#2 – Phi Phi Don, Thailand, December 2004

The first wave of the 2004 tsunami hit Phi Phi Don Island shortly after 10:30am on December 26, 2004.

Our group was on vacation in Thailand and visiting Phi Phi Don. We took a regularly scheduled boat to Krabi Town some time before the first wave hit.

Photos were taken on December 25 and the morning of December 26. Most were taken with a disposable film camera. (Do these still exist?)

mini temple

offerings – Phi Phi Don

Christmas Day high

Christmas Day was elating! As a treat, I booked an afternoon dive trip. Having completed my open water diving certification in frigid Canadian waters, I was ready to try my skills in warmth.

blue bliss and rock islands

out on the water around Phi Phi Don

The trip was not fully booked and I had an instructor to myself. Nervous and vibrating with excitement, I half fell, half jumped into the water.

The first dive was over in less than ten minutes after I sucked through an entire tank of air in shallow water. My instructor teased me but followed that with reassurance and a firm suggestion to breathe normally.

dive boat pic - Thailand

diving bliss with Phi Phi Leh in the background

During Christmas dinner that evening, I was relaxed in a way that I’ve found only comes from breathing compressed air. I didn’t have a care in the world!

Our small group was supposed to catch the boat to Krabi Town the next morning. Perhaps everyone else was feeling as good as I was – we tossed around the idea of staying an extra night.

The casual debate ended with the five of us deciding to stick with our original plan.

Absorbing final moments on Phi Phi Don

Boxing Day arrived sunny and calm. I woke up as late as possible but in time to pack. Someone wandered down to the lane to pick up snacks for breakfast.

Sitting on a stone bench outside our guest house with my back pressed against the wall, I munched on fresh banana bread and thought about nothing.

Thai guest house

our guest house accommodation in Phi Phi Don across the lane from the beach

A cart was tracked down to wheel the heavy suitcases to the dock. My friends had brought school supplies to donate in Bangkok.

Being too early for most, the usually cramped lane was almost empty.

Phi Phi Don lane

last walk down the lane before catching our boat

Shops on the left backed onto the water and some were open with a view, like the dive shops. Sarongs, baked goods, and handmade items filled shops on the right.

Looking in the dive shop I had gone with yesterday, one of the instructors was clambering over boats, carrying tanks and gear for today’s divers.

At the end of the lane, we turned into the open under pressing sun to reach the dock.

unloading supplies at Phi Phi Don's dock

dock carts at Phi Phi Don

Strolling leisurely conflicted with ingrained anxiety to be on time for our 9am boat. There was no need to rush though. Thai time ruled and the boat would leave when it left.

We climbed on the craft, joining many other tourists.

9am came and went. There was nothing to do but wait, relax and melt in the rising humidity.

Phi Phi Don - heading to the boat

Phi Phi Don dock walkway

At the end of the dock, a tall, gangly figure wearing a toque dashed haphazardly towards the boat in unstable flip-flop sandals. His substantial pack flopped left and right and up and down on his back. Would he tumble into the water?

His unforgettable entrance was neatly capped with flinging himself on the boat as it was finally pushing away.

Too close

The water receded deeply on the beach across from our guest house around 10am.

Another half hour passed before the first wave slammed and swarmed around the bungalows.

Part 3

16 thoughts on “#2 – Phi Phi Don, Thailand, December 2004

  1. Banana bread in Phi Phi Don? I love banana bread! I remember growing up in Malaysia there wasn’t soft and fluffy banana bread, so I hope the one you had here in Thailand wasn’t that bad 😀 What wonderful photos and it looked like you had a great trip. I hope you saw some sea creatures underwater – I mean, that’s what people do diving for 🙂

    • Yes! The banana bread was pretty good from what I remember. Very dark and moist.
      Thank you about the photos! They were tricky to work with. From what I remember, the ISO was 800 for that disposable camera so exposure was definitely a problem.
      Ha ha ha! I was so nervous and overwhelmed on the first dive that I can’t recall much. My journal said I saw “angel fish and small electric blue fish” through my apparently very fogged up mask! The second dive was memorable and much better. It was shallow relatively speaking so there was so much light and color! The schools of fish and choral were all swoon worthy. 😀 Do you dive and/or snorkel?

      • At least you got to see fish and other sea plants! I don’t like swimming at all, so diving and snorkeling is something I don’t really do that much. However, I like riding boats out to see and just take in the beautiful ocean around me 🙂

        • I see! Glass bottomed boats can be great for people who aren’t into swimming along with aquariums, right? I love those places to see fish but some are saddening if larger animals don’t have enough space to move.

  2. I missed your first article, though I have read it now. I can’t believe you were there at Phi Phi Don and survived. That was the place that was hit worst wasn’t it? We have been visiting Thailand since 1980 when we fell in love with the country and the people. We are lucky enough to go every two or three years as we get withdrawal symptoms if we haven’t been for a while.
    It is a place to go for total relaxation – usually! We thought we had a close call having been to Phuket in the October before the tsunami, but we were safely home when it hit. Good for you for volunteering – we were able to send some money to help but that is all. We have been back twice since and still see a few signs of the devastation: the tsunami exit route signs everywhere, a shipwrecked boat left where it landed well offshore on Hong Island, but mostly everything is now as it always was, calm and beautiful.

    • Yes. Krabi province I think was near the top.
      Isn’t Thailand incredible? It’s got a draw that is hard to turn away from and I envy that you have gotten back so many times.
      I will talk about my volunteering in a later post. Once I opened up with my story, I discovered I wanted to share more.
      Has anything you have seen in Thailand influenced your gardens??

      • They showed the tsunami 10 year anniversary programme on the TV last night. I couldn’t watch it all; it was just too terrible, hearing the stories again.
        It is unbelievable how the country came back from such devastation with very few reminders left. I still have posts to write of our Thai holidays. Maybe they could follow on from your set of posts? I haven’t started writing any travel stuff yet so not sure how it will go.
        No, I don’t think Thailand has influenced my garden as much as Japan. It has influenced our cooking a lot more! I also do a pretty good tomato rose!
        I will be very interested to hear how you survived the tsunami and of your volunteering. It is probably very good for you to write about it, though it must be terribly painful.

        • Yes, I’ve been avoiding the stories. I can’t read them, yet. Same thing at the five year mark. I would love to read your Thai holiday posts!
          Me, too. Thai cooking is spectacular! It’s been very hard to find the right ingredients though. Not so much the sauces and spices but the fresh fruits and veg.
          It has been very good finally writing about it. I had a good cry in the shower after finishing part 1. I’ve avoided talking about it with anyone except for one person at the five year point. The volunteering was up north – I wasn’t ready to go back to the same area but wanted to do something.

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