What is the situation really like in Bangkok? Many prospective travelers are utterly confused by the latest news out of the flood-stricken Thai capital.

While the media shows pictures of complete devastation and the government teeters between assurances and dire warnings, many would-be tourists and concerned readers remain perplexed and often misinformed about the conditions on the ground in Bangkok.

A picture on Twitter that went viral this past week sums up the situation quite well. It showed a cameraman filming a television news anchor on a street beside Bangkok's Grand Palace, an iconic structure in the heart of the city. While river water has reportedly lapped at the palace gates, the flooding in the area is minimal. The picture showed the television news reporter on a street beside the palace in ankle-high water. On either side of the cameraman and reporter, the street was dry.

Indeed most of central Bangkok is dry with little indication that anything is wrong, save the ominous walls of sandbags stacked around hotels and homes.

The situation in the outlying neighborhoods is certainly unsettling and without a doubt the worst the capital has experienced in over five decades. However, the problem is - for now at least - isolated.

It's like saying there is flood in Iowa so don't go to the United States, said Vicky Mary, president of Victoria Travel. She worries that sensationalism may have terrible effects on Thailand's tourism industry.

Mary has a honeymoon couple that left last Monday for a 12-day trip to Bangkok and Chiang Mai. She said she called every single hotel and tour they booked and only one tour was cancelled (a trip to the Siamese ruins of Ayutthaya).

I called the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel in Bangkok and asked the receptionist what the situation was like. She said, 'honey I'm looking at the river right now, it's fine.'

The Royal Orchid Sheraton overlooks Bangkok's Chao Phrya River.

Newspapers in Thailand are careful to point out that while Bangkok is bracing for severe, if isolated, floods, popular tourist areas like Phuket, Pattaya, and Ko Samui - some of Thailand's biggest draw cards for tourists - are fine.

Tourism is a vital part of Thailand's economy, employing about 15 percent of the workforce and contributing about six percent of the GDP.

The latest news had devastated the industry. Nationwide, 381 people have died in the floods over the last three months, 110,000 more have been displaced - 10,000 of those in Bangkok alone, according to government figures.

Last Thursday, the United States joined a growing list of nations that have placed a Travel Alert for the Land of Smiles.

The U.S. Department of state warned against all but essential travel to areas of the central and lower parts of northern Thailand, including Bangkok.

Though most of Bangkok's tourist areas and shopping districts have not been affected by the floods, Britain, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the UAE among others issued similar warnings earlier last week, urging citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the popular holiday region.

While Bangkok's second-largest airport temporarily shut down last week, the main hub, Suvarnabhumi International Airport, is operating normally. Still, many travel agents are telling people to hold off on travel to Bangkok for now.

Blake Fleetwood, president of Cook Travel, an international travel agency based in New York City, said that Bangkok is the third most popular destination for his clients.

A lot of businessmen in Asia will go to Bangkok for leisure. Right now, we're telling them that it's flooding and if they haven't booked yet, maybe hold off.

Fleetwood said he receives about five or six calls and several emails a day from travelers concerned about the situation in Bangkok. He advises travelers not to do anything rash.

For now, we just have to wait and see, Fleetwood said. We're advising people to stay informed, be ready to change, and think about other places they may want to go.

While isolated portions of Bangkok and pockets within Northern Thailand are affected by the floods, the popular beach resorts and islands of the south remain unaffected and open for tourists.

Want to learn more about the floods in Bangkok? Watch this quirky animated video that's become a viral sensation Thailand:


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