All These Years On And Still Going Strong Part II – The Wedding
All These Years On And Still Going Strong Part II – The Wedding
Continued from Part I The Meeting/Engagement in which widower makes first trip to LOS in search of wife, gets engaged and then returns to UK.
During the following three months I emailed M (fiancé) weekly, via T (intro agency manageress), with news, more background info about me and questions about her and the wedding preparations. M met T at the office most Sundays to find out what I had written and T then emailed her replies and questions in return.
I also phoned M on a weekly basis, but as her English was very limited I had to script the conversation beforehand in pidgin Thai from my phrase book. I doubt she understood much although later claimed she had understood everything.
I’d booked my next trip for June 2002 and advised M of the dates around which she was to make the wedding arrangements. With typical Thai attention to detail the wedding day she chose just happened to be the same day of my flight home. I asked her to change it but this was not possible as the village elder had already decreed that day as lucky (but not lucky for me as I incurred flight change fees to delay my return home by 2 days, well I didn’t want to be denied my wedding night).
The email and phone call routine continued religiously for the next three months as I crossed the days off until my departure date. During that time we got to know a lot more about each other, our hopes, our dreams and aspirations.
M did ask me to send money from time to time but they were always very modest amounts to cover living expenses and some of the wedding costs. No where near the excessive amounts recounted in the sad tales on the Stickman site.
And just in case anyone out there is thinking “Oh yeah” my beloved kept the receipts to show where the money had gone.
After what seemed like an eternity the day finally arrived for my return to LOS.
M met me at DMK and we took a taxi to The Ambassador. During the journey it was evident the English lessons were starting to pay off as her vocabulary now extended beyond “yes” and “no.”
T met us at the hotel and we discussed the wedding arrangements and started to get the papers together for M’s visa application. The original intention was to apply for a fiancé visa and then get married in the UK as the wedding in Thailand was just going to be the Buddhist ceremony in her home village (but see later).
As the wedding was at the end of my two week trip this left us a bit a time to fill, which we spent in Samui. A sort of honeymoon before the wedding, but without the bedroom Olympics. I don’t think M could have given a bigger smile when she saw the room had two single beds!
The hotel was idyllic, right on a white sand beach with coconut palms, etc. However, despite all the beautiful scenery, island hopping boat trip, obligatory “chang” ride and snorkelling, the highlight for me had to be German baiting.
As you all know Samui is usually crawling with Krauts at the best of times added to which the football World Cup was on. Perfect for all the Brits there seeing as we had humiliated them 5-1 in their own backyard during qualification.
Germany was playing our near neighbour, Republic of Ireland, who the Brits adopted for the day.
However, all the bar stools were occupied by Germans craning their square necks to get a better view of the portable TV behind the bar. I think they must have mounted a dawn raid, like they do with towels to bag all the sunloungers around the swimming pool.
The game started well for Germany as they went 1-0 up on 18 minutes. But as the match progressed the Paddies came more and more into it cheered on by Brits at the back of the bar and in the adjacent restaurant. Eire equalised in the 90th minute to force a draw, which, at the time, put Germany’s further progression slightly in doubt.
This obviously resulted in a lot of mickey taking by the Brits. It was highly amusing as the Jeermans promptly rose en masse and stomped off with long faces.
With that all too brief interlude over we headed back to BKK.
M went ahead to her village to make final preparations leaving me on my own in BKK for 2 days. To be honest I was bored titless and spent most of the time lounging around the pool.
We did have one very major hiccup on the eve of the wedding. T rang me in the afternoon to say she was concerned that M might not follow through and travel to England if her visa application were successful (to this day I still don’t know what gave rise to her fear).
To safeguard my interests she suggested I only pay half of the “sin sot” at the wedding and the other half after M had actually arrived in the UK. To make matters worse she had already rung M to put this to her before even speaking to me and needless to say it had not gone down very well with M who, T now warned, was on her way to see me to “have it out.”
It was about mid evening by the time M was banging on the door. She arrived mob handed with several workmates for moral support. (It’s amazing how many Thai girls you can fit in a taxi.) M was crying, asking why I didn’t trust her and started unpacking the suitcase of her clothes that I was to take back to England in readiness of her arrival.
