While I as travelling in Thailand, I had the chance to relive the devastating natural disaster, the 2004 tsunami. I was brought into the stories of survivors and how Phi Phi Island, one of the most badly hit islands, picked up after the tragedy that changed Southeast Asia and its people’s lives forever.
Phi Phi is famous for its sandy beaches, pristine waters and strategic location (Southern Thailand, accessible from Krabi and Phuket). It became the talk of the world when the 2004 tsunami hit this island, causing unimaginable death and devastation. I became aware of my surroundings after hearing a first-hand story from a victim. When he retold his story, I can vividly imagine the chaos on the beach where I was standing.
My mind brought me to my bizarre imagination of being in the fast lane of the tsunami. My heart pounded harder and harder as the images of the huge 20-metre wall of black water comes through the shorelines of the once calm waters of Phi Phi. My body froze; I was actually imagining myself among the hundreds of people, clueless of what was happening on that day. The devastation was beyond my capability to truly absorb and understand. Without realizing, my tears started dropping on my cheeks. On that day, many lost their lives to the unforgiving natural disaster.
I carried her out from the river.
After leaving Phi Phi Island, I found myself sauntering along the streets of Krabi town, trying to find food to fill the grumbling tummy. After walking about and talking to several other travellers, I found my way to an old lady’s stall, whose fruit smoothies I was informed were a must try. It turned out that I got more than just the delicious Banana-Pineapple smoothie.
This lady was one of the many local volunteers who helped the victims of the 2004 tsunami. She tried her best to tell me her story despite the language barrier. From what I understand, she was at her stall when it happened and she saw a few dead bodies and debris being swept through the Krabi river. She remembered clearly how she had to pull out the body of a pregnant lady with the baby still attached to her.
In tears she told me how she decided to close her stall and cook for the victims for a week to ensure that these people are well fed and taken care despite the chaos. It touched my heart knowing that despite the challenges and odds, humanity prevails. To date, I have been to Krabi for over five times, either to transit or just to relax before proceeding to other locations. I would never miss visiting and giving the lady a tight hug since she gives me hope that humanity still exists in this day and age.
Phi Phi Island has since rebuilt itself from the unthinkable disaster that awashed the entire island. Phi Phi to me is a wonderful island that I would love to return one fine day. The alley that I walked, full of farangs (white people), suddenly becomes no stranger to me – yes, Phi Phi Island relies heavily on its tourism. But as you walk further down the street, you will see the locals – some survivors of the 2004 tsunami – cooking, chit chatting with their neighbours, slaughtering chicken and peddling food to foreigners. These people are proof that no matter how hard you have been bashed in life, with hope, acceptance and the will to go on, you will definitely be able to walk out of it and live through it.
This is probably one of the hardest things that I have encountered while travelling and writing it down : reliving the memories of those who have perished and those who stood the pain surviving it. It has been close to nine years since the devastating tsunami hit Southeast Asia, my heart and prayers go to all kind volunteers and survivors whom showed us what we can do beyond our pain and that we are all strong enough to beat the odds and rebuilt their lives.