Throwback Thursday: The Land of Smiles, Thailand

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My mother hates some of the places I go. Every time the destinations get more remote, further from home, more off the beaten path. When I told my mother I was going to Thailand she wasn’t thrilled; it was my first time in Southeast Asia. I had wanted to go to Thailand since I was ten, something on television intrigued my little brain. “Don’t worry Mom, I will be fine”….my standard dialogue before every trip. Little did I know, on this trip would occur my most terrifying experience to date.

For our inaugural trip to Thailand, Anna and I wanted a few nights in Bangkok and then beach time. Ultimately we settled on Ao Nang beach in Krabi, as the price was right and we could take a day trip to Phi Phi island. We took the backpacker overnight bus from Bangkok down to Krabi, which included a 2 hour wait at a random hostel in Bangkok. Here, we met Steffen, who became our new friend over card games, while we killed time.

We finally arrived in Krabi after one of the most memorable bus rides of my life, which included the company of  three British girl, two Aussie boys and a lot of beer. The next day we met up with Steffen again and attempted to take the ferry to Phi Phi Island. However, after a night of buckets, we overslept and missed the boat. Looking at alternatives we decided on Riley Bay, a neighboring beach area, easily reached by long-tail boat.

After a fun day of sun, we decided it was time to head home, planning for dinner and more definitely more buckets. As our long-tail boat started back toward Ao Nang Beach a loud siren pierced through the air. The driver immediately turned the boat in the opposite direction, yelling “Safe safe safe.” A local girl on board explained that was the tsunami siren. Apparently it was the first alarm siren since it had been installed after the tragic 2005 tsunami.

We docked up at a random pier, the three of us were unsure where we were or what to do next. Off the dock I luckily found someone who spoke enough English to explain the situation. There had been earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, a wave was coming and we could find shelter at the school up the hill. A little ways from the water, we decided we were safe enough to stop at a 7-11. If we were gonna die we needed a beer and chips, please don’t judge. With our backpacks loaded with provisions we continued up to the safe zone.

At the school we found several local and tourists, everyone huddled together praying and hoping for more information. Here we found Kung, a wonderful Thai girl, who had a heart of gold and the most beautiful head of jet black hair. After a few minutes we had made friends and she invited us to wait out the warning at her friends place near by. Maybe it was her amazing smile, but the three of us immediately trusted her and found ourselves welcomed into a Thai home.

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We found other tourists here two from Germany, two from Switzerland and another American plus Kung and her friends Peta and Gurth. Together we waited out the night, with chicken sandwiches and good conversation. We bonded together sharing our stories and praying for good news. About this point I realized my mother, if she had caught wind of the tsunami she would lose her mind. There was no signal, it was jammed, the tsunami warning had killed the signal.

Finally hours later, the all clear was given, it was time to consider; where are we, how do we find our hotel? Kung’s friend,a local bartender, graciously piled all of us into the pick up truck and drove us back to Ao Nang beach, otherwise we would have been lost. Later, I got 5 frantic voicemails from my mother, she woke up and turned on the news…”Tsunami in Thailand’! I am pretty sure she lost years of her life in worry that morning. I assured her when the signal returned, I was actually alive, we were safe.

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Fast forward two days later, checking into our flight back to Bangkok at Krabi airport; we find Kung, Gurth and Peta, sitting waiting for their flights. Hugs exchanged, we added each other to Facebook, promising to keep in touch. Years later we have now been to Thailand five (me) and seven (Anna) times more, every single time we have seen Kung. We once correlated business trips in Germany and met for dinner. This memory is why I feel in love with Thailand. This country is called the land of smiles for a reason, we have found the brightest of all the smiles in a friend named Kung. Many people ask, why we continued to return to this country so often. First impressions are everything, my first impression of Thailand was this….

 

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