There was a wedding.
My brother and his now wife were married in a ceremony that was by turns touching and confusing.
We got on site on time, around 8ish in the morning, to find the cooking and partying underway to a large extent, and started as we meant to go on, with iced beer and freshly barbecued pork. A few hours later, and the ceremony started. This probably has more significance than I attach to any of it, and I probably miss important bits that are vitally symbolic, but here we go.
There’s a bloke outside the front at a table with a book, and he’s collecting envelopes and names from people who are invited, and who invite themselves (the envelopes generally have some money in them). I’m going to have to identify these people, so I’m calling him Michael. He has a real name, but I didn’t catch it.
Me and Matt – older and younger brother of the groom respectively – are each given a tray. Matt’s contains three white envelopes, mine a towel with an orange blob of flowers. Me, Ben, Matt and two of Ben’s friends – Marc and Russell – are sent to meander around the village for a while while stuff happens back on the homestead. We tour the tiny farming village for a while – stables made of wooden beams and corrugated iron, thatched houses on stilts, roosters informing us that it’s FUCKING MORNING NOW YOU BASTARDS WAKE UP. We come out at the top of the road and a procession forms behind us whooping and hollering and singing as we approach the home, where our path to the house – where the ceremony will be – is blocked by two girls and a golden jump rope. Failing to jump it, and our passage blocked, we attempt to work out how to solve this puzzle. As with all good adventure games, the clue is with a seemingly unrelated object picked up along the way. The inbuilt hint system – Pear’s sister, I think – was invaluable in this regard.
> USE ENVELOPE WITH JUMP-ROPE MANAGERS Pass, Friend. You continue up the path until the way is blocked by another, thicker golden jump-rope. > USE ENVELOPE WITH JUMP-ROPE MANAGERS That doesn't work. > HELP! There are two people holding the rope. You have two envelopes. > USE ENVELOPES WITH JUMP-ROPE MANAGERS Pass, Friend. You continue up the path until the way is blocked by another, thicker golden jump-rope. You are in a twisty-turny maze of jump-ropes all alike. You have no envelopes. > HELP! Nuh-uh.
This confused us for a while, until the taxi driver said we needed to pay the jump-rope holders 100 Baht each. This involved wallets and negotiation of trays, but was eventually solved. Something borrowed, indeed.
The next bit was kind of an endurance test. We had to kneel down around a ceremonial tree made out of banana leaves with string all over it while Michael spoke and occasionally sang in Thai. After a while, my knees hurt. Then everything stopped, and everyone looked at me. My time had come, but I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I had a ceremonial towel.
I was told to pay him.
I had no money.
I was told to open the towel.
I did this, and discovered quite a lot of money. I was surprised, as this was not one of the traditional reasons I should know where my towel is.
I paid the man. He continued. He tied Ben and Pear with string, and them to Ben’s friends and Pear’s family with loops and coils, and spoke at some length again. Then other people got shorter bits of string and tied them around the couple’s wrists, saying things as they did so. These turned out to be blessings said as you tie the string, and my family tied our own knots, and in turn had blessings bestowed on us by string. And they were married, and the drinking began in ernest.
Hours later, there was Karaoke – in both English and Thai – and long conversations about bullshit and real whiskey and rum and the world’s most awful rice whiskey and lots of beer and pork and seafood. Then we slept. Then we spent a long time in the same minibus that took us up there. Then we were in Bangkok.