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Residents of many provinces face imminent flooding – or the worsening of existing flooding – as massive amounts of water move towards their areas from parts further north. The run-off water is set to reach Bangkok between October 16 and 18, which is also the high-tide period.

“Floods will hit the capital for sure. It’s just a question of where,” Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute director Dr Royol Chitradon said yesterday.

Water management and drainage capacity would determine how serious the situation would be, he said.

According to the 24/7 Emergency Operations Centre for Floods, Storms and Landslides, pushing water out to sea will get much more difficult later this month because the seawater level is about to rise. The centre’s deputy director, Wiboon Sa-nguanpong, said that by the time the huge amount of water being released from the Bhumibol and Pasak Jolasid dams reaches the lower Central region late next week, the high-tide period will have already begun.

“Overflowing [of rivers] will likely worsen,” said Wiboon, who also heads the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department.

Located in Lop Buri, the Pasak Jolasid Dam has been holding water at 136 per cent of its normal storage level. As of press time, it was releasing 950 cubic metres of water per second.

Apart from Ayutthaya, the other provinces ordered to prepare for emergency evacuations are Ang Thong, Chai Nat, Chachoengsao, Lop Buri, Nakhon Sawan, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Sing Buri and Uthai Thani.

Under an agreement reached at the National Flood Relief Centre’s meeting yesterday, the army will take over the job of protecting Ayutthaya, Lop Buri and Nakhon Sawan provinces from further damage.

Provincial governors have been charged with supervising the protection of other flooded provinces, and they will work closely with local police commanders, 191 police radio centre and the Royal Thai Police Office.

“During the next one or two days, it will be raining too. In fact, it looks set to pour down in many provinces in the Central region,” Wiboon said.

Located in Tak, Bhumibol Dam has reached 98 per cent of its capacity and is now releasing water, forcing people living downstream to struggle with flooding. In Ban Tak district, where floodwaters are about one metre deep, people in 42 villages have had to travel around by boat.

“This is the worst flooding in 52 years. It’s the worst since Bhumibol Dam was constructed,” Ban Tak district chief Thanin Wichitrakoon said. He believed the floods would continue for a few more days, as the dam had been forced to release water.

Elsewhere, residents of many provinces were bracing for more serious floods as run-off water from the upper part of the country raced towards their areas.

Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut said that next Thursday or Friday, water would be flowing down the Chao Phraya River in Nakhon Sawan at a rate of between 4,500 and 5,500 cubic metres per second. The sheer scale of the water-flow rate means that more flooding was likely for those living along the river, he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pipatchau Paiboon said the governor of Nakhon Sawan had already been instructed to prepare residents for evacuation.

“Flooding will spread further in riverside provinces, starting with Nakhon Sawan and followed by Chai Nat,” Theera said. To date, flooding has hit 28 provinces and affected more than 2.6 million people. The disaster has killed 244 people and left three missing. It is estimated that floods have already ravaged 7.5 million rai of farmland. As many as 182 roads are impassable due to deep floodwater levels.

Floods have left 1,215 factories submerged, affecting more than 41,000 workers. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday described the situation as “critical” and said she was quite worried about the upcoming storms. Royal Irrigation Department director-general Chalit Damrongsak, said the water volume is much larger than during last year’s flooding.

Yingluck said that in flood-marooned areas, the urgent task was to deliver food. She instructed government agencies to co-ordinate with both private and public-sector organisations in their flood-relief operations.

Science Minister Plodprasob Surassawadee urged individuals and private firms to make their boats and vessels available for volunteer operations to push water out to sea.

Wat Rong Khun, the stunning White Temple, its facade shimmering in the sun from thousands of tiny mirrored pieces inserted into its gleaming white surface. This temple, which is in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand, is more well-known among foreigners as The White Temple.

The temple is located in Ban Rong Khun, about 13 kilometres south-west of Chiang Rai city along Phahonyothin Road. It is the brainchild of Thai artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat who started building it back in 1998.In an interview, he said that “maybe in 60 to 90 years after my death will the projected be completed”.

Chaloemchai Khositphiphat, in his lifetime has become a great Contemporary Thai artist that is admired by many people. He has not only revitalized an interest in the ancient Thai murals found in temples, but he has at the same time produce his only unique style. Most obvious is the choice of white for the temple while others are golden. He said that he believes that gold is only suitable for people who lust for evil deeds.

