Tsunami 2012: I Thought I Was Going To Die


crowd tsunami evacuation phuket

It’s 4am on the 12th April. I am sat in Phuket airport and I’ve been staring at the same spot on the floor for two hours, desperately trying to make sense of what has just happened to me.

Today, I was convinced I was going to die. 

At 3:30 pm on the 11th April 2012, a huge earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Right now, that’s the only information I have. 

At the time, I was on a boat back to Phuket after an amazing week spent in Koh Yao Noi. I was happily sunbathing on the ferry, working on my tan when about half-way through the journey I felt a large bump. Several of them as the boat swayed slightly from side to side. Being the paranoid, anxiety-filled individual that I am, my head was immediately filled with irrational fears – What was that? Did we just hit something? What if it made a hole in the boat? Are we going to sink? Maybe we hit a shark? Are there sharks out here?!

Little did I know, for the first time in my life, the reality was far worse than my paranoia.

Unaware that anything had happened, we arrived at Phuket where a very nervous taxi driver was waiting for us.

“You feel earthquake? Earthquake 30 minutes before you arrive. Very big one. Very scary.”

Dave and I shrugged and told her that we’d been on the water and hadn’t felt anything. However, I couldn’t help but start to feel a little worried. I’d experienced an earthquake for the first time while in Taiwan and at a magnitude of just 4.5, it was enough to have me freaked out for days afterwards.

All I could think about was getting to the airport and getting out of Phuket before the aftershocks started to hit. 

Beach on Koh Nok near Koh Yao Noi

Arriving at the airport, I noticed an unusual amount of people crowding around outside. Our driver asked the security guard if the airport was still open. It was. Phuket airport has bag scanners located at the entrance to the building and I had just taken off my backpack to get it scanned when suddenly,

Chaos. 

The air filled with gasps and screams and as I raised my eyes in confusion I saw every single person in the airport simultaneously stampeding towards me wearing the same look of terror on their faces.

I instantly reached for Dave. “Dave! What’s happening? What’s going on?! What do we do? What’s–“

…And then I realised.

There’s a bomb.

I stopped talking, dropped everything and launched myself towards the exit, running faster than I ever have before. I tripped, I stumbled, I almost fell to the ground on several occasions but nothing could stop me getting out of there.

With the pain in my side increasing until it felt like I was being ripped in half, I barely even noticed the growing ache in my chest, the trembling of my legs and the pins and needles in my face.

After reaching what felt like a much safer distance I immediately tried to find out what was happening.

“There has been very big earthquake. Big aftershocks. Tsunami is coming. Like last time.” 

Phang Nga National Park view from Koh Yao Noi

Tsunami.

I stood motionless for a minute, unable to move, unable to think, unable to process what was happening. As I came to my senses, all I knew was that I had to find Dave.

We had become separated at some point, and so I did exactly what you aren’t supposed to do in situations like these. I turned around and started running back towards the airport. 

I fought my way through the hoards of frantic people – Everybody was either running, screaming or crying. It was like a scene from a disaster movie. Parents were launching their children into songthaews and yelling at the drivers to take them to higher ground, children were near hysterical with fear and I was being pushed and shoved from every direction as everybody fought to save themselves.

I raced back, desperately scanning every petrified face, searching for a glimpse of familiarity, but nothing. My heart sank. I reached the airport, walked inside and it was like a ghost town – just a few people were left now.

And then I saw our bags.

I don’t know what was going through my mind, but I knew I had to bring them with me. I pulled my three bags onto my back and front, and then dragged Dave’s one off the conveyor belt.

I found a luggage trolley, lifted Dave’s bag onto it with a superhuman strength that I wasn’t aware I possessed and began to run like my life depended on it. Because, well, at that moment, it did. 

thailand island longtail

I usually struggle to carry my bags for more than 100 metres at a time, so trying to run with three bags while pushing another uphill was like trying to solve a maths equation with a poem.

Within seconds, my clothes were drenched with sweat, my face was burning up, and I felt like I was going to vomit. My back felt like it was about to break and my legs threatened to give way at any second.

Running parallel to the runway, I spent half my time colliding with people, cars and scooters, and the other half frantically looking behind me, expecting to see a tidal wave engulfing the airport.

Over and over, I considered ditching the bags by the side of the road. I didn’t want to die because I’d tried to rescue all of my belongings. But how can I just leave everything here to be stolen?

I could feel the fatigue setting in and I was growing weaker and weaker with each passing step. As the road started to get steeper, I could hear myself bursting into tears and pleading for help with my trolley. Not a single person even acknowledged my existence.

Fortunately, after a few minutes of begging, somebody finally took pity on me and helped to push my trolley uphill. I thanked him over and over and over, before quietening down to just whimpering about how scared I am.

“We’re all scared, love” was his grim reply. 

After what felt like hours, we finally reached the evacuation point: An area of ground raised not much more than 2 metres above the road.

This isn’t high enough. We’re not high enough. I need to get higher. 

phuket runway tsunami evacuation area

Looking around, my knees began to buckle and tears welled in my eyes, causing the horrific scene to writhe before me. As I watched frantic people climbing on top of walls, trees and buildings, a woman collapsed on my shoulder in tears.

