This Little Piggy Went to Market – In Thailand

Today was a day of incredible markets and unusual experiences. In Thailand like in most markets, they are not just a place to purchase food, goods and pick up desirables. It’s a place to commune, connect, and perpetuate community. This is more than evident in the markets we visited today.

First stop, the Maeklong Railway Market just outside of Bangkok proper in the Samut Sakhon Provence. There is no other market like this one in the world. The story goes that the market was originally on land that became too expensive for the merchants, so they decided to relocate to place that would be free, the railroad.

This market is set up on either side of the railroad tracks and when the train comes through (eight times a day) everyone has the clear the tracks and make room for the train. For shoppers this merely means moving out of the way. For the merchants this means, winding in their awnings, rolling back the carts that their wares are on (a foot or two) and then there are other items low enough to the ground that the train passes over them without harm. It’s a most unbelievable experience.

Once the train passes, awnings are rolled back out, crates with wares are rolled back into place and the shoppers are once again all a bustle. Everything you might need for creating a dish is there, vegetables of all sorts, as well as fruits, seasoning, fresh fish and seafood, meats of all kinds and young girls stringing the worship garland of marigold and jasmine that I purchased and wore around my neck.

The second stop was the Floating Market in Dameoen Saduek. We drove another half hour or so to arrive at the dock to take the long nose boat to the floating market. This is a canal that was dug by hand which is incredible to imagine considering the length of the canal. We were on a pretty fast moving boat for at least twenty minutes.

Two of the elements of both of these markets are the incredible heat and humidity and this is true despite the fact that we began our journey at 7:00 to avoid the height of the heat. Despite that the heat was quite intense a somewhat draining. Thank goodness for the air-conditioned tour bus. The other element consists of droves of people, locals shopping and tourist from all countless far away lands. The largest groups are tourists are from China.

Last stop wasn’t your usual market; it was small and was actually a cocoanut processing compound. At this stop we were taught how the cocoanuts grow, the many ways it’s processed for oil, to make sugar, syrup, soap, oil, milk, juice and of course we were able to purchase, fresh, young coconuts to drink. Most Thai food includes some element of the coconut. As a special treat for us, our wonderful tour guide, Nok, purchased some plantain bananas that were rolled in cocoanut shavings and deep-fried. It was very delicious.

At this stop we were also able to go inside of a traditional Thai home. Made of teak wood, these homes are on stilts to raise the house to avoid flood, to house the water catching device and because having the house high off the ground, makes for a cooler home.

Inside each home is a shrine to the Buddha, in varying degrees of elaborateness.   There are also shrines outside of every home and business. Each home has two shrines, a shrine to the land elements (soil, air, water, plants, all botanicals) and a shrine to the ancestors. The ancestors have their own home outside the house because they are not allowed to live inside the home; they have their own home.

The land shrine is on a single pedestal and the ancestor shrine is typically on six legs. There are offering made to the shrine daily of acknowledgment and prayers, incense burned, food offered and worship garlands made of flowers like the one I purchased. I wore mine all day long and was just enchanted by the fragrant aroma of the marigold and jasmine. I can only imagine the ancestors loving this fragrance too. It’s jasmine that is the primary essence in the Anu Essentials Sea Scape Perfume, a fragrance that has easy access to my heart.

Also, this home, market had many animals, monkeys, birds, roosters, dogs and a cacophony of insects, which made for quite the sound system.  We finally arrived back to the hotel and just as I was about to prepare for a nap, veteran globe trotter Kay called and asked me to go with her to an antique mall.  That would take a whole other blog post if I could even find the words to describe one incredibly fabulous store with antiques that are just mind blogging. That’s another post for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally there was a delicious dinner with my two veteran, globetrotting friends who planned this incredible trip, Kay and Patricia at the night market on the river front.  Yes indeed, the market remains a hub for people to come together, to be together, to live and enjoy life.

St. Croix and Incredible Connections

I hadn’t really plan to go to St. Croix for my 60th birthday, but as fate would have it, I found myself on a flight headed there. My good buddy Edward Jones aka EC, was in town to photograph my 60th birthday photo shoot, and insisted that I go.  EC, had lived in the Virgin Islands for a number of years and still has many friends there. He assured me that if I were to go, his friends would take good care of me. He then introduced me to his friend Robin via text.

I arrived in St. Croix and there was Robin excited about making my 60th all it could be. At first I was a bit disappointed because when I arrived it was overcast and raining and this had been going on all week with the prediction that it would continue.  Robin reminded me that they capture rain for water. If a home runs out of rain water, then they’re forced to purchase water for bathing, flushing, cooking, for living and it’s not cheap. I was reminded of my first brush with this way of life from my days spent in Bermuda many moons ago. This reminder put the Weather Sister in check.  Connecting with nature and her gifts, yes indeed, let’s Give Thanks for rain.

