After two days and 22 hours of flying, I am in Thailand, sourcing jewelry suppliers and creating new designs. I am inspired by the dexterity of the Thai weavers, their stone-setting abilities and their fine motor work which results in beautiful tiny charms, woven bracelets, pearl knotting and beading. I watched them tie a string to a chair and weave bracelets in a rainbow of colors within 5 minutes. I want them to weave my sterling silver charms into those stunning threads.
Thailand is a country of contradictions. The people are relaxed, timid, generous and kind. They smile more than us and yet they have to navigate a complex city of 12 million people wrought with mega malls, immense pollution (many people wear masks), astounding traffic, millions of motorcycles, cars and tuk tuks. The roads are filled with the stench of street meet and sun-dried fish and the heat is stifling.
There is a huge the disparity between the ‘have’ and ‘have nots’ - a shanty shack buts up beside a gated home.
Despite a rich cultural and spiritual life filled with beautiful Buddhist temples and colorful displays of worship wherever you go, their minimum wage is only $7 per day.
The Thai islands I have seen on this trip - Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket and Krabi - boast white beaches, pristine picture-perfect hills with huts with bamboo and straw roofs and a bounty of marine life and fish - so many yellow tale fish surrounded our boat at Mosquito Bay that I was reluctant to jump in and go snorkling!
A closer look at the shoreline reveals, hundreds of beer bottles dumped from a local tourist boat, debris at the bottom of the ocean and the most astoundingly beautiful scenic “out-of-the-way” bays (including the spot where Leonardo DiCaprio shot “The Beach”- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0163978/), reveal dozens of tourist boats idling with their engines polluting the crystal blue turquoise waters surrounded by stunning lush green tropical outcrops. Even the engaging floating market in Bangkok is wrought with polluted waterways. The irony lies in that they make their livelihood from tourism and yet they are slowly destroying the same environment that supports them.
Some of the world’s most beautiful islands on are the brink of ecological disaster - including Koh Phi Phi where I am soaking in the view right now.
Yesterday afternoon, we returned from an epic five-hour boat ride snorkling/island tour to share a cold beer with some new-found friends - honeymooners. Suddenly, sounds of sirens filled the beach.
People ran uphill (some carrying belongings or babies) for the highest point of this island - yelling, “Tsunami coming!” This must be a drill, I thought.
It was not. I ran.
The Sumatra earthquake, similar to the 2004 one, had triggered a Tsunami warning for Thailand. We sat for three hours in the tropical mosquito-infested hill with about 300 guests and hotel staff...waiting for local reports, text reports from friends and family - watching the shoreline to look for a wave. I even texted my son that I loved him.
The wave, thank God, never came.
This morning, we awoke again to the contradiction of Thailand. Everything was wet from the storm, the sky was cloudy and dark and our spirits were weary. Yet, the sun broke through and a stunning breakfast buffet of fresh fruit with local and western food was laid out for guests. As I prepared my coffee, I noticed the ‘fortunes/quotes’ on the sugar packs. Mine aptly read:
“If you want the rainbow, you must put up with the rain.”
Truly, this “cliche” summed up our trip and Thailand for me...and, perhaps, even my life. I laughed and added sugar to my hot coffee and enjoyed the most incredible beach view.