Christina's Thai Wedding - 13 Feb 2003

Including guest writer - Jeff McNair

Sent: Sunday, February 23, 2003 6:40 AM
Subject: Chapter 7

A note to my readers.
Since Tony was not in any of these next few chapters and since I do not have a digital camera the there won’t be many photos in these editions. I think at some point I might have mislabeled my chapters but that is something that will have to go unchanged. I am now on Chapter 7 but am living chapter 10 and cannot seem to catch up.
Jeff and I ran up to Bangkok and arrived at my father’s in the late evening. On the way up we ran into a group of Canadians. It was rather funny. I sometimes hesitate to tell people I have a sailboat.
Jeff explained that fact to these Canadians and they immediately told us of this beautiful sailboat they saw in a small bay while they were on a tour boat. They told us it was red and it had quite a few people on it; two girls and three guys. I had to laugh. I told them, that was my boat. I could remember the tour boat that came by that afternoon as well. It was the day after our crazy guitar night from chapter 6. They were pretty jazzed on the sailboat in Thailand theme and Jeff and them chatted for a while.
I tried to work on my present read which is almost more difficult than it is worth. It is called “Gravities Rainbow” and the language is so thick and verbose it is hard for me to make any progress. I sometimes find myself reading on to the third page hoping I will figure out what the author is talking about.
I got through a few pages before we hit Bang Na, the southern tip of Bangkok. It kept putting me to sleep at the beginning of the journey. After two cokes and a pack of potato chips I started to wake up and successfully read almost a whole chapter.
When we arrived at my father’s house, it was in mayhem. All the maids and helpers were running around everywhere cooking, moving tables and furniture, and making general preparations. Jeff and I slipped upstairs but it was hard not to catch the excitement. It was great realizing that my younger sister Christina was getting married to a nice gentleman named Andy.
Jeff took a long shower. I talked with my father and the bride and groom. They were all doing pretty well considering the pressure that mounts before these types of events. Andrew, we’ll call him that to avoid confusion, did not have any family at the event because they don’t travel at all. It is also pretty expensive to fly around the world. Christina and Andrew are planning on having “their own” wedding back in the states in the Fall. Nice time of year for a wedding, especially in San Diego.
Therefore Andrew had no family to give him away, nor a best man to stand by him. Galyani, my step mother, asked me to be best man. I agreed after a bit of hesitation. It felt strange to me to have my stepmother ask me to be Andrew’s best man. I figured that if anything, Andrew should ask me. Once the wedding started it did make sense to me though. The wedding was really for my stepmother and my father. Andrew and Christina were being loving children.
On the other hand their reward was to have an intricate and colorful traditional Thai wedding as well as a wedding of their own design in the States.
The other dilemma was solved by my father. He recruited a good friend of his in the village to be the acting head of Andrew’s family. He was also the main orchestrator of the event. He was very familiar with the traditional ceremony and led most of us.
I helped by helping Andrew as we walked from “His Families House” over to the bride’s house for the ceremony. My Thai has improved enough while we have been traveling and sailing that I could understand most of the preceding events as well as 75 percent of the ceremony. I translated and told Andrew what he was supposed to do.
The morning of the event went smoothly. We had to be over to my father’s friend’s house by 8:30 am so we could leave his house at the auspicious time of 9:09 am. Nine is a very pertinent number in Buddhism.
The Ladies made Christina up until she screamed to stop. She ran out of the room and they sent the two oldest ladies over to the men’s room to dress Andrew, my father and myself in these traditional pantaloons. If you have ever seen “The King and I” you might have an idea of what the pants look like. We were allowed to ware shorts underneath so it wasn’t so bad when Christina’s Grandmother and her younger sister, both in their late eighties, came in to dress us.
Tradition, tradition, tradition.
The pantaloons were comprised of a bright colored silky material of high quality. They were large sheets, which the old ladies proceeded to wrap around us and then pull out to four feet in front of us. They then rolled this extended part into a long role, which was wrapped through our legs and up to the back of our belts and then tied there. I felt as if I had a tail. If I ran I felt I could easily be dragged back. How did the Thai’s ever do anything in this type of outfit? I could not dress myself therefore I dared not take my pants off. Thank goodness I didn’t drink much in the morning.
My younger brother, Alex, and Jeff just watched from a safe distance and snickered. Safe, by being far enough away from the old ladies and the bride’s mother to escape all participation. Bastards!
