02:30 p.m. The minivan stops in Khao Lak. Khao Lak has beautiful beaches that stretch over 20 km on the Andaman Sea (right in the middle of a National Park) and attracts a lot of tourists, although it remains uncrowded, relaxing, with secluded coastal resorts. Unfortunately, this beautiful part of the Andaman Sea was badly hit during the tsunami in 2004, where over 5,500 people perished and most of the infrastructure was destroyed. Since this natural disaster, the government of Thailand has developed a series of measures to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself, including the replanting and maintenance of the coastal vegetation (that helps as a buffer against tidal waves), the construction of concrete elevated shelters, and the implementation of warning systems (including sirens).
A tsunami memorial is being built in Khao Lak, around the wreck of Police Patrol Boat 813 Buretpadungkit, which was beached at this exact location by a tsunami wave, 1 nautical mile inland from where it was anchored. It is impressive to see a ship of this size so far away from the sea, and gives you an idea of the violence of the tsunami when it hit the coast.
There is not much to be seen around the memorial: It is a construction site at the moment and there is only a couple of stalls with maps and pictures. However, when finished, the place will gather a lot of information and details.
I then go visit the Tsunami Museum. The museum is hosted in a 2 storey house since December 2006, and the proceeds from the donations are gifted to support diverse programmes for the children of the village. So please do feel fee to donate there, even if the museum is not very rich in documentation. The ground floor displays a few facts and photographies, and the first floor has 3 video rooms showing diverse footage of the tsunami and its aftermath.
Some of the footage can be quite harsh to watch as it involves fishing for corpses, cremation, etc. but it is unfortunately the sad reality they had to face for weeks, with very little infrastructure left.