This is the story of the recent visit to my girlfriends village. I hope some people can use this info in the future.
I’m an Australian of 25 years. I have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for 9 months. I have travelled to Thailand about 8 times previous to dating my girlfriend and have a fair understanding of Thai culture and customs. My girlfriend is 26 and I met through a mutual female Thai friend that she was studying with. Her immediate family moved to Australia 9 years ago. She holds dual passports and is fluent in English, Thai, Lao, and the regional language of the north. She still holds on to the traditional values that were taught to her by her grandmother from her mother’s side who she is very close to. Her parents do not speak any English at all. Her parents have their own Thai restaurant which is the income source for the family. My girlfriend and her two brothers work there.
This trip puts me 2.5 hours drive south of Chiang Rai in the northern end of the province of Phayao. I understood this visit was very important for my girlfriend and she had to get the approval from the parents for this to happen. I also knew that she must be serious with me if she wishes to show me to all of the members of the family and the village where she grew up. Due to work commitments my girlfriend went a few days ahead to get settled and I followed her 4 days later. I was collected from Chiang Rai airport by my girlfriend in the family pickup and started the journey the village. The first thing I noticed was the smoke, it was very thick and very low. Apparently it’s due to all the farmers burning their dried harvests or land clearing due to it being the dry season. We stopped on the way to buy some supplies. I knew as soon as I stepped out of the car that I could not make any physical contact with her in public no matter how small. I could see that there were many eyes watching me and her, she knew that most of these people thought that she was a hooker. I’m sure it’s not very common for a local girl to meet a farang in the local area.
I bought some Coke and some snacks because I had to last 8 days only eating northern Thai food. After continuing the journey I asked my girl weather she had informed her grandmother of the sleeping arrangements, the answer is what I was expecting which was “not yet”. We talked more about our future together and the amount of people that would be coming to meet me over the next week. She also taught me the correct pronunciation of her grandparent’s names.
We arrived at the house at 8pm. I was greeted by her grandmother and I was given a tour of the house by my girlfriend. It was a pleasant surprise to see the quality of the house and the finish of the woodwork was outstanding, apparently her uncle got a great deal on the timber (from the local forest). I washed up in the hot shower and changed into some more comfortable clothes. I was taken to the house next door which belonged to her uncle, there I gave some genuine wais and big smiles, I was told by my girl that don’t smile too big because people will think that I am a retard or a bit slow. After being provided with enough food to feed a small army I ate and headed home for bed.
This is where my life changed, my girlfriend still had not informed her grandmother of the sleeping arrangements. I told her to sleep in her grandmother's bed, something she had done as a child every night from when she was six years old and I would sleep alone for the first night and sort the future nights tomorrow. I kissed my lady goodnight and due to my tired state drifted straight off to sleep.
All of a sudden I woke up to bright lights and my girlfriend looking at me with a cheeky grin telling me her grandmother wants to talk with me in the living room. I was very tired and looked at my watch and it was 2am. I was then seated down in front of her grandmother. Now I cannot sit like Thais do, I can only sit cross legged like you did at school, so if you want to practise this before you visit your teeruk’s family it may pay to do so. So we both sat facing her grandmother. Her grandmother is a very devout Buddhist and spiritual person, she started calling upon the spirits of her mother or great grandmother. I believe this was to see if it was acceptable for me to have a future with someone of her bloodline. My girlfriend then started to translate her grandmother’s questions e.g. Do you love her? Do you want a future together? Do you want babies? I answered yes to all of these questions. It was then declared that we are now engaged and it was acceptable for my girlfriend to sleep in the same bed as me. It was then stated that the ceremony and party will be in two days at 11:00am, apparently this was an auspicious time.
The next day there was a trip to the nearest provincial city. We had to buy some things for the next day: 1 large Pig 3,000 baht, 200 Roses and yellow flowers 550 baht, Labour and Banana leaves for flower decorations 300 baht, 8 Bottles of whiskey 2 slabs of soda water 1 slab of coke and 50kg of ice 1400 baht, and 1 baht gold bracelet as a gift for grandma 10,500 baht. While we were in town my girlfriend needed to tidy up some banking, I cannot remember the name of the branch but they had I digital number waiting system where you take a number a wait for your number to be called, I’m not sure if the speakers were standard issue but in true Thai style they were cranked to the max, the sound of the announcement of the next customer number was deafening. But as I started to learn about the rural lifestyle that nobody really cared about it.
