I decided I should write about my Thai wedding, which occurred in 01. It's kind of a funny story. Here you go.
OK, I have to relate my first trip, because it's pretty funny. My ex-wife (and she remains my best friend) and I went to her home province to get married (Mukdahan). The trip took forever, plane ride to Bangkok (with delay). We arrive at midnight, sleep in the terminal, and head to Udon at six in the morning. Then we drive, me packed in the back of a pick up with my wife, her mother and two beetlenut chewing aunts, passing me mirthless grins decorated with the dribble of beetlenut and rotten teeth. Welcome to Isaan baby. The drive was pleasant enough, lots of palm trees and bucolic scenery. A little long though, as I was exhausted long before I climbed into the back of the pickup.
When we finally arrive in her village, I am immediately surrounded by a crowd of Thais talking very fast. I don't understand a word, but I nod and smile a lot and shake a lot of hands. The kids keep touching me – my wife says they're curious. And everyone wants to shake my hand and bursts out laughing when they do. I guess hand shaking is not the norm. But nobody want to wai, everyone wants to shake hands. So we do.
I had bought a bottle of 12 year old scotch for my father in law. He's not much of a drinker, but I couldn't think of anything else to buy him (later I realized that working gloves and a leathermen were much more useful). So we break out the glasses, a crew of guys gathers around, and we fill up their glasses. None left for me, but that's OK because I don't like Scotch anyway. I also brought some nice Dominican cigars – I Bogarted one of those as I do enjoy a good cigar. So the boys drinking and laughing and smiling and I ask my wife what they think. She asks her dad and he says "taste like whisky" – well, OK, and a Porsche drives like a car too. It was at that point I realized I had wasted over a hundred bucks, as these rice farmers really couldn't tell the difference between expensive scotch and the neighborhood rot gut. But I'm still smiling.
Now, remember, we came to get married. Unfortunately for MAC the monks got to pick our lucky day. Only it wasn't lucky for me. It was 36 hours hence. It's February, freezing in Germany – where I just flew in from. So the climate is smoking me, I am suffering from jet lag, and it's time to party! Mom has coordinated everything and every Thai from everywhere has come visit. OK, I brought money. The whole shindig cost 1,500 bucks. No big deal as weddings go. Pretty cheap actually. The wedding was complete with a live band (they were awful) and dancing girls (they were cute, but they couldn't dance a lick)! There were certainly more than 200 people there, as we had tables and chairs for 200 people and they were full, and there were lots of people standing around. Then I was forced to sing a song to the crowd which my future mom loved but I didn't. The only song the guy could play was Desperado, and it didn't end up sounding like the Eagles.
Anyway, we partied first, got married second. I thought that was both peculiar and annoying. Annoying (although I am still smiling, mind you) because that meant I had to get up at six in the morning – still suffering from jet lag and having spent the entire evening drinking. So now I am in a suit, in the heat, walking through the village in this wedding procession……thinking, "what am I doing here? If my friends could see me now". Some guy is following me with an umbrella so I don't get too hot. Another is fanning me. Well, at least they were thoughtful, because I know they're as hung over as me. When we get to the house nine monks, led by one ancient one (he was over ninety years old, a great guy who talked with me at length about Buddhism a few weeks latter) are lined up and chanting. My wife and I go through a series of ceremonial events. Then some guy comes over with a glass of water and reeds. I'm thinking it will be a ceremonious cleaning or something. Well, it was, except that he wasn't sparing the water. I was now totally soaked. I wanted to say "All right we get it. Enough already!" but I'm still smiling. Finally the whole ceremony is over and I am told to kiss the bride (told by the photographer that is – besides my wife, the only person who spoke English).
There were other memorable moments to my 25 days in her village on that trip. Me rebuilding the house, which was in considerable disrepair (mom and dad love me for life). Me hanging out with a local teacher who always wanted to hold my hand when we were walking down the street (he wasn't gay, but it still gave me the willies), or another woman in the village asking me if I wanted her to be her Mia Noi (minor wife). I must have made a good impression – or maybe I looked exotic. I'm not sure.
So if you are heading out to Isaan to get married, my advice would be to have no expectations, smile a lot, be a good ambassador. I guarantee it is going to be an adventure.
Yep, it is an adventure!