Yesterday, a 6.0-6.3 earthquake struck 26km from Chiang Rai.  However, my friends and I didn’t feel it because we were riding in a blue songtaew taxi. We had just finished an invigorating bike ride though my neighborhood along the river, got caught in the rain, and had decided to see if the fancy-shmancy hotel that my friends were staying at could get us a taxi ride back into town with our bicycles.

But, you see, we did it before!!!

The driver didn’t think we could manage 4 people and 3 bikes, but we did it, and then we took off for town. I’m convinced the earthquake happened while we were just starting off because not a minute after I saw a strange sight – a young shirtless man jogging down the street, with his fully clothed mother looking dazed behind him.

Then I saw a group of people standing outside of stores, not together in a group, but spread out. It was strange, so I said to myself as well as to the driver, “Why are they…?”

A little further as we continued to putter in his blue truck, we observed more folks standing outside, and most peculiarly, looking up. So, I started to look up and asked the driver, “What happened?”  I wondered if there was a suicide jumper, but that seemed ridiculous as none of the buildings are very tall and the whole length of the street was filled with people outside looking up and around.

Was it the mother ship? Dany and her dragons? Was it the second coming descending to Earth in a fireball?

Jesus was here.
Jesus was here.

The driver’s phone rang, and after a 5 second phone call, I asked again, “What happened?” He said something in Thai that I didn’t understand. Then he said in English – probably because it was the only “English” word he knew to convey what he had just learned – “Tsunami.”






The driver made a motion with his hand like a seesaw and I was beginning to feel just as dazed as everyone else on the street. How could a tsunami hit here? We’re in the middle of the mountains. Then he pointed to the street, and my light went on…Oh!!! An earthquake!

I briefly wondered if my friends in the back with the bicycles were okay and if they knew what had transpired. I looked back, they seemed fine.

But I continued to look at the people on the street, and wondered, why does everyone look up? Do we all look up when disasters hit? It seems a very human thing to do, and I supposed we look up when we feel small and vulnerable.

At the hotel, the receptionist was there to greet us and excitedly asked if we had felt the earthquake. No. How was it? She said everything shook, but nothing fell and all was okay.

During the night I was frequently woken up by the aftershocks. I was surprised by the strength and frequency. We must have easily had 10 and then the big ones in the morning finally prompted me out of bed.

A brief search on the Internet hasn’t produced any results as to why people look up during earthquakes. I can understand while you are inside a building, but standing outside, I wonder what folks hope to see or find, or maybe they are praying. I don’t know, but I feel lucky because everything in my world is okay.

What a day…

19 replies on “Why do we look up?

  1. glad to hear you are ok. the quake was felt strongly around the entire district of Chiang Rai. i heard it rattled houses in Mae Khachan.

    why do people look up? no idea! in the middle ages the Catholic church had been teaching for a thousand years that the sun, moon, and stars were perfect and were heaven. that is why poor Galileo got into so much trouble for pointing a telescope up and proving them wrong.

    why do Buddhist look up? why?! excellent question. now you have me pondering…


    1. I know, right? OMG, just felt a huge aftershock. Jesus, they are scary. Thanks for the history lesson 😉


  2. After living years on the Ring of Fire, I’ve been through many, many earthquakes! I don’t remember ever looking up…strange!


    1. Perhaps when we don’t know what to expect, we look up to the sky? I don’t know. But I can say, it was so interesting to be driving through CR after it happened, like very soon after it happened, and caught all the reactions.


  3. The only time I remember looking up during and earthquake was during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (6.9 Richter). The reason we looked up is we went outside during the quake and looked at the old growth Redwood Trees swaying back and forth while the wind was non-existent. It was really eerie. We had friends who were at the SF Giants game and one of them had a seat right next to one of the expansion joints at Candlestick Park and he told us how it was weird seeing the expansion joint open and close during the quake. We had friends who commuted on the highways that collapsed and after a day of trying to get in touch with them we found out they had stopped at a bar to watch the game so they weren’t on the sections of freeways that collapsed. The little old lady who lived next door to us had her well dry up so we ran water from ours to her house until they could drill a new well. Living in the SF Bay Area most of our lives we experienced many quakes. Mostly we ignored them. Reports we are getting from friends in Thailand sounds like this one was pretty good. Glad all are okay. Stay safe.


    1. Ah, wow. Thanks for sharing that story Vince, and good point. The Thais were probably wondering about the structures of the buildings and telephone lines – and heck, maybe they saw the trees sway, too. Ug. I gotta tell you though, I’m ready for the aftershocks to be done. My heart gets going every single time!!!


  4. Your post had me laughing because of the way it was written although the circumstances were alarming. Mother ship and Jesus got me giggling too. Goood to know the whole gang made it back home in one piece. The last photo is beautiful. We want to visit next time we are there.


    1. I heard you all might visit soon! Is that true? Good, I’m glad you laughed. Things were really not alarming for us. It was like we were in a protective bubble and I got to watch everyone’s reactions.

      Yeah, rent bicycles so we can take you all through the countryside! xxoo

      ps I have the book to give to you!


      1. I want to visit. Just not sure exactly when. We have to go to Mae Sot first! Then hopefully one weekend soonish, we will come to CR. Also want to see Tu! Sad about the white temple! Sigh. Take care!


  5. I’m really happy it didn’t effect you guys!
    That’s interesting, why do people look up in an earthquake?
    You always have great observations, Lani!
    ~ Andrea ❤


    1. Thanks Andrea 🙂 I suppose it’s wondering if the sky is falling cause it probably felt like it if you were indoors!

      One of my students told me he was in the movie theatre and everyone ran out in a panic, and a light fell down.



  6. Glad you are good Lani.. Maybe people look up as if to look to God.. Or maybe more simple “is something falling” not sure if to the sky though..just glad you are all safe. Heart to heart Robyn


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