“We’re all going to die. My babies. I’ll never see my babies again. My family. Help me. Please, God.”

I held her tightly as we both cried hysterically. My only thought at that point was: I am going to die alone.

And then, an arm on my shoulder, a kiss on my cheek.

Dave had found me.  

I couldn’t even speak as the tears streamed down my face. I clutched at him desperately, promising to myself to not let go until all of this is over.

My joy was short-lived as an official announcement was made over the loudspeakers: It has been confirmed. A tsunami is heading our way. It is thought to be four metres high and it is due to hit in twenty minutes.

I spent those minutes panicing, crying and murmuring complete and utter nonsense at Dave.

And suddenly, silence. 

Every single person stopped speaking. The birds stopped singing and the breeze felt noticeably cooler.

As I looked around in confusion and unease, I could hear a faint hissing noise in the distance, increasing in volume with every passing minute. As I scanned the faces of the crowd I could see the sheer terror and panic on everybody’s face.

The tsunami was coming and it was at this point that I really lost it. 

 

No. NO! Dave. I love you. Oh my god. Don’t let me die. Please don’t let me die. I’m so scared. Dave. I can’t die. Oh my god. What’s happening? Please. Please. PLEASE.”

Squeezing his hand so tightly that I thought I might break his bones, I turned to face the runway and prepared to die.

I was going to die. 

As the noise reached almost deafening levels, a large plane slowly came into view…  The entire crowd breathed a loud sigh of relief and started to cheer and laugh.

I’d have felt embarrassed if I wasn’t bent over, dry-heaving in a bush.

 

My knees gave way and I collapsed on the floor amid a flood of tears. I was done. I couldn’t take any more. The adrenaline had gone, I had no energy left and no will to live.

I just wanted the nightmare to end. 

There had been no further updates on the situation so all we could do was sit and speculate.

With a small amount of data left on Dave’s phone, we would check Twitter every 10 minutes to see if there were any updates. Everywhere has been evacuated. There have been two more aftershocks. The tsunami is due to hit within an hour. The wave is four metres high. The wave is one metre high. The wave isn’t going to reach us.

This was interspersed with information from the crowd, with some people stating how it had been the biggest earthquake in history, that the ocean in Phuket had receded over one kilometre, that everybody in hotels in Thailand would have to stay there for three days and that we were all going to die.

I didn’t know what to believe, but I couldn’t allow myself to believe that we were going to be ok. 

crowd tsunami evacuation phuket

There was another announcementIf nothing bad happens within two hours everybody will be free to go. 

Two hours.

The slowest two hours of my entire life. And definitely not the calmest either.

The data on Dave’s phone had run out so we had no access to any information. We could just pace back and forth like everyone else, waiting to be told that we would all be ok.

As trucks of airline crews were transported to the evacuation area, the final announcement was made:

We were ok. The airport was going to reopen in half an hour and our flights would depart at some point after that. 

I should have felt relieved, I should have felt happy, I should have joined in with the cheers and dancing of everybody else, but I just felt numb. I felt empty and spent the next few hours in a trance, barely speaking, just staring straight ahead with eyes glazed over.

The rest of the night flew by in a blur:

Slowly trudging back to the airport in the dark. Joining the queue to check in. Finding out that all flights have been cancelled and that all flights tomorrow are full up. Spending the night lying on the airport floor, unable to sleep. Every small noise waking me up and filling me with fear and dread.

And that’s where I am now. 

Alive. But very much shaken up, emotionally scarred and desperate to get out of Phuket. 

phuket airport sleeping people

Afterword: After Dave started queueing at 4am to get us put on the standby list, we were fortunate enough to get on the first flight to Chiang Mai the next morning. 

It was then that I discovered the “tsunami” was, in fact, 10 cm high. Five people died. Mostly due to shock and heart attacks. I’m surprised I wasn’t one of them… 

And so, I guess this is now a ridiculously over-dramatic post about a 10 cm wave. 

But it was, without a doubt, the scariest day of my entire life…

 

 

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150 Comments

  1. Lisa @chickybus
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Holy crap, Lauren. What a scary tale. I was on edge as I read it. I am so glad all turned out well. Phew.

    PS: I’m a bit shaky myself right now, anticipating my next trip. I’m going to Indonesia–and flying right into Sumatra. On May 30th. Let’s hope things are stable then…

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      I’m sure things in Indonesia will be much calmer by then, Lisa :)

  2. A Montrealer Abroad
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Wow, what a powerful story – I’m glad your heart survived this nightmare. It must have really been awful. Thank God you’re both ok!

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      Thank you! I’m glad it survived too! ;)

  3. Caroline
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    No matter how small it ended up being, your being scared for your life is definitely justified!! You’ve lived one of my greatest fears, a natural disaster! Glad you’re all safe!

