Thursday, October 22, 2009

Buying A Truck In Thailand - Part 2

Over two month's ago, we ordered and placed a deposit for a new Toyota pick up truck.

Over a month ago we got a call from the dealer that we could have the truck with a 2500 cc engine in a couple days but for the actual truck that we ordered with a 3000 cc engine it would be another month. Duang's relative, the salesman, told her that people were only ordering the model with the smaller engine. It made no difference to me and I continued to want the truck that we ordered. When I did not understand the answers to the questions that I asked I decided to take matters into my own hands. Using the Internet, I found the phone number of the Toyota factory in Bangkok and called them last Friday. The customer representative took down all the information and promised to call either that afternoon or on the following Monday. The good news from my call was that he confirmed that the factory was producing the exact model that we wanted.

Yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, when the Toyota Rep had not called me back yet, Duang suggested that I call him back. I told her that I would call the next morning because if I called in the afternoon, he would only say that he would have to check and call me back the next morning. My strategy was to call him early in the morning and ask that he check so that he could call me back in the afternoon.

Today, before I could call Bangkok, we got a call from Duang's cousin, the truck had arrived at the dealership early this morning. We arrived at the dealer up the road from our home at 8:45 A.M. I had to sign about 12 to 15 different documents. After signing the documents, Duang's cousin gave me a paper with Thai writing on it and a bank account number. We walked across the main road to a branch of our bank and arranged to transfer the remaining balance for the truck from my account into the dealer's account. We were given a document confirming the transfer by the bank to return to the dealer.

We returned to the dealer and awaited the preparation of the truck to be completed. Everything that we had been promised was completed without reminding or asking. We were shown the various aspects of the truck. The dealer gave us a voucher for 300 Baht (about $9.00) to purchase fuel for the truck. This amounted to about 10 liters (3 gallons). Duang's cousin came with us to ensure there were no problems. We had 1,300 baht of fuel added and paid the difference.

We needed extra fuel because we had to go to Tahsang Village, Duang's home village. Once we left the dealership we could not stop. We could not stop by our home to pick up a camera. We had to go straight to Tahsang Village.

There were certain rituals that needed and had to be performed to ensure the safety of the truck and most importantly - us. I have written about the Lao Loum people maintaining and following many of their pre-Buddhist beliefs and this was to be another example of following Animist practices. Our home had to be "blessed" in a Brahman ritual along with Buddhist participation. In addition we had to install spirit houses on the property to appease the spirit of the house and the spirit of the garden to appease them and ensure that our home would be a happy home.

Animist rituals and practices exist for cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Upon exiting the dealership, I had to honk the truck's horn three times - I assume to signify respect for Buddha, Buddhist teachings, and the Buddhist clergy. Our route home took us to the first of the roundabouts in Udonthani - the one with a statue of the founder of Udonthani in the center. This man is worshipped by many people and often people can be seen circumambulating the shrine or making offerings. I had to honk the horn three times as we passed.

Duang called ahead to her mother to let her know the good news. As we approached Tahsang Village, Duang told me to take a different route into the village. We took the first left at the edge of the village and drove along the perimeter of the village until we came upon Duang's mother standing along side of the road. We picked her up and drove onto some one's property and parked the truck. I was instructed to beep the horn again - three times. Duang and her mother, took a small metal plate, fresh leaves sort of like laurel leaves (Bay Leaf), small yellow candles, and a bottle of water with a straw in it and walked a short distance to a shrine. The shrine wa not a Buddhist shrine - there were no statues in them. The shrine was a spirit house - Animism. There were Pahn Sii Khwan, banana leaf and flower arrangements, and garlands along with remnants of previous offerings inside of the spirit houses. Duang and her mother made their offerings and said some prayers to the village spirits to let them know that we had a new truck and to request their blessing as well as protection for the vehicle and its occupants.

From there we drove into the village to Duang's mother's home to pick up Peelawat, our 8 month old grandson. He was coming along with us across the village to the "outside" Wat that is located amongst the sugar cane and rice alongside of the flood plain. Peelawat liked the new truck and enjoyed watching me driving along the heavily rutted dusty road through the sugar cane and rice to the Wat. Upon driving through the Wat's gate I had to ... honk three times.

Inside the Wat grounds, we walked over to where two young Monks were relaxing with friends. Duang and her mother made merit and offerings to the Monks. One Monk came with us and unlocked one of the shrines so that Duang and her mother could make offerings and make merit inside. Peelawat and I stayed outside to enjoy the beautiful day. The oldest Monk, about 25 years old, came over to bless the truck and all of us with water. He dipped a rough brush made out of coarse reeds into an elaborate pressed metal bowl of water, and then sprinkled the water over the truck and us using the rough brush. This was an acceptable temporary measure until tomorrow morning - Duang says that tomorrow morning we will leave at 6:00 A.M. to go to a near by village where two old Monks are well known for taking care of new vehicles. I have seen this before and I will bring my camera to share the ritual. They will be writing on the headliner of the cab with chalk paste, and tying cotton strings around the steering column to ensure that the spirits of the car are bound to the truck to ensure that it runs properly and safely. They will also honk the horn three times as part of the ritual. At the end of the ritual a Buddhist statue will be set on the dashboard.

We returned safely home and prior to driving into our driveway - ... I had to honk the horn three times for the last time of the day.

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