To top off the pants, we had stiff white and cream colored English looking coats and dress shoes. I have no reason to have dress shoes in Thailand, as most of you know. I wear size eleven and my father size nine. Since there was no one else in sight with dress shoes I had to cram and walk around funny for a few hours.
We were then dragged into the ladies dressing room for makeup. “What! Makeup! No one told me about makeup.” But once you are in the room there is no escape. We all got blush and lipstick. Me with a beard, blush and lipstick. That was real cute.
We then left for the groom’s house. As we were driven over we learned that “Jaou Baou” means groom and “Jaou Saou” means bride. We talked for a while about the ceremony. When we arrived we were rushed inside and given glasses of water and left alone. I found out they were trying to keep us “fresh.” The Thais are serious about avoiding heat and sweat.
We were ushered outside and into the middle of the crowd of people. I was given an umbrella to hold over Andrew’s head and we waited for the auspicious time. At the head of the parade was a group of villagers making music and shouting. In front and behind were people who were supporting the Jaou Baou in seeking his wife’s hand. One Thai was dressed as a Thai, another as a Chinese and a third as an Indian to represent the population of Thailand.
At 9:05 a howl was let from the front of the crowd. The crowd responded with a “Ho.” They repeated this three or four times and then the drummers kicked in. The Thai traditional music is wonderfully syncopated with hoots, howls and multiple drums. The occasional cymbal-crash and wood clanking adding to the off beats.
At 9:09 we set off with my father dancing around at the front of the crowd in his bright orange pantaloons and white jacket. Andrew and I had to maintain composure and walk proper. In Thai society dignity is reflected through Buddhistic calm and stillness of body. We walked stiffly in our green and blue pantaloons and sweated. I wanted to dance at the front but what can you do.
We arrived at the house of the Jaou Saou and were welcomed by an even larger crowd. The acting head of the Joau Baou family had to pay off gate holders with small amounts of Baht. The gate holders take necklaces and create a wall to cross, which the benefactor of the Groom must appease. There were so many women making gates the benefactor started to cry. People had to slip him money and more and more people made gates and more and more money was slipped. It was fun but a bit crazy. I think they were giving him a hard time. He was a fairly wealthy member of my father’s community.
After this harassment was over we were ushered into the house and taken to the ceremonial room. We all sat cross-legged and the ceremony began. Lots of money was brought forth. Some was from the Groom’s family and some from the Bride’s and it was spread out on a beautiful cloth and then different members of each family spread white and yellow flower petals and a special seed over the money and said their blessings to the couple.
The master of the ceremony explained some of the requirements to create a good loving marriage, which I tried to explain to Andrew. That kind of language is still quite difficult for me. Andrew got the gist of it. My father blessed their marriage and then asked for three grandchildren.
Then the Bride and Groom were photographed for 3 hours. I was released and I went to find something to eat. About 50 Thais commented on the authenticity of my pantaloons. I hung out with Alex and Jeff and ate soup. The third course was served while we ate.
Around eleven most of the guests and participants wandered off to find a place to sleep. I was feeling quite tired from our rushed trip up from Koh Chang so I stripped off my costume and crashed in Alex’s room. Alex, Jeff and I slept for about 3 hours in his sub arctic cavern of a room. Ahh, Air-con.
When we awoke the dinner party was starting to pick up.
Jeff and I put on our best outfits, which were pretty slovenly, and strolled over to the reception.
I would like to take a moment to explain this next segment. I asked my cousin Jeff as a friend and someone who always had a book in hand on our trip, to write a few paragraphs of this chapter. I specifically asked if he could write about the wedding reception. He said he would.
Later on when I had finished writing the above material I said to Jeff, “all you have to do is write the reception portion, and I can send this chapter off to my friends” He misunderstood me and said, “Oh, I have to, huh?”
He also said after we discussed our miscommunication that he did not remember me asking him before. I think at the time we were dealing with a little bit of cabin fever and so we were both a little sore around the edges.
I got childish and defensive and told him “Fine.!, you don’t have to write anything.”
We didn’t discuss it any further than to talk about the hurt feelings and the miscommunication. I never asked him to write after that and he never said anything about it, so I let it go.
Jeff just left a few days ago and I am missing him a lot. Bastard!
I have again found the time to write and lo and behold on the computer is a file called Jeff and a short segment, which he typed for my chapter. I felt a little tear well up as I read it.
My cousin is a good man.
So here is his segment, his addition to my writing; a vision of what life is like over here through someone else’s eyes.