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Caroline! I definitely didn’t expect I’d ever be able to say that I’d lived through a natural disaster…

  4. DebbZ
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    I’m glad that you’re OK, Lauren.
    When I heard about Aceh earthquake, I was thinking the same horror would happen like back in 2004.
    It was really devastating :(

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Debbz :)

      When I heard about it, that was all I could think about too. When I remembered it had killed 250,000 people, I was REALLY freaking out :(

      • lacie
        November 5, 2014
        Reply

        You were very lucky

        • Lauren
          November 10, 2014
          Reply

          Yep!

  5. Katja
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Good god. I was freaking out just reading that, so I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you there. Yes, after the fact, it seems like a lot of fuss over nothing, but given events over the past year it’s unsurprising that you (and, I might add, everyone around you) were scared almost to death. So, so glad it all turned out for the best, for everyone’s sakes.

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      Sorry for freaking you out, Katja! :) That was the thing – I kept remembering old news footage from earthquakes and tsunamis and convincing myself that the same thing was about to happen to me.

  6. Someday I'll Be There - Mina
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    I should have been in Indonesia by now, if luck didn’t play it’s role and my plans got postponed.

    When telling my family I would be traveling to south east asia the first thing they said “why not choose a safer destination? Tsunamis hit that place now every year!” now I think they are psychic or something :P

    Glad you’re fine though and be thankful that you are telling the story now :)

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      Well, you would have been safe even if you had been in Indonesia at the time! Very shaken up but still safe :)

  7. Kieu
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Wow! I’m really glad you guys made through the whole Ordeal. :)

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      The worst Ordeal ever! ;)

  8. Waegook Tom
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    All over a 10cm wave…but I think I’d have reacted very similarly! Eurgh a tsunami would be a horrible way to go, as well.

    A bus I was on today smashed right into the one in front at a toll booth and I was sitting at the very front…I saw the bus wasn’t slowing down at all and just closed my eyes…

    I’m pretty sure I survived, unless I have the ability to type as a ghost.

    The windscreen and whole front of the bus was completely messed up…yet no replacement was sent and it continued the rest of the journey as a wreck!

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      Scary… But I love how the bus continued on anyway!

  9. Mary
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    It was definitely the worry over what happened in 2004. Now when we think tsunami we think of total destruction and death.

    I am so sorry you guys went through that. I am in Malaysia and felt the earthquake and was so worried for anyone near the shore because I too was certain that a devastating tsunami was on its way.

    Thank goodness we were both wrong and that you had Dave there for support!

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      Mary, that’s so true. I kept replaying the horrific images of 2004 over and over in my mind.

      I’m so glad that it wasn’t a big one and that everyone remained safe!

  10. Angie Away
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    What a scary story! I’m glad you guys are ok… I can’t imagine what that waiting must have felt like!

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      The waiting was so awful! Coupled with the fact that nobody knew ANYTHING about what was going on… Total nightmare.

  11. dtravelsround
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Holy crap, Lauren! That sounds really, really scary. I was thinking about you two when it happened. I saw a Tweet or two. Really glad the worst of it was you being scared. I can’t even begin to imagine how I would have handled that.

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      It was terrifying! I hated how calm Dave’s tweets were! “we’ve been evacuated. Safe so far.” He needs to learn to be more dramatic :D

  12. Bret @ Green Global Travel
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Glad you guys both got out of there OK, and that the damage wasn’t as bad as you’d feared!

    • Lauren
      April 17, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Bret! I’m glad too! :)

  13. Kate
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Wow I can’t even begin to imagine how horrible it was for you. Last year I was stuck in the bottom of a mall while they announced over a speaker that a tornado was headed right toward us. That waiting and that strange group atmosphere – the fear in the air, the not knowing what was happening, it was horrible.

    Luckily it didn’t hit us but I totally know how you felt, reading your words brought me back to that anxiety.

    So glad you and Dave are safe and sound.

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      That sounds terrifying, Kate! It’s the worst feeling ever – just waiting and not having a clue what’s going on!

  14. Amanda
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Oh my God, Lauren! This sounds terrifying! I’m really sorry you had to go through it… I can’t even imagine.

    I felt my first earthquake in New Zealand last year – in Christchurch, of course. It was only a 5.3, but it was still so terrifying that I had earthquake nightmares the next few nights.

    As always though, you told your story so well – you actually almost had me in tears at one point. Good thing you were able to find Dave to at least have someone by your side!

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      Aren’t earthquakes the most horrible feeling ever?! After I felt the one in Taiwan, I spent the next month feeling like the floor was constantly shaking when it wasn’t. It was like some form of PTSD!

      Sorry I nearly made you cry too! :)

  15. Sunee
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Glad the two of you are okay! I can just imagine how scary it must have been for you. So… now that you’ve survived a natural disaster, what are you going to do with your life? :)

    • Lauren
      April 17, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Sunee! I am going to keep on travelling – but stay well away from water for the next few months ;)

  16. Laura
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Thankfully, it turned out as it did. Although I think it would be also stressful to realize that a 10cm wave caused so much distress to that many people. Weather is so unpredictable and luckily it turned out as it did! Glad you’re back safe and sound in Chiang Mai.