I told her everything T had said to me, with her friend O translating, and that it had not been my idea. M made her position very clear “No sin sot in full, no marriage.” In hindsight she was most likely concerned about this “face” stuff in that the family had probably told the whole village what they were getting and so would look bad if only half of it were on show at the wedding. <I would love to know what prompted this. Why did T suspect? Was it a gut feeling or something more? – Stick>
Eventually M calmed down, we re-affirmed our love for each other, agreed to continue as originally planned and M put her clothes back into the suitcase.
M offered to stay the night if I wanted but it wasn’t really practical as it was already 10 PM and she had to be back at the village by dawn to feed the monks (part of the marriage ritual) so was going to have to travel through the night anyway. Explains why we were so tired on our wedding night (see later).
The wedding day dawned.
I was picked up by T at the ungodly hour of 4:30 AM and we made our way by minibus to the Province with two names. The events of the previous evening were not mentioned. I certainly wasn’t going to raise the subject for fear of throwing another spanner in the works at such a late juncture. The journey was made almost entirely in silence. I suspect after leaving me M had rung T to give her a piece of her mind. After stopping en route for breakfast we arrived at M’s village around 9:30 AM.
It’s a small village, about 300 inhabitants tops, mainly subsistence farmers, of which M’s family was one of the slightly better off ones in that they had rice fields, fruit trees, fish pond and 40 head of beef cattle (although no matter what time of year I visit they always look just skin and bone).
I changed into my hired Thai suit at an uncle’s house before being paraded through the village like a travelling circus act (many people in the village had never seen a Farang before).
The procession was led by someone carrying banana leaves during the course of which I had to pass through 3 symbolic gates with the bribe to get past increasing, like bronze, silver and finally gold.
T was acting as my “best man” and explained everything as we went along, no dry run here. This was for real.
When we got to M’s house T knocked on the door and asked her father for permission to either enter the house or to marry his daughter (can’t remember exactly which but you get the drift).
The family home was one of those on stilts jobs, with earthen ground floor used mainly for storage and open plan first floor. The “kitchen” was a lean-to on the side of the house.
I was kept waiting outside in the burning heat for a good 20 minutes or more, as if pretending he needed time to think! Eventually I was beckoned forward and met at the door by M.
This was the first time I had seen my wife with make-up on and she looked stunning. M rarely wears make-up but is still more attractive than all the painted ladies I’ve seen on my travels.
M knelt and washed my feet before I was allowed across the threshold (I know it’s symbolic, but a bit pointless I thought as I then had to walk across a dirt floor).
We were ushered upstairs, where the ceremony was to be performed, which had been decked out like a makeshift altar, chapel, or whatever the Buddhist equivalent is.
There must have been at least 50 people crammed into the room and the service was relayed via loudspeakers to the rest of the village thronging outside. Forgive for being a cynic but I reckon most of them were only there for the free food and drink afterwards.
There was a brightly coloured mat on the floor upon which the dowry money had been laid out in a neat circle. The first act was for M’s father to gleefully scoop the money up and scurry off to the back of the room with a huge grin lighting up his face. <The term grinning like a Cheshire cat should be replaced with “grinning like the Isaan farmer who just collected sin sot for his daughter from a farang! – Stick>
The first part of the service comprised a bit of chanting, reading of vows I guess and taking a symbolic bite of banana, sticky rice and a drink of water. Can’t remember what they all stood for but I know one of them represented fertility. It was also during this part that I placed the gold upon my bride.
Now my legs aren’t in the best of shape, years of cricket, rugby and hockey in my youth screwed up my left knee in particular, and so I find it nigh on impossible to sit crossed legged. Realising my discomfort I had been provided with a cushion to kneel on instead. Even so, after 45 minutes when the time came to turn and face the congregation my legs had gone numb.
The second part of the ceremony involved my bride and I holding a silver coloured bowl into which one by one the assembled crowd placed their wedding gift, an envelope supposedly containing money, although I’ll wager a penny to a pound that most of them were empty (Mr Cynic talking again).
