It’s hard to explain how I missed my flight to Thailand. You’ll recall I’d studied my itinerary the way Mitt Romeny studies the Book of Mormon. I had the reservation in early July, so had months and months to scrutinize it. However, when your brain is the size of a pea, and you see 2:10 for a departure, you think PM. Surprise! It’s a 24-hour clock, so the plane left at 2:10 AM.
Let’s just say it was an interesting couple of hours for the Cathay Pacific staff. I was re-booked, and left at 2:10 AM, exactly 24 hours late. Poor Luke hadn’t gotten the message, so was at the Bangkok airport for three hours, wondering where his idiot mother was.
In any case, I had a great flight, as I slept for a good 10 hours! I took my pal Alison’s advice, which is to ‘shut down’ while on a plane. I ate very little, drank nothing, and certainly had no alcohol. Then I took a melatonin and half a Gravol. I had ear plugs, eye shades and a neck pillow.
When I came to, the nice Pilipino woman sitting beside me said, “you good sleep!” and I shrugged and smiled apologetically. She apparently hadn’t been able to sleep much at all.
Once in Bangkok, I was met by Denis and Luke, and we went to the ghastly Watana Mansion. However for $20 a night one can’t complain as there was air conditioning. I needed it, as the temperature was in the 30’s C with high humidity.
We only spent the night, and then the next morning we were off on the train to Ubon Ratchathani. It’s an 8 hour trip, but covers over 700 km, so we saw a lot of the Thai countryside. Thankfully the train was air conditioned, as I had my suitcase filled with chocolate to protect.
We arrived around 2:00 PM and Jan’s uncle and father came to get us at the train station. When we got off the train we were smacked in the head by the intense heat. I believe when taking the humidity index into account it was around 42 degrees C!
In Ubon, we stayed at kind of a dilapidated resort, but beautifully located beside a river. From there we had a rental car so shuttled back and forth to Jan’s village. Luke and Jan stayed in the village, but Dan and his girlfriend, Denis and I were at the resort.
Luke love Jan’s village so much, and it’s certainly interesting. The houses are very basic for the most part, with a few showing signs of economic progress. Luke had helped with the improvement to the Bunyung’s house, so it now has one tiled room complete with windows and a tiled ceiling. However, there’s no air conditioning or indoor plumbing.
Because we can’t speak Thai, and they can’t speak English, we mostly just smiled a lot. Unfortunately, Dan’s girlfriend appeared to have been raised in a barn, as she would look upon the villagers with undisguised disdain! Can you magine how annoyed I was at that? Picture Luke, loving his new fam, with a cow none of us knows being such a downer.
The wedding began at 5:30 AM on Friday, November 23. The monks had picked the date, and the day before, as well as that day, they sat in the Bunyung’s new room chanting beautifully. I captured some of it on tape as it was so moving and wonderful. Luke said he felt like crying, and as I cry at TV ads, I really had to pull myself together.
The couple arrived before dawn, looking gorgeous. Jan wore a traditional heavily-brocaded gold dress with her hair up and pinned with pink carnations. Luke wore a white two piece suit with a Nehru collar and also had makeup on, which is the tradition.
We all went into the ‘good’ room at the Bunyung’s and knelt as the monks chanted. The women prepared food, and we took turns going on our knees to put the food and juice boxes into the basket in front of each of the 10 monks.
Then the villagers and all of us went to the end of the street, where we danced to Thai music being blared from a truck brought in for the event. Luke was at the front with Jan and had an envelope filled with baht. At one point a log was held to bar his way, and he had to pay them off to get by.
A few yards later some people held a rope, and he had to give them baht to get by them. Then he and Jan got to the front of the Bunyung’s house. There, someone had made a pile of palm leaves for him to stand on, while a sister in law washed his feet.
Then the couple entered the room, and we all gathered around. Mr. Bunyung received the sin sod (dowry) from Luke and put the 30,000 baht on a tray for all to see. A local man with a book began to read the marriage vows, and at one point a hard boiled egg was stuck into the bride and groom’s mouths.
Once the ceremony ended, the women had a pillow in a hammock, which they swung back and forth madly as one of them made newborn baby crying sounds. Too funny! They had a pink mattress in the corner of the room, which Jan and Luke were then allowed to sit on together.
In Thai tradition, there’s no lip to lip kissing, nor any displays of physical affection whatsoever. When the bride and groom sat on the mattress, they gave each other a Thai kiss, which is like putting your face against the cheek of the other person. No puckering, though.
By 10:00 AM the whole thing was over, so the clothes were returned to the rental place. Luke and Jan came back in casual duds, and we all sat around until 5:00 or so, visiting. The men drink a vile whiskey, pronounced lau cow (both words rhyme). It’s made from rice, and when Dan took a sip and almost vomited, I said no thanks.
Luke hadn’t slept much the night before the wedding, as at midnight a water buffalo was slaughtered, and he was there for that. He said he turned away at the moment of the sledge hammer blow, and noticed many there did the same. Then he said it was butchered on the spot and hunks of meat were given to fellow villagers who were friends.
As a result of witnessing that, Luke said he’s never going to waste meat again. I can say I’ve never liked wasting food, but it’s true, once you’ve visited people with so little, you feel ashamed if you waste anything at all.
Next week: the rest of my holiday in Thailand.