During the past few weeks, Theresa and I have attended several social functions with Thai friends and colleagues. In late January, we went to a dinner to celebrate the Chinese New Year –the Year of the Dragon — and to a wedding reception for one of my staff; last night, we went to a party hosted by one of our dealers for his staff.
The Chinese New Year’s dinner was in a private dining room at Chandrphen, a Chinese restaurant on Rama IV, quite close to our apartment. I had been by the restaurant many times and I was always intrigued by the Garuda that is affixed to the building (see picture on left). In Thailand, the Garuda emblem signifies that a company has a royal warrant, awarded by the King for exceptional services to the nation. Royal warrant holders are typically large companies, such as Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Bangkok Airways, King Power, and Central Department Stores. It is highly unusual that a small company or restaurant would receive this honor. The current king, King Rama IX, however, bestowed the Garuda emblem on Chandrphen in 1963 in recognition of its service to the royal family including catering for royal events.
One of our dealers invited us to join him and his family for the New Year’s Dinner. While he and his family are Thai citizens and have been for generations, they are of Chinese ancestry and they celebrate their Chinese heritage. We dined on many of the “Over Half Century” favorites that Chandrphen offers including barbecue chicken flavored with garlic and pepper; fried shrimp rolls with plum sauce; steamed fish; crispy omelet with oysters; stir-fried morning-glory in garlic; soft-shelled crab in curry; and water chestnuts with syrup and coconut milk for dessert. Although Chandrphen’s website is only in Thai, this link will take you to the webpage that shows pictures of some of the restaurant’s specialty dishes.
The following evening, we attended the wedding reception of a young man who works for me. My understanding is that the wedding events last all day. In the early morning, Monks arrive to bless the bride and groom. Afterwards, the couple registers their wedding with the government and then there is a lunch with both families. During the afternoon, more ceremonies are performed with family and close friends. In the evening, the wedding reception takes place.
The reception began at 6 p.m. and we were among the first to arrive. We met the family, signed the guest book, and then had our picture taken with the newly married couple. Other guests arrived over the next hour or so — traffic in Thailand is so unpredictable that plenty of time is built into the schedule to accommodate this uncertainty. Since invitations do not have response cards, the number of people who will attend the reception must be a bit of a mystery, so preparations need to be pretty flexible.
Dinner began about 7:30 p.m. and we were seated at a VIP table along with the senior people from the company for which the bride works. A master of ceremony began the formal portion of the reception sometime after 8 p.m., and then the bride and groom entered the hall and made their way to the stage. As honored guests, the bride’s MD and I were both invited up to the podium to give short speeches extolling the newlyweds. At the end of our respective speeches, we led the crowd in a toast to the newlyweds where we raised our glasses and shouted Chai-Yo! (Cheers) three times.
After the toasts, a short animated video was shown that explained how the bride and groom met and fell in love. The MC interviewed the couple and asked them a number of questions about both themselves and the other. This was followed by the couple lighting some candles and then by them cutting the wedding cake. The couple then took pieces of cake to the guests of honor, to their parents, and to other senior relatives. While the formal reception ended about 10 p.m., my guess is that the younger people went out to a near-by nightspot and continued to party into the wee hours of the morning.
Last night we went to a dinner party in the province of Samut Sakhon. Samut Sakhon is on the Gulf of Thailand at the mouth of the Tha Chin river, a distributary of the Chao Phrya; it is about 25 miles southwest of Bangkok.
One of our dealers who has several outlets in this province hosted the party for his staff, and several members of my staff and I were invited to attend. About 150 people, including young children, were at the party, which started at 6 p.m. and was in full swing by 7 p.m.
The theme of the party was Red Dragon in honor of the Chinese New Year. In keeping with the theme, dinner was Chinese food with many fabulous dishes including lots of seafood (two dishes with prawns, a steamed fish, and a fried fish) that seemed to just keep on coming. One Thai custom that I really like and that is found in many Thai restaurants is the drink cart with soft drinks, water, beer, and sometimes whiskey that is set by each table. One server’s job is simply to keep the guests’ glasses full. I have no idea how much beer I drank, but every time the glass got to be about half-empty (or half-full, I guess, depending upon your perspective), the young woman taking care of our table would take it back to the cart and top it up. Chai-Yo!
Entertainment was provided by two MCs and by many of the guests. There was a group of young female gymnasts (age 10-12) who were remarkable in their flexibility. Several other people performed karaoke, often in quite elaborate costumes, and frequently accompanied by dancing. Many people, including yours truly, took to the dance floor as the night wore on.
The highlight of the evening, however, was undoubtedly the relay race between three teams of three men each. The objective of the race was to push a lime from one end of the floor to the other, then back again, and then down once more. In order to do so, however, the participants could not touch the lime with any part of their bodies. Rather, a long zucchini was tied around each participant’s waist, and they then needed to swing their hips to cause the zucchini to hit the lime and push it ahead. It was outrageously funny for both the participants and the spectators! Looks to me like a good, low-cost, team building activity for anyone who is interested.
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2012 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.