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Weekly Travel Q&A: Thailand Travel Alerts

My sister and I have plans to holiday in Bangkok and the south of Thailand (Phi Phi Islands, Koh Samui) in late December and early January but our overprotective parents will never let us go until I get a definitive all clear. Can you help us convince them the state of emergency is over?

Emma K., Sydney

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While far be it from me to advise your parental units to relinquish their custodial instincts, you can confidently tell mum and dad to breathe easy in this particular case. Indeed, there are some parts of Thailand that warrant a degree of caution (Cambodia and Malaysia border provinces) but, happily for you and your sister, it is business as usual for the likes of Bangkok, Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Koh Samui.

But what about the floods you ask? I have two answers for you; one anecdotal and one authoratative. A good mate of mine who works in Shanghai just came back from a two week holiday in Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui. I just spoke with him about the trip and the word “flood” did not come up in the conversation until the 15 minute mark. As he told me, people tend to lump all of Thailand in together when, truth be told, the floodplain of the Chao Phraya River and Mekong River basin, while extensive, has some limits. Was the 2011 monsoon season catastrophic? Without question. The floods hit close to 13 million people, with a World Bank estimate of 45 billion USD in damage.

It is crucial, however, to put the disaster into proper context. The effect on central Bangkok, for one, was largely benign from a superficial standpoint, with floodwaters diverted away from the capital. With that, on to our authoratative evidence. This just in from the Tourism Authority of Thailand: Five of the nineteen provinces safe from the flood crisis and ready to welcome tourists this winter.

If your parents demand a less partial source of comfort, look no further than the excellent travel advisory site from the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. On the subject of the floods in Thailand, the site is, in our opinion, overcautious (which, much like your parents, is what you want from a government department): While now less severe, flooding continues to affect extensive parts of central Thailand and major urban areas on the floodplain of the Chao Phraya River, including some areas of Bangkok. Flooding is likely to persist in some areas throughout December 2011.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom puts it simply: Flood waters are now receding in most areas.

And what about the U.S. State Department, an entity known to be slightly alarmist at the best of times? Most tourist destinations, such as Phuket and Chiang Mai, are unaffected by the current flooding. Bangkok’s main international airport, Suvarnabhumi, is operating normally. Floodwaters are being diverted away from central Bangkok to flow through and around the eastern portions of Bangkok Metropolitan area as they drain to the sea.

The best part about the State Department advisory from your vantage point? It dates back to November 16. Conditions have vastly improved over the last month.

One last optimistic tidbit. The main flood evacuation centre in Bangkok will close next week. To paraphrase Deputy Bangkok Governor Taya Teepsuwan: “Since the flood has receded in most areas in Bangkok and affected people have been able to return home, the shelter is no longer necessary.”

So go. Go to Thailand with a sense of confidence and security. Whether in Bangkok or Koh Samui, you and your sister will be blissfully unaware. Floods … what floods? Leave the inflatable raft at home; bring plenty of sunblock.

Bangkok City Guide

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