A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 3Kevin (เควิน) Khaosan
Bread Day – (3/11/11)
Today was the day I decided not to watch any more news on TV. After a banana breakfast, I attempted to clean my front yard as there was a worrying amount of small flies accumulating. I didn’t have any water proof boots so decided to use black plastic bin liners instead. I put my plants that were on my doorstep, or still in water in the yard, onto the chest-high walls on either side of the yard. I also put the black bin there too. So my front step, which is the width of the house, was now empty except for one-storey of sand bags. I got a hard-brush with a long handle and started to push the dark green sediment slowly out into the soi. I swept and mopped the front step. When I took the plastic bin liners off I discovered that they were not as water-proof as I had thought. After showering, I received a call from Paolo. He called to say he had successfully baked 11 loaves and some rolls. I decided to have a second, more substantial breakfast in preparation for the day ahead. I heated some baked beans and threw in some leftover rice, my anemic pet gecko giving disapproving looks. While my food was digesting, I jotted down the sounds I could hear from my kitchen.
The splutter of a boat’s engine
The boat revs up then fades
As it passes down the klong
Relative peace now
The hum of a water pump
The voices and birds barely distinguishable
A scratching on the roof
A bird or a squirrel
A water bird trilling
I made it through my gate without having to put my foot down. I decided not to stop at U and Pui’s semi-submerged coffee shop as I felt time was pressing. I left the bike at Pitchaya apartments and saw Tu and a guy at the entrance to the apartment complex selling bottles of water, coke and ice under a big umbrella. I went to have a chat. Tu suggested I wait with them in the shade for a lorry. I suggested we swapped flip-flops as mine rubbed my feet. She kindly obliged. I got bored of waiting for a truck and decided to head off on foot. After five minutes, I arrived at the bridge over klong Maha Sawat. I arrived at the top of the bridge in time to see a fisherman fire his catapult spear down into the klong below. His line being pulled in different directions as the fish tried desperately to get away; there was little chance. As the fish was pulled up from the water, the 10 inch spear dangled on the end of the line having cleanly gone through its body just below its head. A friend of the fisherman threaded the spear back through the fish and the fish was dropped onto the hot tarmac of the road to flap about in desperation. I crossed the bridge to the awaiting flood water. I was hailed by a gaggle of people with boats. They were offering me a ride through the flood water over the railway to Mahidol University, about 500 metres away. The price was 10 baht; someone suggested 100. I got in the designated boat and was pulled along by Ming, a 13-year old school girl who wasn’t at school because it was closed. I felt a bit uncomfortable sitting in the boat like a mandarin and urged Ming to get in so that we could paddle. She refused as it was easier to pull the boat than to row it. In no time, I was at some metal steps up the sandbag wall outside the Mahidol entrance. I took the dry long-cut through the Mahidol campus. I rejoined the flooded road in front of the university further up but used the sand bag wall alongside the flooded road as a footpath and made it nearly all the way to Big C without having to go in the water. I passed the Tesco Lotus, closed because of staff shortages. I went into Big C but discovered that they’d obviously not had a delivery since I was last there two days ago. I bought some cream.
I went into the water and got my shorts wet for the first time that day. I waded towards Poalo’s, passing the Mahidol Arts Faculty on my left, and a bit further up the Royal Thai Navy School with the guard in full uniform inside his sandbagged kiosk. Four navy cadets were playing in the water, showing off to four girls who were sitting in the floodwater. “Pai nai?” I am asked a bit further along the Salaya – Nakhon Chai Si road. “Durn len” I reply, using one of my stock responses, which hit the target. On the right was an outside depot of flood goods. I popped in to see if the price of a boat had come down. 5,500 baht, so the price hadn’t changed. As I turned to leave I heard ‘4,000 baht’ and was informed that another type of boat was 4,000 baht. Unfortunately, it was made of metal and weighed 30 kilos which would be too heavy to carry over dry patches alone.