    • Lauren
      April 18, 2012
      Reply

      I know… I’d much rather have everywhere evacuated and everyone safe than people dismissing it and getting killed :)

  17. wandering educators
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    SO glad you are safe, what writing you’ve shared with us. i was freaked out along with you, albeit in a much lesser manner, being safe at home. WHEW. so scary. life is a miracle, isn’t it?

    • Lauren
      April 15, 2012
      Reply

      It really is :) I’m almost glad that I had you freaking out too as that’s the reaction I was aiming for!

  18. Nigel Dean
    April 14, 2012
    Reply

    Hi Lauren – we haven’t met yet but that is one hell of a post. I could feel the terror as I read the words. We have been through a zillion earthquakes in our part of the world in the last 18 months and I can relate to that feeling of helplessness!
    Glad that you are both o.k. and back in the safety of Chiang Mai.

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Thank you! :) I’m sure Dave will write a much less dramatic (and he would claim, more realistic) version soon enough..

  19. Lance Snow
    April 15, 2012
    Reply

    Lauren, I recently started following you on Twitter. That was riveting. Even though I read it from the other side of the world and knowing facts about the tsunami a couple days after… I was captured by your moving account. I could only imagine. Not often does one get an actual descriptive account of such an incident. I was in a tornado once (like many have), but that happened in a split second, there was only time to react. This is completely different. This was a torture of waiting, and not knowing, but also knowing how there wasn’t much anything you could do but wait. I can’t imagine that. Thank you for sharing this experience. Of course I am glad that nothing came of it and that you and Dave are okay.

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Lance! The worst part was definitely the waiting and having no idea what was going on..

  20. Joe
    April 15, 2012
    Reply

    Lauren you did ok…:) I hope you are not thinking about heading back to England..You will tell your grandkids about it and you will be laughing!! Iam in Chiang Mai! Send me an email and you guys got some beers coming your way..Happy Songkran!!!

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Of course, I’m not heading back to England – just heading away from coastal areas for a while ;)

  21. Kim
    April 15, 2012
    Reply

    WOW. Oh my lord. How are you feeling now? What a scary, scary moment. Will make for a good story (ok, already does) ten years from now when you are no longer traumatized!!!! Wow, wow, wow. Glad you are okay.

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      I’m feeling ok now. It took about a week for me to stop freaking out about every single noise. Now, I just feel like I overreacted ;)

  22. Mimo
    April 15, 2012
    Reply

    Trust me, when I heard the news about earthquake and tsunami warning, my first thought was: “Hm, isn’t Lauren in Phuket now!? She is surely scared to death.” I’m glad you are OK.

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Awww, that’s sweet! :) Thanks Mimo!

  23. Dean
    April 15, 2012
    Reply

    That must have been a terrifying experience. If heard that a 4m tsunami was coming I’d be in a hell of a panic as well!

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Yeah, it was pretty horrific! Thank god it ended up being much smaller.

  24. Laura
    April 15, 2012
    Reply

    To travel means also to have adventures and sometimes an adventure comes in the form of surviving a natural disaster. I am happy you are fine. Do not let it scare you. Keep on traveling.

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      I’m not going to stop travelling! I’m just going to spend the next few months being freaked out! ;)

  25. D.J. - The World of Deej
    April 16, 2012
    Reply

    Incredible story. Sorry you spent the day so terrified, but thankful that this time it didn’t come to pass. Probably not what you had in mind for memories of your travels…

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Deej! It definitely isn’t what I’d expected for my time in Thailand, but now I can say I survived a tsunami. Pretty badass, right?!

  26. Laurence
    April 16, 2012
    Reply

    Phew.. my heart is racing just reading this. What a terrifying situation to have been in. Can’t imagine how awful it must have been. Well told!

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Laurence :)

  27. Shaun
    April 16, 2012
    Reply

    Glad your safe and well. I can’t imagine what it would of been like!

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Shaun!

  28. Jeremy Branham
    April 16, 2012
    Reply

    Wow, what a scary experience! Glad you got through it but can’t imagine the experience of it all. Thank goodness you weren’t alone and glad to know that everyone was OK (except for the heart attack victims).

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      I was pretty close to having a heart attack at one point!

  29. Nadir
    April 16, 2012
    Reply

    Hi Lauren! I’m glad you and Dave are ok! We’ve never met, but a few months ago, I found your blog and I kept following your adventures!

    What a description. I was frozen while reading what happened. My dream is to travel one to Asia and Thailand and your blog is just brilliant!

    Take care
    All the best,
    Nadir from Portugal

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Nadir! I hope you manage to get to Asia and Thailand – I love this part of the world :)

  30. Jade - OurOyster.com
    April 17, 2012
    Reply

    Wow that sounds aweful!!! Thank god you were alright! I just managed to survive the Fiji Cyclone… trapped on an island with no food and water for several days…. but at least death was never really immanent. These types of things make you appreciate the people in your life so much

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Several days without food and water? I think that would freak me out too! :)

  31. cashflowmantra
    April 17, 2012
    Reply

    Glad to hear that you are OK. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be near the coast during either a tsunami or hurricane.

