The Indian Ocean tsunami killed about 5,400 people in Thailand, half of whom were foreign tourists. Five years on, the BBC’s South East Asia correspondent Rachel Harvey went back to the worst-hit areas to see how people were coping.
Martin Carpenter looks out from a second floor balcony towards the sea.
Below him a group of holidaymakers are throwing a ball about in a bright blue swimming pool.
On the beach beyond, tourists apply more suntan lotion as the midday rays reflect off the white sand beach – a picture postcard scene straight out of the brochures.
“It’s always difficult at this time of year,” Martin says.
“This resort where we’re standing was totally washed out. So when you look at it now, the peaceful tranquillity of it, this is what Phuket’s all about and it was just so devastating that that natural disaster hit when it did.”
Martin Carpenter, British hon consul, Phuket, 22 Dec 09
Martin Carpenter volunteered during the tsunami and calls Phuket home
Martin, now the British honorary consul here, has lived in Phuket for 17 years. He led a team of volunteers helping survivors and relatives of the victims in the aftermath of the disaster.
“We realised, as time went on, that we had also lost personal friends. It was a tough time for everybody, but people pulled through,” he said.
“There was a resilience within the local Thai population. I think that really bonded people, including all the foreigners who were here… They all had a common goal and that goal was recovery.”
This resilience and determination has helped Phuket rebuild to the extent that you would hardly know there had ever been such a terrible tragedy five years ago.