13 FEB 03
As I scribble this account into the end pages of an unread S. Turrow novel I brought aboard, the chug-chug 2-stroke clatter of a long-tail grows then fades while he motors ashore near high tide. I am sprawled on deck atop my green inflatable mattress under the boom dressed only in salty dirty blue swim trunks. It is barely 9:00 am, so the sun merely warms and wakens my round tan body to write.
Andy offered a guest writer credit after his sister’s wedding. I demurred and hesitated. I love to tell stories, so why my reluctance? Maybe I was just scared, but now as I approach the end of my chapter in the gulf o’ Siam I want to share.
I have been cruising with Andy for only 4 weeks, but I’ve seen two people arrive and two depart. I would have enjoyed their thoughts upon imminent departure. Hopefully, Andy will encourage all those leaving his care to add to his odyssey tale.
In brief, I’ve had a grand adventure! I’ve gone from zero-sailor to novice- intermediate. Wind Spirit just crossed the Gulf in two days. The weather favored us. Light winds the first day and night so we ran on diesel at 4-6 knots. Second day the wind picked up; we raised our sails and silenced the motor. The wind came from the left and in front, perfect for a close haul to a beam reach all the way to Koh Pangan just north of Koh Samui. We made no turns or tacks, just sailed a southerly course day and night ‘til our island destination emerged from dark of night as pale dawn awoke.
Sailing at night, despite tiredness, soothed and calmed me in a deep and fundamental way. I fear nostalgic exaggeration; still I say I’ve grown a bit. I’ve learned many new skills, used known skills to help the boat, enjoyed serenic(new word: serene +scenic) panoramas, been scared a couple of times and generally awed by nature’s majesty.
Andy’s experience as Captain is short but his learning curve is rapid. In my brief enlistment I’ve been very impressed at how quickly Andy figures out what to do or not do in new situations, what risks to take and which to avoid. He is tenacious about his sailing dream and it is paying out big! Andy as captain must do more than sail, he is usually the only Thai speaker and all repairs weigh ultimately on him. I’ve also noticed Andy increase his burden bearing capability greatly. As his experience grows daily, we cruise about with confidence.
The crew gets along amazingly well and everyone pitches in. This is what I may miss most as I return to my more singular reality. Comradeship, everyone working together to get stuff done so we can sail to some great place and have fun together. Corny you say? I say: we even do sing-a-longs . . .
The wedding. That’s what I was supposed to write about. Imagine the shiniest blue satin wrapped about the legs and torso in Turkish(?) fashion. Eton collared bright white jackets complete the ensemble for groom, best man, and father of the bride. The bride’s dress was far less flashy than the men. The bride and groom were on relentless display throughout the day and evening. I think everyone had their picture taken with the heroic couple. I didn’t wrestle into the throng of Thai ladies soon enough to see all of the Buddhist marriage rite, but what I saw was beautifully intricate.
To start the day a small parade of wedding guests and family accompanies the groom from his house, (figuratively) through the streets to the house of the bride’s father. Music and drums thump out the beat as the parade hoots and dances its way along. We reach the bride’s father’s house and are welcomed then the ceremonies commence. Later in the evening a large catered reception is held outdoors a couple of blocks away. Surprisingly, the opening act is Karaoke in Thai. Dinner is served in many courses while speakers thank and encourage the newly united couple. Most of these end with a glass raising salute repeated three times. CHAI - YO CHAI – YO CHAI – YO!!
As the reception wound down, Andy and I slipped to the back to avoid more high-volume Karaoke. Whilst Andy chatted up the help in Thai, I was tormented by a 9 year old. He was amused by my big belly. He would point to it and ask questions in Thai. I went thru my Thai vocabulary (greetings, numbers, and fishing) very quickly to no avail. My Thai pal was charming but I couldn’t answer his questions. Bored, he went around picking up empty one liter water bottles and stuffing them into his shirt and pants front and back ‘til he resembled the Michelin Man or worse . . . me. There was much rejoicing and hooting!! Alas, to have one’s bubble so thoroughly popped by a nine year old . . .
Jeff McNair
P.S. Boat trivia: Wind Spirit was mistranslated into Thai for registration purposes into Win Spirit. Also aptly named.

The day after the wedding and reception Jeff and I went into Bangkok and shopped for parts. Engine parts, spare belts, clothe, bolts and nuts, Stainless Steel parts. The list goes on and on. I found about half of my list and then called it a day. Bangkok is like this gigantic maze where one can get almost anything one wants. The trick is finding it. Finding the cloth district and the second hand parts district and the stolen parts district and the old engine parts district.
We wrapped things up at about 7 pm and returned to my pop’s. Nice to have a home base in Bangkok.
The next day we took off in the late morning and headed south to find “my baby” again. It’s amazing that just a few days away from her makes me so nervous for her safety. I had a horrible nightmare about the boat sinking one of the nights and woke in a cold sweat.
I think if she were parked in a nice safe slip in a marina I would not worry so much but considering she was anchored and tied to a pier that was under construction, in a bay with many strong currents, under the supervision of no one in particular, I must say four days was quite long enough for me.
It turned out to be too long for the boat.
Much Love,
Captain Andy