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks :) I hope I never have to experience it again!

  32. Chris
    April 17, 2012
    Reply

    I see what you were referring to now, haha :-p

    This was such a fantastic entry to read. Not because I get off on your terror (maybe a little bit that), but because you made it feel so scary.

    Like I knew nothing came of it, but I was still worried for you. Glad you’re ok :-)

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Got off on my terror? Sicko ;)

  33. Anthony
    April 18, 2012
    Reply

    Funnily enough, some Southern Chav just told me the EXACT same story a few hours ago :P

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Chavs are stealing my stories?! I shall destroy them through the art of rap battle.

  34. Jaime
    April 18, 2012
    Reply

    Always a disappointment when you get hot & bothered to discover it’s ONLY 10CM BIG. I mean really??? Sorry it’s my dirty mind… but okay about this post. Wow just wow… that is crazy. I am so sorry you had to experience that. I don’t know how I would have reacted, but know it would be kinda like you… for real. I am glad you are okay though and that it wasn’t major damage or anything. I know how it feels to think this is it I am going to die. When I was held at gun point in Costa Rica I thought the same… crazy feeling. Can’t explain it until it happens to you.

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      HAHAHAHAHAHA! Love.

  35. Vicky
    April 19, 2012
    Reply

    Very well written post! I truly felt terrified reading along. Thankfully it only turned out to be 10 cm big.

    • Lauren
      April 21, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks Vicky! :) Sorry for terrifying you!

  36. Lis’s Travel Round Up – April Edition | Lis's Travel Tips
    April 20, 2012
    Reply

    […] As someone who lives in a earthquake-prone country, and who has travelled to Thailand more than once,  I was very aware of the serious earthquake off Phuket and Sumatra on April 11th and the risk that there might be another tsunami. I read with interest this first hand account by Lauren who thought she was going to die. […]

  37. Suzy
    April 21, 2012
    Reply

    I would have been climbing a tree probably. I could sense your fear, even if it ended up being a small wave. It’s the not knowing your situation that can kill you I think. Glad you are alright!

    • Lauren
      April 22, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Suzy! I tried to climb a tree but was too short. It was embarrassing.

  38. Cam
    April 22, 2012
    Reply

    Yowzers! What an ordeal!
    I think I would have puked.
    So glad it was a false alarm

    • Lauren
      April 24, 2012
      Reply

      I would have puked if I’d eaten that day!

  39. Maria Alexandra @latinAbroad
    April 23, 2012
    Reply

    WOW, I was at the edge of my seat! At one point I almost choke on my lunch lasagna. 10cm high? By the end I was like…shitznitz. ha! I would have been freakin’ out too, I mean, there was no way of telling what to believe really. Glad to hear u are ok and OMG it’s crazy Dave found you. Right then I thought of TITANIC and other dramatic movies — I almost cried!

    • Lauren
      April 24, 2012
      Reply

      Sorry for almost making you cry and choke on your lasagna! If Dave hadn’t have found me then I would have been a million times worse than I was already!

  40. Shirlene from Idelish
    April 23, 2012
    Reply

    My heart was beating so fast as I read your post! I’d be scared too if I were in your place! Thank goodness you and Dave are OK!

    • Lauren
      April 24, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Shirlene :)

  41. Leah
    April 24, 2012
    Reply

    Craziness! I’ve lived through hurricanes, I live in Houston after all, but I can’t imagine how frightened you must had been so far from home. I’m glad you ok!

    • Lauren
      April 24, 2012
      Reply

      I hated being so far from home, and as I don’t carry a phone with me I couldn’t even call my mum!

  42. Andi of My Beautiful
    April 24, 2012
    Reply

    Wow what an intense and life changing experience. Thank goodness you were okay.

    • Lauren
      April 28, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Andi :) I definitely felt changed afterwards!

  43. Wanderplex
    April 24, 2012
    Reply

    Wow, just wow. What a terrifying experience to have lived through… but you lived!

    A wonderfully written story by the way – I was hooked on every word!

    • Lauren
      April 28, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks so much! :) Yes, I lived!

  44. Panic in Phuket: My tsunami experience
    April 25, 2012
    Reply

    […] we could handle. If you’d like to read it, Lauren has also written an account of her tsunami experience.  Caution: it may contain a large number of highly dramatic moments… [Images via […]

  45. Memographer
    April 25, 2012
    Reply

    Such a good story from the first hands :) Glad you are safe!

    • Lauren
      April 28, 2012
      Reply

      Thank you :)

  46. Jeremy
    April 26, 2012
    Reply

    Hell of a story! Love the way you ended it! Glad you’re OK.

