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After a successful journey in and around Macau, Craig and I headed to that land of all lands, Thailand. Our PIC (that’s “partner in crime,” folks) Jean was kind enough to meet us at the airport after a late flight. The lot of us stayed in Bangkok that night and made the drive to the beach town of Pattaya the next morning. Two hours southeast of Bangkok, Pattaya is a popular tourist destination among Thais and foreigners alike. With scenic views like this, it’s not hard to see why.

Jean and her fellow PIC,  took us to a shrine for the “father” of the Thai Navy overlooking the beach. Our Thai hosts talked us through the process of making an offering of candles, incense, and flowers before following in kind.

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After a few hours of milling around the hotel and beach, we did some beachfront dining at Pupen Restaurant, where the casual seaside ambiance was surpassed only by the cuisine. Piles of prawns, steaming squid soups, and bits of crab covered the table at the height of the meal.

Returning to Bangkok the next morning, Craig and I took the opportunity to visit a few of Bangkok’s major attractions, including: Wat Pho (a Buddhist temple with reclining Buddha), the Grand Palace, JJ market, the backpacker mecca of Khao San Road, as well as taking boat trip down the Chao Praya river via Bangkok’s scenic marine mass transit system. Jean met up with us for lunch and dinner nearly every day, introducing us to new foods and new friends along the way. Nights in Bangkok ended with a trip to the night (food) market and/or a convenience store (there’s literally one on every block) to try new kinds of junk food or stock up on a few of the liter-sized Thai beers (Leo and Tiger are probably the best Thai beers, in my opinion).

Overall, Thailand was amazing and made so much more so by the generosity of Jean and her friends. We were disappointed to leave Bangkok, but glad to get a chance to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones.

In the days after Joe and Du Xue’s nuptials, the lot of us (Joe, Du Xue, myself, Joe’s dad, Craig, and Du Xue’s brother) spent a few days milling around Ganyu taking in the sights. One such sight was a nearby mountain made popular in the story “Journey to the West.” Originally a Chinese folktale, this story has been made into a popular children’s book and has recently become a 3-D animated movie. The mountain itself, however, has always been in 3-D…something to which our several hours of hiking can attest.

Following his father’s example of hospitality put forth the previous day, Du Xue’s brother, Du Yang, was adamant about paying for everything: our taxi to the mountain, our admission to the mountain, bottled waters, and some fun and games on the hike up. The mountain was fairly developed with a paved trail and several monasteries, temples, and other sights along the way up to the top. A few roadside stands had archery games for those who wanted a break from hiking. Once we reached the top and enjoyed the scenic mountain tea terraces and the hazy riverbeds, we were relieved to find that the foot of the climb was only a short gondola ride away.

    

    

Lest we forget, there were actually a few monkeys on monkey mountain. Go figure, right? Anyway, not 100% what type of monkeys these guys are, but if you force me to guess, I’d say macaques. Professors Tappen and McNulty, if you for whatever reason are taking a break from teaching Anthro 1001 and to read this, please let me know the correct identification. As for the rest of us, we’ll just admire how cute they are.

    

   

On Tuesday we left Ganyu. Du Xue’s family had arranged a van to take us to the airport in Lianyungang. Craig and I parted company with Joe and his dad at the Shanghai airport, and the two of us continued onto Macau. We originally woke up at 6:30 that morning in Ganyu and traveled via cars, planes, trains, buses, and a ferry for nearly 15 hours before arrive in Macau. When all was said and done, we dumped our bags at the hotel and treated ourselves to a huge late night dinner at a nearby Korean restaurant.

Macau is a unique melting pot of different influences. Until recently a Portuguese colony, Macau gives off an “East meets West meets Vegas” kind of vibe. There are highrise apartments with clothes on the line on every block, the streets all have Portuguese names, and many of the tourist attractions here are either preserved colonial buildings, big open European style plazas, or casinos. In general, Macau seems pretty small and very walkable. We did much of our sightseeing yesterday before heading to Coloane, the much quieter, southern part of the Macau peninsula.

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We checked into our posada after some brief difficulties trying to figure out which bus stop we wanted, and found ourselves a big Portuguese meal in the village of Coloane. Our digs here are much swankier than in the hotel in which we stayed the first night.

Tomorrow morning and afternoon we’ll spend in Macau, taking the evening to fly to Bangkok, Thailand. Once there, we’ll connect with an old high school friend, Jean, before hitting up the beach town of Hua Hin for a weekend in the sun.

Joe and Du Xue’s wedding took place yesterday morning. It was more of a modern celebration of Joe and Du Xue’s marriage (they got hitched in a courthouse a couple months ago) than a traditional wedding. Unlike every other wedding I’ve ever attended, this one started in the morning and finished before noon. At around 7 o’clock, Joe, his father, Craig, and I were all picked up from the hotel in Ganyu by Du Xue’s relatives and driven to her parent’s house in the country. Du Xue and her family (immediate and some extended family, probably 30 people in all) were all waiting at her house for Joe to arrive.

         

We were promptly welcomed in. The bride and groom, their fathers, and Craig and I all sat for tea on a lone sofa in the sparsely furnished upstairs living room. Like many houses in the Chinese countryside, the house was made almost entirely of concrete and had no heat (it was less than 40 degrees F that day). In another show of the family’s generosity, Du Xue’s father presented Tony, me, and Craig with a gift of tea and chopsticks.

There were many poignant moments during the day, but perhaps the most sentimental of all was at tea when Joe’ dad presented Du Xue with a necklace that had belonged to Joe’s mother.

   

We took pictures of the couple and various family members for just under an hour before we processed out of the house to a restaurant just up the street. Although it was less than a block away, the two black sedans which had picked us up from the hotel were waiting outside the house to carry the bride and groom to the restaurant. Before leaving, her family members set off a string of firecrackers in front of their car, signifying that their marriage was complete and that the bride would not be able to return to her parents’ house for 3 full days.

    

There was a brief wait at the restaurant while Du Xue changed out of the big white “western-style” wedding dress she had worn for pictures into a more comfortable, more traditional-style gown. At this time, Joe conversed with his new father-in-law and acted as translator for the two fathers as they discussed the possibilities awaiting the new couple in their future.

This was the first time that Joe’s father and Du Xue’s parents had ever met, and I felt privileged to witness their interaction through their newly shared son. Du Xue arrived some time later, and the couple, the parents, Craig and I all ate a humongous early lunch in a private room. There was way too much food.

    

After the meal, her extended family poured into the room in droves. Those who did speak any amount of English were eager to use it. Others talked animatedly amongst themselves or socialized with the new couple. As Du Xue’s father had told us during the meal, this was the first time this many Westerners had ever been in Ganyu.

We left the restaurant before noon, as was the custom, and headed back to the hotel. Du Xue and Joe checked into their private room at the hotel. Later that night, Joe busted out a Chinese language version of my favorite board game, Settlers of Catan. When I reflect on their wedding, I’m happy that they were able to bring their folks together and celebrate their wedding. It was a privilege to share in the celebration with their families.

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