I’m sitting on a bench in the center of Bangkok’s Lumphini Park when two Thai guys approach me.

“Hey, how ya doing?”
“I’m okay, thanks.”
“Do you want to buy some sapphires?”
“I’m listening.”

Looking back on the scene with the virtue of a 60-something’s perspective, I should probably have gotten up and walked away in the other direction as fast as my legs would carry me. But at age 25, foot loose and fancy free, my pre-frontal cortex only partially developed, I’m wide open to opportunity…including buying jewels from 2 shifty dudes in the middle of a park in southeast Asia.

“Come with us.”

Following my new business partners, I leave the park and continue to a nearby alley. Thankfully, this is not one of those stories where a young American tragically gets beaten up, robbed and left to die during his exotic holiday in a developing country. In fact, the transaction goes fairly smoothly. I give them $200; in return, they give me a lovely set of black, star sapphires which, by all accounts, appear to be real. They even provide me with the provenance to prove that these are authentic star sapphires from Bangkok, Thailand. All I have to do is go home, find a jeweler, and sell my gems for a hefty profit. I’m all set, right?

Well, as it turns out (the saddest four words in the English language), only blue star sapphires are worth anything on the resale market, not black ones. Although lovely, my jewels are essentially worthless!

At the time, however, I am unaware of what a naïve rube I’ve become. As I return to my bench in the park, I’m feeling “right chuffed” with myself, as they say in Northern England. Heck, I’m buying stuff here, selling it there. What a wheeler dealer I’ve become! Flushed with my unexpected success, Lumphini park looks just a little bit brighter than it did a few hours ago.

A green oasis in the middle of the bustling Thai capital, Lumphini Park spans over 142 acres and includes trees, playgrounds, and an artificial lake where visitors can rent paddle boats. Runners come here to enjoy the 2.5 km of jogging trails. Biking is allowed during the day (while dogs are not) and there’s a smoking ban throughout the park – a refreshing restriction in a city of cigarettes.

Interestingly, the park started out as a fair ground back in the 20’s before the king re-named the place Lumphini after Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha in Nepal. During WWII, the park served as a Japanese Army camp. Later, it was the site of the first public library in the country. Over the years, it has housed a Chinese clock tower, a swimming pool and even a public aquarium. These days you can find numerous statues, a special area for disabled people, a corner dedicated to use by the elderly, and even a refuge for homeless children.

Did I ever sell my black star sapphires? Nope. I never even got them set into jewelry. They remain in a tiny red, padded bag – a pleasant memory of a time and a place and an era in my life when everything was possible and even mistakes were a learning experience.

(What’s your relationship with “mistakes”? If you’re like most people, you probably beat yourself up pretty badly when you goof up – and even more so when real money is involved. About all I can say is,
Don’t do it! Let it pass! You can’t take it with you! The ultimate goal in life is spiritual growth, and nothing accelerates self-awareness and wisdom like a good mistake!)