thailand tsunami

As I click “purchase” on Travelocity, for my airline ticket to India, I’m reminded of my past bad luck with international travel.

Specifically, the black cloud that followed me during my first foray abroad, Thailand.

It was 2004. I had been in LA four years and was itching to move to NYC.

I worked at a dreadfully dull job, where one colleague would smoke pot in the parking garage before we’d head out for a three-glasses-of-wine lunch and another colleague only represented clients who were dead and was begging for a sexual harassment lawsuit.

I had planned this 3 month, round the world adventure before the big move. A month in Thailand, a month in Egypt (renting a room in a church), 2 weeks in India and 2 weeks in England. All on my own. Scary!

10 days in Thailand and I was back in LA.

Let’s rewind, shall we?

Days after Christmas and I’m at the airport and I see on the tiny TV screens that there has been a big earthquake in Southeast Asia.

Luckily Thailand and India aren’t in Asia….wait a second…

Regardless, I begin my long journey to Bangkok, arriving on the 27th.

I don’t know what’s going on as I exit customs and am being yelled at by a thousand travel agents to book day tours with them.

All I could think of was get me some damn air conditioning!

The only thing I have arranged in Thailand is a hotel in Bangkok and then my resort on the island of Koh Phangan for the New Years holiday. Other than that, I was on my own and had to figure out how I was gonna spend my days.

I was coerced into hiring a tour guide the following day to see three major temples. The woman’s voice was so annoying, I said “yes” only to stop the ringing in my ears.

I took a taxi to my pseudo fancy hotel, passing some of Bangkok’s finest ghettos.

The next morning, I’m already bored and lonely.

At that moment I had realized I HATE traveling alone. How was I gonna get through THREE MONTHS of this???

To make matters worse, I open the hotel room door to find a newspaper stating “100,000 PEOPLE FEARED DEAD IN TSUNAMI”

I had unknowingly arrived in Thailand the day after the 2004 Tsunami.


Bangkok has the worst pollution of anywhere I’ve ever been to date. Which seemed odd, because everyone seemed to be driving brand new Toyotas.

Obviously with built in carbon monoxide enhancers.

I met my oddly shaped tour guide and she showed me to some beautiful temples.

Bangkok and Pattaya Beach

But I was so depressed I didn’t take a single picture.

Granted, my digital camera was less than 2 megapixels (no joke) and the size of the Brady Bunch’s first camcorder.

”Hey kids, put on your Sunday’s best! We’re going to Bangkok.”

At the end of the tour, the woman basically asks for a tip similar to the price I paid for the tour.

I suddenly hated this country. And her too, of course.

I gave her less and then had a sense of dread.

My friend who had inspired me to add Thailand to my list used to brag “I only spent $5 bucks a day, it was great! And that included booze!”

That lying bitch.

I had already spent hundreds and it was only my first day. My budget went out the window.

I soon realized I did not bring any appropriate clothing on my trip. I had just gone to REI and then the airport.

I was a complete geek.

And hot as blazes.

I needed some sandals, stat.

I went to this enormous mall, bought some pad thai from a cart for less than .50 cents and purchased a pair of flip flops from hell. Hell Flops.

I received matching, painful blisters in milliseconds and my hatred for Bangkok began to increase exponentially.

I sat down on a bench by a disgusting river to eat my pad thai and noticed lots of anorexic cats and dogs meandering around. It was sad and frankly, unappetizing.

thailand pad thai

After my time in Bangkok was done (get me outta here!) I arrive at the airport to book a flight to Koh Samui for the islandy, beachy, fun part of the trip.

All the flights were full for days.

This is where some pre-planning would have been effective.

The Tsunami had basically screwed everything up. Most people were leaving Thailand and those who were staying were all going the same places I was.

My first night in Bangkok was spent drinking multiple Singha beers at the rooftop pool and trying to find anyone staying. Every single person was getting the hell out of Dodge. I should have known then.

So, at the airport, I met a collection of backpackers and we all tried to find a helicopter to take us to the island. The pilot seemed to be missing from his office. We waited for hours.

Finally, a British couple (Lee and Carla) and I decided we’d take a train south and then take a ferry to Koh Samui.

You’ve not seen chaos until you’ve seen a Thai train station in the middle of the day.

There wasn’t a single legible sign.

There wasn’t a single clean smell.

There wasn’t a single moment of silence.

We knew pretty instantly we weren’t going to be able to figure this shit out.

So, we talked to a taxi driver and were able to negotiate a pretty reasonable rate to take us about 5 hours south. I was shocked and he must have been broke!

What a bullet we dodged! We got to see the pretty countryside and nap comfortably in a quiet, air-conditioned car. That would NOT have been our fate otherwise.

When we get to the edge of the mainland, we waited for about 4 more hours, constantly swatting mosquitos away (mozzies, as the Brits called them) before the ferry arrived to take us to Koh Samui.

Arriving in KS with a fresh case of Malaria, we waited for a smaller ferry to take us to our final destination Koh Phangan.

I had promised Lee and Carla that they could stay in my room at the Panviman Resort.

We take a taxi through the interior of the island to the opposite side. The ride is so bumpy I feel vomitous.

I also realize we’re light years from where all the action is. All the bars and restaurants are where the ferry’s landed.

I spend about an hour and a half begging the staff at Panviman to put an extra bed in my room for my unexpected guests.

For some reason, this request is completely foreign to them and they are refusing. I’m so frustrated, I almost start crying.

I just want something to go my way!!

Eventually they give in. Perhaps they knew what was to come and felt pity for me.

My round the world adventure was becoming a doomed nightmare.