I love going to theme parks. When I was much (much) younger I envied the kids on TV who spent their summers at theme parks.

Seven years ago I went to Paris for a fashion assignment. I extended that trip for a few days, and planned for an epic theme park experience at Disneyland Paris.

In Paris, we hung out at Champs-Elysees. I saw some pastries at a cute bakery and went in to get some. As I was paying, a group of tweens came in and started a ruckus, but the shopkeeper told them to leave and they did.

It was a little odd but I thought nothing of it until I realised my purse had been stolen.

My heart sank. It was Day One of my Paris trip and I had lost almost all my money and a credit card.

I didn’t know what to do. The folks at the bakery just shrugged and told me to take better care of my belongings. Gee, thanks.

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Bye dreams.

The receptionist at my hotel could hardly speak English so she was no help at all. I told a few people who came with me on the trip – nobody offered any help. Again, thanks.

I went to my room and called my bank to cancel the credit card. The guy on the other line was a lot more helpful and sympathetic. He even gave me the number of the Malaysian embassy in Paris, in case I needed it.

I was devastated but also grateful that I had another purse with me which I had kept in my luggage. In it was my other credit card, my MyKad, Malaysian ringgit and a few Euro dollars. To this day, I still travel with at least three purses, kept in different places and filled with emergency money and cards.

I went to the ATM to withdraw whatever money I could get from my remaining card. It wasn’t much but enough to tide me over the next few days.

However, I knew I had to scrap my Disneyland plans. Oh well.


So close yet … it was just not meant to be. Photo: MELODY L. GOH

First earthquake experience

Fast forward to June 2018 and I am in Osaka, Japan with my two cousins who are also theme park enthusiasts. We had planned for almost a year to visit Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan (USJ).

On the morning of June 18, two of us were still lolling around in bed, while another cousin made a cup of coffee. As we were talking about what time we should leave for USJ, the Airbnb apartment we stayed in started to shake. Hard.

My bed trembled, the walls were vibrating – imagine being in an airplane and going through bad turbulence for more than a minute. That’s what it was like.

After it stopped, we went online to see how strong it was – magnitude 6.1.

We started informing our families and friends that we were safe. Facebook prompted me to mark myself as “safe” from the Osaka earthquake. This was the second time I had used this Crisis Response feature (the first was a bomb explosion in Phuket in 2016) and found it to be effective.

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They say many animals can sense changes in the environment before humans do. These GIFs come from a CCTV footage which showed how cats at a cafe in Osaka reacted just seconds before the earthquake hit and when it actually happened.

Train services were halted until further notice. This meant that we couldn’t go to USJ. Pictures online showed that some things were broken at the park so perhaps postponing our trip was not a bad idea.

We took a bus into the city and stopped at Osaka Station. Several department stores around the station were closed. We took another bus to the shopping district Shinsaibashi, but many shops had also closed for the day.

Everything was fine at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Japan one day after the earthquake in Osaka. Photo: The Star/Melody L. Goh

At midnight, we were back in our apartment, each on our own phones. We discovered that there had been several aftershocks throughout the day, and that more were expected.

As we were talking, it happened again but this time, it wasn’t as strong – magnitude 4.0 – but just as scary as before.

By then we were really worried. Should we contact the embassy? Should we cut our trip short? Does our insurance cover this? In the end, we were too tired to decide what to do so we went to bed thinking about all the things that could happen to us while we slept.

The next morning, we were still worried but a few friendly messages from unlikely parties comforted us temporarily.

For example, our Airbnb host had sent a message to make sure we were okay, and to call him should we need any assistance. That was reassuring.

Klook, a travel app that lets you book/buy tours, tickets and vouchers, had also e-mailed to give updates on the situation, as well as to tell us that we could reschedule any activity booked via the app. If any activity was cancelled, we could get a refund. Our USJ tickets (which I had bought via Klook) were not affected but I was glad that the app offered such services.

The next morning, things seemed to have calmed down so we headed for USJ. All worries – okay, most of our worries – went away as soon as we stepped into the park. Some rides were still suspended, probably as a precaution, but that just shows us how serious the park is with regards to safety. It was raining, but we were happy to be outside, out of the apartment.

Most of all, we were happy that the tremors had stopped.