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The Time My Favorite Place Almost Killed Me…

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This is the continuation of my Koh Chang story which was great until now…I mean the whole transportation thing sucked, but really we just laughed it off. It’s typical. Now this is where the story really starts to get dark and scary. Ya know, because I love life and all…

I left off telling you it was our last day on the island and we were happy to be sunning our buns after a few days of overcast….

koh chang

Four of the six of us decided to get in the water and cool down. We were bobbing up and down with the waves making little jumps as they came by so we didn’t get splashed by the salty water. One of my friends left to go back to sunbathing and my Australian friends, a couple, remained in the water with me.

We continued chatting and bobbing the waves for a bit longer. When we decided it was time to go in, we started swimming back to shore. I was swimming and swimming…. and then I was getting tired. I looked up and I hadn’t made it to shore. This is so weird. Wait, where are my friends? SPLASH SPLASH. Ah! Waves are smashing in my face… I can’t stand. What’s going on?

These thoughts are racing through my head and I can’t understand what’s happening. Water is really getting in my face, nose and mouth. For some reason I took my sunglasses off so I didn’t lose them in the waves. I was having trouble swimming at this point but somehow I was holding on to these stupid cheap sunglasses. I didn’t let go. For some reason it was like I was holding on to something to keep me alive. I wanted to be able to wear them again because I realized something…I’m swallowing water. I’m drowning.

I remember the waves weren’t even that big. But I was right where they were crashing down and I couldn’t stand. I had been in the water for a while swimming with my friends using some of my energy, and I would soon realize later, I used my last bits of energy to swim against a rip current. Something I didn’t realize until it was too late.

Thoughts are running through my mind in what seemed like forever yet also only a few seconds. Slow torturing thoughts of what is going to happen when my parents hear that their eldest daughter drowned? My little sister and brother? Is this really happening? Am I really going to die here on the beaches of Koh Chang? A place that first welcomed me nearly two years ago at the time.

How Ironic it is that I am going to die at the beach, my favorite place in the world. The place I crave and can’t get away from. Wow, the sea is huge. What a monster this pool of blue is with its white crashing killer crests filling my lungs.

My lungs. I could feel them gasping with all their might for air but I kept feeding them water. I tasted the salty water taking the place of my air and I began making a wheezing sound. I could hear my two friends yelling my name frantically at one point. I couldn’t believe I was going to drown at my favorite place on earth.

I wasn’t getting any closer to the shore despite my efforts, again wasting my precious energy against a current. Something I knew about yet didn’t have the time to process in my brain when scarier thoughts were taking its place. I could see a full beach yet nobody saw me. Nobody would know I needed help. I was so close, yet so far. My lungs are filling up more and I’m struggling to keep my head up.

I was near giving up, as my effort were futile at this point and my nose was rarely out of the water at most times now. I thought of my years at the beach. I went since I was a child. Nearly every weekend. I was always safe. What had I done this time that was different? Why was this the way I was leaving the world? I didn’t have much time left to think about anything anymore…

And then I felt it.

My big toe grazed sand. With whatever I had left I tried to get to the sand but then a man saw me….

I saw him and his family through the glossy salt water that was inhibiting my vision. He gave me a thumbs up and lips that looked like he said, “Are you OK?” I tried with all my might to shake my head no, but I’m sure he saw my desperate need for help and came diving for me.

The man carried me to shore then tried to put me down to walk. I collapsed. His wife came to help him carry me up to shore. I was coughing while repeating, “My friends, My friends.” he told me to worry about myself right now and they sat me down on the beach.

A few moments later my friends walked up gasping for air.

Palm tree on beach with swimmers in background

I sat on the beach in disbelief that this actually just happened to me. My friends the same. Eventually after coming to and drinking some fresh water to purge the copious amount of salt soaking the life out of us, my two friends went to their room to deal with their traumatic experience. I stayed on the beach.

I just looked out at the ocean in complete awe of the fact that it almost swallowed me whole. It upset me for few months to come. I couldn’t get my last moments in the water out of my head. The crashing of the waves. The helpless feeling. The horrible thoughts…

The beach is still my favorite place and I go often, but I will never look at the ocean the same again. Can you blame me? My favorite place nearly killed me…

Side note: In case you care or are wondering I didn’t want such a scarred feeling about the beach in my head and so I faced it head on. About 7 months later I went snorkeling and surfing in Indonesia to get my self back out in the sea.


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  2. As a dive instructor, I teach new divers about rip tides and what to do if you’re caught in one. So far, not a single student has known what to do in a rip tide. Such a scary experience for you – glad you were ok and that you got back in the water!

    1. Yes, by the time I realized what was happening it was far too late. There were signs posted about rip tides and I know what to do…. but when you’re in that situation not realizing until it’s too late, it’s a whole different story!

      Terrified of diving, but I still want to do it :-p

  3. I had the precisely same experience @ Richards Bay in South Africa in 1972. I damn near drowned in a rip tide caused by the Richards River. To add to the excitement, I observed the fins of about 10 sharks, feeding on baitfish 10m from me. Like you, I first panicked, knowing the water was full of sharks. I wondered if I should just drown myself, rather than suffer a shark attack. Something …maybe my “Guardian Angel” popped a thought into my frantic mind. The voice said, “Slow down friend, look around you. This is just a riptide. Swim across it”.
    I did exactly that. as I cleared the riptide (which was huge); I could feel the flood tide shoving me to the beach. By that time I was probably a good 300-500m offshore. I relaxed, floated on my back and slowly swam with the flooding tide. I tumbled thru 2 shore breaks and finally touched sand with my hand. I couldn’t walk. I dragged myself ashore.
    My stupid friends were happily puffing on Durban Poison Weed in their Meerschaum Pipes. I cudda killed them!
    I have never gone swimming in those conditions again, without fins, mask & snorkel. I visited Koh Chang in Oct 2010. Some Aussies in my motel told me that Koh Chang was notorious for rip tides. Aussies obviously are usually very good swimmers.

    1. Oh my gosh! Yea, SA has some scary water… Wow. And I thought the exact same with my Aussie friends but they got tossed around too. Horrible. Glad everything worked out OK for us all.

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