‘Seek High Ground Immediately’

Railay, a spectacularly beautiful peninsula on the Thai coast of Krabi, the landscape currently untouched by tourism and unwelcome to motor vehicles is host to some of the country’s best climbing locations. Recommended by an ex-inhabitant met in Bangkok, myself and the other three teenagers I was travelling with were overwhelmed by Railay’s incomparable serenity and beauty- A welcome change from the bustle of Bangkok and boozers of Ko Phangan.

It is impossible not to notice the number of ‘Tsunami Escape Route’ signs that almost ruin the authentic landscape but the destruction left from six years ago refusing to bury its head made it clear they were obviously necessary. It definitely made us think. Not, about experiencing a Tsunami ourselves, that was for two hours later that day, but, about the lives uprooted and ruined, the remnants still viewable amongst the construction that still blight the community’s bays.

Exhausted and excited for our food we laughed off the comments of the seemingly dismal restaurant owner: ‘’Tsunami coming this way’’ he commented occasionally. We resumed a conversation until we were totally shocked out of our seats and running for what at the time could be our lives. ‘Tsunami is coming, seek high ground, immediately, high ground’ the voice boomed out of one of the numerous speaker phones dotted around for this purpose. Us, and numerous locals sprinted up the flight of self constructed wooden stairs that enter the hills under the condemning sign ‘Tsunami Evacuation Route.’ At the top everyone stopped, we stared out to sea, nothing was happening, other than some boats speeding away from an island at a daunting pace. With the help of BBC news we established there had been two earthquakes off the coast of Banda Aceh each an 8.3 and 8.6, a serious Tsunami warning had been issued for the whole Indian Ocean. Although presented with this news we and everyone around us seemed amazingly calm, the local children were sporting life jackets and everyone seemed patient.

Friends we had made kept in contact warning and urging us to get to safety if we hadn’t already. After two hours some loud voices erupted from a group of knowing locals pointing and then running to the hills, they had noticed the tide had gone out completely, leaving the beach looking like a sight screaming to be explored but thanks to Boxing Day 2004 we knew otherwise. We climbed higher but after a further hour it was announced the threat had passed.

What will forever stay with me is not how I felt as to be honest I can’t say I felt ‘that scared for my life feeling’ people endlessly describe or even a moment of clarity; all I felt is in awe, in awe of these peoples calm and controlled ability to handle the situation without police or television updates and a distinct sadness at the memory of the event that made it possible for them to gain the experience to do so.

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