Having just got married a week ago, today's article discusses traditional Thai weddings and what it is like to be one of the so called "stars of the show". Expect more about the wedding in the column over the next couple of weeks as I discuss my decision to marry a Thai woman instead of a farang, and you can also look forward to a piece on the word that gets farangs more upset than most, the dreaded dowry.
I enjoy formal occasions and am not shy to pull out my best threads when the occasion calls for it, but truth be told, I have been to very few weddings that I have enjoyed – at any time in my life. They tend to be staid, stuffy and overly formal and I was more than a little worried that mine would follow this trend. My fears were never realised and my wedding ceremony turned out to be GREAT fun.
In the five years that I have called Thailand home, I was a little surprised when I looked back and realised that I have only ever been to one wedding – and that was just the reception of a wedding at a hotel. So, while I had read a lot about what goes on at a traditional Thai wedding, I had never experienced one myself. My first time and I am one of the stars of the show…
On the way to Korat. The last day of freedom….
There we were, just a couple of clicks from the centre of Korat City on a pleasantly mild Saturday morning. It was all supposed to kick of at 8:00 AM but as is so often the case in Thailand, it didn't get going until closer to 8:30, which was probably a good thing as there were a few nerves around. Under somewhat overcast skies which kept proceedings much cooler than the weather of the few days before, the ceremony started with a bunch of 30 or so of us assembling at the top of the soi where my bride to be's house was located. A pickup truck was parked and the rear was full of plates with various items, ranging from a bottle of rice whiskey to a pig's head to various other things, some of which I didn't recognise – and couldn't even determine what they were! We were told that each person had to carry one of the plates – except for me. Hey, I am supposed to be one of the stars of the show but I can't carry anything? Never mind. Just before we were about to set off on the short stroll to the house, the Thai air-force who have a large base in Korat did a fly by. Some smartass was overheard saying that they had organised it especially… We started the march towards the house and I was instructed to stand in the middle, sort of protected, but protected against what I wondered?!
So, we started marching down the soi towards the house and before we had made it 10 metres, two lovely ladies were standing guard across the road, blocking our way. My mother was at the front of the parade and the two "gatekeepers" started asking her various questions. Mother can't have answered right because I was required to hand over an envelope of cash to ease the passage! Actually, that is all part of the ceremony and while it may sound as though corruption played a part in the ceremony, this is in fact part of it. We then proceeded but before we had made it 10 metres further along there was another gate with a couple more lovelies on guard. This time it was me who was asked the questions. Oozing with charm and confidence and responding accordingly was not good enough so it took a couple more envelopes of cash to allow us further passage. This is Thailand and everyone has their price! Next stop was the house itself where the bride's sister was on guard. I caught a glimpse of my lovely bride poking her head around the corner and thrust the envelope towards her sister who was guarding the house before she had a chance to ask me anything. A quick grin and sis grabbed my hand and led me inside.
The front room of the house had been totally transformed into what I guess we could call a "marriage ceremony room". It has probably got a more precise name, but I have no idea what that is. Various ceremonial acts followed. All of the plates with the various goodies were laid out. Elders appeared and we were required to grarb ( a VERY deep wai) our parents in what I gather was some sort of show of respect. Yeah, like I said, I didn't really know quite what was going on and just followed the instructions. I was told to do this and I did this. I was told to do that and I did that. If someone had told me to drop my drawers, hell, I probably would have done as I was told…
The dowry was then laid out and was counted and checked, although the bulk of it was not in the form of cash. The small portion of banknotes all had to be brand new notes, virgins so to speak, just like me. Various seeds were sprinkled over the dowry by my parents (and perhaps others – I can't be totally sure) before it was taken away by the bride's mother. I didn't catch it at the time but the photos later revealed that she had carried it out in such a way as to make onlookers believe that it was very heavy and therefore contained a lot of money! Actually, there was no need to act…
After this the two of us were told to sit at two low sitting stools with tables in front of us. At this stage our heads were joined together by a piece of string with a loop draped over each of our heads. We were required to hold our hands clasped together out in front of us and a procession of people walked past and poured water over our hands, most giving us well wishes, which ranged from a lengthy speech in Thai to a more economical "happy happy" in English!
Truth be told there were many different aspects to the ceremony, and I do not pretend to understand many of them. In fact I have little clue of what a lot of the things we did were symbolic of. But that doesn't matter for it was all VERY enjoyable. I have always said that I don't really care for Western style weddings and was happy for the bride's mother to organise a traditional Thai wedding. Tell me what to do and I'll do it. After the water pouring, the formalities of the ceremony were followed by the obligatory feast which was very, very good. Incidentally, monks usually play a part in their ceremony but as neither of us are Buddhist, there weren't any monks present. We also shirked the bit where the couple is led into a bedroom with an older couple who have had a long successful marriage… Might have been fun, might not.
