Have you ever been to Bangkok? Many come for so many reasons, its a starting point to leave for the beaches, like Phuket or the better lesser known ones of Koh Chang or Koh Samui. To ride on elephants through the jungle and the food, oh the food! The lovely Thai’s who never really ‘get is’ but show their warmth and humor with respect and kindness as long as we do the same. The nightlife for “the time of your life” “best night I ever had” and “Did you see that?”. River Cruises, Markets, Temples, Monks, giving a soi dog half your sandwich, Adrenalin charged tuk-tuk rides……Its all here in Bangkok. Or should I say there if you stay near Sukhimvit or if your alternative Khao San Road.
But who comes to buy gemstones in Bangkok? Well nearly everyone that goes to Silom , the business end not the Pat Pong end of the street! Bangrak is the hub of the Gem sellers and buyers. Its quieter, except for lunch hour when the local office workers have right of way on the footpath, not the motorbikes. There are three main buildings close to each other and the gem enthusiasts skip from one to the other.
The JTC – Jewelry Trade Center- changed recently and they have chased all the small dealers into the basement, side by side. They used to be spread out over 4 floors, but know if you want a good deal on gems, and not a first timer, or a visiting Arabian sheik, then you go to the open wide basement.
Once you’ve landed off the escalator, 300 pairs of eyes have instantly clocked you, sized you up, and wait. No partitions, 100’s of small glass hip high booths. Off you go. Left or right or straight in. I like the straight in approach, they don’t expect that. I have my favorites ( I visit them last). Down one aisle, calibrated huge amethysts, pause, hover, smile, move on. Pink Sapphire hover, smile, point, how much is that one – I’m pointing to one amongst a hundred nestled together, no not that one, up, up to left yes that one. Out it comes, smile, its weighed and measured and calculator appears, a sad shake of head, sigh, calculator is shown again, better, then a closer inspection of gem, a barrage of questions, then Okay, I’ll have that one.
Off you go, now you have every eye, so its best to pause beside others to see what they are looking at ooo nice, listen, Turkish men, feeling out prices, listen, wish I could harangue like that, no sighing or sad looks about the price in their repertoire, o no, it’s waving hands, gestulating, raised voices….. mmmm, sounds a good price to me – right time to change tactics, I practice gestulating as I walk, I don’t think anyone notices me, they are all watching the fun down the other end.
Up next aisle, Kyanite, spinel, morganite…. ooooo fossilized coral agate, and bugs in rock turned to stone, tap on glass, that one, no up up left, down, yes that one ooooooo I go, that’s nice, oops, I mean tsk tsk, its not pink, a pink one appears, ooooo, it looks like many stone flowers set symmetrically in a stone cabochon, I Love It, how much? Sigh. Then a Korean buyer appears beside me , he points he asks price, he waves hands wheedles cajoles, he grumbles, he charms he wheedles again, he buys and off he goes.
I’m still glued with love to the little stone flowers, love written all over me face, calculator, yes yes yes I’ll have those 5 please, I beam. – I got them cheaper than him, first price. Ha. Full of love I could hug the girls seller but we share a look, like “we know”. I’m so happy; off I go, past the Turkish men, now at those nice young Indian lads who are bravely handling the barrage. Id better go.
I have to see my ‘Cambodian man’ in The Warner Building, round the corner – no air conditioning, except for the shops, but my man is in the lobby booths. Whew, I arrive, hot sweaty but his eyes light up, he has seen me ‘ a melting mess’ he produces a stool and starts fanning me with his newspaper – much more relaxed here. Banana? No thanks, I get fat haha we laugh; he’s got the build of a bantam weight boxer. Boiled peanuts? Nono, Go on, nono, he pushes the bag towards me. Okay, I have to, its etiquette to share lunch.
Im glad it’s not those tiny little dried fish today – what a time we had that day! There wasn’t a bottle of water to be found fast enough to wash that down. I think every trader was running looking for water for me by the time I was gripping the counter. Who puts chilli on dried fish, as if those little dried out anchovy things don’t hold enough punch, but nooooo, lets soak them in a vat of simmering chilli seeds for 3 days to give them some real flavor??? Boiled Peanuts I can handle, God he’s sweet, he peels them for me.
Star Rubies he has. His helper is the cutest ladyboy I ever seen; she’s not here so I get her stool. Comfort plus snacks. Right we go through them, no none of those ( picked over and cherries gone) out come the folded paper parcels from under the counter, nice nice nice, he shines his torch and we watch the stars travel around each one. I buy far more than I should and off I go, avoiding all the other traders – coffee upstairs for .50c . A good hour. Right, White Sapphire Shop – air-conditioning over the road, off I go.