January 24, 2008

The Wedding

At 2.30am, just an hour after I had gone to bed, I dragged myself out of wardrobe I had been sleeping in (a very comfortable one!), took a cool shower and put on my suit ready for the long day ahead. I woke Peng and Op up, but Mark was looking a bit rough so he stayed in bed. Pie had not been to bed! The workers had managed to finish all the flowers and tidy up during the short time I had been asleep. We had to leave the house at exactly 3am to pick up the bride. There was a tight schedule to keep, which I guess was determined by the stars in order for each ceremony of the day to be performed at the most auspicious time.

I was surprised to see some other people had come to form a convoy of cars going to pick up the bride. We got in a car with some of Pie’s father’s friends, and I really struggled to stimulate my brain into speaking Thai this early in the morning. Even more surprising was the police escort that arrived for our convoy. It was a surreal experience to drive at high speed across Bangkok at 3am escorted by the police!

When we arrived we were all invited into the bride’s house where there were a large number of people who I had never met before ushering us into the house. Pie and Nun offered tea to Nun’s parents, as is Chinese tradition, and they exchanged gifts. Pie and Nun paid their respects to their ancestors and to a small shrine inside the house, then it was a very quick sit down with a bowl of dessert. We were all given this tasty looking sweet, a photo was taken and just as I was about to take a spoonful we were told we needed to leave (the tight schedule again). Immediately everyone dropped their early morning treat and headed out to the cars. I was not going to waste such a beautifully prepared snack so I spooned in a big mouthful and dashed out of the door. Soon we were flying through the streets of Bangkok again in a long line of cars with police lights flashing at the front.

Back at Pie’s place we checked that Mark was still breathing, then I tried to make myself look awake and smartened myself up ready for the arrival of all the guests. The bride was changing her dress even though she had only just arrived. P’Nun started the day in a western style white dress for the ceremony at her house, but as soon as arrived at Pie’s house it was on with another dress. There was plenty of free time while the guests arrived, so I passed the time chatting to the bridemaids – Nun’s younger sisters – and some elder women too!

Soon there were food stalls being erected in the garden. It was like a small market, with stalls offering different types of food and drink. Op, Peng and I had two rounds of iced tea to stimulate our brains and bodies into action, and then we followed it up with some soup noodles before another round of tea. I can definitely recommend having food stalls in your garden giving out free food.

When Luangpor was due to arrive I went to stand out at the front of the house. The road was full of Mercedes, Jaguars, and other luxury cars. Every few minutes another car would pull up and another person or two would get out. I did not recognise any of them, luckily someone whispered in my ear when the ex-prime minister arrived! I had no idea who was who so I just did my best to be polite to everyone. Occasionally I was brave enough to ask what they do and in one case I found out I was talking to a TV show host (no wonder she was rather good looking).

When Luangpor and Tahn Manapo arrived we offered specially prepared vegetarian food to them in the shrine room (Pie’s house has a large room full of Buddha images all setup for monks). There was so much food, too much for only two monks, that I had my eye on the left-overs, and I was able to sneak a little down me later. We left the monks to eat and returned to the wedding ceremony. Already Pie and Nun were into the water pouring, where each person goes to formally pour water on the couple’s hands as a blessing. It was quite emotional watching all these people come to wish our little Pie a happy marriage. Someone told me later that even Pie shed a tear at one point. He has been so cool the last few weeks, just his usual calm and relaxed self – despite the chaos of wedding preparations going on around him. Respect to that man!

For the water pouring ceremony, P’Nun had changed into another dress (one which I think she told me later cost almost £1000 just to hire for the day). Mental note: weddings are not cheap, even in Thailand! It did look very impressive on P’Nun though. I shall try to upload some photos of all her dresses soon. :)

The next event was photos, and this took a long long time. I managed to miss most of it, but just came at the end to get a photo with the Warwick crew, including Mark. He had managed to pull himself out of bed for a few minutes to make an appearance, but we soon sent him back though! By this time it felt like it must be the end of the day, but it was only just past midday. Luckily, after the photos, guests started leaving and soon the house was calming down. At last the bride and groom were able to sit down and relax – neither of them had slept the previous night as there was too much preparing to do. They still looked surprisingly good though! Soon everyone was taking a rest, and an hour later I was feeling refreshed and hungry. Peng and I raided the fridge where we found large plates of nicely prepared jackfruit, guava, rose apples, papaya, mango and sticky rice. We did our best to polish off as many plates as possible – delicious!

Later on we had a full meal with Pie’s parents. Mark was awake again, looking particularly worse for wear, but managed a couple of mouthfuls. Mark’s state was best described by Pie’s father, when he very bluntly asked him: “Mark, are you dead?”. I think everyone was in bed soon after 8pm because of lack of sleep the previous night. Plus, we were going to be up again at 4am to go to Ubon.

Mark’s parents: if you are reading this then please do not worry. Mark is still alive and eating!


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