The Land of Smiles... (and Tsunamis)


Having been jokingly referred to as The Focker’s and The Griswold’s it was really no surprise when our Grand Asian Adventure turned in to a comical misadventure.

In our wisdom, we had booked to fly Singapore to Phuket on Tiger Airways, with a 7 hour stopover preceding. We reassured the Griswold’s that they could have a leisurely hot shower in the impressive Changi International Airport, afterwards whiling away the hours lounging in the comfortable theatre, shopping, drinking and eating.

However, (yes, just like Wally World) the Changi Airport was CLOSED to we miserly Tiger Airways passengers. Allowed only into the Departure Lounge (which at midnight was a dark, barren chasm, void of open shops or showers), our only company was a cold tiled floor and military characters sporting machine guns, glaring at the 10 of us strewn shabbily across their tidy terminal

Hours later, an optimistic but bleary eyed bunch, we put this small mishap behind us and boarded our flight to Paradise.

Phuket welcomed us with bright blue skies, calm aqua seas glistening with the arrival of another perfect day and the usual array of hawkers,

“Many colour Madame, many colour.”

We dined on a feast of traditional Pad Thai and seafood washed down with some ice cold Singha beers and tropical cocktails.

After lunch we headed for that elusive shower, and as I turned the faucet the Little Focker quietly remarked: “Mum, my bed moves, all by itself…”

Noticing his bed was on castors, I said “Yes, that’s because it’s on wheels, you can lock them,” as I jumped eagerly under my shower.

Not two minutes later the Princess Focker rudely interrupted me shouting “Mum it’s a Tsunami or something! People are running everywhere and there are sirens!”

“Really? We’ll be right, we’re on the 5th floor,” I scoffed.

Refreshed, I left the room to find a frazzled Mrs Griswold pacing the balcony whilst dragging fiercely on a cigarette (she had but a few months ago given up smoking).

“I hate this place”, she growled. “There are sirens, people are panicking. It’s a Tsunami!”

She was right, sirens were blaring, fire trucks were circling the area again and again with warning messages being shouted through megaphones in a language we could not hope to understand. People were running, frenzied, scrambling to get on motorbikes and escape to higher ground, in a matter of minutes, Patong became a ghost town.

We could but watch from our 5th floor balcony surrounded by strangers who suddenly became friends.

A staff member alighted from the lift screaming “TSUNAMI IN 30 MINUTES! EVACUATE TO THE ROOF!”

A major earthquake under the ocean near Indonesia had caused a serious Tsunami threat across the coast of Thailand. The Thais on the roof did nothing to alleviate our concern, the emotion in their eyes was unmistakable – fear. As the building began to rattle, knocking our water bottles off their perch, my son’s words drifted back to me. “Mum… my bed moves, all by itself.”

Yes. Earthquakes will do that.

After two hours on the roof we were allowed downstairs to eat in the hotel restaurant, our meal was accompanied by CNN broadcasts of the Tsunami warning for Phuket including horrifying footage of the 2004 Tsunami that took over 250,000 lives. This was not really a welcome distraction.

Eventually, crisis averted, we retired to our rooms to dream of crashing waves and crumbling buildings.

On a bus, two days later after touring the magnificent Phi Phi Islands, we came over a hill to a familiar sight. People (hundreds of them, like ants) scurrying desperately to higher ground and shouting feverishly into mobile phones. Our driver stopped the vehicle and barked: “Tsunami! Out!”

“Ah Phuket… Tsunami one day… Earthquake the next.”

On Day 6, whilst elephant trekking amongst the lush green jungle overlooking the shimmering seas, a thunderous noise reverberated through the heavens.

Mrs Griswold was momentarily paralysed - was the earth’s core on the move again? In fits of laughter we reassured her that it was her elephant that had in fact farted, causing the rumble in the jungle.

Can I say that the remainder of our holiday was fabulous, well apart from Gaylord Focker’s mysterious flesh eating blister virus on the soles of both his feet?

Imagine Focker’s surprise on the plane home as the BBC News Headline boldly flashed:

“Mystery Skin Disease Baffles Asia’s Doctors – 19 Dead”.

Mr Griswold had the last laugh:

“Your days are numbered Gaylord!”



L Ortiz

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