As a separated, honorably discharged US Navy sailor, I had spent 1½ years of my life in Southeast Asia. Most of the time was spent in Japan, South Korea, the PI and some Hong Kong time. So, I had developed an affinity to Asia and Asian women. Married
a Filipino and imported her to the States. It worked out for a while but, eventually we parted after 3 years. My choice and, definitely not hers as rodeo got the best of me.
As a reliability consultant, I traveled a lot and ended up in Ohio. There was a Thai restaurant that I visited 3 or more times a week after going to the gym. That is where I got to know the owner and her friends. Samai was helping her friend out but she was quite snobbish. However, that all changed when one night, I was invited to go to a casino in Canada. I am not much of a gambler but, when you are a consultant on the move, making friends is something that comes easy and you go with the flow. A few penny slots isn’t so bad. I agreed to go. I did have a concern about how long we would be gone and I was told a few hours. I was concerned because I was entered in the bull riding in Indianapolis, IN, the next day and couldn’t stay out all night. Well as my luck would have it, Sam’s friend hit an $800 pot and she couldn’t lose. We ended up staying until morning. But, Sam and I hit it off and we ended up standing around talking all night long which started off our relationship.
Next thing you knew we were spending as much time together as we could. Can you believe she was into line dancing? I am not a line dancer as a rodeo cowboy, line dancing is for fat girls that can’t get a date or as a spectator sport when hot chicks do the latest sexy dance.
After a few months, we decided to get married. Bad thing was I was now 9 months into a 12 month contract. I had to leave and go back to Texas soon. I quit my job and bought a restaurant. She thought she would never see me again. However, we kept in touch. A few months later we decided to go to Thailand for a traditional wedding. Didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into. Anyhow, we went as planned and went to Bangkok for a few days and then went on to Isaan for the wedding planning. It was going to be a large affair as a traditional wedding is normally too expensive for the country folks.
The planning was completed by Sam since Phom poot Thai mai dai (I can’t speak Thai). The funniest part of the planning was that there were these small tables that we borrowed from the temple. I saw them and they looked rather worn. So, I told Sam we needed to paint them up for the ceremony. I went to town with my soon to be brother-in-law, which would require me to buy him lunch. OK. Before I left I needed to know how to say red and gold in Thai, which proved easy enough, see dang and see tong.
So, Ta and I went to town with a tuktuk, had lunch and got the paint. Back to the house we went. I got to scrapping paint and sanding and painting. This took me until dark to complete. Wait to see how this turned out.
The next day, we had to go buy some hogs for the party. We were expecting around 2000 guests as Sam’s family were the founding people of the village and therefore, related to nearly everyone it seemed. So I picked out the hogs not knowing that someone else also was helping out and ended up with an 800 pound old sow including the ones I picked out. That night, the sow needed to be penned up and the relatives had built a small pen. Problem was getting the sow into the pen. As you know, Thais aren’t the largest people. Well, they had a rope around the sow but couldn’t budge her. I grabbed the rope, which got some worried as they didn’t want the farang to get hurt. But, being a country boy, I wrapped the rope around a tree and dragged the sow into the pen. This is getting to the good part as this is the day before the big shindig. We go to bed that night.
3:00 in the morning after having drank all night, the relatives decided to kill the sow. If you have never seen how they do this in Isaan, they don’t just kill the thing. Everything must be saved, including the blood. So, they stuck the sow with a knife after having tied her down and then the squealing was on. I swear she squealed for 15 minutes so loud that I am sure it woke the entire village and some places far beyond. What a way to wake up. OK, so Sam goes to get made up and I finally get back to sleep.
Morning comes and as I go down to relieve myself and find that the relatives are already drinking Lao Khao and eating raw deer meat, deer being illegal to kill. But, you gotta eat it right? Yes, the time in Southeast Asia prepared me for this.
So the event is about to begin. We start the ceremony. I walk down the street to the tent where the wedding is to be held. I get my feet washed and proceed on to the small tables. You can feel my amazement when the nicely painted tables I spent a day on are not there. Sam decided, with the help of her friend, that they must be replaced and low and behold, there is a new set. Oh well.
