A December 2004 trip
to Thailand by cheryl morris
Quote: What really happened in Thailand during the tsunami of '04.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 17, 2005
Koh Lanta, Thailand
The morning of 12/26/04 was brilliantly sunny and warm, as each morning had been on our Thai holiday. I thought it would be another day of relaxing fun, but I was very wrong. At around 9:20am, I was in the ocean with some children I had met, washing off the felt-tip tattoos I had given them, when my husband rushed to my side and shouted for me to run, dammit! I was taken aback at his urgency, but did as he told me in stunned silence. He picked up the older child, while I held the younger. I didn't know it then; it seemed like we were a bit crazy to be running from the water, but in fact, we were running for our lives.
I am a bad swimmer, and my husband knows it. When he saw the white line of water on the horizon, he knew a lot of water would be filling the strangely wide beach very quickly. As we ran, I could hear a dull roar behind me, punctuated by shrieking. By the time the ocean had begun to suck at our legs, we had made it to higher ground. Not all were so lucky. We watched helplessly as even larger second and third waves pulled in trees, buildings, boats, and people. My husband wanted to rush down to help, but I held him back, it was just too dangerous. Other survivors began to join us on the hill, and people that had been strangers earlier that morning suddenly seemed like good friends. The manager of our hotel, Sri Lanta, was shaking as she did a headcount and a name check of all those who had made it to the hillside. She insisted that one person from each family call someone from home. Confused by what was happening, I did so, thinking no one back home would understand why I was calling (and in fact, at the time, they did not), but later, they thanked God I did.
We spent the night on that low hillside, sleeping outside with no bedding and very little water and food, but what we did have, we received from the management of the hotel and local Thai people. What really happened during the tsunami, for me, was an incredible life lesson. I learned how kind some people can be (every Thai person was unbelievably giving!) and how crass others were—a French family had the nerve to insist on a refund from the hotel owner, and several Americans complained that, gosh, their holidays had been ruined. Poor things!
In the end, we had to get off the island. Bodies were contaminating the air and water, and although many foreigners wanted to stay to help, with no toilets, running water, food or drink, it was unsustainable, so most of us gave what money we had to the poor hotel owner and staff, and with the essential and very kind assistance of Sri Lanta's owner, we managed to bribe a terrified fishing boat to take us to the mainland.
Krabi town was heaving with injured and dead bodies when we arrived. There was mass confusion and nowhere to stay. Luckily, we got a flight to Bangkok and managed to get home fairly quickly, but that new year, I realized how fragile life is and how important it is to be kind to people. Sadly, I also realized how some people, especially Westerners, can be completely selfish, materialistic, and superficial.
The next time I go to Thailand, it may be a permanent move.
london, United Kingdom