The attention to detail in the temple is remarkable and you do need to spend some time here studying the beautiful artwork. To reach the temple you have to cross a bridge over a pit of hell. Down below there are sculptures of people who are presumably trying to escape from hell. Inside the temple is a beautiful coloured mural of the Buddha. If you take a close look at the devil you will see small portraits of Bin Laden and George Bush in the Devil’s eyes. Across from the Buddha images, the artist has painted a montage of recent events, including the plane flying into the Twin Towers.

One of the new buildings is this Golden Toilet which is probably the most beautiful rest room in Thailand. Surprisingly it is also free, the same as for entry to the White Temple. Though obviously donations are welcome as up-keep of all the buildings is never-ending. You can buy reproductions of Chaloemchai’s impressive artwork in the souvenir shop. The White Temple is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Thai Lunar Calendar

01 of May 2011

If you have ever been to Thailand, then you probably already know that the calendar here is slightly different. Here we use calendars that show the Buddhist Era. This counts the years from the time when the Lord Buddha passed into Nirvana. This predates the Christian Era by 543 years. So, even though this year is 2008 A.D., in Thailand, calendars show it as 2551 B.E. Although Thailand adopted the solar calendar system in the late 1880?s in order to synchronize with the Western calendar, the new year started on 1st April. This continued like this up until 1941 when it was changed to 1st January.

Thai calendars show both Buddhist Era and Christian Era dates. They also have another set of dates which belongs to the old system which calculates the Thai Lunar Months. This is when it gets complicated. Lunar months do not match the solar calendar. For example, although we are now in August which is the 8th month, it is in fact the 9th lunar month. So, why is important to still show the lunar calendar although it hasn’t been used officially for several hundred years? Well, all Buddhist holidays and festivals are based on the Thai lunar calendar. It tells people which day of the week is “wan phra” or the holy day and which days we should celebrate holidays such as Khao Phansa and Loy Krathong.

One of the questions we often get at ThailandQA.com Forums is when will Loy Krathong be celebrated this year or the next. This is because many of these holidays are not fixed by the solar calendar. Here are the official dates according to the lunar calendar:

Magha Puja Day – full moon day of the third lunar month
Ashana Puja Day – on the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the eighth lunar month
Khao Phansa – on the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month
Loy Krathong – on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month
Phra Samut Chedi Temple Fair – on the fifth day of the waning moon in the eleventh lunar month

A complete cycle of the moon, from the new moon (dark moon) to the full moon is 29 and a half days. To make up for this, months alternate between 29 days and 30 days. Like I said before, August this year is the 9th lunar month. It has 15 days of waxing moon (known in Thai as “keun”) and 14 days of waning moon (known in Thai as “raem”). Next month has an equal 15 days of waxing and 15 days of waning. For most of us, today is Thursday 21st August. But, on my lunar calendar, it is “5 raem 5 kam deuan 8?. The first “5? is for the 5th day of the week which is Thursday. Then “raem 5? is the 5th day of the waning moon. Finally, “deuan 8? translates as the 8th month. I should also mention that “kam” refers to the period starting after sunset and not the start of the day.

Let’s take a look at some of the festivals mentioned above. First an easy one. Loy Krathong is celebrated every year on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month. The 12th lunar month is usually in November though it is sometimes earlier. This year, the full moon is on 12th November 2008. In Thai this is “keun 15 kam deuan 12?. For the next example, we will take the start of the Buddhist Rains Retreat which is called Khao Phansa. This starts on the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month. This year, the 8th lunar month started on 3rd July. In Thai, waning is “raem” which is the period after a full moon. This happened on 17th July and so the next day is then “raem 1 kam deuan 8?.

After a while it does become easier. You just need a Thai calendar that marks the lunar months. To find out the dates for the Buddhist festivals and Loy Krathong for next year, it is possible to buy 100 year calendars. However, be warned, they have made mistakes in their calculations before and some years we celebrated major Buddhist holidays on the wrong day!

Buddhist Era (B.E.): The official year in Thailand is counted from the death of the Buddha. The year the Buddha passed away is 0 B.E. To convert from A.D. to B.E., one can generally add 543. For example, the year 2000 A.D. would be 2543 B.E. in Thailand. Although the Buddhist Era dates are widely used, most people are aware of the Gregorian dates. In neighboring India, Sri Lanka, and Burma the date of the Buddha’s passing is counted as 1 B.E., however in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia it is counted as 0 B.E.

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