I wonder if you read The Nation newspaper on Wednesday 2nd Aug? The
front-page headline reads: “Unprecedented floods devastate Chiang Mai”.
Although I live less than 500 metres from the river and have a business in
the Night Bazaar I was unaware of such devastation. All I saw was a small
section of the Chiang Mai - Lamphun Road closed between Nawarat Bridge and
the new Iron Bridge. Here the water was ankle deep, which was depicted in
the photo on page 5 of the paper. The picture on the front page was of
flooding in Hang Dong, but since it is an aerial photo it is difficult to
determine how deep the flood-water is. Either way, the recent flood was
nowhere near the level of last year’s.
The smaller heading was: “tourism in tatters”. This presumably refers to
the fact that the train link was cut due to flooding in the neighbouring
province of Lampang.
Last year we had the worst flooding for forty or fifty years and by
definition they were not unprecedented. By comparison the flooding so far
this year was minimal, and the inconvenience for tourists was equally small.
Okay, so they may have used a bit of poetic license, so what’s the
problem? The problem is that front page headlines like this mean that
thousands of tourists that would have come to Chiang Mai will cancel their
trip and go elsewhere. Also, every taxi driver, tour guide and man on the
street in Bangkok will inform anyone headed for Chiang Mai that it is
flooded, and they will continue to do so for the next two or three weeks.
Bad news makes the headlines but “Chiang Mai returns to normal”
doesn’t, so people continue deterring visitors from Chiang Mai for weeks
because they are unaware that things are back to normal.
Sensationalist stories may well sell papers, but they can have a bearing on
peoples livelihood. Chiang Mai truly suffered last year and needs a good
tourist season this year to help it recover. The Nation should think twice
before scaring off the tourists unnecessarily. More stories about the
inaction on flood-prevention would be much more worthwhile, and if they were
short of a good front-page headline for Wednesday, what was wrong with
“South hit by 70 attacks”?