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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Emerald Krabi


My ears perked up and I stopped walking through the hordes of people swarming around me.

Smiling at human nature, I shrugged. Who on earth would be calling for me at a random night market in Krabi Town? Everyone I knew was scattered on different continents.

Resuming my quest to find Sean in the sea of people, I walked toward the Strawberry Shake Lady. She had a stand on the outskirt of the night market. Most of the time, she laid her gray haired head on the coolers stacked beside her cart and slept. Twice now we had to shake her leg to wake her. Each time, she grinned widely at us and admired my necklace. This woman was Sean’s newest favorite person and I was likely to find him at her stand in rapture over one of her mouthwatering creations. She was an artist and her medium was fruit, ice, and a blender. She elicited bliss in the same way viewing David, all marble and muscles, did within the walls of the Uffizi.

I brushed more than shoulders with other shoppers as I squeezed through the narrow walk way, often having to wait in a line of ten or more people simply to get by favored vendors selling fried fish, rice noodles, and oddly enough donuts.

“Jackie,” a female voice cried again. “Jackie…wait!”

A hand fell on my shoulder.

Meredith and Mikey stood in front of me, exhilaration lighting both their faces.

My jaw dropped.

We met the married couple in Malaysia almost four weeks earlier. We became instant friends. We survived trekking through the jungle together not to mention multiple rounds of Chang beer, which caused all kinds of misadventures in the mountain village of Tanah Rata.

“What?” I stammered. “How?”

As far as I knew, they were supposed to be in Burma.

“We decided not to go to Burma,” Meredith explained as she gave me a big hug. “We were on a bus and heard someone talking up Krabi so we thought we’d check it out... and here we are! We just got in today.”

I hugged her back, hard. When traveling, one acquires friends quickly or not at all. In secret, Meredith reminded me so much of my ex-sister in law that it almost made me hurt.

“What about you?” Mikey asked as we patted each other’s backs merrily . “Aren’t you supposed to be in Bangkok?”

I laughed. Bangkok: what an absolute nightmare.

“Naw. We took a detour. Besides, by the time our trip is over we will have been to Bangkok six times. I think we can live without it for now.”

“Hey, where’s Sean?”

I looked around.

“That’s what I was just trying to figure out, but I think I have a hunch,” I said, grabbing Meredith’s arm and dragging her through the crowd. It was literally the only way to stay together in the chaos of the night market with its aisles bursting with people, food, and animals.

“Have you guys eaten yet?” Mikey asked, his fingers wrapped tightly around Meredith’s wrist.

“Nope. We split up looking for the best grub.”

“Good. We haven’t either.”

So it was over a dinner of coconut soup, honey glazed chicken, and papaya salad that we caught up; they told us all about Penang and we told them all about Singapore and Indonesia.

“So tomorrow, noon, at the pier,” I said quietly, standing outside their guest house in the pitch black side street. It was midnight and I silently hoped the gate to our guesthouse was unlocked. I knew it would be though; the family we were staying with was considerate to a fault. Each night, the grandmother brewed us a fresh pot of tea and we sat on the porch listening to a concert of crickets.

“We’ll be there,” Meredith said, opening the door quietly. “Sleep well guys.”

Sean and I walked back to our guesthouse silently, holding hands and admiring the moon and stars. We both thought the stars looked brighter in Asia. I was so thankful that while I was overjoyed to see Meredith and Mikey again I was also perfectly content to be with Sean. After six weeks of constant companionship, I was neither sick of him nor eager to be rid of his presence.

The sun was high in the sky when I spotted our friends walking along the water front. In Meredith’s hand, I spied my favorite Thai candy/gum. We weren’t sure which it was but we ate it hoping it was the prior.

Twenty minutes later, we found ourselves plowing through the Andaman Coast’s green water. Pink, purple and red scarves tied proudly to the bow of our long tail boat fluttered in the wind as our captain happily steered the vessel through the soft rolling waves. Tall crags jutted from the ocean, some in peculiar shapes like a chicken or certain male body parts.

The sea spray relieved the scorching heat and soon enough we found ourselves on Ko Phi Phi Don island scrambling through its hidden cave network, soaking up Vitamin D on its sublime white sand beaches and tempting monkeys from trees with plantains and imitations of Curious George.

Feeling wholly happy in the moment, it was easy to forget about everything else we had seen and experienced and simply relish in the beauty of mother nature and friendship.

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