First a bit of background. I am early 40s, never married, but have no issues with western women. I have had several close relationships, but they have never gone all the way.
So last month I had to attend a wedding in Thailand, well I had to or there would not have been a wedding! So how did this happen?
Back in the '90s my choice of holiday was always Bali (not Kuta, but the quiet of Sanur), until one lovely afternoon in Bali my Thai friend (girl but not G/F) talked me into coming to Thailand for my next holiday.
Well, 6 months later I landed in Bangkok and stayed in Bang Na! Hated the first week, but fell in love the second week – not with a girl but with Thailand.
What made me fall in love? I think it was the people, OK so many smiles are fake, but so many are not… The smile of a proud grandmother playing with her grandchild is not fake, the security guard at the office block you walk past everyday, his smile is not fake. It was these and other things which made Thailand my choice of holiday from then on (it took my 2 more trips to discover Patpong, Nana & Soi Cowboy).
So now Bangkok was my city, but things changes, my friend had taken me to a provincial capital to meet a friend of hers married to an Australian and we had become friends. After that more and more time was spend outside Bangkok on my Thailand trips.
So now I am enjoying time in the capital and enjoying getting to know the Thai family outside the capital. One of the family members was my friend’s sister, but our early conversations went a bit like this: “Hello”, “Hello” “How are you?”, “I am fine and you?” Fine”…. And that was it!
However, as time went on we found more to talk about and somehow we found that we had a lot in common. So now we start spending more time together, while still telling each other that we are just close friends!
So one day we are driving around getting things for her done when I ask her to do something for me. I need to go to a good gold shop to buy something. As a good Thai she takes me to a shop where she knows someone working. We walk in and she takes a seat near the door and says “you look”. Well, when I reply “No, you need to look for a ring” the face changes and she starts talking to the shop assistant. She decides on a plain gold wedding band (good sign) and out we go. On the way back to the car she tells me off for tricking her, but the smile on her face tells a different story. And that night I think everyone we know in the town saw the ring!
But I have to go back to work in Australia, so we just keep in contact by SMS, emails, internet chat and the odd phone call.
Then one night we are chatting on the net, and playfully I comment on how my friends see her photo with a ring on her finger and ask me “When will you get married?”
Her answer is a bit more serious “yes, when?” So what can I say? Well, I can get holiday from work in February, so you pick the date. Well, I had not expected that response! I think she would have jumped in the air and then told me she would save this chat to prove what I had said! But that was OK with me, for once in my life, I meant it.
A week later she tells me that February is no good and can we get married in March? No problem, my boss will be flexible as far as this goes.
So now for the BIG question. We had never talked about it, but it had to come up some time. She brought it up first, telling me that her Mom did not want a bride price. Well, call me stupid, but knowing the family, I knew it was not about money, but about face. So I told my girflriend that if no sin sot, we should buy gold for her mother. Well, how did I know about sin sot? (She doesn’t know about Stickman) and why did I say so?
Well, she talked to her parents again and then asked me if 20,000 baht and 2 baht of gold would be OK for sin sot? As this was well within my budget, I agreed.
So I made my flight bookings etc. and then came a surprise! We had talked about a simple wedding, going to the temple in the morning and dinner with friends and family at night. But now the family had got involved, so the wedding was going to be at the parents’ home but still a small dinner at night. OK with me, traditional Thai wedding at her parents’ home sounded good to me. Then the next surprise, if we were having the wedding at parents’ house, it should look good, so can we paint it? How much? 20,000 baht, as I knew it was her idea not the parents I said OK (I later got the receipt and change).
So got to Thailand and 2 weeks away from the big day. And guess what, more expenses, she asked me to pay her mother 10,000 baht for wedding expenses. Well, if you think about getting married in Australia, you jump at baht 10,000 baht!
But there were more surprises in store…..
A week before the wedding, I am told mother wants to go shopping. Well, I make sure I have money on me and we meet mother. She takes us to a village outside town to look for Thai silk. I am once again asked how many of my farang friends are coming, so I say 5 plus my father. I am then asked to choose 7 different pieces of Thai silk, and then we take the one I picked for myself and walk down the street to the local tailor where I am measured for a shirt. The next day mother picks us up again to pick up shirt and this time my Dad has to come too. Now we buy a shirt for Dad and pick up my shirt. However, at no time have I paid one baht.
Now to the day itself. I knew that I had to bring envelopes to pay the gatekeepers. However, when I got there a Thai friend told me mother had arranged envelopes for me and gave me 10 envelopes to get through the gates. My envelopes still came in handy when my best man forgot to look after my shoes!
For the ceremony itself, it was a typical Thai ceremony with 9 monks and hours of kneeling and other different parts. It was very different from a farang wedding, but for some reason it felt right to me and my farang friends attending.
As for the dinner with friends at night, yes, we had that and with about 30 people coming along to a casual evening, it cost me the princely sum of 2,500 baht.
So I paid 20,000 cash + 2 baht of gold (22,000 baht), 20,000 baht for the house to be painted and 10,000 baht for wedding costs. If we had been married in Australia, I would have had to take out a bank loan and the family would not have got anything, so I am happy with our choice.
The next question has to be “is this going to last?” I do not know, we have several things going against us…. I am in Australia, she is in Thailand. I am Farang she is Thai (yes, I said farang… in Australia I am “New Australian,” so I can be “farang” in Thailand). We will have language and cultural misunderstandings.
But I know one thing: We are both willing to work at it. So that is in our favour.
I also know that in a few years time I will live in Thailand, not because it is perfect or paradise, but because when I retire it has more to offer than where I live now.
Get her over to Australia pronto. These long distance relationships can struggle, at least if the long time apart is at the start of the relationship. After a period of time though, distance apart is sometimes a good thing!