A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 4Kevin (เควิน) Khaosan
Lorry trip from Salaya to Bangkok (4/11/11)
I popped in to the coffee shop on my way to the pickup place for the lorry to Bangkok. I asked what ‘ROFE’ written in ink on the cling film of one of the loaves meant. It quickly became clear that it meant ‘loaf’. On another was written ‘Made by Italian chef’. While I was drinking my coffee, a customer came in and remarked on the ‘bang mii’ on sale. She bought a couple of the small buns. I arrived at the pickup place by 8 am, the agreed time. Five hours later, it arrived stacked full of stuff and not a few people. I climbed up and made a place for myself amongst the people, bags and other paraphernalia being transported to Bangkok.
We turned left in front of Mahidol University and passed the flooded market and a boarded up 7-11 with a broken window. A dog stood forlorn on a dry patio. We went over a bridge, part of a network of circular flyovers which was full of cars and red and yellow municipal trucks, ranging from dustcarts to fire engines patiently waiting. People were being picked up in ones and twos until I was perched on the top of the stack of bags. We made our way slowly through the floodwaters in the scorching dry heat.
There was a man sleeping on a foam mat on the roof of a car, itself perched on tyres in a so far successful attempt to keep the engine above water in the limited shade of a roadside tree. A lone person with a plastic bag sat on a bus stop bench, feet above water. A trials biker valiantly negotiated the flood, his bike fully loaded. There were trucks full of people going the opposite way. At one point I saw a modern townhouse estate partly underwater with workers still building though it was unclear if they were building the complex or flood barriers.
It was starting to get uncomfortably hot on the top of the lorry with no hope of finding any shade. Everyone wrapped themselves up in long clothes, hats and scarves. On the right, three young guys were spotted on a float hitching a ride behind a lorry. We overtook a man wading through the water pulling a cockerel along perched on a black inflated ring. Seven young men casually pushed a car on a wooden raft. On the opposite side of the road a boat with a huge fan motor on the back like in the Everglades droned past. “Bao bao!” shouted a man from the side of the street for the lorry to slow down as it passed his ‘riverside’ dwelling. Some people filmed us on their phones as we passed by. There was some friendly banter from sellers in their flooded shop houses and we were even serenaded by a man sitting on his pickup tail gate. At one point I saw a man casting his fishing net in the middle of a three-lane highway. A lorry going in the other direction was stacked high with three or four different types of boat. Cars were triple parked on both sides of a flyover bridge and then I saw my first moving public bus in while; a red 189 ploughing its route through the flood. There were occasionally lots of shouted instructions to the driver as passengers were picked up or dropped off.
All of a sudden, there was a pleasant breeze as we picked up speed on a dry patch. I saw sand bags being filled but also people picking vegetables in a roadside field. It was an unexpected relief not to be able to see water for the first time in weeks. We started dropping off more people than we picked up. Now we had to hold onto our hats as we were going fast for the first time since leaving two hours before. There was quite a lot of traffic and when we came up to a traffic light that was working it seemed strange to think how quickly normal things can become quite alien.
When we arrived in Bangkok, the remaining passengers and I got off. I asked what time the lorry would be going back to Salaya the next day. This was met with some derision as the ‘pilot’, who had been directing operations from the top of the lorry just behind the cab, while shaking my hand, asked me where I was from and reminded me that they had just brought me from Salaya where there was flooding. When they realized I was being serious, they explained that they were in fact headed to Uttaradit and wouldn’t be going back to Salaya until Monday. Chai, who seemed to be officially in charge, and I swapped phone numbers and it looked like I would have to extend my stay in Bangkok by a couple of days.
Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul’s Top Man Tone Facebook Page…