Plenty of our friends and clients were seriously alarmed by mass media reports regarding the Samui disaster that occurred in March, 2011. For this reason, we’ve decided to tell the story of how we managed to survive for those few days.
At the very beginning, the weather had been unusually gloomy, with regular heavy showers. This was unusual, considering that March is usually the driest season in Samui. At that time though, a rather violent cyclone from China arrived at the island, causing it to rain daily, sometimes virtually non-stop. On the first day, this torrential downpour stayed with us all day long, even though we still had to go out to dine with some friends who we’d met online a long time before. Undeterred by some of the worst weather in Samui’s history, we took off to a local raw food restaurant. On a typical dry day, there would have been three accessible roads to get there. Because of the rain though, only one road was actually usable, although a sailboat would have been a better vehicle choice…
Our friends had to walk for almost an hour to get to the restaurant, since no taxi driver wanted to risk drowning – even for a generous tip.
Despite all the hurdles, everyone got there safely. We dried off and had a great time catching up. After the meal, it became clear that we couldn’t get home because of the flooded roads. We figured we’d be lucky to make our way to a nearby friends’ resort.
Fortunately we did make it and even got an apartment for 1,000 Baht (about US$30) per night. As old and shabby as it was, it was almost right on the beach!
Thunder and lightning continued into the wee hours, but eventually it got quiet. At 7am, I gave my loved ones a shove (a few shoves, actually) to wake them up. We packed up quickly and decided to get a move on, because taking too long now meant a very real possibility of getting stuck for several days in our 1,000 Baht “beachfront villa”. It was definitely the right choice. Minutes after we got home – having traveled along the only possible road, our floodlights deep in water – the rainfall intensified and didn’t stop for the next few days.
On the way home, we barely made it around a huge rock that had fallen, blocking the main road on the island. After the floods were over, it took a week to clear with workers hammering and drilling away small chunks of rock piece by piece.
The power was certainly out at home, but we were lucky to snatch the last four large bunches of bananas, some ripe and some green, so dying a hungry death was no longer a threat.
One of the difficulties of having no electricity was the need to entertain a two year-old child without using go-to tricks such as cartoons, trips to the sea, shopping, or anything else of the kind.
For these three days, we really felt like a family, truly connected and united as one. We spent some quality time together, undistracted by the Internet, work, reading or watching TV. Our phones were also off – a consequence of the mobile networks having gone down.
Our daughter, obviously grateful for the unprecedented attention she was getting, behaved perfectly, and there was no somber mood or a hint of depression. On the contrary, there was a feeling of complete safety. We enjoyed this closeness, this chance of simply communicating with each other.
On the fourth day of our happy confinement, just as the food supply went low, the rain stopped and the water level subsided. We stocked the car full of people – all friends and children aboard – and rushed to the Big C hypermarket. Apparently, we were their first customers in quite a few days. The children were as excited as if we had just brought them to Disneyland.
As for the flood’s impact on the island and tourism, as far as I heard, the walls of some hotels collapsed due to mudslides. Fortunately, there were only a few cases of this and mainly coastal buildings were affected. Two weeks later, sandbags along the roads and occasionally damaged pavement were the only things reminiscent of the disaster. A customer of ours was very close to canceling his airline tickets upon finding out how bad the weather had gotten in Samui. Fortunately, he was able to fight off his doubts, made the trip and thoroughly enjoyed the island and its incredible views unobstructed by crowds of tourists.