I can honestly say that Thai weddings really are great fun to be part of. You don't have to worry about making mistakes and things just go along at their own pace. It was great having people all around us screaming out what we were supposed to do next, usually just a few seconds before we were supposed to do it. The lack of formality encourages one to be a bit more daring, and not worry so much about making mistakes, not that I really worry about such things anyway. Like most things in Thailand, the ceremony was fun and it seemed to me that everyone was into the spirit of it. I've never been married Western style so cannot comment on that, but Thai weddings rock!
Where is this pic?
NOW WITH THREE DIFFERENT PRIZES EVERY WEEK!
Last week's pic
It was the park next to Emporium.
This week's pic
Last week's pic was taken out the front of the park next to the Emporium Shopping Centre on Sukumvit. Hundreds of you got it right! Please remember that there are now THREE prizes offered for the where is this pic. One person, irrespective of location, wins the prize of $25 worth of goodies from ClubHombre which will be shipped to you wherever you are. In addition to this, the first Bangkok based person to answer the pic correctly wins a tube of MyCreme sexsational cream. To win the MyCreme, you MUST be in Bangkok as the prize is delivered to you, but the other two prizes are open to anyone worldwide! So, to all Bangkok based folks, make it clear in your email that you are Bangkok based so that you qualify for the cream that will send your teeruk to heaven! The third prize comes from the good guys at the Classics Movie Lounge who will provide you with a 500 baht credit to use at their fine establishment!
EMAILS THIS WEEK INCLUDED :
Enjoy dangerous sports?
I note that DVDs are available in MBK with a marked price of 99 baht. Now if the price is marked at 99, no doubt one could get them for less, especially if one is buying a few. Friends with DVD players (I'm still a dinosaur with a VCD player) tell me that you have to be careful where you purchase them as the quality is variable.
A friend found himself in Dance Fever on Rachada recently, just as a few hundred police decided to raid the police. And the boys in brown deemed that it was time for every punter in the place to submit to a drug test! This was the first time that a friend of mine had been inside a place that was raided. A huge number of police raided the police, he was quite insistent that there were around 500 – that would be enough to fill a medium sized cinema auditorium! Apparently part of the reason for the large number is to stop anyone who tries to quietly slip away… All of the lights in the disco / bar were turned on, and the music turned off. Announcements were made and testing facilities were set up. Queues were formed and everyone is required to take a piss. If you can't take a piss, apparently you can request water to help the process. You provide your sample in a little container with boys and girls separated at this point. Several policeman watch you as you piss to make sure that the sample that you provide is actually yours, and not that of someone else. The only concession that you may get as a farang is being pulled to the front of the queue. They will not just let you go because you are farang! When you have taken a leak, you take your sample to a desk where a chemical is dropped into it. If it turns a certain colour (purple, I believe) then you are taken away to be processed. The annoying part about all of this is that it can take over two hours to get tested and get out of the place. I guess you don't want to be attending a night spot just before you have a plane to catch.
The other day I found myself in a liquor store with quite a shopping list. Filling up the trolley with lots of goodies, the ever so helpful assistants started adding a few extra items along the way. Alai na! Wondering what they were up to, I noticed that the various additions were promotional materials. Free glasses, bags, a picnic table and a couple of T-shirts were all thrown in. At one stage I had a bottle of Chivas Regal in the cart but decided against it and put it back on the shelf. In an effort to try and persuade me to reverse the decision and purchase it, one of the sales assistants showed me the T-shirt that I would get for free if I bought the Chivas. Now I am a marketer's dream and can be swayed into making a purchase by a nice promotion. A thick, durable T-shirt with a nice embodied logo would have sealed the deal but what the sales girl came out with was something quite different. A thin, tatty looking black shirt with a horrible logo not indifferent from the junk that is peddled at Pratunam was thrust towards me. Hmmm, I think I'll pass on that one, thanks. When I got home, I examined all of the other freebies and noticed that they were all of similarly low quality. While this is Thailand and it is obviously a lot cheaper to manufacture the freebies here, I think there is something a little wrong when you buy premium products but are given junk freebies with them.
I notice that the building next to Ambassador Plaza that was damaged by fire last year is slowly being dismantled and the area around Ambassador Plaza looks like a bit of a mess at the moment.
Twilight in the City of Angels.