Over cast and drizzling

First stop on our trek, a baobab tree. I was so amazed to see this ancient, West African specimen standing majestically on the island of St. Croix. Baobabs are one of the oldest forms of plant life on the planet. This one is a mere 250 years old. I hadn’t been near a baobab since being in Senegal some 30 years ago. So it was quite a treat to connect with this grand being again.

baobab tree

It wasn’t too long in Robin’s presence before I learned of her incredible project. Robin is in the throws of building a gorgeous house up on a hill.  Let me say, they are hills and then there’s this hill over looking what I can only describe as God’s land. The view is just breathtaking!  I was so inspired to see this insightful, brave woman take on being project manager for the house that she is having built; and she assured me that it’s quite a feat, time consuming, at times tedious and exhausting, but at the same time very rewarding.  Robin had the foresight and insight to purchase this land 28 years ago for a fraction of what it’s worth today. To say I was inspired would be an understatement. I was deeply reminded of the long standing vision I have long had for my own life, to be surrounded by nature. Robin’s husband and three children support and inspire her quest to build this family compound on the land of her ancestors.

Robin caught in web of her vision

When it was time to eat, Robin and I got together to have a little nosh with another of Edward’s friends, a fiber and jewelry artist named, Kim Lyons. Then one of my neighbors, the famed Malene Barnett mentions to me on Instagram that she was just talking to Kim Lyons who told her she had met me that evening.  This world is so small. Serendipity and more connections.

Robin Barlow Jones, Anu Prestonia and Kim Lyons

In the late 80s I became the client of manicurist Olivine Calvin, better known as Ollie. Ollie was a very talented nail artist who hailed from St. Croix and carried that cool, Caribbean vibe wherever she went. Loving, nurturing with an easy laugh, Ollie was loved by many.  Never one to rush, if she was running behind and you were in a rush, Ollie would not change her pace.  And when it was your turn, she gave you that same time and special attention she gave the person before you. Ollie later became a Loctician at Khamit Kinks, and her Loc clients fell in love with her.  It’s nearly five years now since Ollie made her transition.  But since I was going to her homeland, I had to meet up with her vivacious sister Millie.  Millie is like the mayor of St. Croix, she knows everybody and everybody knows her.  Exuberant, positive, always smiling and full of laughter, she is still celebrating her own birthday which was on March 5th, a Pisces. Millie turned 70 and is still as fabulous as ever, as she sashays in her high heels and her great smile. And I forgot to mention, the week prior had been Robin’s birthday.  We were all in celebration mode.

Millie Calvin

Wouldn’t you know it, though my first two days on St. Croix were overcast, on my birthday the sun shown brilliantly!  I felt it was a sign of a bright future. I had already decided, come rain or come shine, on my birthday I was going to the beach and getting in the ocean. At that point I was down with the clouds and rain, so the sun was like icing on the cake.  Leave it to Robin to not take me to just any beach, we traveled to the gorgeous Sandy Point National Wildlife Reserve.  That day Sandy Point was closing at 4:00 in the afternoon and would be closed for the next six months, for the turtle nesting season. This signaled sacred ground to me and I felt so blessed to be at this place on this special day. I recalled my visit to Tulum, Mexico, when one night on the beach we watched as a great turtle’s eggs hatched and the little hatchlings made their way to the ocean. Talking about the wonders of the world!!! Turtles also signify long life as they are able to live well past 100 years old barring predators and polluted environments.

Sandy Point – Wildlife Reserve

The sweetest and wildest connection of them all was when Robin kept talking about her 28 years in Oakland and Richmond California. So I just blurted out, you wouldn’t happen to know my sister-in-law Fanta Lawrence? After I mentioned Fanta, all Robin kept saying, was “get the hell outta here.”  LOL!  Not only did she know Fanta, but Robin has another friend Amena.  For years, these two friends of Robin’s,  Fanta and Amena had been talking about their incredible granddaughter and Robin just realized a few months ago, that they had been talking about the same child, my great niece, Amenta.  So it was such a delight for me to go visit my great niece whose been spending time in St. Croix with her dad and paternal grandmother.

I connected with my great niece, what a treat!

In addition, I now have not one, not two, but three dear sister friends who have purchased property in St. Croix.  Retired educators, they are having fun with life. One after the other they have put down stakes in the Virgin Islands  and now I know why. I want to drink that Kool-aid too!  I had planned to spend my whole time in St. Croix sequestered, at my sister’s beach side condo, contemplating this next leg of my journey.  But the Universe had other plans.  Robin gathered me from the airport and we had one amazing moment after another and it was until my last evening there that I spent time on the other end of the island at my sister’s condo. This property is beautifully landscaped with a pool, just before reaching the ocean’s water which is quite wild, with big crashing waves. Like Robin’s property, my friend’s properties double as vacation rentals.

Pool side at my sister MK’s rental property

Sometimes you can’t plan for the good that the Universe has in store for you, you just have to allow yourself to be guided.  I was certainly in one of my favorite element for my 60th birthday, surrounded by nature and loving people.  I was  treated by a most gracious and generous host, the incredible Robin Barlow-Jones.  And the connections were made of the stuff you can’t even make up, just simply magical.  Yes indeed!  Let me give Thanks for my years on this planet and for incredible connections.

In my element

Many Thanks to Robin for a wonderful 60th.  Thank you to my dear sister Linda, for this such a memorable and generous birthday gift.  Thank you EC for a long time friendship and for being the incredible connector.

Me and EC circa 1993 in St. Thomas

Having a friend like EC is like the gift that keeps on giving.  Thank you EC for being such a dear friend and for making my 60th a memory of a lifetime.  From now on I’ll just refer to you as “The Connector”.

If you’re longing to connect with the sea, try our Sea Scape!