A lot has happened since I last wrote . The rehearsal dinner for Jayvalyn’s wedding Saturday evening (Saturday Morning-NY Time) allowed for merriment poolside at the Royal Suites hotel. There was an array of tasty Thai food and wine. Speeches were made and a general good time was had. It was also the first time several of our other New York friends such as Flosario and Enisha made their presence felt on Thai soil.
The strangest part of the evening was the selected soundtrack, which we think was put together by Kayvalyn’s brother, or maybe he just gave directions to the DJ. The entirety of the evening’s musical selections consisted of easy listening cover versions of past popular hits. I didn’t realize this until halfway into dinner when after recognizing a soothing version of Prince’s “Kiss”, I walked towards the buffet table only to be intercepted by Jason’s dad, who then asked me who was singing the current song. I told him what the track in question was and he remarked something along the lines of, “oh, that’s why I know it.”. The song that immediatedly followed was a slowed down ballad-y version of “Funkytown.” I made sure to notify Jason’s dad and from that point on I realized that those were not the only two weird covers and that in fact, each successive song fit that mold.
Having had a good amount of wine made falling asleep and getting more in step with the 12 hour time difference a good deal easier for the next day. Having arrived at Sunday the 28th of December , the stage was set for wedded bliss, better known as the entire reason for our trip to Thailand in the first place. Before things got ceremonial, however, they got edible. Breakfast was served in the lobby restaurant yet again and even more familiar faces made their Thailand debuts. Ken, Andy, and Jeff had flown in the previous evening and were ready to join in the ritual revelry.
We weren’t set to explore the city some more before the big event. Jason and Kayvalyn thought it unwise if we were to get lost and not make it back to the hotel in time to catch the shuttle to the church. Instead we would be having our bodies explored and stretched to their limits by masters in the art of traditional Thai Massage at Healthland.
We left the hotel lobby at 10am and were whisked away to two hours of being pampered. Actually, it was more like two hours of having someone’s elbow pressing into your groin while simultaneously kneading your calves, but in the end it felt absolutely wonderful. Before we went in for the operation, the ten participants, including myself, were treated to some sort of flower-flavored water. They made us take off our shoes and provided us with some official Healthland sandals. .
At that point the ten of us, Flosario, Miller, Morwin, Ken, Andy, Jeff, Justin, and Meghan were led into three separate rooms. My room included Jeff and Andy and three masseuses who in body English directed us to to our massage mattresses, which were simple, firm, twin mattresses placed on the ground. It sounds a bit seedy, like a heroin addict’s apartment, but it was actually very clean and comfortable.
We were then handed a change of clothes that more or less resembled outfits that might be worn by a boy band shooting a video on the beach. It took us a while to figure out which was the front of our pants and how to tie the drawstrings, but once that was sussed out we were ready to go. Soon enough our professional muscle stretchers came back into the room and had us lay with our backs on the mat…and just like that, we were off.
My Thai Massage Machine unsympathetically explored my muscled contours starting with the toes, making sure to crack each one. She then slowly worked her way up my legs towards the groin area. Once there my valuables were delicately moved aside a few times as my leg was put in a position that equaled my maximum threshold for flexibility. An elbow then applied steady pressure to my groinage in such a way that I would not have to double over in pain. My vitals were spared and my tendons and ligaments were beginning to feel surprisingly limber. Meanwhile on the other side of the room there was a lot of chatter. Andy’s masseuse was tossing him around quite freely and remarking about the size of his feet, or so he thought.
The massage of the left and right legs each took about a half hour each. Before we flipped over Andy’s masseuse asked him if he wanted to go to the “Hong Nam.” Jeff and I took this as our cue to head out to the bathroom as well as I had had to pee the entire first hour of the massage and was worried that should I feel too relaxed I might just urinate all over the place.
Luckily that didn’t happen and we returned once again to our respective beds and had our flesh kneaded and pressed. Elbows ran along the frames of our musculature and when it was all over, we felt great. Before our time at Healthland was through we were treated to one more amenity in the form of a soothing cup of tea. It was all quite the bargain way to spend the late morning/early afternoon in the throes of relaxation. Just over $14 to be treated like a king or rag doll depending on your circumstance for two hours. ‘Tis not bad.
