KHAO LAK, Thailand – The Italian restaurant, pool areas, cabanas and clubs that lined the shore in Thailand with a tropical flare are gone. Hotels in Khao Lak (search) are in massive clean-up mode.
Along the coastline, pretty much everything within 100 yards of the water is being leveled. All that remains are piles of rubble. The foundations and the few gutted buildings that still stand are being bulldozed into a big hill of twisted metal, broken tile and splintered wood.
There are no plans to rebuild in these areas close to the sea for fear of another tsunami (search). Owners of the resorts plan to rebuild their five-star hotels further from the shoreline and construct sand dunes and berms in between to protect a future clash with Mother Nature.
Employees of the Merlin Resort have begun talking about what happened the day after Christmas — when a wall of water and destruction stormed in. They remember their friends and colleagues who were killed. You can see stoic sadness in their eyes and actions as they speak in broken English of the tragic change here along the beach in Khao Lak.
Damage is non-existent on the other side of the mainland in Panyee, a 225-year-old fishing village built above the water — but traumatic memories will not escape villagers.
People in grass huts that reside just feet above the water knew something was awry when the tide came and went several more times than normal on Dec. 26, but they had no idea of the devastation and death that would come to this region.
Fear remains in various forms. Those fisherman who still have a boat floating are hesitant to venture back into the Andaman Sea (search). Many restaurants on the western edge of Thailand don't sell or cook fish due to fears the fish could be feeding on human remains.
That is very likely not the case, and even if it were it wouldn't threaten the health of anyone on the shore. It is just another bit of hysteria in the middle of such a horrific event.