    • Lauren
      April 28, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks, Jeremy :)

  47. What’s new ’round the web: week of 04/27/12 | Wanderplex | Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration for World Travel
    April 27, 2012
    Reply

    […] the worry is all for nothing, but every now and then, things do go wrong – this post describes one traveler’s gripping tale of facing a tsunami. var dd_offset_from_content = 70; jQuery(document).ready(function($) { […]

  48. Zak
    April 29, 2012
    Reply

    My heart sank as I read the title of this post…and several times through reading this post. Just last week I re-watched one of the documentaries about the 2004 tsunami, so the sentiment was refreshed not too long ago…

    I’m so glad that there wasn’t a repeat incident…thanks for being willing to share a bit of yourself at a scary moment. I know that’s not an easy thing to do :(

    • Lauren
      June 12, 2012
      Reply

      It was pretty tough writing it, Zac. The 2004 tsunami was in my mind the entire time. It could have been so much worse…

  49. Ali
    April 29, 2012
    Reply

    Knowing how many people in our travel community are in Thailand at any given time, I was definitely worried that day when the news hit and twitter was going crazy. I would’ve been freaking out too if I was there. It doesn’t matter if it turned out to be a 10cm wave, you couldn’t predict the future, and I’m sure it was scary. I’m glad it all ended up ok.

    • Lauren
      July 5, 2012
      Reply

      Yeah, I wish I could have seen but our lack of data meant we were completely in the dark and had no idea whether we needed to be worrying or not!

  50. Travel Writing Round Up [May 2012] | Caroline in the City
    May 3, 2012
    Reply

    […] Tsunami 2012: I Thought I Was Going to Die, Never Ending Footsteps: I’ve never experienced a natural disaster quite like a tsunami and Lauren made me want to avoid it at all costs! […]

  51. Best Blogs of the Month: April, 2012 » A Dangerous Business Travel Blog
    May 19, 2012
    Reply

    […] Tsunami 2012: I Thought I Was Going To Die at Never-Ending Footsteps […]

  52. Gladys
    May 19, 2012
    Reply

    Hey Baby!

    I’m glad all is over for you and Dave and that you are safe, no matter what =)

    Well, maybe i should not say this but i thought this will sure be a good memory in your wonderful journey and something that makes our little boring live ‘interesting’.

    Everything happens to us for a reason and I’m sure you learn and gotten something useful from this experience.

    Wishing u a safe and enjoyable journey forward =)

    • Lauren
      July 5, 2012
      Reply

      Baby??? I wouldn’t say it is a good memory at all! In fact, 3 months later I’m still struggling and freak out everytime I go into an airport! :)

  53. Juliann
    May 23, 2012
    Reply

    Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow. You made me feel like I was there, and I was scared. Wow.

    • Lauren
      July 5, 2012
      Reply

      Thanks Juliann – I was hoping for that effect (sorry for scaring you though)! :)

  54. Kristen
    May 31, 2012
    Reply

    You had me in tears reading this. I felt as if I was there with you. What an experience! I’m so glad that you are okay, and I’m sorry that something like this happened to you. It really makes you appreciate life on an entire new level. Thank you for sharing this story. It is very well written.

    • Lauren
      July 5, 2012
      Reply

      Awww, sorry Kristen! It definitely made me appreciate life from then on :)

  55. Kurt
    June 14, 2012
    Reply

    Harrowing to be right in the thick of things. It is great you made it out alive.

    • Lauren
      July 5, 2012
      Reply

      It definitely was. Thanks Kurt! :)

  56. Adam @ GettingStamped
    December 3, 2012
    Reply

    Sorry to hear about your tsunami experience. We had just left Phuket days before the earthquake hit. We were in Indonesia at the time, in the Gili islands off Lombok. We were a bit freaked out too cause the highest point on those islands can be more than 5 or 10 Meters. We would have been screwed… Glad it wasn’t any worse than it was.

  57. Steph
    January 9, 2013
    Reply

    This is a brilliant piece of writing Lauren! Not sure how I missed it but wow, thanks for sharing.

    • Lauren
      January 9, 2013
      Reply

      Awwww, thank you so much, Steph! :)

  58. Radu
    January 11, 2013
    Reply

    I blinked maybe 4 or 5 times while reading this thing… You do have some talent at these things :D

    I’ll always keep asking myself: am I the only one who’s not scared of a tsunami ? I just can’t understand what’s so scary about them…

    Anyway, how did you like that adrenaline pumping through your veins ? Pretty cool, right ? And kind of addictive… Your stomach never likes it, be aware of that. Blood is moved away from the digestive system and pumped into your legs, arms and brain. In situations like these, you need those things the most; digesting the hamburger can wait…

  59. Julio Moreno
    April 15, 2013
    Reply

    Incredible story. Maybe it was an american that converted incorrectly…. 10cm= like 40 feet right?

  60. Sarah
    April 23, 2013
    Reply

    I find it slightly uncomfortable that your first priority was your luggage and that you used apparent superhuman strength to carry it rather than worry about Dave. I think that my clothes would have been at the back of my mind compared to my partner.

    • Lauren
      April 23, 2013
      Reply

      Wow, Sarah, you couldn’t be more wrong.

      The whole reason I turned around and ran back to the airport was to get Dave.

      At that moment, I believed that a tsunami was going to hit at any second and I turned around and ran towards it because all I could think about was getting to Dave. I was frantically searching for him and THAT’S why I ran back inside the airport. I thought we were about to die and all I wanted was to be with him, whether that endangered my life or not.

