All 3 entries tagged Bangkok

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January 27, 2008

The final part of the journey

We were safely back at Pie’s house by Sunday evening enjoying good food and good company. I am not sure how pleased the newly wedded couple were to see us, as they had been enjoying a quiet house since we left – which they needed after the excitement of the wedding. I think they must have missed the entertainment of having us around though, especially Mark’s early morning piano practice, which he resumed the first morning back.

The last couple of days were spent visiting friends, mostly ex-Warwick people, some other Thai friends, and my Thai family. Mark and I got some great dinners, I got a haircut for less than a pound, and I bought lots of fruit to smuggle back for people at home. It was all over too quickly and on Wednesday evening after another good meal I was sent to the airport by Pie, Nun, Mark and Opp to catch a flight (that I almost missed) back to Blighty. It was great to see so many friendly faces in Bangkok, and I really hope I can return again soon. Thank you for entertaining Mark and I, and for all the great food we enjoyed. If any of you are visiting England soon then you are always welcome at my house – I cannot guarantee the food will be as good as Thailand though!

My story does not quite end there. The 24 hours following my arrival in England were supposed to be occupied with intense revision for my PhD viva. However, post-Thailand fever set in almost immediately and I was consumed with updating my blog which had been neglected the last week of my trip. When I finally got around to revision I quickly came to the conclusion that it was too late, and so I just practiced meditation for a short time instead. I am happy to report though that I managed somehow to get through the viva. It was a grilling experience that lasted two hours, and when they sent me out the room I dashed straight to the kitchen for a much needed cup of tea. By the time I had mashed the tea, they were already searching for me to call me back in. With a cup of tea in front of me I could handle the result whatever, but to my utter surprise they told me I had passed without the need for any corrections.

All of which goes to show, a fun-filled adventure with friends is all the preparation you need to answer the most difficult exam questions.


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!


January 18, 2008

Krabi to Phuket to Bangkok to Ayutthaya

We left Krabi on Saturday, after being very well looked after at Phu Phra Nang Resort – they let us have showers in their house and gave us gifts before we left. I did deal with one of their aggravated customers for them though – perhaps translation would be a fun occupation if I could speak another language! It is interesting to overhear miscommunications between people when they are speaking English and it is amusing when there is a big mix up. It happens to me all the time when I try to use my broken Thai, I often order the wrong thing, agree to something I did not know about, or just generally confuse people. But at least it makes things unpredictable.

The boat journey to Phuket was very relaxing, and before I had chance to look at my watch we were sailing into the docks, which must have been three hours later. We found some very simple accommodation and then went out searching for food. Soon we were sat in a Chinese tea house, eating a hot pot and sipping the finest Oolong on offer. The next morning we flew back to Bangkok where we were met by the man busy preparing for his wedding: Pie. Sunday was an exciting day for us because many people arrived in Bangkok: Luangpor and Tahn Manapo from England, Peng from China, and Pie’s cousin Op from the USA.

On Monday we all met over at Luangpor’s place and another Warwick friend Lyn came with a small luxury bus to take us all to Ayutthaya (the old capital of Siam that was ransacked by the Burmese in 1767). We picked up Noon on the way and then the Warwick Buddhist Society led by Luangpor was off on another adventure!

We visited the temple ruins all over the city including the Wat Yai, Wat Mahathat and Wat Chai Watthanaram, as well as the royal palace at Bang Pa-In. I shall upload some photos when I find a good internet connection.

On our return to Bangkok in the evening, we went to an Isaan restaurant (Som Tam Nua in Siam Square, Soi 5) where we ordered more spicy dishes than we could eat. When we eventually got back to Pie’s house late in the evening we were surprised to see that it had been transformed with decorations and flowers, an open-sided marquee with seating for all the guests, and a team of people doing last minute preparations for the wedding. Mark soon found himself at the toilet, his body disagreeing with what he had just eaten. The rest of us were too excited by the wedding preparations to offer much sympathy to Mark, but as the night wore on we realised he was seriously ill! It had been a long day and so everyone except Pie and myself went to bed. I managed to stay awake until after 1am but then decided I should get some rest. It was a rest that lasted just over an hour…

(to be continued)


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