After each gift was deposited my wife and I bowed and raised the bowl towards our foreheads in acknowledgement. The donor then tied a coloured thread to one of our wrists.
I looked at the big hank of threads in the man’s hand and hoped to God that they weren’t going to use them all. Use them all? They ran out! The last few had to pretend!! This process lasted yet another 45 minutes during which time my legs were screaming in agony at me.
When the time finally came to stand up my legs had gone completely to sleep and I had to be helped to my feet. The on-lookers smiled sympathetically at me but I’m sure they were really thinking “Look at the stupid Farang, he can’t even sit properly.”
After that the party, or more accurately described free-for-all, started. Why do I call it that? Because after a while you start to notice people, who even M didn’t know, taking packs of beer and unopened bottles of whisky with them as they left.
I knew I couldn’t challenge them because even though they were stealing it would be me that lost face if I caused a scene. You just have to grin and bear it.
I find this ethos really hard to handle especially when it happened again 2 years later at her father’s funeral. It was, therefore, a good job we had to leave while the festivities were still in full swing in order to get back to BKK at a reasonable hour.
Up until now I had harboured nagging doubts at the back of my mind if we were truly right for each other and how things would work out bearing in mind my previous comments re lack of any meaningful physically contact.
No sooner had we got onto the bus when my fears evaporated in an instant. It was like a switch had been thrown as M pulled my arm around her, snuggled up to me and slept in my arms for most of the trip back to BKK.
It was about 8 PM by the time we got back to our hotel room and, as we had both been up since at least 4 AM, to say we were knackered would be an understatement.
We tried our best to do what a newly married couple do on their wedding night but she was nervous, I was anxious and I’m embarrassed to admit the marriage was not consummated that night. To add insult to injury and with excellent timing she was “due” the next day. I would have to wait until M arrived in England for that particular pleasure.
We slept until woken at 2 AM by my mobile phone. It was my first wife’s sister-in-law back in England just calling to see how I was. Needless to say she was surprised to learn of my current location and situation.
In the morning T rang us. Another girl from the agency had just had her visa application rejected on the basis that they did not believe she would marry her fiancé. It was, therefore, suggested that we officially tie the knot in Thailand to improve M’s visa chances.
With that began a manic day, which lasted from about 9 AM until 6 PM, of criss-crossing the city to jump through all the required hoops. My apologies if I am boring you but the following info is given to assist any readers who maybe considering doing the same. The process listed below is what we followed back in June 2002 although I acknowledge UK visa applications should now be submitted to the Visa Application Centre and not the British Embassy.
1. Go to Embassy, pick up wording for affidavit of “affirmation of freedom to marry” and make appointment to see Pro Consul later
2. Back to office to get typed up
3. Appointment with Pro Consul to witness signing of affidavit, remembering to take passport and originals of birth certificate, first marriage certificate and first wife’s death certificate (or in the case of divorcees the divorce papers)
4. Get affidavit translated into Thai
5. Get translation authenticated by Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in reality the translation bureau should arrange this for you, for an additional fee of course, but be careful some back street merchants just add their own seemingly authentic rubber stamp)
6. Go to Thai equivalent of a Registry Office known as an Amphur Office, which we had a struggle locating. No service, just form filling in and totally in Thai so I hadn’t got a clue what I was signing!
7. Get Thai Marriage Certificate translated into English. Not obligatory, but useful later.
8. Get that translation authenticated as per above.
9. Finally return to British Embassy to lodge with visa application papers and book appointment for visa interview. You can also have the marriage certificate recorded on the British Registry; again not compulsory but useful if you later lose the original and need to get a copy when back in Britain.
Full details can be found on the British Embassy, Bangkok website.
In hindsight we should have got the agency’s office girls to do all the running around for us in view of the hefty fees.
And so ended the last full day of my second trip to LOS. The next day I was on the plane back to Blighty not knowing yet if my wife would be allowed to join me as her visa interview wasn’t for another 6 weeks.
With this thought in mind I started to cry just before the plane landed.
To be continued.
Very nice part 2!