The Sights… The Sounds…

Although it’s been several years since I’ve gone on a true buying trip with my father, my first trip was in January of 2005, shortly after turning 24 years old.  I had never spent any time in a place like Bangkok up until that point, and there are several memorable parts of the trip that will stick with me for the rest of my life. More than anything, it was a feeling rather than a memory. Now that I travel all over the world constantly, the feeling has vanished, but I’ll never forget how I felt on my first few days in this amazing place. If I had to describe the feeling in one word, it would be ‘foreign’. It gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘foreign country’. I remember every little detail being different, or ‘foreign’ to me, at the time. The smells, the faces, the way the cars looked, the amount of motorcycles, the way people carried things, what they carried, the animals, the food, the language, the markets… everything I looked at was foreign. I loved it! It wasn’t so much that everything there appealed to me, but rather the fact that everything foreign was so cool to me at the time. Novelty for novelty sake I suppose, but with your entire surroundings. It was an incredible feeling. I didn’t want to ever go to sleep. Life at home was filled with ‘more of the same’… I wanted ‘more different’.

We sorted through thousands of stones to get these few hundred.


Hard at work.

Even the color stone (rubies and sapphires) buying office was a totally different experience for me. My father still buys in the same office today, although the buying process is a bit more sophisticated now. I remember the color stone vendors would all hear about Tom’s return to the city to buy days in advance, and first thing in the morning they would line up and down the halls of the building, waiting for their turn to come into the buying office, which is only big enough to hold a Tom, our broker, and a seller to two. They would walk in, one by one, all in sandals, long pants, and a short-sleeve shirt. Their stones were kept in their pockets, in plastic bags. Some would have thousands of stones, some would have only a few, or even a single one. Some would have stones that were such a poor quality that after 30 seconds we’d have to send them away, after all their waiting in line, as there was no possible business that could be done between us. Some would be carrying $50 worth of goods with them, some $50,000. The negotiating process was fascinating as well, but I’ll have to leave that up to a future blog of Tom’s, if he so desires to reveal his secrets…

My girlfriend (who is now my wife) helping with the buy!


Sorting through a large assortment of stones.

Now, whenever I travel somewhere ‘foreign’, I always wake up very early in the morning before my day starts, and leave my hotel to wander on foot. I try to recall these first days in Bangkok, when everything felt so foreign, and so good.

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