The First Element of Pimp (Thai Dub)

First step: Take your ride to get hand washed and waxed (approx. 100 baht / $3).

Thai car washes have concrete ramps for bidet-style cleaning. Your car will thank you.
The key here is the wax, you’ll see why later.

A cheeky rooster at the car wash is most auspicious, Keanu.
The next step of FEP (First Element, Pimp) can only be carried out at one place:

A central chamber of one of the large temples in Sarakham.
And of course, FEP should only be performed by trained professionals:

We humbly begged for the expert blessings of the head monk who married us exactly one year (and one day) earlier.
A bit of prep:

Nam’s first attempt at hand modeling.
The white cones are made of a white powder which are dissolved in water. This mixture achieves a mud-like consistency, and is normally used for anointing monk’s faces for certain ceremonies. On this day, it was used for something else… I have no idea what the proper name for it is, I just call it “blessing clay.”
In case you are wondering, the following ceremony has no set price. It is proper to give what you can in an envelope, and if you’re like me, worry that it isn’t enough.
On to the ceremony, then:

The artist examining his canvas.

This is the most common pattern of symbols anointed in the area above the driver’s head here in Thailand.

As far as I know, this does not void the airbag warranty. Neither, however, does it lower the cost of collision insurance.

After finishing the besmearification of the interior, the next step is tying a bundle of white strings around the steering column.
A lot of Thai Buddhist ceremonies employ string for some reason. At our wedding last year, we were all connected together by a length of white string (which I haven’t researched the meaning of yet, sis, sorry!), and I’ve seen bundles of string similar to the one in the photo above tied around different things – ceremonial platforms, trees, and motor scooters, mostly. This deserves further study.
Note: Someday, I will find out the exact meaning of each of these steps. I’ve heard several very general ones about how each represents safety and reliability, and that’s good enough for now.

Next, the “blessing clay” is further diluted with holy water. (I think that sentence just made the baby Jesus cry.)

This monk is SO not a vampire.
The head monk likes us; he always has. We didn’t have a lot of money to donate to the temple after our wedding last year mostly because we went over budget on everything else – I felt really crappy about that because he brought out a bunch of brothas from the temple to kick off the morning ceremony with chants and blessings galore… Obviously, he didn’t hold that against us because he went above and beyond the call of duty blessing my car on this fine day. I mean, the normal blessing ceremony is confined to the interior of the car, but the monk just went all out for us… Just watch.

You know how people always blur out their license plates in photos? Yeah, that’s dumb. I mean, just how important do you think you are that someone would waste time actually doing something with that information?
I can talk all the smack I want ‘cuz I got some powerful juju that day.

He finger painted on EVERY door.

Then he painted a really cool pictogram on the hood.

coup de grace

I anoint thee, VQ30DE.

Nam is happy!
Bonus photo:

It appeared out of nowhere…
On the way home, an errant cow was used to test my new powers of invulnerability. Unfortunately, I did not have enough confidence to simply drive through the cow, as my new powers would surely have enabled me to – if I had just accepted the fact that the cow and I were one, and that the cow wasn’t there on the road since I was sitting in the car and hence the cow was also sitting in the car, I would have been okay. But like I said, I wasn’t ready. Yet. Some day I will have the ability to simply drive through the cow, but on this day what truly saved me was ABS.
And maybe, also, that pimp-ass pictogram on the hood.
UPDATE 2/28/07: In response to a couple of emails I’ve received, yes, the clay does wash off. You are supposed to leave the symbols on the outside of the car on for either 3 or 7 days. I split the difference and washed it on the 5th day because black cars get very dirty out here in the dusty hinterlands approximately every 30 seconds – I couldn’t bear waiting 2 more days. Even though the clay came cleanly off the paint, ghost outlines appeared after washing because the underlying wax coats had been removed. I kind of liked this effect, so I’ve left it for the time being. I’m pretty sure it will disappear completely after a good waxing.
Regarding the symbols written inside the car, I had the ones on the steering wheel removed. Therefore the ones one the ceiling of the interior and the ones written in the engine room are all that remain. The bundle of string around the steering column is also there to stay. The monk gave us a couple of amulets for the car as well, one made of red plastic, with the image of the king, that you’re supposed to hang around the rear view mirror, and another made of some bronzish alloy inlaid with images of revered monks. I’m not down with hanging things from my rearview, even fuzzy dice, so they are kept protected in my dash console.

4 thoughts on “The First Element of Pimp (Thai Dub)

  1. allow me the honor to be the first to comment…. a truly excellent set of photos, and a very envious driver am I, with a car that goes un-annointed, and speeds recklessly through the hitherintoos…. was in sumoto today, for just the morn and a little part of the afta noon, but yet, so holds little appeal to me, I twas gone by ye 4 o’clock…

  2. I am always amazed at the clarity of your pics. I was recently anointed with a camera similar to your brother’s. I guess I need to work on it, but the pics just don’t come out as clear. Are you still using the Nikon…what was it a D40? Are you taking these pics in ‘fine’ mode?

  3. Nam has such lovely hands, and her rings are beautiful! Oh, and your car is bitchin’ too!
    Great narrative and pics of the whole sacred symbol blessing!

  4. Thanks, guys.
    Arch: I have the same camera as Adam, a Nikon D50 (now discontinued, I believe). I do not take photos in FINE mode, and I shoot in JPEG, not RAW. The reason for the former is that NORMAL mode has almost identical quality as FINE mode on the D50, with substantially smaller file sizes (reference). I am usually using the stock 18-55mm lens that was bundled with the camera. I do post-process the images in Photoshop or similar software (depending which PC I’m using at the time) and use the Unsharp Mask filter a lot, probably too much. This single operation may account for the clarity to which you refer. Other than that, getting your camera settings right is important too. I always refer to Ken Rockwell’s page first (search that page for your camera model):

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