Pod had a successful tour business in Khao Lak, Thailand. He would act as a guide to tourists who wished to experience the natural beauty of the National Parks, whilst his wife would run the agency and take bookings. They had a young son, and Pod’s wife was 5 months pregnant with their second child.
This particular day he left home as usual, the weather was fine, and he was leading a group on an excursion into Khao Sok National Park. He would take the group of tourists on a short elephant trek, followed by a canoe trip along the river. Shortly after he arrived at the elephant camp, his wife telephoned to say that their son had decided to cycle over to his friend’s house and would not be back for dinner.
The elephant trek was uneventful, (contrary to popular stories the elephants did not show any abnormal behaviour). Pod and his party made their way to the main road, and were confronted by the sight of hundreds of people, cars, trucks etc. making their way inland. Pod asked what had happened.……….
It was was Boxing Day, 26th December 2004; the day of the Tsunami, and Pod’s life would change for ever.
Pod searched for his wife, never giving up hope. It was more than 2 years later, in March 2007 that he finally discovered his wife’s body, matched by DNA. Her body was in a refrigerated truck. He lost eight family members and friends in the Tsunami, but his son did survive because the friend’s house was inland and on high ground. The final death toll in Khao Lak was over 4,000 with local unofficial estimates topping 10,000 due to the lack of accurate government censuses and the mere fact that the Burmese population were not documented or recognized as legal residents.
Pod joined with the relief effort, helping to build a Tsunami relief village for the surviving fishermen who had lost their homes. Initially the Thai Police and Army organised 35 single storey houses to be built, shortly afterwards the King of Thailand built approximately 65 two storey houses at the same site. Pod had gained experience of concrete work and tiling during his days working as a labourer in his youth, so he was able to contribute substantially to the work.
He moved away from Khao Lak, but missed the nature and beauty of the national parks. He told me that although he can never forget, he has done all his crying and being sad. It is time to move on as there is no alternative, and he is attempting to rebuild his life. He has since remarried to a very nice lady from his home village, and has returned, trying to restart his tour business.
He does not ask for, nor expect sympathy. He accepts what happened as something that “happened” and was beyond his control.
Pod did not offer his story easily; indeed it took some encouragement for him to tell me about that time. There is much, much more that I could relate, but I think some things maybe better left private.
If you are thinking of visiting the Khao Lak area and would like to help Khun Pod by booking one of his tours, please ask me for his contact details.