A holiday in Penang was an annual affair for my family. My parents grew
up in Penang and are very fond of Penang food. In December every year,
we would drive up to the island to spend three days visiting their favourite
This year, we started our journey up north on a Friday morning. The
drive up was punctuated by stops at Bidor town and Kampar so it took us
six hours to reach our destination. We always stayed at one of the hotels in
Batu Ferringhi. The beach is just a short walk from the hotel entrance and
our rooms have a lovely view of the sea. We spent our first evening playing
on the beach. After dinner, we returned to our rooms to play monopoly.
My parents have a rule for our holidays which is that we were to spend
time doing things together. There was to be no TV and no Internet.
The next morning, we went to Bukit Bendera and then spent the
rest of the afternoon in town visiting our favourite hawker stalls. As we
were having tea at a coffee shop, we overheard people talking about an
earthquake near Sumatera, an island in Indonesia. We headed back to the
hotel and then went to the beach. We took a walk along the beach, picking
up seashells along the way. Suddenly, I noticed a strange thing. The sea
seemed to be retreating from the shore. I called my father to look at
the curious occurrence. My father took one look and went pale. We saw
a grey line in the distance moving towards the shore. It seemed to grow
taller by the second.
My father shouted at us to run back to the hotel. He grabbed my hand
and pulled me with him. Other people on the beach also began to shout
and run. As we reached the hotel lobby, we heard a roaring sound behind
us. My father pushed us towards the stairs. We reached the first floor
when we heard the roar of rushing water and glass breaking. I screamed
when I saw water rising just below us. My father yelled at us to keep
climbing. The water level rose so fast that it wet my feet as I ran the last
few steps to the third floor. We stopped on the fourth floor and looked
down at the swirling water below us. It had stopped rising. After some
minutes, it began to drop.
We waited a long time before going downstairs. The hotel lobby was
unrecognizable. There was dirt and broken furniture scattered everywhere.
Some people who were caught in the tsunami were either unconscious or
groaning with pain. I realized then what a narrow escape we had had.