I passed the Ministry of Culture on the left. The last two hundred metres of the trip were the deepest at chest-level and I was glad to get to Paolo’s restaurant at Rangsee Place without being attacked again.
Paolo poured me a glass of beer while I had a quick shower and put on some dry clothes. I took my beer into the kitchen of the restaurant and Paolo proudly showed me his bread. It smelt and tasted delicious. He explained that it had cost him about 300 baht (not including his time) to bake the 7 kilosish of bread. There were 11 huge loaves weighing almost 700 grammes each as well as eight small buns. He reckoned the big loaves would cost about 100 baht at a supermarket. I paid him 500 baht for the lot, though we both agreed we weren’t in it for the money. Paolo cut one of the loaves in half and then cling filmed all the loaves. I had another beer but said I’d better not stay too long as I didn’t want to get too drunk. Paolo informed me that it was the last of the beer anyway. I insisted he keep one of the loaves and we packed some of the bread into my bag and the rest I had to carry in a black plastic bag.
I retreated into the water very carefully as I didn’t want to slip and waterlog the bread and started my journey back home. Paolo had revised up my previous estimate of the distance and I now realized that I had to cradle the bread above the water line for seven kilometres and not the five I had previously guesstimated.
I hoisted my two bags of precious cargo above the water and felt relieved to get through the initial part of the journey without slipping and the bread still dry.
I passed the Navy College on the right and then the Faculty of Arts. I negotiated a couple of fast flowing tributaries and was happy to reach the sandbag wall just after Big C on the right with the bread still safe. This was the half-way point, or at least psychologically, as I knew that there was a real possibility of not having to go into the water again until I reached my flooded soi. At a bus stop I encountered a couple of women eating. I offered them one of the two half-loaves. They were appreciative though one of them did ask if there was anything inside it. They offered me a couple of bottles of water which I declined. A hundred metres later, I was at the gas bottle shop and dug out the other half loaf to give to the woman there. I stepped down into the Mahidol University campus and started along the long-cut. Immediately, a young guy on a motorbike offered me a lift. This was much appreciated as it was hot and the bags were getting heavier. When we got to the exit with the sandbag wall truck pick-up/drop-off point, I delved into my bag looking for a roll to give him. He waved me away saying he had plenty to eat and then he was off.
I felt greatly encouraged when I realized there was a fire engine about to depart that was going to turn right. So, without having to wait on the grassy knoll, I was transferred to the fire-engine and clambered up the ladder on the side of the truck. I got off at the bridge-cum-car park and walked towards Pitchaya Apartments where the school is. I passed the boat-makers on the left side of the road welding metal panels to the boat frames. Just ahead on the same side of the road was the closed post-office whose grounds were now home to some families. When I arrived at the Pitchaya complex, I encountered one of the municipal workers who was camping out in front of the school and gave him a loaf. He suggested to the security guard that they could share it. I popped in to see if Tu or any of the gang was about. I gave a loaf to Ter’s mother. Ter, Ter’s mother, M and one of the cleaners all immediately tasted it and agreed it was delicious.
I retrieved my bike and pedaled to the coffee shop down the road. I gave U a loaf of bread and then suggested he might like to buy some of the remaining loaves to sell in his coffee shop. He asked how much I was selling them for. I told him 70 baht a loaf. He immediately agreed to buy the remaining five loaves that he could see in the black plastic bag. I fished around for the buns and pulled out five which I sold to him for ten baht each. He telephoned Pui who came along and paid me the 400 baht. I had a can of Leo and after the mandatory tot of whisky I was on my way. I arrived at my soi and bumped into Thip and her housemate who were out for a stroll in their wellies. I showed off the bread and told them I’d leave them some on their gate. I stopped at Oum’s and gave her a loaf. She gave me a lime that she explained I should use to ward off snakes from my house. Safely home, I checked the contents of my bags. There were three small rolls left. I put two in a small bag and paddled opposite to hang them on their gate.
I came back home and went upstairs to fetch the peanut butter.
Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul’s Top Man Tone Facebook Page…