Thursday, October 27, 2011

Poor Bangkok

There is little doubt. The flood is coming. For several days the government has tried everything possible to protect the city centre, but it seems those efforts will come to nothing this weekend when high tides combine with ever greater volumes of run-off water from the floods up country to spill over and the Chao Praya river is going to burst its banks.

All along the part of Sukhumvit Road, where I've been staying, there are sandbags protecting shops, hotels and other buildings. Some shopkeepers have gone as far as constructing brick walls around their entrances and windows. People are as prepared as they can be. Now the government has declared a five day holiday over the weekend and a lot of people are leaving the city.

The main international airport was the busiest I have ever seen it. On my flight out (to Brunei) every seat was taken. Yes, I've made it out and am in transit in Brunei. I have finally got my internet connection working at the Coffee Bean cafe. There is not much in transit at this small airport. Oh.. would someone please tell Royal Brunei Airlines that jazz is particularly annoying and irritating for a lot of people. They use it as calming music when the plane is on its approach to landing, but I find it quite the opposite !

Those of you who have travelled on Royal Brunei will know that each flight receives a blessing before takeoff. I had slept through the other ones (I frequently fall asleep as soon as I sit down, then wake up when the food or drinks trolley comes along), but I was awake for this morning's blessing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Photo Post : Brunei

Jame 'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque.

Mosque workers.

Masjid Omar 'Ali Saifuddien.

Steps for boarding water taxis.

Brunei - country 73

A short visit to Brunei is probably long enough. This tiny, oil-rich Sultanate has only been fully independent for about 25 years. The supermarket next door to my hotel sells lots of Waitrose products from Britain at reasonable prices.

With my two nights here I decided the way to see all the tourist attractions was to hire a car and driver for a few hours. So today I have been to two mosques, two museums, and seen the palace and the water village.

The Brunei museum houses the Sultan's collection of Islamic art. It is really something to see 14th and 15th Century Iranian and Egyptian Qur'ans, with their beautiful calligraphy. The museum also has an interesting natural history section, and one devoted to the story of oil exploration.

Brunei's currency is tied to that of Singapore, so I have been spending Singaporean dollars. They were easy to get hold of in New Zealand.

I have been watching the flood situation in Bangkok very closely. Don Muang airport is closed now, but the international Suvarnabhumi airport (where I'm due to land tomorrow) is fine. The city centre is fine at the moment, but the northern suburbs are pretty wet. From what I have read, my quick visit there before flying back to NZ should be ok. Just as I dodged volcanic ash earlier in the year to go to Adelaide, I think I will be able to dodge the huge volume of water that has been making its way south for the past month or so. I get the impression that widespread flooding in Bangkok will come, with the high tide on Friday being what tips the balance. It will be very sad, and I hope the projection is wrong.