I can’t think why we were in Bangkok. Most likely it was because Bangkok is the best place to catch a flight on to Rangoon. Certainly, I did not have business there – alas!
However, we made good use of our time for we had arranged to meet with my late wife’s cousin, Susan Pibulsonggram. As an aside, I should say that all of Dorothy’s family spoke beautiful British English – each spoke various other languages also. Susan, no exception, was Gladys’ (my wife’s sister) daughter Susan was a beautiful Chinese girl who had married a Thai, Pradap Pibulsonggram. He was a diplomat and we were able to see them again several years later in Washington D.C. where he served in Thailand’s Embassy.
Pat wanted to look at rubies and Susan took us shopping. It didn’t take long to find that first class Burmese rubies of excellent color were outside our price range. A good-sized one cost in the neighborhood of US$20,000-30,000. Not all was lost. At Susan’s suggestion, Pat settled for a heavy 24 karat gold chain with large links as an investment. Susan advised that, with it you could buy gems in India – spending link by link. Later, when we were in India, Pat used up all of the links at the Red Fort in Delhi.
We stayed at the wonderful old colonial hotel, the Erawan, which had been gussied-up considerably since I had seen it (note the word “seen”) when I was in Bangkok in 1963. As a Peace Corps Volunteer I couldn’t afford it.
The Erawan was one Soi (street) away from Susan’s in-laws, the Pibulsonggram’s, house. She took us to meet them. Her father-in-law had at one time been high up in the Thai government, as I recall, as Thailand’s Prime Minister. Their house, a wonderful and old-style Thai house, was made all of teak, which is a wood that does not need to be treated with preservatives – nor paint. The house had the typical roofs and a spirit house at the property’s entrance. A spirit house is intended to provide a shelter for spirits which could cause problems for the people if not appeased. The shrines often include images of people and animals. Votive offerings are left at the house to propitiate the spirits.
Pat didn’t give up on finding a ruby, so we went to a jeweler recommended by a Library of Congress friend. From the jeweler we were able to get a beautiful ring made with a ruby surrounded by small diamonds. The jeweler explained that it was a real ruby of inferior color that had been enhanced by heat, which resulted in the beautiful color – and less expensive price.
We bought several tiny Cambodian rubies and tiny diamonds, which we later had set into two bands of 18 K gold which we gave to Pat’s niece Kerry (Manning) Joseph, as well as several other rings for Pat and her daughters Vicky (Schiebel) Trumbower, Tammy (Schiebel) Rickman and Betsy (Schiebel) Lombardi but we are not sure which we bought on this trip and which we bought the time I was in Thailand on a speaking trip.
On one of our walks we came across a sign in the window that we couldn’t pass without taking a picture. The English said: “Treatment, Sprain, Anklyosis, Tendisilis, Lumbago.”
We did a lot in our less than 24 hours in Bangkok. As I recall, we had no time to go to even one of Bangkok’s fabulous temples – nor to ride in one of the exciting but treacherous tuk-tuks.