South East Asia during March and April is a blast furnace on high. With sweltering temperatures, and ill working air conditioning - not to mention the unique smells, South East Asia is a relatively inhospitable place. this time of year. Still, this is also a major center for gems and business does not stop.
Coming having spent the week, in relative civilization in Bangkok, I arrived into Yangon (formerly Rangoon), early morning and hitched a taxi to my hotel. On the way, I stopped and picked up a local sim card for my phone. Amazingly, enough they are ubiquitous throughout the 3rd world, and communications are relatively easy. Myanmar in particular has made great strides in communications in recent times. Previously, personal communications were notoriously difficult. Cell phone service was available mostly to the very rich, costing thousands to get connected. However, these days it's quite easy and affordable - though internet is mostly limited to slow connections.
After checking in early morning, I met up with my broker and went to have lunch. We discussed the gemstone trends in the market, and decided on out schedule for the week. Afterwards we got right to it.
There are are a number of markets in Rangoon for gem trading, depending on the day of the week, and the time. The markets have a sort of momentum that builds throughout the day. It's a chance to meet brokers, look at stones, and discuss potential future orders. Often the market is filled with commercial grade goods, goods that are overpriced, and generally average quality merchandise. Based on the interaction with the brokers, and feedback from my personal broker, I get the opportunity to look at better and more targeted goods as time goes one. Importantly however, is the initial introduction to locals, to establish oneself as a proper buyer, and someone who they can do business with.
On the first day I saw some nice stones. A few great peridots and many spinels.
The above peridot was also really beautiful, but I felt a bit too deep. The depth adds carat weight which adds price.
2 of the many brokers I worked with throughout my visit.
When in the market - or for that matter anywhere in Yangon, make sure you stop for some tea - locally called 'Lapae'. The cup comes with a strong black tea with milk and sugar. The pot comes with complimentary Chinese style tea. Just order a cup of Lapae, and when it's finished, keep enjoying as many cups of Chinese tea as you like.
After spending a day in the market - I retired back to my room and planned for the following morning. The next day involved brokers coming to my room directly to show me goods not seen in the market.