I spent the afternoon fishing in a dam of the family farm; I had purchased a fishing rod and some lures in town. I was laughed at by some of the family because they could not understand that you don’t have do use bait on a hook to catch fish. It was soon me that was laughing, after only 1 hour of fishing I had caught 4 decent size catfish (pla duk). After arriving back at the family home they were shocked to see the farang had the catch of the day, I was very happy inside to disprove their thoughts. They made sure that I had some fish on my plate for dinner time.
On the morning of the big day I arose at 9am. I wandered downstairs; there was a lot of commotion of many elderly people preparing carpets and cushions for the ceremony. I was introduced to many of them, all of the people there were either related to my girlfriend by blood or had know her as a child, there was even one of her school teachers. At 11am I was seated down in front if the flower setting, it looked I bit like a small Christmas tree. To my left was my girlfriend and all around me was the family and guests. From the opposite of the flowers a man started chanting in the Pali language, this went on for 15 minutes. A piece of white string was tied from my hand around the flower tree and connected to my girlfriend's hand. While this man was chanting it was a bit strange to hear most of the people in the room talking and carrying on like we were at the market, I was told that it is normal behaviour. After the chanting stopped there were a few prayers and I noticed a cooked chicken and a glass of whisky being offered. Then the closest people to the flowers and offering were asked to lean forward and touch them while the Pali chanting started again for a short time. I was then able to relax and stretch my legs; while I was still seated each person in the room tied a piece of white string around each wrist. From what I understand this act wishes me good luck and also gives them some merit. Even though we both knew that we were getting engaged, I believe that most of the people present considered us married.
It was all over in about 40 minutes. Then the party started, it seemed that everybody wanted to me to try some of the food that they had created for the party, the pig that I bought went quite far, I was still eating pieces of it several days later. My now fiancée was a very happy lady and I knew that it was a big deal for her to have this even though her brothers and parents were not there.
So for the next 10 days I did not leave her side for more than a few minutes. We only had one argument which was my fault, it was over my constant questions regarding the Thai language, she has no problem helping me but she is not a teacher. I was not sure what to expect when I first arrived at her village but during my stay I found her family friendly and welcoming. They have a great sense of community.
I don’t find it easy to relax; my mind is constantly thinking of something or planning my next adventure. Village life was a new thing for me. Because most of my days in the village were not planned I found myself sleeping and lying around on the couch. While I was relaxing my fiancée woke me and informed me that her grandmother wants to give us a gift. We walked outside to see grandma, my fiancée translated and points to an almost finished house that is on the end of her grandmother’s land and I am told that she was planning to leave it to my fiancée as part of the will. But she wants to give it to us as a gift for our future together. I was then given a grand tour of the new gift. It needs a little work to finish the internals but it will be a great place to stay when I come and visit.
Here are some pointers or events that occurred during my stay
• Don’t be alarmed when you are woken at the early hours of the morning by a local with a pickup full of massive speakers advertising anything from the local monkey show or a temple opening drives past the house.
• You maybe asked if you can give your long nose away, it really seems attractive to many.
• I was not permitted to walk far from the house by myself due to my girlfriend’s fears that I would be robbed and beaten. This includes walking anywhere at night due to there being many species of ghost (pii) around.
• Your legs or other body parts maybe stroked for the feel of your body hair, this even includes by older men.
• Take care when eating noodle soup, a wet piece of chilli on the eyeball is not the most pleasant experience.
• Try some of the local food, even if you think you won’t like it. I found a few dishes that I can now enjoy eating. Even if you cannot swallow the food it will be enjoyable for the others watching.
• Learn some Thai words or take a phrasebook with you it’s a great way to connect with the family and it’s the effort that you show that counts.
• Be prepared for anything, things that are not normal or unacceptable in your home country maybe the norm upcountry.
• My fiancée's grandfather is convinced that his wife spends so much time at the temple that she must be having an affair with the local monk.
• Some local kids have never seen a white person before; they may run away or start crying at the first encounter.
• At the nearest 7 Eleven I ordered a hot dog, what I received was a half cooked sausage cut up and placed in a plastic bag with a wooden skewer.
• It is reported by my lady that if a Thai person has a dream about stepping in or falling in shit that it is a sign of good fortune.
If your lady is from an outlying area I strongly recommend you visit. You can see how she interacts with her family and the people that she cares about. Also you can get to see the type of people that you may be required to help out in the future, better still they can also see that you are a human that has feelings and not just a rich white man. These events are what happened in my experience and I hope to share more with you in the future.
It's always interesting to read about a first time village visit.