1992

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We started our annual letters in 1993.  Recently I was thinking that I should develop the "first" annual letter of the Gamble Family, which would be from 1992.

Prior to 1992 there was no Gamble Family as we know it today.  It started with the wedding of Neil Gamble and Usa Visutthisen (thus Usa V. Gamble) on March 13, 1992 in Bangkok.  After two weeks, one spent in Chiang Rai, the other in Bangkok, Usa packed up 444 kg of all her worldly belongings and moved to start a new life married to a traveling expatriate, then based in Jakarta Indonesia.  This letter is less an annual letter and more of a history of our wedding.  It sounds a bit grand, but it's a chronicle of our family history.

Neil transferred from Belgium to Indonesia under the Citibank International Staff program in July 1991.  As was normal for a long trip, if there was an opportunity to break the journey with a few days in Bangkok, he'd take it.  On this occasion he contacted his favorite hotel, the Dusit Thani, directly to make the reservation.  Normally he asked the BKK office to make the reservation, but this time he did it himself.  It turned out that an old friend from the hotel, Oraporn, saw the reservation coming through the system and contacted one of her friends, Usa, for a surprise dinner the evening he arrived.  It was very coincidental because we all met in 1986 when I worked for a few months in Thailand and stayed at the Dusit Thani, where both Oraporn and Usa worked.  After that we all went our separate ways; surprising that we'd meet by coincidence again 5 years later.  Something special happened during that dinner; Neil and Usa just "clicked" and we decided we wanted to see each other after I left Bangkok. 

After about a month we arranged a meeting in Singapore.  Then a visit to a Thai beach resort.  It wasn't long until we were talking about a wedding and Neil was in a routine of flying from Jakarta-Bangkok every Friday night and returning to Jakarta every Sunday night.  It takes a lot of planning for a wedding!

We were married over 2 days in Bangkok.  On Friday morning we had our "engagement" ceremony at Usa's sister's new house.  This is a ceremony conducted by Buddhist monks and it lasted about 3 hours.  Then in the afternoon we went to the Australian Embassy for our official (western) ceremony.  This was conducted by the Vice Consul who performed a civil ceremony in the grounds of the embassy.  We had to book way in advance to arrange that.

On Saturday we didn't have anything until the mid- to late-afternoon.  Then we had the traditional Thai water ceremony.  This is similar in concept to the Chinese tea ceremony.  It is the blessing of the union by the parents of the couple.  In Thailand they pour water from a dispenser (that looks like a source dispenser at a restaurant) onto the clasped hands of the couple being wed.  After this is done by the parents of the bride and groom, other relatives and friends repeat the process to give their best wishes.  It's interesting that only happily married couples are supposed to provide their blessing, but everyone does because if you don't bless the newly married couple it's like announcing to everyone that your own wedding is on the rocks!

After the water ceremony we had our wedding reception, which we provided in a buffet style.  Often oriental weddings have a formal sit-down type reception with a meal served and tradition has it that guests depart after the last course.  We chose a more western approach, one where people could come in and out of the reception at their leisure and could stay as long as they wanted. 

Because of our ties to the Dusit Thani Hotel we had the water ceremony and the reception there.  We also used it as our base for the few days.  Neil stayed there a week before, during and after the wedding.  Both Neil's mother and father came up from Australia for the wedding and stayed at the hotel.  And for the 2 days of the wedding process we had full use of one of the Dusit Thani Rolls Royce's, courtesy of the hotel.  Neil was lucky enough to have other friends come up for the wedding.  Phil and Maree Stewart came from Australia and stayed at the Dusit Thani, too.  Lee Choon Seng and family came from Singapore.  As did Lung Kai Loon and family.  David Bushman was based in Jakarta at the time and deviated to Bangkok on a trip from the US to Indonesia just for the wedding.  The Citibank Indonesia business manager, Bob Thornton, came up from Jakarta.  As did Ng Chee Kheong.  And there were friends from Citibank Thailand who also joined in the celebration. 

Other snippets of memories from the wedding:

  • Neil paid for the entire wedding and related costs himself.  Western tradition has the parents of the bride paying, often now with the parents of the groom contributing, too.  The SE Asian custom is for the groom to pay.  Knowing this was a mixture of cultures, Neil decided it was best to handle everything.

  • Neil paid dowry to Usa's mother.  This was a "nominal" amount - Baht 50,000.  That was about US$2,000 at 1992 exchange rates.  ("Inexpensive" in exchange for a person, but still a real cost in the wedding.) 

  • By tradition, the dowry was supposed to be paid in cash.  Neil didn't have enough at the time, so Usa's mother got Baht 25,000 in cash and a Baht 25,000 Citibank Thailand check!

  • In 1992 Neil's parents were long time divorced and re-married.  So they had separate rooms at the hotel.

  • Phil and Maree Stewart spent 3 4 days in Bangkok and had a room adjoining Neil's in the hotel.  (Neil being fortunate enough to have a suite.)

  • Usa designed her own wedding dress and contracted a specialist tailor to make it for her.  It was traumatic because even on the last day it was still having small refinements being made.  It had a lot of sequins and it seemed to be a problem getting them all sewn on in time.  And it seemed like there were 6 8 fittings for that dress.  (It cost Baht 17,000, about US$700.)

  • She also had custom made matching shoes to go with the dress.  (The shoes were inexpensive.)

  • We both had 3 outfits for the wedding process.  We had one outfit for the engagement ceremony.  Another for the civil wedding ceremony that were made of matching Thai silk.  For the wedding reception Usa had her wedding dress and Neil wore a tuxedo that he'd had for some time. 

  • Before both traditional Thai events, the engagement and the water ceremony, Usa had to have her hair and makeup done by specialists.  For the engagement she went to a hairdresser, but had to start at 6:30am to be ready.  For the water ceremony / reception a specialist came to the hotel and it took about 2 hours to get her hair and makeup fashioned in the traditional Thai manner.

  • In planning the wedding, the invitation cards seemed to take a lot of effort.  They are special ordered for weddings in Thailand and it seemed there were shops all over Bangkok that specialized in them.  We would spend days looking for the card with the "right" design; with weekend traffic in Bangkok we could typically see only 2 or maybe 3 shops a day.

  • We had to give a keepsake to our wedding guests.  For this we chose a fan from Indonesia made from translucent leather with our names and the wedding date inscribed in gold lettering.  Arranging this and getting them all to Bangkok was another challenge.

  • Phil Stewart took my (Neil's) favorite wedding photo.  It's a close-up shot of us through the window of the Rolls Royce just following the civil ceremony at the Australian embassy.

  • We hired a "professional" photographer, but all his photos were lousy because he snapped whenever he wanted, without warning, so we either have open mouths, closed eyes or both, in every photo he took.

1993 ...