Adventures in Thailand
For those who know me, they know I love to travel. And since having lived in Hawaii, I find this is the perfect jumping off point and a gateway to head to places in Southeast Asia. Usually, I have surfboards in tow but this time I went with only empty suitcases and followed my good friends to Chiang Mai in the northern region of Thailand. My friends do business there and shop for handicrafts in the markets and bring them back to Maui to sell at the weekly swap meets in Kahului and Lahaina (hence the empty suitcases). I decided to join them on one of their bi-annual trips to see what I can find for my own business: thai gold, gemstones, and of course daily inspirations by being somewhere culturally and environmentally different.
I had heard so much about Thailand: how cheap it is, the gorgeous buddhist temples, the cuisine is off the charts amazing, and the shopping...so much shopping! I was on the hunt for something new for the business. I thought I would be finding gemstone stores at every corner but instead switched my focus to the gold. The local markets have rows of gold stores and this gold is different than what we find in the US. It's much more yellow, like a glowing, blinding kind of yellow. I quickly learned that the Thai gold is 21 karat and 23 karat, almost pure and that's why it had that hypnotic gold color to it.
Finding a shop who's sales people could speak good enough english was a challenge. And the way the Thai deal with not being able to communicate with you is basically to ignore your existence. So despite the plethora of gold stores to choose from, I realized my selection was being narrowed down by my inability to talk Thai until I walked into a shop and made eye contact with a woman who asked me in english "hello, how are you?" A wave of relief came over me. I can communicate! I learned about the gold business in Thailand from her. Gold is something the local people buy as an investment because they don't trust their banking system. So they buy gold, they stash it (or wear it), and when they want to get some of their cash back, they can sell off some pieces for weight and retrieve the cash with a small percentage to pay the store or factory itself. Of course, the gold market price, as with other metals, per ounce fluctuate daily so one would hope that prices either remain the same or increase. Such a different way to think of saving money than the American way of thinking. Cash either sits in a bank, invested in stocks, or you buy real estate. But in Thailand, you buy gold. Much different than a lot of other countries, especially the Latin American ones. People are buddhist here, they don't believe in stealing one's belongings hence flaunting your high karated gold bling, aka your life savings, is a bit of the norm.
I loved the gold shop sector in the Chiang Mai market. Amongst the stalls of overflowing produce, the weird smells emanating from room temp cuts of meat, the random clothing and house cleaning accessory shops was this row of GOLD jewelry. The shop with the polite english speaking workers was my go to. I love commerce, wheeling and dealing, asking for prices and weight, and then of course deciding which within my budget are those pieces that I want to buy. They don't take credit cards and as an American traveler who won't take on the responsibility of carrying cold hard cash around, I was kind of screwed I had relied so much on the credit cards with my spending. The budget I had to work with was "real". I only had X amount of cash so I better make it count. I was in love with a few pieces. I tried to keep the weight down. Nothing exceeding 3.8 grams.