Cabbages and Condoms is one of the more popular, and certainly most well known Thai restaurants for foreigners, no doubt at least partially due to its location on Sukumvit Soi 12. Contrary to what many people have said, I would disagree that Thai food there is "farangized". When our group ate there last night (just when I should have been putting the finishing touches to the column…), we all agreed that the food was adequately spicy, and indeed one dish was a bit hot even for Mrs Stick. The food was great, but this place also suffers from "The Londoner Syndrome" – great food but way overpriced. The quality of the food is good, but it is no better than say Anna's Cafe. Now if you compare the prices with the offerings from Anna's Cafe, a branch of which is located nearby, C+C's prices compare miserably. I'd recommend this place for the ambience and the quality of the food, but the prices, like a lot of places of Sukumvit, are about 50% higher than what they should be.
Night Flight bar in Sukumvit Soi 4, the place with the pool table across from the Bus Stop, is now vacant. A sign displayed outside says that they have moved to Soi 7.
I made it down to the night bazaar at Suan Lum this week and have to say that I was very impressed. Just across the road from Lumpini Park, the night bazaar is a smaller, cleaner and more centrally located version if Jatujak, but specifically targeted at tourists. Unlike Jatujak which can be a bit overbearing with the sheer number of people combined with the heat, noise and filth, the night bazaar at Suan Lum is a lot more visitor friendly and stress free to wander around. All of the shops are clean and tidy and the walkways are wide and without the crowds that typify JJ. With a smaller number of shops the selection of goods is not nearly as good, but for tourists who just want to browse and pick up the odd souvenir, expectations should be at least met, if not exceeded. There seemed to be an even number of Thai and foreign customers on the night that I visited. Overall, the Suan Lum Night Bazaar gets the thumbs up as another worthwhile place to visit, and in many ways is better than the markets popular with tourists – JJ, Pratunam and Patpong.
Several emails from Australia and New Zealand inform us that that excellent James Bond ad for Visa cards has been screening on the television down there for some time. But as no-one from anywhere else mentioned it, I guess it is only NZ and Australia that has it?
I'm catching up on a huge backlog of email…so sorry for the delays in getting back to people. All should be replied to within a day or so.
Mrs. Stick's Corner
Mrs. Stick, contrary to what I have said in previous columns, is not your typical Thai girl. She is fascinated by farang culture and the behaviour of us foreign barbarians in her beloved Thailand. Often preferring a good steak to Tom Yum Goong, it is amazing that she remains in remarkably good shape. Each week, she will answer questions about Thai / farang relationships and general issues that baffle the average Westerner in Thailand. Please forward questions to her, via me, at the usual email address. Two questions will be chosen each week and answered in the following week's column. The responses are hers and NOT mine although I do butcher her English, generally making it worse. I may not necessarily agree with what she says! Please note that she doesn't have the time to reply to your inquiries via email.
Question 1: Why are Thai women not interested in what happens in Thailand and how the country operates? I mean things like the drug war related killings now. Or the overnight destruction of Sukumvit Soi 10 bar area and who is responsible for it. The women I know might have heard about it but have no opinion about things like that and no interest to talk or think about it. Much more interesting topics: The Midnight Sale in Central Department store or what to order for dessert tonight.
Mrs. Stick says:
Two things here. In general the Thai lifestyle doesn't take a lot seriously and many Thai women may feel that if it is not their duty or responsibility then they may well not take it seriously at all, no matter how big it is. It all goes back to the way that we are educated. We are taught to remember and to recite – and not necessarily to think critically. Therefore, anything that doesn't directly concern us is not considered in the same way as a Westerner would consider it.
Question 2: I had a few times a nice time (conversation etc.) with a "good Thai girl" and wanted to give a small present. What are common and appropriate gifts in such cases. And in the case of visiting someone at home? I see the Thai often give some food while visiting someone, but that seems a bit strange if someone works in a restaurant herself.
Mrs. Stick says:
When you visit someone at home, you should try and give a basket of fruit which is ideal. If you are just friends and it is merely friendly conversation, you should give something that doesn't imply anything more than friendship such as a souvenir from your country; something that is neutral. If your friend is someone "special", it should be something that conveys that meaning.
Some smartass (I think his name is Whosyourdaddy) suggested that these are the reasons why I chose to get married.
9. Two words: Mia noi.
8. The price of drinks went up to 110 B at Nana.
7. He finally used all the kiwi condoms he brought in 1998.
6. A Nigerian on Sukumvit offered him a special deal on the diamond.
5. He was tired of short time.
4. After 5 years he gave up on finding Wellington boots and sheep in Bangkok.
3. Blue Cross no longer covers STDs.
2. She was the first girl who did not laugh when he pulled down his pants.
1. All the girls know the real reason why he is called “Stickman”.
Your Bangkok commentator,