A Singaporean in Bangkok

FLOOD waters are encroaching on many parts of Bangkok, but Singaporean Sue Lee saw little of it when she visited the Thai capital over the weekend.

"I saw many sandbags, but though we went to some places that were said to be flooded, we did not see any water," the 32-year-old marketing manager said of her four-day trip to Bangkok, which began last Friday.

She and five friends made only minor adjustments to their itinerary, including taking the Skytrain to the far side of the Chao Phraya river, to check out the reportedly flooded Thonburi district on Sunday.

But the frequent visitor to Bangkok said there was not a drop of water to be seen near the Wongwan Yai Skytrain station at Thonburi.

Although they did not make it to the popular Chatuchak street market - one area which has seen flooding - Ms Lee and her friends visited Platinum Mall, a perennial favourite with both tourists and locals for its fashion bargains.

Except that this time around, the mall was bustling with Thai shoppers, and there were not many tourists. The upside was that the infamous Bangkok traffic snarl was nowhere in sight.

The group returned on Monday, glad that they had not cancelled the trip which they booked six months ago.

But not every traveller is willing to brave the waterlogged capital, and the prognosis for Thailand's tourism industry is gloomy.

Ms Suchada Kirakul, the deputy governor of the Bank of Thailand, anticipates that tourism revenue will drop by about 20 billion baht (S$829 million) and the number of tourists to be 700,000 to 800,000 fewer than expected.

The reduced number of travellers has forced Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Cathay Pacific Airways to cut flights to the city, though the main Suvarnabhumi International Airport is still operating behind a 3.5m-high dyke.

SIA, which flies 35 times a week to Thailand, has suspended flights SQ974 and SQ977 till Sunday.

Although travel warnings have been issued by several governments and flood waters continue to inch towards central Bangkok, the situation on the ground is - literally - fluid, and it is possible to keep dry by keeping up with flood information online, Ms Lee told my paper.

She relied on Twitter for the latest updates on the flood situation, and on YouTube videos for advice on preparing for flooding. The concierge at their hotel also advised them on alternative destinations and routes in order to avoid flood waters, she said.

But the uncertainty of the situation means that business has evaporated, even for areas which are above water.

Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday said she would skip the Apec summit in Hawaii over the weekend to focus on the situation at home.

The floods, the worst to hit Thailand in decades, have killed 527 people nationwide and are expected to plague Bangkok for several more weeks, at least.

The GDP forecast this year may be below 2.6 per cent, down from an initial projection of 4.1 per cent in July, Ms Suchada told the Bangkok Post yesterday. The flood damage to GDP is now estimated at 150 billion baht.


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