      I don’t know why I grabbed our bags, I don’t know what was going through my mind. All I saw was everybody with their bags and ours were the only ones left behind.

      I own three t-shirts and two pairs of shorts, that is all the clothes I own — none of which cost more than about $5. Believe me I couldn’t have cared less about my clothes. There’s a reason why I sold everything I owned before I left to travel. Because I don’t care about material possessions.

      None of the photos in this post were taken on the day of the tsunami — only the one of people sleeping in the airport, and even Dave took that because I was barely able to function.

      But, hey, thanks for the lovely comment. It’s wonderful to be judged by somebody who doesn’t know you and has no idea of the situation you were in.

  61. Lawrence Michaels
    August 22, 2013
    Reply

    I remember that earthquake last year, everyone was in a big panic. Tsunami’s are scary, but really you don’t need to be that high to get away from them. Of course the airport is literally at sea level, so it’s probably not the best place to be. I live about a mile from the beach straight up a pretty flat road, but even where I am, I’m probably 60′ above sea level or so, which is a pretty safe height.

    • Lauren
      August 25, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks for that, Lawrence. I remember being told that the big tsunami hadn’t reached as high as the area we were evacuated to but it still didn’t feel high enough! Of course the people that were climbing trees and walls and buildings didn’t help calm my nerves… :-)

      • Lawrence Michaels
        August 25, 2013
        Reply

        People can really overreact when they are scared. I remember a bunch of people were driving up to the Big Buddha to avoid a tsunami. Now that’s a bit much. It was actually pretty lucky that it happened on the 11th and not the 13th. That is the first day of Songkran and it would have been a combination of panic and lots of alcohol. Even without the alcohol mixed in, I saw maybe 4 or 5 motorcycle accidents that day from people panicking.

        • Lauren
          October 7, 2013
          Reply

          I remember that! Songkran was a great way to forget about the trauma of the day before… :-)

  62. Bill DeGiulio
    December 16, 2013
    Reply

    Glad it all worked out. I’m sure your thoughts were racing back to the 2004 tsunami that devastated the Indian Ocean region. The pictures and video from that event were enough to scare the living day-lights out of anyone. We are all now conditioned to run like hell at the mere mention of the word “tsunami”. There is nothing wrong with fear, sometimes that is what will save your life. Glad it all worked out. Happy travel :)

    • Lauren
      December 18, 2013
      Reply

      Yep, they definitely were. It’s the only time in my life where I’ve been completely convinced I was going to die.

  63. Meghan
    January 1, 2014
    Reply

    Wow, I’ve just discovered your blog and this story reminded me of the 10,000 quakes I experienced in Christchurch, New Zealand between 4 Sept 2010 and 3 April 2011 when we moved away to Auckland. It is totally understandable that you were traumatised by your experience. The thing with natural disasters is that the people experiencing the disaster don’t have access to the media reporting what is actually happening. Either cellphone towers are down, or there’s no power for TV etc. Our relatives in Australia knew more about the state of central Christchurch than we did. We had no idea how bad the city was because both my husband and I were in the suburbs during the 22 Feb 2011 quake. We didn’t see the damage on TV until power was restored about 48 hours later. Somehow you do what you have to, but sleep deprivation and constant anxiety due to aftershocks is still having a lasting effect (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) on many Christchurch residents. I was experiencing an aftershock in our lounge in March 2011 when the footage of the Japanese tsunami was on TV. I felt physically ill for the Japanese because I knew exactly how terrified they would be.

    • Lauren
      January 15, 2014
      Reply

      That was definitely the most frightening aspect for me — not knowing what was happening and having to go off of the rumours everyone else was spreading.

  64. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs
    January 2, 2014
    Reply

    Wow, Lauren indeed many crazy things happens to you on your travels! I guess that yours ‘quirky’ luck, but this one wow, super dangerous, not sure I even once had such an intense experience!

    • Lauren
      January 3, 2014
      Reply

      It was definitely intense, that’s for sure!

  65. srishti
    June 10, 2014
    Reply

    it was horrible for me to read this, even if i was reading it for my project in school!
    this story is enough thrilling for anyone to fail his life!!!!!!!!
    u r enough brave that in this situation u went back to airport just because of your friend and all of your goods!
    :) :0 :)

    • Lauren
      June 15, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks Srishti

  66. HikeUSA
    August 21, 2014
    Reply

    OMG….. I was at the other end when this happened! I was at Suvarnabhumi Airport on this exact day waiting for my flight to Phuket that was later cancelled. Wow. And I thought I had it bad leaving the airport late at night, looking for a hotel and then coming back very early the next day to catch the 1st flight.

    I didn’t how bad it was for you guys who were in Phuket…..and I got pissed off for missing a day in Phuket???

    The way you tell your story is amazing!

    Are you still travelling?

    Cheers!

