After a hectic and tiring month cycling through Vietnam and then schlepping through the scorching 100+ temps of the Cambodian countryside, it was time for another “vacation from my travels.” I mean I hadn’t really had a “vacation” since January when I beached in Australia for a week (sorry, kick me now). So… I jetted down to Phuket Island, one of Thailand’s prime beach destinations and the jump off point to many island getaways.
I stayed at the lovely Kata Poolside Resort near Kata Beach, supposedly a slightly less-crowded beach than the ever popular Pathong area. My room was a fabulous oasis of modern calm with a huge white-linened king size platform bed and balcony overlooking swaying palms and the outdoor lobby’s fountain. Ahhhh, serenity now.
Well, maybe not. There was a sound in the air that I found utterly annoying. Besides the fact that the town was overrun by tourists, they all looked and sounded the same. I’m surrounded by blond, blue-eyed people. What? Obviously they are not local Thais. They are Scandinavians. It turns out that these island hot spots are very popular tourist destinations of Swedes. I’m usually the only American at many places I’ve visited and often am the only blue-eyed person in a sea of native Asians, but here at the hotel pool, I was practically the only one not here for the “Ikea convention.”
Phuket and more specifically Kata Beach was just gorgeous. Well, it was until 2004 when the famous tsunami ravaged the place. On December 26, 2004, the second largest earthquake in recorded history erupted on the floor of the Indian Ocean. The 9.3 magnitude quake triggered a series of horrific and deadly tsunamis that claimed nearly 300,000 lives in the countries along the Indian Ocean rim.
In Thailand alone, 5,000 people were confirmed dead and 3,000 more were reported missing. About half of the victims were Thai citizens and the other half were tourists. It turns out the majority of these tourists were from Sweden. And the Swedish Government has actually encouraged it’s citizens to return and pump some much needed cash back into the place.