emailed me recently after hearing that Thailand is once again experiencing flooding.  I'm not a flood expert, but I have been paying close attention to flooding situation in Thailand and may be able to offer some useful insight.  First I'd like to say that I do not expect Hutchinson Technology's factory in Ayutthaya to experience any flooding in 2013.

Background:  It was almost exactly 2 years ago that we experienced a major flood in Thailand.  My factory was inundated for months with nearly 2 meters of water after waters breached the flood wall surrounding the industrial estate.  As a result Mary and I moved back to the US for a year and a half.  The pictures below are from 2011.

Thailand is experiencing flooding again, but not to the same extent as it did in 2011.  There has been a lot of rain lately filling local rivers and canals to the brim, and flooding many of the rice fields around Ayutthaya province.  I've even driven through standing water a few mornings on my way to work after heavy rains flooded local roads.   The pictures below were taken near the Rojana Industrial Estate during the last week.  The pictures look similar to early October 2011, but fortunately there is more to the story.

The big difference this year compared to 2011 is the water levels in the major dams north of Bangkok.  In 2011 two major dams maxed out capacity and had to release massive quantities of water into already flooding rivers.  Water levels in the Bhumibol and Sirikit dams are actually quite low in 2013 compared to recent years.

Water levels in the dams are under control this year.  The figures below come from the Thailand Irrigation Department.

Bhumibol Dam

Sirikit Dam

Less water in Ayutthaya province in 2013 is a very good thing, but even if there was as much water as 2011 the Rojana Industrial Estate is much better prepared.  In the last two years the flood wall surrounding the industrial park has been significantly upgraded..  Previously there was a 2 meter high simple earth berm around the industrial estate. The old earth berm was not high enough or strong enough for the floods in 2011.

The new flood barrier is built with steel reinforced concrete at its core.  The concrete barrier extends 2 meters into the ground, and 3 meters above the ground with a 2 meter high earth berm around it for additional support.  Even if another flood similar to 2011 were to come, this wall is designed to keep the water out (although you'd still have to take a boat to get to the industrial park).

There is still some concern about localized flash flooding due to heavy rains, but the monsoon season is quickly coming to an end.  There could also still be some impacts from Typhoons Nari and Wipha which are heading towards southeast Asia now, but I do not expect anything like the flooding we saw in 2011.

Parts of eastern Thailand are seeing significant flooding this year, but most of this water will not drain out through Ayutthaya or Bangkok.  The map below shows the areas that have been hardest hit by flooding from the monsoon rains in the last few weeks, and approximately where the water is headed.

In Summary:
  • Will Thailand flood in 2013? Yes, it floods every year.
  • Will the Rojana Industrial Estate flood in 2013? No