    • Lauren
      September 1, 2014
      Reply

      Wow, how funny! Yep, still travelling. Have been going for just over three years now :-)

  67. Karina
    October 13, 2014
    Reply

    Hi Lauren, as everyone else has said, this is an amazing post and even though it’s two years old, it seems very fresh. I have such an interest to travel to Thailand, and of course Phuket looks so beautiful. However, after watching the 2004 documentary footage and the movie with Naomi Watts, I admit I am terrified. Then I re-read your account and was terrified all over again. So my question to you is, have you or will you return to Phuket? What are your thoughts on that after having been through this? I’m trying to figure out if I have irrational fear and should go anyway but it’s not like earthquakes are uncommon in this part of the world. I am from LA so I’m somewhat used to earthquakes, but the tsunamis on top of it are terrifying! Thank you for sharing this very personal and terrifying account of what you went through!

    • Lauren
      October 13, 2014
      Reply

      Hi Karina,

      Yep, I’ve returned to Phuket maybe… three or four times or so since the tsunami. Tsunamis are scary but I force myself to think logically — how many tsunamis have there been that have hit Thailand? Not many severe ones. I still get nervous whenever I visit but I think it’s important to face my fears and force myself to do it.

  68. Jill
    November 1, 2014
    Reply

    What an incredible account straight from the belly of the chaos. The gripping fear was warranted and absolutely understandable. I’m glad you are around to tell this story. It’s devastating to learn about these situations continents away. To hear it’s impact on an individual experiencing this first hand is eye-opening. This story must be in your book!

    • Lauren
      November 19, 2014
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Jill! It is in my book, and in much more detail too! :-)

  69. Rich - RichyFeet
    November 4, 2014
    Reply

    Sounds terrifying Lauren!! I guess it is understandable after the last tsunami that people would react cautiously, and try to get everybody out of the area not that that’s much consolation to you! Fantastic post, I could really feel the emotion reading it.

    • Lauren
      November 22, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Rich! Still the scariest thing to have ever happened to me.

  70. Heidi
    April 21, 2015
    Reply

    Lauren – love the post. We were also in Phuket when it happened, with our two small children. Ended up in a mountain village until 9.30pm, being told 3x 8m waves were on their way. Locals fed us, offered their floor to sleep on, and thankfully I picked up bottles of water on the way up for our baby. Not sure how I managed to think about that while pushing a pram up a massive hillside. Locals also took it in turns to help us get the prams up.
    Eventually we edged down the hill, not knowing what was happening. Thankfully, we found out it was all called off. We had to stay in a beachfront villa that night – needless to say, I made sure the alarms were checked and bags were packed.
    Icing on the cake? Next morning, the alarm went off. Fire alarm!

    • Lauren
      June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Oh my god, wow! It’s so interesting to read about it from another person’s perspective. Wasn’t it terrifying?

  71. Liem @ Holiday Bays
    June 21, 2015
    Reply

    I would be scared if I was there too. You must have had one of the most memorable days of your life. :P

    • Lauren
      June 30, 2015
      Reply

      Yep, I can’t see myself ever forgetting it!

  72. Kezia
    March 16, 2016
    Reply

    Ha, yeah that was a bit of an anti-climax. For you the best kind of anti-climax.

    • Lauren
      March 18, 2016
      Reply

      Yep!

  73. joojol
    March 21, 2016
    Reply

    you are like a god protected human
    hahahahahhahahaha

    • Lauren
      March 22, 2016
      Reply

      It felt like it once I realised I was safe! :-)

  74. sophie nadeau
    August 10, 2016
    Reply

    I just stumbled across your blog and so have spent a while catching up on all of your articles! I’m so sorry that this happened to you, I can’t imagine how scary this must have been… glad you’re okay!

    • Lauren
      June 3, 2017
      Reply

      Thank you, Sophie! :-)

  75. Brooke
    June 3, 2017
    Reply

    Okay Lauren, that was intense, not gonna lie the title drug me in and I’m glad I stayed and read! I couldn’t imagine going through something like that kind of chaos. I’ve been reading some earthquake essays and they don’t come close to being as intense as this. Glad you’re safe!

    • Lauren
      June 3, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks, Brooke!

  76. Regin
    July 17, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Lauren. I vividly remember this. I was in Krabi during this time with my then girlfriend. This was Songkran 2012. I was relaxing on the beach when I heard the warning sign from a speaker on a pickup truck. Suddenly the Krabi became a ghost town that day. Thanks for letting me remember this fateful day.

    • Lauren
      July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Oh, no way! It’s always cool to hear from people who also experienced this tsunami-that-wasn’t-really-a-tsunami! Scary, scary day.

  77. shylo
    June 16, 2018
    Reply

    I know I’m late to the game but HOLY CRAP! That was a crazy story. I was scared reading it for you. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like to be in that moment. Absolutely and utterly terrifying. I’m so happy things worked out for you and that you didn’t let that crazy event stop you from continuing in your travels like it might have for others.
    You have a great storytelling gift and you really kept me on the edge of my seat reading this.
    I look forward to reading more of your stories!
    Stay safe and blessed

    • Lauren
      June 16, 2018
      Reply

      Thank you so much :-) That means a lot!

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