Stuff about things, places, and sometimes other stuff
25 November 2005
Certain areas in Thailand (like many places) prefer just doing things, rather than spend all this extra effort up front "planning."
This is definately true of our little island. While much "progress" (read: development) has happened over the past few years while we were gone, much less planning has occurred.
One primary defficiency is in Road Works. There is more paved roadway on the island today for sure, but it has been a slow effort. The way the roads were funded, money comes from the national government, and an island council of sorts decides how to spend the money. Apparently the mayor gets 10% off the top for his house, and the remainder is used to build the roads. The route of the road is determined, largely to maximize the value of certain properties, irregardless of utility. Then, the construction company has to pay a "toll" to come to the island (to land the barges of concrete, reinforcing steel, and heavy equipment). Before too long, less than 20% of the funds originally allotted go towards roads where they need to be, and what the funding was intended for. The lack of funds has the net effect of reducing the quality of the final roadway, quickly leading to potholes.
The process is actually quite similar to what happens in the US...
But, unlike the US most transport on this island is by small scooter/motorcycles. These potholes are especially dangerous to the motorbikes.
Well, they decided to fix the potholes! To hear the long-time expats here tell the story, one night without telling anybody, they cut out all the damaged concrete, leaving bigger gaping holes to be filled with concrete te next day. Two things make this method more dangerous than it might seem at the onset: aleady narrow roads, work occurred on both lanes of traffic at the same time; and the only safety barriers were tires laid on the road around the tires.
Unfortunately, the tires aren't that visible at night. There is no reflective coating, and the lights on the motorbikes are a stretch at the best of times.
Sadly, several people died.
The good news is that they learned from this mistake. Last night while going through an intersection, I was surprised to have to dodge several folding metal chairs! Still no reflective tape, and quite confusing in the middle of the road, I understood what it meant.
Our island gets several inches of rain a day during the monsoon. Rain is a pretty important force to plan for.
In engineering school, one of the introduction to engineering classes for all disciplines covers one topic: shit flows down hill. This WILL be on the final. The purpose is to make sure all engineers have a simple basic understanding of things outside their area of expertise, so they don't look like idiots when they get into the real world.
The advanced Civil Engineering classes go into much more detail, covering theorems on such topics as "if there is no place for water to go, where does it go?" and "if I fill up the path water used to take with concrete, how long until it falls apart?"
Road and building planning on Koh Tao has not quite reached that point yet. There isn't much formal drainage yet, so informal gulleys do most of the hard work around here. You don't want to block these gulleys with a building, or you will be faced with a few problems. One of the more common ones is creating a lake in the road. The other problem, flooding the building occurs less frequently, because it is well understood that if your floor is higher than your neighbor's, their house will flood first.
Such was the design basis for the Sairee Night Plaza. Knowing they were building in a natural drainage path, they made sure that their concrete drive was much higher than the surrounding road.
Welcome to Sairee Night Plaza Lake Road. For some reason, there tends to be a build-up of water, which is barely passable by car, much less motorcycle, at this location now...
Curse you, Aqua Scum!