With just under an hour and a half until the shuttle bus left for the wedding, we arrived back at Royal Suites. Ken, Miller, Morwin, and I set about finding a little food shack before getting ready, as we were all pretty hungry and we weren’t quite sure how long the ceremony would last, and just when we’d be eating next. We walked about five minutes down the road and found a meagerly accommodating restaurant of sorts tended by an effeminate Thai man wearing pink nail polish. Before we realized he didn’t speak any English, we had already sat down. When we tried to tell him we wanted chicken, he couldn’t understand and had to fetch a neighbor to take our order, but when all was said and done and we had been served our four orders of Chicken with Basil and chilies; it was quite enjoyable.
The only downside was that we had 50 minutes to get ready for the wedding. However, being a men and not resigned to looking perfect, we were ready with plenty of time to spare.
Waiting in the lobby we were greeted by Eric S and his friend Judy. They had been to a wedding in Chiang Mai a few days before, so they stayed in Thailand to make it to Jayvalyn’s affair. It was excellent to see Eric as I had completely forgotten that he would be attending. It’s always nice to have another familiar face around in a foreign land.
Soon enough, the majority of the wedding guests had made it downstairs and a few shuttle vans took us to the Church which seemed relatively far away. We arrived to find a rather pristine building with a large Christmas tree in front at the end of a dirt road in what seemed like a more rural suburban area.
We stood around for about 45 minutes as Miller and Ken practiced fighting techniques in formal wear. The priest arrived and spoke to a few groups of people. I was sort of hoping the backup priest would be officiating as the stringer had been afflicted with the shingles days earlier and the bench warmer was supposed to be a really famous preacher named Father Joe. Oh well, we didn’t get to be in the presence of a prestigious prostheltyzer, but things worked out just fine.
The building itself was wonderfully clean with lots of natural light spilling in to complement that which was unnatural. Jesus loomed over the altar from on high with an abnormally large head that made him look like “The Buddy Christ” from the film Dogma.
The ceremony itself was rather beautiful. Two great friends finally cementing their relationship after about seven years of being together. If I was listing the two biggest highlights of the event it would probably be the entrances and subsequent walking down the aisle to an organ rendition of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” and Kayvalyn messing up the beginning of her vows by stating, “I, Jason.”
Once the ceremony ended it was back into the shuttle and off to the reception. The site of the party was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was actually some rich guy’s ridiculous house. It didn’t actually seem like someone’s home, but more like a movie set. It made me think of one of those criminal mastermind compounds like Victor Maitland’s in Beverly Hills Cop or wherever Schwarzenegger rescued Alyssa Milano from in Commando. I half expected henchmen with machine guns to pop up as we approached the breathtaking, largely open air space. I would’ve taken pictures of the entire place, but they couldn’t possibly have done it justice.
The evening was an entirely splendid affair, but not very dancy. Thai people apparently don’t love to shake themselves around. Our lively group tried to get things going at some point towards the end. Jayvalyn finally had their first dance, Jason’s parents were cutting up rugs and Kayvalyn’s American cousins were certainly involved on the dance floor along with myself Andrea, and Andy. I danced with the groom’s mother for a bit, though “spun Jason’s mom repeatedly” is probably a more accurate description. I can’t tell if I had her convinced I was a good dancer, but perhaps.
Andy and Andrea gave the best man/maid of honor speech together, finishing one another’s sentences and cutting into anecdotes like a lounge act. It was completely improvised after Enisha put the kaibosh on the original speech topic which had an anecdote about a certain incident involving urination that was deemed to not exactly be in the realm of good taste according to the senses of humor of many in attendance.
I somehow ended up sitting next to the newlywed couple during the duo’s dynamic spewing of kind words and remembrances, so there’s a good chance I’ll be in the midst of a lot of wedding photos, though I didn’t purposely position myself to be embedded in the memories of their special day.
It wasn’t terribly late when the wedding drew to a close, but before it did we got in a few more toasts or shouts of “Chayo!” to the couple in a little sidebar in a well-lit nook of the party house.
Prior to hopping back on the shuttle bus, Jason’s dad asked us what we’d be doing after the wedding. He still wanted to hang out and drink for a bit. He suggested meeting poolside at the hotel with a few beers from our room.
