18. A storm hit unexpectedly and our boat crashed
“I was on a boat that sank on the Mekong river in South East Asia. It was a 2 day trip with an overnight stop as it is too dangerous to be on the river after dark, we stayed in a bar and got extremely drunk as there was a serious tropical storm that knocked the power out in this tiny village on the banks of the river.
The following morning we set off on the final leg of the journey really early the next day, everyone was feeling pretty terrible after drinking way too much so were trying to catch a few hours nap on the boat. Around an hour or 2 into the journey the boat rolled quite heavily to one side and some cups and glasses slid off the tables and fell onto the floor startling most people awake, we picked the stuff up off the floor and went back to sleep.
I’m not really sure how much later but the same thing happened again but even more violently. The boat rolled so heavily it slid from one side to the other and smashed into a table on the now lower side of the boat, at this point I noticed that water had started to come over the side and was getting deeper. Everyone was looking around at each other looking pretty terrified not knowing what to do, the water level was now at probably waist height, I told my gf to get out of the boat and swim for the banks of the river, I had to help her climb out the high side of the boat and onto the roof as the lower side was now pretty much fully submerged. At this point I realised I was stuck between the table I had smashed into and a bench that had fallen on top of my leg, with the water now getting towards shoulder height and the boat sinking pretty rapidly, I took a final breath and went down with the boat, it’s hard to say how long but it probably sank in around a minute, 2 if you were being generous. Luckily as the boat fully sank the benches and tables started to float and move away from each other and I got free without too much trouble. I opened my eyes and all I could see was brown dirty water with some sunlight in the distance, I swam towards it, being careful not to knock my head on anything and knock myself out, trying to swim horizontal until I was sure I was clear from the boat before I could try for the surface. I managed to pop up not too far away from the river bank, I looked around and saw a few of the other passengers being swirled around in the rough current, trying to grab anything that was floating to save themselves, calling out for help. I’m a pretty terrible swimmer so realised trying to help anyone else would probably just end in them dragging me down with them so struggled and eventually made it to the bank, I made it but didn’t have the energy to pull myself out of the water, I half got onto some rocks and waited to catch my breath, some other passengers that made it out of the water ran over to tell me my gf was safe further down stream, the guy driving the boat had jumped in and pulled her out because she was struggling.
To give some background detail this boat was being run by a young family that lived onboard, as it customary in large parts of SE Asia it is considered rude to wear your shoes inside someones house as a consequence we had to remove our shoes when boarding the boat. We were now trying to traverse the rocky banks of the river with no shoes, trying to find other passengers.
Getting back to the main story; the captain of the boat at this stage was screaming at the river, not knowing if his wife and 2 children made it off the boat before it sank (we came across them later on, his wife had somehow managed to make it off with her baby slung over her back and her young son). After a while we had managed to flag down another passing boat, initially they didn’t stop but I think they must have started to see random bits of floating debris from the boat and realised what had happened and came back for us, further down the river we found more passengers that had been rescued by some local fishermen. We tried to account for everyone and quickly worked out that everyone was present apart from one girl, no one had seen her during the scramble to get off the boat. We boarded the boat that we managed to flag down and left for the next nearest large town where we would be able to get in contact with our countries embassies (there was zero phone signal around here and all our phones were either in the river of completely soaked) which was over 6 hours away, the local fishermen promised us they would search for the missing passenger.
Having made it to the next town after a pretty fucking long day by this point we were greeted by the local police who were in plain clothes as it was Songkran and everyone was celebrating by having a huge 3 day water fight. They took some details and told us to come to the station in a few days. We ended up having to sit around for days sorting out loads of stuff as our passports were lost and all the local places that could do anything were closed. Once we got enough documents to allow us to move on and fly to the capital we had to go to our consulate to sort out new travel documents and assist in the matter about the missing passenger with her friends that had made it off the boat (she was from the same country). After a few days the consulate informed us a body had been found and unfortunately it was the missing passenger which was pretty devastating experience to take along with the additional stress everyone was currently going though.
I feel like I’m rambling on now but after a few weeks we luckily managed to get new passports without flying home which we were informed is the standard procedure for my countries passport office, going home to get a full passport wasn’t really an option as we were around 5 weeks into a 7 month trip. Was a pretty fun 6 months after that although did end up in some other pretty dangerous situations, we were also on 2 buses that crashed and a friend of mine that came and met us for a month was involved in a pretty nasty motorbike accident.
Apologies for the piss poor comprehension, I’ve never taken the time to write this experience down before and I’m not the best writer as it is.” — FatCunth