How I Got Through a Flash Flood in Bangkok

A few years ago I decided to leave Australia behind and head to Thailand. Loved the place, the food, the feel when walking down the street. I had a pretty good life over there. A one-bedroom apartment, fast internet, nice TV with cable television, who could complain?

Sometimes you just gotta take the news more seriously. Flood warnings were on the TV but there was no sign of a flood in my region. I figured this area was just another area that wouldn’t be affected. Yeah, when they say “flash” flood though, they really mean it.

I was over in High School Bali. Didn’t really know much about the area, in fact it was a little distant from the city and I needed to have a taxi ride to the train station THEN I could hop on the train and head into Siam Paragon. But what Phetkasem had was excellent. Cheap accommodation, access to the internet and really cheap food. I used to walk out of my Soi (alleyway) and head down the street to a group of Thai mum’s selling Western food. Steaks, fish and chips, little burgers, all done really well, for a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay in Australia.

But that ended pretty quickly..

I went to a night club called Bed Supper Club and had an awesome night out in Bangkok, as per usual. 6 hours down the road, it’s already 4 am and things are slowing down so it’s a good time to head back home. But something was a little different now over in my area. The drains had a layer of water. But really it wasn’t anything that bothered me. I figured it would just go down the next day.

8 am, I get a call from my agent.

Agent: "Is it flooded over there?"

Me: "No I don't think so, I just came home a few hours ago"

Agent: "Check out side"

I awake from a 3 and a half hour sleep, look over the balcony (on the 6th floor) and notice the sky shining from the ground. The same alleyway I walked over just a few hours ago had water that was about 1.5 meters high judging from the trees. Next thing I hear is the “beep, beep, beep” from the phone. It’s low on battery. Power has been out.

Better conserve that phone battery..

I gather myself, get my keys and head over to the elevator. It doesn’t work, the elevator has been shut down. I head down 6 floors of stairs and come to a dead office with over a meter of water filling the area. At this point – panic. It’s time to get out of here, but how? It was like I had awoken out of a coma and humanity was wiped off the planet. Everyone was gone and no one told me anything until it was too late. There was absolutely no one in sight. This place had been abandoned. Did I drink so much at the club that I didn’t hear the evacuation siren? Was there even an evacuation siren?

Heading back to the room, I observe the items that I “need”, just like those scenario quizzes you do in school.

My item list:

  • A steel string acoustic guitar & case
  • Laptop
  • Clothes
  • Useless junk, like shampoo, conditioner and so forth.

I decided to take my laptop as I figured I’d need this if I come across a WIFI connection later on. That way, at least I could communicate with friends and family on Facebook and could access bank accounts online. Luckily for me, I had a laptop bag which was just a little smaller than a backpack so I used this and filled it up with a spare change of clothes, my laptop and all my identification and documents. The last thing I wanted was to lose my identification and go through the process of following that up with the Embassy looking like a homeless man.

Dirty water in Bangkok

I head back down the stairs, but the water.. it’s disgusting. Looking at the rate of the flood though, I decided to dive in (not literally) to the water. But before I could get a foot into this smelly, filthy water, I had to make some precautions. Did I have any visible cuts? Anything for that water to seep into and infect? Last thing I needed was medical attention while being stranded. Thankfully though, no cuts, I was good to go. I decided to use 2 plastic bags to protect my feet right over my flip flops. Extra protection just seemed like common sense, right? Well, they didn’t work too well. They quickly filled up with water and made my legs heavier and harder to walk through all the muck. Couldn’t reach down and untie them either, was up to my head in water. I managed to scrape it a long and ripped it off as they got caught on something.

Mind you, I was deep into my Soi (remember: Alley) and unfortunately it was a long walk before I could even reach the main street. Now picture this, I’m 6’3″ and the water is up to my chin, while holding up the laptop above my head. The water stinks, it’s black and you can’t see a thing through it. The bottom of the flood “bed” I guess you could call it, is all mushy paper and plastic which catches onto your feet as you push your legs through.

Old washed up Bangkok trash. Terrific..

Now that I’m ready to head down the Soi, the thoughts go through my head that were on the news warning all citizens of Bangkok. Crocodiles. Crocodiles which had been washed through the rivers and mixed into the flooded roads. My heart starts pumpin’ a little faster and I’m hoping that this water doesn’t get deeper or that I don’t walk into a hole that I can’t see. I’m about a kilometer down and I start to see a few people in boats and another lady holding bags of what seemed to be food. All the shops were closed. They had to be, they were flooded out.

To my relief, military trucks are in the distance. They’re helping the locals get out of the area. I managed to get up another kilometer or so and saw buses also helping out the locals evacuate the area. Luckily the flood across the roads weren’t too high, it was just beneath my chest. Once I managed to get across to the other side of the wide main street, I hopped on a bus, not knowing my where the hell I was going.

The bus went on for miles. I just tried to dry my self and gather myself while I figured out a place to go once the bus reached dry land. After nearly an hour, I heard the bus engine kinda kick in, as the water had been slowing it down. One look out the window and one look around to the other passengers on the bus was great relief – we were on dry land. But I didn’t have a home to go to. I was new in Bangkok. I couldn’t just waltz up at my parents place, because well, they were half way across the world. Thankfully though, I did have a friend that allowed me to stay with them for a while until things cleared over. I never did get my stuff back, it wasn’t until months later I returned to Bangkok as I moved to Jakarta after the flood.

I hope you enjoyed the story anyway. It’s not much in terms of a survival story, but it was just interesting being put into the position so unexpectedly and being overseas at that. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you next time.