On the ride back to the Royal Suites, we popped in a Kung Fu Movie with Thai subtitles which we had been watching on our way over to the reception. Since it wasn’t in English we entertained ourselves by inserting our own dialogue. It was a fun way to pass the time while our driver fought his way through the brutal Bangkok traffic.
When we finally made it back to our temporary residence, Jeff, Andy, and I checked by the pool for Jason’s dad but to no avail. Rather than keep the party going, we went to bed.
The next morning (Monday) I was slightly hung over but worked myself over it at the hotel gym. Afterwords I went for a swim along with Ken and Andy. Unfortunately, my ear has since become clogged with either wax or water, hampering my hearing abilities. This usually happens about twice a year and I have yet to unclog it without a doctor. I was a little worried about the blockage coming so early in the trip but I guess I’m just going to have to deal with it.
Regardless of my ear’s condition, Monday was to be the last full day in Bangkok before heading to the beach at Koh Lanta. There was plenty we could do in a city as large as Bangkok, but we decided on visiting the Grand Palace where the King lives.
It was a very dudes kind of day as myself, Ken, Jeff, Andy, Miller, and Morwin took off in two cabs and found orselves at the palace some time around 11am. We walked around snapping photos of wonderfully detailed structures, murals, statues, and greenery. I probably took the most classless tourist photo in history though no further detail is necessary.
We went into 2 weapons museums within the walls, the first of which was overwrought with pikes, lances, swords, and axes; all of which seemed repeat throughout the room. It was an impressive, yet somewhat redundant display of arms. The second was more of the same, but with pistols, revolvers and other types of guns. Ken geeked out a bit noting that the Mauser Pistol was the inspiration for the Star Wars guns.
Waiting outside the museum I was chatted up by an Aussie woman with a deformed hand. I know it sounds horribly insensitive but I am severely uncomfortable around people with deformities. I think it goes back to being in Hong Kong as a child and seeing a guy with a bone pretty much sticking out of his back. It’s probably not all that uncommon, but even if I’m not sure if someone has a deformed limb, I begin to imagine something amputated even if they are just holding their hand behind back. I don’t really know why that freaks me out so much. It didn’t stop me from making conversation of anything, but I did feel consciously fixated on it even though I didn’t make it obvious.
Anyway, after having our run of the palace, we all went to the local market to grab a bite to eat. The stand we chose had the widest array of Thai culinary choices and they even allowed us a taste before settling on our final choice. I picked yet another chicken dish, though some people made bolder choices. Either way, I was happy with what I ordered.
With lunch firmly entrenched in our bellies and our stomachs handling the ingredients with much fortitude, we perused the market a little longer. A few additional dishes were sampled. Andy had Octopus balls. I don’t think they were actual testicles of an Octopus, they were just pieces of Octopus rolled into a ball.
When our market adventure ended it was on to Wat Pho to see the Reclining Buddha, a ridiculously large sideways gold statue that took up more or less an entire temple. The odd part about some of the Buddhist shrines were the donation jars. Wat Pho had some sort of line of ritual donation bowls where people would drop change in each one as an offering to the Buddha. I’m not so clear on the tenets of the Thai’s particular mode of Buddhism, or most modes of Buddhism for that matter, but my previous understanding of the beliefs system was that according to the Buddha “Being is Nothingness” not a monetary pursuit. So then what good would offerings of money to the Buddha do. Maybe it’s a show to the Buddha that they don’t require monetary possessions and therefore they are offering it to the Buddha as a show of their respect for his teachings. I don’t have any good answer.
Anyway, after seeing big Buddha bless his disciples, we made a decision to get lost. We wandered a few blocks looking for a bar to grab a drink but ended up in the electronics district where Miller kept stopping to look for plug converters in each store. This was only slightly annoying.
