Sawadee Krup. Oh, don’t apologize for interrupting me. I was just praying at this shrine by myself like I do every day. I was just about finished, leaving me nothing better to do than strike up a conversation with some nice visiting tourists like yourself. It’s very nice to meet you. Where are you from? Sweden? That’s a lovely country. First time in the Kingdom of Thailand? I hope you are enjoying the sights.
This temple is actually very hard to find – it’s not listed in any of the guidebooks. I’m surprised you are here. Really? The tuk-tuk driver suggested it? Well, you are very lucky to to have run into him. Not very touristy, as you have noted. Just the lovely banyan trees, this shrine with incense burning, and by coincidence, me. Please, feel free to take some pictures.
Why thank you for the compliment, I do speak rather fluent English. I spent some time overseas getting an engineering degree in Germany, many years ago. Now I’m retired, and visit this shrine daily to pay respects to Lord Buddha and my ancestors.
Oh, your tuk-tuk driver is correct. Pity the Grand Palace was closed today – it happens. The government is very unpredictable that way; we do not have a stable social democracy like you do in Sweden. But the taxes are lower, ha ha. Although come to think of it, the Thai government is raising taxes on many things now. It will hurt the businesses of many families in the gem trade. Have you heard about the beautiful sapphires from this region? They are some of the finest in the world. But starting next week the Revenue Department is going to double the taxes on gems. It seems they realized that too many people were buying them here cheap and selling them for large profits in the West. The new taxes will make our prices the same as in Europe. I suppose it is fair, but it will harm my family business.
Yes, my family will be affected. It just so happens that I own a gem shop.
Interestingly enough, we just received a large shipment of Burmese sapphires and rubies. So sad, about those poor people. We try to support them by only buying gems from the small-time miners, not the Burmese junta. We help them smuggle the gems in and sell them in our shop. But I fear that with these new taxes, we will have to stop. Truly these are the last days of a great charitable business. Perhaps more will die.
What? Oh, our buyers come from all over. Many are tourists like yourself, from the USA, Canada, the UK. Some have come back three or four times because of all the money they make selling sapphires in New York and Paris. We are happy to help, especially since the money helps those suffering Burmese monks. But I guess it was too good to last. Anyway, there are some other lovely temples that you can visit today if—
Really? Well, yes, my gem shop is open today. But Sundays are slow days, so I usually do not go there until evening to close up. You’d like to see it? Really? That’s very flattering. I had no idea you were interested in gems. As a matter of fact, we have just put out our best gems today, in anticipation of tomorrow, Monday, usually our busiest day. I’m honored that you would come to visit my shop. You look so affluent, I thought you had no need of such enterprise. I hope to reward your generosity with great profits.
We can take that tuk-tuk. He has waited for you outside the gate, I see. No, I’ve never met him before, but he seems to be a very honest and sincere fellow. Fortunately the gem shop is just around the corner, a very short ride. Perhaps we should stop at an ATM on the way? No, we don’t accept credit cards, I’m sorry. We are a small and humble family business, you see. But you can buy gold from the gold shop next door and trade it for gems. We are very accomodating here in Thailand.
Amazing, isn’t it? And to think you had planned on just seeing the Grand Palace today. By chance you were brough to this temple, by coincidence I was praying at the shrine, and by the grace of fate and fortune you happened to be investment-minded, affluent tourists who wish to take advantage of this soon-to-expire money-making scheme that just I happened to be able to offer.
What a lucky day.