The World Gets Smaller and Other Adventures in Travel

Travel is a sure way to improve one’s perspective and get outside the confines of our own little worlds.

As summer vacations approach, it’s a great time to think about how we can expand our own horizons, whether we are travelling overseas or visiting friends and family nearby.

I just returned from Bangkok. Even though I’ve been to Thailand a number of times to visit my daughter and her family, my experiences there and en route often teach me a lot. It never ceases to amaze me how the world keeps getting smaller.

• On my flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok, I was seated next to a good-looking young man. When I asked where he was from, he replied, “Russia and Los Angeles.” He was a cinematographer and native Russian. An ad agency in Los Angeles saw his work and invited him to move to the United State. And now he was flying to Bangkok to shoot an ad for Johnnie Walker whiskey.

My first thought: “Wow, the world is small.” No longer is talent isolated to one area. The best global talent is easily identified and recruited.

My second thought: “They drink Johnnie Walker in Asia?” I learned that the brand is quite successful on an international level, generating a real need for ads that make a global statement.

• One American woman I met, part of the ex-pat community in Bangkok, is a highly educated chemist who works in the drug industry investigating off-label uses of medications originating in Asia. Very interesting person.

• I also met a woman employed by an American designer handbag company. She is in Thailand to help prevent counterfeit copies and knock-offs of their products. Another interesting story.

Not only does travel introduce you to fascinating new people on vacation, but travel also inspires adventure, and I had quite an urban adventure of my own this trip.

As you may know, Bangkok is an international center for raw gemstones and jewelry. I wanted to get an insider’s view of this industry, both for fun and for my business, so I made an appointment with one of the world’s top high-end jewelry designers and manufacturers.

Now Bangkok is a huge international city with incredible traffic problems and construction issues. You can get around by taxi, by foot, by bike, by motorcycle or even sky train, but you do not want to have a rental car.

Off I went in a taxi, hoping the driver could find the jewelry designer headquarters and a bit nervous about my lack of Thai-language skills.

We eventually turned onto the designated street. “Drat,” he said, indicating the place was in front of us but there was a barrier. So we drove a very circuitous route around this Bangkok neighborhood and he let me out nearly in front of the building. I could see the name of the jewelry firm on the side of the building so I figured I was home free.

However, as the taxi drove off, I saw that I still needed to navigate around a fence! I managed to ask some men sitting nearby which way to go to work my way through the maze. Finally one of them volunteered to take me.

Then he got on his motorcycle and motioned to me to get on the back. I was a bit stunned – I’d never been on a motorcycle before! – but I climbed on and held on tight.

The whole time, I’m thinking, “What have I done? I’m on the back of a motorcycle with a stranger in Thailand. My husband will surely kill me if I die this way.”

I was thrilled and relieved when I was safely deposited at the door of the vendor.

This jewelry design house exceeded my expectations. They represent true luxury, designing and manufacturing pieces from $5,000 to $250,000. I had a wonderful and highly educational in-depth tour with the handsome Swiss manager.

At the end of my visit, he asked if I had a car waiting for me. I told him, no, I came in a taxi. He graciously asked if I would like a ride home. I was so relieved and, of course, said yes. He then asked an employee if he had an extra helmet … and I knew that I was about to have my second-ever motorcycle ride!

So I was chauffeured back to my daughter’s apartment by motorcycle through the chaotic streets of Bangkok, holding on for dear life. And yes, my husband did just about kill me when he found out.

Next week: What I learned at the jewelry designer.

Nan wears a helmet on one of two motorcycle rides in Bangkok, Thailand, her first-ever.

Nan wears a helmet on one of two motorcycle rides in Bangkok, Thailand, her first-ever.

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