Our aimless plight succumbed to the realization that we were not in an area heavily populated with drinking establishments. After getting a call from Kayvalyn we planned to meet up with her and Jason at Khao San road, the popular backpacker area of Bangkok. Ken, Andy, and Jeff hopped into a Tuk-Tuk to get there. Morwin, Miller & I decided against that route as we had heard that Tuk-Tuks were liable to take you anywhere but where you wanted to go. They’d take you to a tailor store, a jewelry shop, or anywhere that sold valuable curios that tourists are wont to buy when forced to. So rather than subject ourselves to such a fate, the three of us jumped in a cab after a slight bit of hardship hailing one. We eventually hailed one and he charged us 100 baht for the trip which only ended up being a few blocks to the tourist haven which was more or less a glorified street fair for Americans in the midst of Thai tailor shops, massage parlors and bars.
The six of us quickly found each other on the road and settled down at a place called Silk bar. After spotting a table with a looming tower of beer, rather than order individual pints, we ordered one of those towers of Singha Beer for ourselves. We sat there for a bit sharing some beer and some laughs and listening to six Tracy Chapman songs that seemed to be playing on a loop. They wouldn’t have been our optimal choice for musical entertainment at the moment, but you play with the cards you’ve been dealt. We kept joking that Tracy Chapman was actually playing on the corner repeating the same six songs over and over again….”Give me one reason to stay here…and I’ll turn right back around.”
Jayvalyn joined us towards the end of the tower and we headed to another bar where we had even more food and I partook in at least two large Changs before leaving. We met up with Andy C and Tracy and had dinner at a restaurant on the water somewhere before closing out the night at another bar, again with a heaping helping of Chang. The plan was to not stay out too late since the very next morning we were leaving for the tropical island of Koh Lanta.
The next morning I awoke at 6:15am. The shuttle was leaving at 8, and our flight to Krabi at 10:30am out of Subvarnhumi airport. Everything was more or less clockwork despite the sheer volume of people traveling. We made it with plenty of time to spare, checked in, and went through security. The only hiccup on that end was that my bottle of Thai Whiskey got confiscated, but other than that it was smooth sailing amid a minor hangover.
To satisfy my hunger and thirst I got a water and some Men’s Pocky. I don’t know why the Pocky was for Men, but I made it abundantly clear, no chicks could partake.
The plane ride to Krabi was a breeze and the two ferry’s to Koh Lanta just as easy. We rode a floating parking lot or two between to reach two different islands and subsequently the Relax Bay resort. The only problem was that when our van arrived, I went to the front desk to check in only to find that my and Morwin’s room reservation was lacking. The manager was accommodating however, and drove us in the back of his pickup to Mook Lanta, 100 feet down the road.
Ken, Morwin, and I split a bungalow for 2000 Baht a night…about $19 a night per person. Aside from not being directly on the beach our spot was perfectly lovely and even though we were paying less we had an air conditioned room that would serve as a perfectly lovely location for recharging in between the days of hanging out on the beach.
After getting situated we rejoined the bulk of our party back at Relax Bay for a large lunch, during which we saw a wedding taking place on the beach. The bride and groom both dressed in white walked along before a minister and a guy playing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” on guitar. We all applauded when the knot was tied and then went for a swim in the sea.
One thing led to another and before we knew it we were drinking by a bonfire in the evening with two pale blond unsupervised South African children named Jack and Paige keeping a constant supply of flammable material on hand so our party did not die. At around 9pm myself, Jason, Kayvalyn, Andy, Morwin, Miller, Jeff, Ken, and Meghan found ourselves at a tiny restaurant on the beach eating Thai specialties one at a time as there was only one cook.
The way it worked was that one person would finish their meal, we would wait a few minutes, then came the next person’s food. They’d finish, we’d wait a few minutes, then would come the next person’s food…They’d finish…We’d wait a few more minutes…and so on. In between we’d hear bouts of the cook yelling at the waiter. It was ridiculous, but also amusing.
During the evening we also saw two lanterns shot into the sky. Jason told us that this was done to honor the dead. It reminded me of balloon day at Camp Westmont, when we launched a balloon with a postcard attached in the hopes of having it returned from an exotic locale so we could win a visit to said exotic locale. I once received my postcard back from Oneida, New York, but never told anyone because I had no desire to visit there. If only it had landed on a beach in Thailand.
The night from that point ended pretty unremarkably, but it’s New Year’s Eve (not quite yet in NY), so there’s high hopes for good fun after a day of relaxation…or should I say relaxasian.