SURVIVOR: Louise and Kingsley GrayA “near miss” story from Louise and Kingsley Gray. This is the email they sent out to their friends from a quick internet access in the days just after the tsunami.
December 30, 2004
I write this email at the thai/malaysian border in a town called Hat Yai. Tomorrow being the 31st we alight a train bound for Kuala Lumpur arriving at 7am New Years Day.
Will not be much of a party for us but that does not matter at all, we are just so very thankful to be celebrating in anyway shape or form. I guess you are all wondering what just happened.
Well our story is one of pure luck and alot of divine intervention. Kingsley and I arrived at phuket on the 22nd of december. we were staying at some bungalows in a beach side resort known as Kata Beach. It was paradise I had never seen anyting quite as tranquil and was thoroughly enjoying our stay. On the 23rd of December we decided to venture down to Patong Beach a few kms away as I wanted to order a special silk top (pink of course) to be made for me. Whilst in Patong Kingsley and I toyed with the idea of checking into Patong on 26th december after we finished at Kata as this place had slightly different atmosphere to where we were.
On Christmas day we had checked into a beautiful resort known as the Sawasdee Village in Kata beach for 2 nights. My mum and dad had given us money for 2 nights over christmas for us to stay some place very nice. We were recommended this place by a Danish family that we met in Penang. They too were checking in.
So we met up with them and began our Christmas celebrations with the Danes. Christmas eve we went into a tourist bureau as we were looking at travelling to Phi Phi Island to continue our southern thailand island hop. There was a boat that we could catch that took us to the island then onto another coastal region called Krabi. We decided against Patong and just carrying on island hopping. We did not book ticket then as we were going to compare prices with other companies. We also wanted to make sure that the boat only allocated seats and no standing room as some of the boats can be dangerously overcrowded. This turned out to be a good option so we decided to book our ticket for 26th december. There were 2 available trips 8.30 and 1.30 originally we were going to go on the 8.30 as we wanted to arrive at the island mid morning to arrange accomodation.
But as we were staying in a classy hotel which had a American buffet breakfast included, great pool and checkout time of 12pm we changed our minds. On the morning of the 26th we awoke ate breakfast and then went swimming in our pool not the beach as we had to leave that day.
whilst swimming in the pool I noticed a woman run in and all the staff dropped everything and ran away, not telling the guests anything. They just ran away and we left wondering what the hell was going on as you could tell in their eyes that something bad was happening. We went outside to see people, cars and bikes running up the road. Niels the Danish man went to the end of the street and saw water coming down it and was lucky to jump over a wall to safety then return to us. By then we had got enough information that there had been an earthquake and that the water was a Tsnaumi heading in. We grabbed important things and got in a bus and was taken to a hill we were told to climb to higher ground, we did this.
Whilst on the hill announcements were made that a second wave of 24m was going to hit within the hour. We climbed higher up the hill. Luckily we were able to get message to our parents that a tsnaumi had hit phuket but we were safe up a mountain shortly after these calls lines went down and was impossible to get news out. we were up the mountain all day.
At 5pm we returned to the hotel to see if we had lost anything. so fortunate that it was unscathed the water stopped metres away. It was surreal, devastation all around us, people injured and many drowned, yet the place we stayed nothing and at times it is embarrassing to say we did not even get our feet wet. Many of the death toll have come from Patong beach, Phi Phi island (totally destroyed) and the bodies of the 8.30 boat trip were being washed up on shore as they were not in deep water when tsnaumi hit.
SOMEONE DEFINITELY WAS WATCHING OVER KINGSLEY AND ME! Advise was given to stay up the mountain as after shocks could trigger more tsnaumis. We grabbed all our luggage water and some food to eat and up we went. We camped out all night on a beach towel that we took from the hotel. Up the hill for the evening were locals, tourists and MOZZIES!! Have many spots from the bites. Next day we went back down the mountain and checked into a room which was situated away from the beach and inland. We spent the day trying to workout what to do but everything including airport was shutdown and the bridge out was flooded and closed. Of course all boats off the island were not an option. So we remained on the island until 29th when we got tickets for a bus out.
Much more to tell but will most likely tell when get home. We have chosen to continue our journey and will return home as originally planned 15 January. Want to finsh trip on high note. Louise and Kingsley