But, the wedding goes on. It all seems to be going well. I can’t understand a word of what is being said but, I understand the ques and Sam helps me along. Now you may wonder how long a Thai wedding lasts. Nearly 3 hours? I was just beginning to find out for myself. Being farang, I can’t sit on my feet for very long. But, this thing goes on and on and on and on. Finally it is over, almost. Then comes the string tying around the wrists of both of us. That was another hour. Or, so it seemed. Long story short? 3 hours later we could get up. I was in PAIN with a previously broken ankle just aching. But, it is finally over.
All in all, with the all night party complete with food, beer, Lao Khao and Mekong we get to bed around 2:00 AM. All was bliss.
But, is it over? No. Sam and her family decided to have a memorial for her father, who had passed away a couple years earlier, in conjunction with the wedding. This is where the fun begins. There was a dance troupe hired. Just down from the house were some friends that owned this venue. It was huge. Nearly one hundred girls are in the troupe, a huge portable stage for them to dance on, a band for the music and the obligatory gay MC. To note, the girls were not gogo girls.
The party started long before the show did and there was eating and drinking everywhere. But, I am allergic to fish. Not a good thing in Isaan. But I walk around with all the people and do my best to fit in. As you know, Isaan is full of friendly people and everyone was trying to get me to eat and drink with them. As luck would have it some nice women, older friends or relatives of Sam’s, asked me to sit and eat with them, which I reluctantly decided to do. I knew how to say, plaa mai dai. But, Thais, other than Sam can’t understand me. I called out to Sam, but she didn’t hear me. So, I plot forward to give it at try thinking maybe they had understood me. Well, the food they had was some kind of larb plaa. I told them plaa mai dai but, they didn’t understand Texan Thai. They said mai mee. You know what happened then, I ate a bite and BAM, I knew what it was. FISH!!! I had to spit it out. Luckily, Sam showed up just in time to explain the situation and I got rid it without having to offend anyone. I ended up a little fish sick. Good thing is, some beer and Mekong help to reduce the effects for me when I don’t actually swallow it. My mouth and throat will swell up a little and my stomach will ache a little but, with Singha and Mekong readily available I got through it ok.
Ok, so on with the story. They started the dancing around dusk. They made the Isaan jokes that of course I can’t understand (phom poot Thailand mai dai) only those who have been born there, and can speak Thai, can. The music was very entertaining with the dancing girls and all. More and more people show up and it is all going very well. There is also great food to eat, drinks, etc. There were some katoey that were asking to borrow me. No big deal as I know they know I just got married. Just a Thai style of joking. Sam was near and was just laughing. Fun, huh? I was surprised that they were there in the country, thought they would just be in the big cities. I know my words are not doing justice to this all. But, it was one of the best parties I have ever seen. I asked Sam when it was going to be over? She said dawn.
Around 10 PM Sam and I were asked to come on stage to thank all for coming. Of course the katoey was up there making jokes and messing with me in a kidding way. I played along as it was all part of the show and patted him on the butt. The guests all had a good laugh as did I. Well as word would have it, I was something of a singer. Not sure I agree but guess that was picked up on while I was singing Chris Ledeaux songs while sanding and painting the tables that disappeared. Sam must have explained the singing I was doing. Anyhow as the situation would have it, I was encouraged to sing a song. Reluctantly, I gave in and sang Amarillo by Morning. Though the guests didn’t understand a word, I got a huge ovation. Guess it is like a farang listening to Isaan music, we don’t understand the words but appreciate the sounds.
We left the stage after that, and retired to the upstairs of Sam’s sister to film the rest of the party. We ate plaa muk and drank Singha and Mekong until 4 AM. To say the least, we had a huge bohemian time in Isaan.
Spent a couple weeks in Isaan and, a couple weeks in Bangkok. Had a marvellous time for my first time.
It's always great to hear positive stories like this. They love a chance to party up there in Isaan!