My lunatic of a driver stuffed another handful of small leaves into his mouth and cracked his neck from side to side.

The man was a mess. He twitched and jerked sporadically, checking the mirror over and over as we weaved in our minibus unpredictably through heavy traffic. The driver was so hyped up on caffeine (I think the small leaves were raw tea, they don’t have coca leaves here) that he was on a different plane of existence. He was clearly seeing a world of Matrix-style, green code rather than cars and pedestrians inches from our deadly bumpers.

When he cracked open a fifth can of iced coffee, I began visualizing how I would have to grab the wheel after his heart valves exploded all over the dash.

After four hours of listening to the minibus engine scream in protest and thinking about the afterlife, we arrived in Krabi, Thailand. It seemed a small price to pay for crossing the border into Thailand.

Whether in South America, Africa, or Asia, every traveler has a sweetheart first country. After accumulating almost nine months here in the last four years, it isn’t hard to figure out who my sweetheart is!

Krabi Town can hardly be described as “beautiful,” but it was to me. There is simply nothing quite like the smell of garlic sizzling in hot oil at street carts mixed with motorbike exhaust, drying fish, and raw sewage. Knowing that tomorrow morning I would be on a boat for an island somewhere, I floated around the streets with a smile on my face.

Consistent with my last several Thailand homecomings, I walked up on some sort of small festival in a big lot surrounded by food carts. Every type of snack, noodle, and treat imaginable — even dumplings and sushi — were laid out in all their glory. I scored a plate with pad thai, a grilled corn on the cob, and a skewer of dumplings for around $2.

Pretty soon the entertainment took center stage, and just like in Bangkok earlier this year, it was a troupe of young boys doing their best to breakdance on stage to hip hop. Once again, the music wasn’t radio friendly, and I tried not to gasp when racial slurs resounded off nearby walls at full volume. The food, the quirky entertainment, an ancient couple and young kids dancing to Jay-Z…it was all too much for me to handle. Tears formed up in my eyes.

It feels good to be home.