By Ian Williams, NBC News Correspondent
BANGKOK, Thailand – The floodwaters that had swamped the riverside community of Sam Sen receded Monday, but nobody was taking any chances as they worked to reinforce a wall of sandbags that had been overwhelmed by Sunday's all-time record high tide in the Chao Phraya River.
Men and women formed a relay team, passing sandbags from hand to hand along the length of the wall. All the time keeping a wary eye on the bloated waters of the river – known as “the river of kings” – which swept by in front of their small wooden houses. There were smiles and jokes.
A small boy pointed to the water line on the side of his house, a full three feet up the wall, as tall as him. But now, just a couple of inches of water flowed across his bare feet.
On Sunday, Thai soldiers had formed a human wall in a forlorn attempt to block the flood water in this area.
Thailand’s prime minister has told the city that with the passing of the weekend's high tides, they may be over the worst. But the information from the authorities has chopped and changed, and there's a good deal of skepticism in these frontline communities.
Ian Williams / NBC News
Shoring up the flood defenses in Sam Sen, a riverside community swamped Sunday during an all time record high tide on the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok.
Kritsada Rakwongchai just smiled when I asked him what he thought of the prime minister's comments.
Rakwongchai is in charge of drainage on the other side of the river from Sam Sen, and we had followed him through chest high water to one of the dikes he supervises.
"I watched the water surging in," he told me. "It flooded this high in just 30 minutes."
He said he's seen nothing like this in his 10 years in the job.
Rakwongchai, a good 6’ 5” tall, led the way, and though the water was murky, he knew the route well, cautioning us about hidden stones, steps, holes or dips. Bangkok's streets and sidewalks are not easy to navigate – even when you can see where you are going.
We waded gingerly past semi-submerged wooden homes, where whole families had taken refuge on the upper floor.
"They are frightened," Rakwongchai said, a dog suddenly appearing and paddling frantically between two houses. "Some have started to move to evacuation centers, but many are staying to look after their belongings."
One woman pleaded with him to find her baby milk. While another sat in her window watching the water go by. "Because my house is high, I didn't expect to get flooded. Now, what can I do?" she asked.
Ian Williams / NBC News
Kritsada Rakwongchai, who is in charge of drainage in the Bangkok Noi area of the city, shows us a broken dike.
While many riverside and canal-side communities were swamped by the weekend's high tide, the center of Bangkok was largely unscathed and remains dry. For the most part the flood defenses did hold.
But this is really the story of two floods: those caused by the high tides, and those more directly the result of the massive run-off from flood waters almost surrounding the capital, the result of weeks of flooding in surrounding provinces, which has been slowly bearing down on Bangkok, picking off the northern and eastern suburbs one by one.
There was no let up for those areas Monday, though the more optimistic of the authorities predict that with lower coastal tides, the water will drain more quickly to the sea.
I asked Rakwongchai what he thought.
"There's water everywhere," he said, with a shake of the head. "Water everywhere."