I don’t know what day of the week it is. And I don’t really care. I have to think real hard just to count how many days I’ve been here. Somehow it’s all a blur of smells, colors, laughter, awe, exhaustion, and even a bit of soul searching. That last bit is likely encouraged by that illusory line of the new year, crossed with a handful of young, ambitious people in a stimulatingly bizarre locale.
It began with dinner. Lada and I joined the group after a relaxed day of mall strolling and people watching. Then sitting in the hotel bar waiting for everyone to meet up and out walked Mark Zuckerberg from the hotel elevator. He and his girlfriend strolled up to us and introduced themselves. I’d just finished reading the article in Time about this “man of the year” so shaking his hand was surreal to say the least. He’s like what they say, smart, friendly enough, but easily bored with others, or distracted by his own thoughts. He seems to listen to all the conversations around him, and joins the ones that peak his interest. Days later we would have fun trying to dunk our ball sacs, and only our ball sacs, in the hotel pool.
At dinner I met Mary Beth and Dan, caught up. Mary Beth does remind me of mom in some subtle ways, like her keen interest in me, which makes me smile and miss home. After packing our bellies with about a dozen different varieties of thai food, we headed to a bar for drinks. Most everyone was whooped from the trip to Bangkok, so it was an early night.
The next day was the engagement ceremony. Chris’s best buddy, Drew, and I were asked to carry baby banana and sugar cane trees in the procession behind Daniel, Chris, Mary Beth, and Dan. They told us to dance, so we got our goof on as Daniel helped Chris negotiate the numerous gates, where family ask questions and demanded dowries to ensure Chris was worthy. He succeeded… barely.
The rest of the engagement ceremony was interesting. Representatives from both sides talked about why Chris was a worthy mate, as he sat on the floor at their feet. After the matriarch pronounced him acceptable, beautiful Visra strolled out and sat with him. Chris pulled out the ring and made it official. This all took place in Visra’s family home, which is now a museum to her grandfather who was a famous cultural icon of Thailand. He wrote numerous books, and was something like Thailand’s first foreign minister. Pretty cool.
Sushi dinner and bowling followed. The beer was flowing, and the music was bumping. We had a great time getting to know Chris’s friends as Daniel threw strikes under his legs.
The next day was the blessings ceremony which Lada had to miss because of some major award she won, called, according to her, “good dissertation,” or the third best in all of Thailand. She spent the morning standing by her poster answering questions as the rest of us watched a beautiful couple get blessings poured on them in the form of water and words. Visra’s dedicated makeup person was busy wiping the tears off her face throughout the ceremony. I, representing the Bralley family, did the best blessing I could think of which was just to say that we love them and that they’re beautiful.
After all the blessings were bestowed, and the couple’s hands were thoroughly soaked, we ate like kings, watched traditional Thai dancing, and took photos. The paparazzi were waiting out front, hoping to grab a photo of the Zuckerberg. He snuck out the back, and the rest of us experienced a moment of fame as they thought for an instant that one of us other farangs might be him. Fame would get old really fast.
That night was the big party. We drank lots of Johnny Walker and danced like maniacs. Chris had a dance-off with some random Thai to Billy Jean. Mary Beth and Dan even dropped in for a few, but I couldn’t get either on the dance floor. Hopefully in July!
Erawan falls awaited us the next day. A few hour drive outside the city took us to a resort where we crashed and recharged. The entire next day starting at 6am we hiked up gorgeous limestone waterfalls, cruised up the river Kwai, rode elephants, checked out caves, and slap wore ourselves out. It was awesome!
I managed to get a 30 minute nap in before the ride to the disco raft, and the all-out danceathon. Others weren’t so lucky. But good-ole Johnny came to the rescue of all.
Hard to describe the disco raft. It was really two massive house-like boats attached and pulled by a small long-tail boat. We had fireworks. One of which blew out the wrong end and exploded all over us. In a bit of a shock, I blasted my roman candle straight into someone’s dock. Thank god nobody was over there.
Then Mark Slee, Chris’s friend, coworker, and our DJ thoroughly rocked our faces off. Lada can hardly walk now because she danced so hard. The new year began with Lada and me letting go a floating lantern, wishing, and kissing on the river Kwai. It was special.
Sometime in the early morning, the music stopped and we crawled into our mosquito nets on the other boat, covered ourselves as best we could and passed out. It’s amazing how soundly one can sleep on a hard surface if exhausted enough. At least until the morning when neighboring party boats blast terrible thai pop music and miniature barges rev their engines to the max in an effort to move things around. Fitting counter to our night of wonder and joy… God reminding us of the balance of things.
With some goodbyes and well wishes, and lots of riding in vans and cars, that about brings us to now. Lada and I are having dinner with her parents tonight, then heading south at the butt-crack tomorrow morning. We’ll be sleeping on a lake, then on the ocean for three days. Scuba diving!
I love this country.
Swadi Krap for now!!