This week’s edition of ‘A world of inspiration‘ was written by Honor Dargan, who is a British expat in Japan. Honor was in Phuket, Thailand, on that fateful day in 2004 when more than 200,000 lives were lost after a massive tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea. She shares with us her experience of surviving the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and pays a special tribute to the amazing people of Thailand.

Surviving the tsunami in Thailand

It had been a wonderful Christmas. I’d traveled to Phuket with my boyfriend to meet his mum and his brother for a family holiday. We’d relaxed on the beach, parasailed on Coral Island, and partied hard. It was great!

Coral Island 5
Coral island

We were due to leave on December 26 in the afternoon, so my partner and I decided to take one last swim in the morning after breakfast. First we walked with his mum to a little travel agent around the corner as she wasn’t due to leave for another week and planned to go to Koh Phi Phi the next day. We booked her tickets with her and then we left her chatting with the owner as we strolled to the beach.

When we got there, the sea was so far out that we couldn’t see where the beach ended and the sea began, but tsunami did not enter our heads – we thought it was a very low tide. It did feel strange, however, and instead of walking down the beach we stayed at the top talking about how weird it was. Thank God we did.

The tsunami

I had just bent down to put my towel on the beach when the water came in to my feet. I really have no idea what this was like on other beaches but I think there must have been two waves – this being the first warning. Instinct tells you when you need to get out of the way of something and we both took off at a run to get off the beach.

Christmas Day dinner - the day before
Christmas Day dinner – the day before the tsunami

We now consider ourselves very lucky to have been staying at the particular beach we’d chosen – Karon Beach. It was, unlike all the other beaches around us, on an incline and there was a deep gulley between it and the road. You had to cross a small footbridge to reach the beach from the road.

We ran for the bridge and could hear others panicking behind us. I turned to see where my boyfriend was as I felt he was no longer with me but two Thai girls pushed me in the back and shouted to keep running.

The wall of water

As I reached the bridge I could see a wall of water curving around into the gulley and heading straight for me. I made it, just, across the bridge and up to the road although I was still thigh deep in water. At this point I turned to look for my boyfriend and he wasn’t there. This was one of the worst times I can ever remember. I stood on the road shouting his name, shaking, having no idea what to do. All I could think was that I had to go and tell his mum what had happened. How could I tell her?

I have no idea how long this lasted but I heard my name called and turned to see my guy walking towards me further down the street. He had clung onto a palm tree with a couple of others and been able to cross another bridge further down once the wave dropped back.

The kindness of the Thai people

Karon beach sunset - the day before
Karon beach sunset – the day before the tsunami

Moving on. We were all very scared after this and were advised by the police to move to higher ground as they didn’t know if another wave was coming. In the aftermath of this truly horrible day it was the kindness and generosity of the Thai people that will always remain with me.

They brought us water because we hadn’t thought to bring any as we climbed the hill behind our hotel. They did their best to keep us informed of what was going on even though many were hearing the news that their business, livelihood and family had been washed away. They let me use their mobile phone to call overseas to let my family know I was ok. They wouldn’t let me pay for using it despite the fact that the call was expensive.

The moment that struck me most of all and I can remember as clear as day was the next morning. We had moved to a hotel on the hillside above Kata beach and were looking for a place to eat breakfast when we heard someone call out to us. It was the people who my boyfriend’s mum had paid the day before to go to Kho Phi Phi. They had come to find us to give her money back as they weren’t able to provide the service. We tried to tell them to keep the money but they insisted on giving it back to us. I am still amazed when I think about this. How many people do you know who would do the same in the same situation?

Koh Phi Phi island.

this day taught me how precious life is

I will never forget how lovely the Thai people were at this time despite the tragedies being suffered all around. I wrote this post to express my gratitude to the people who helped us even though their world was falling apart. Sometimes words just don’t seem enough.

Finally, this day taught me how precious life is. Many around me lost their loved ones to the tsunami in Thailand and in other countries. We were extremely lucky and somehow managed to escape. I give thanks for my life everyday and one of my inspirations now is to find something good in every day, even when nothing seems to be going right.

About this week’s guest writer
Honor Dargan has lived in Tokyo since 2001 and has developed her own website to help people visiting Japan. Her goal? Tokyo made simple. If you want to learn more about travel to this amazing capital city visit her site, TokyoTopia and start planning!


4 Responses

  • Thanks so much for sharing…I hope that you will be back to Thailand soon

  • Extremely scary and there are millions of stories about this, still all are different. Im happy to not having to read a sad ending and the travel agency that wanted to find you to give the money back is just unbelievable.

    I live in Thailand since years and know many Thais who lost loved ones. I hope this never happend again and that the warning system works in the event of a new tsunami. There have been some alerts and I hopefully it will stay on that level.

  • […] See more here:  A world of inspiration: Amazing Thailand, Amazing People […]

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