Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead


This is the second in a series of articles about a visit to the fascinating country of Thailand.


By Charles N. Stevens

After a harrowing ride through traffic, we reach the hotel where we rest in our rooms until three o’clock in the afternoon.

Shortly after three o’clock, we carefully board long but shallow boats as they lurch and bob at the dock. These boats are similar to the smaller ones we have seen, usually garishly painted, that skim over the water as they speed down the river. An automobile engine balanced on a pivot inside the boat, without a muffler, turns a long propeller shaft with a shark fin rudder on it that can be raised and lowered into the water to varying depths.

We start off down the Chao Praya, enjoying the sights along the banks and the river traffic. We are surprised to see people living along the banks in wooden houses supported by stilts—some even close to the luxury hotels. Even though Bangkok had passed an ordinance forbidding them to live there, the people remain, protesting that they had lived there before the ordinance had been passed. We speed by other long boats, trains of barges, water taxis and almost every other kind of water conveyance. Some barges are loaded down with great piles of dirt. One carries a vast metal framework loaded with boxes of Pepsi-Cola. We pass temples, high-rise buildings, hotels, luxury condominiums, boat repair facilities and even a plant distilling Thai whisky.

Our boat slows down then turns into a canal opening which is narrow at first, making it difficult to pass boats coming from the opposite way. Somehow, we scrape by each other. Once the canal opens up again, we begin to see how life is lived on the canals of Bangkok. We are ready for yet another display of how people can live on this earth, another style. Houses in infinite variety line the canal from ramshackle wooden houses to a few that are mansions with bougainvillea tumbling down masonry walls. Their lives are lived always with the sound of the water, its smell and its clammy vapor. People hang out washing, cook, eat their meals, take naps, lounge on wooden benches and wash their clothes in and at the side of the river. Naked children swim in the canal, their wet brown bodies glistening in the hazy sun. Bougainvillea of all colors blooms in nearly every yard, sometimes spilling into the river itself. It blooms in pots near countless wooden doorways. Children wave to us from porches, one little girl throwing us kisses. Among the bleached wood houses are small stores carrying the necessities of the people.

Canal dwellers pass by us in their shallow boats, most of them with motors but with a few being propelled with oars. This is their street; they shop, sell their wares, and return home. As the canal widens, we pass a large open floating cafe where people, after docking their boats alongside, order meals which they eat sitting on the floor. Some of the canals branch off into other smaller canals where other people live. The constant wakes of boats slop up against the sides of the canal, setting the water hyacinths and water grasses on the edge bobbing and sloshing, a sound that the canal people hear all their lives. Dogs mope around the houses or sleep outside on wooden floors.

We finally branch out into a much wider canal, passing several old rice barges with curved prows, barges that once had brought rice down the river from inland fields, but had been taken out of service. Our boat docks at a restored, converted and polished rice barge moored at the bank. We trudge up a plank to the swank boat then walk around tables set up with “goodies” in bowls and on platters covered with plastic wrap. A canopy over the polished wooden deck protects us from the sun. Next to us on the shore is a Thai temple, its glass and gold gleaming in the late sun.

Young women wearing gowns and smiling pleasantly, serve us Mai Tais, but Dolores

and I refuse them because we don’t trust the ice that floats in them. We gather around the artistically prepared trays of coconut strips, sapodilla, papaya, pineapple, bananas, peanuts and                     something that looks and tastes much like grapefruit. I sample it all and savor each bite. I buy a Thai beer and sample more than my share of peanuts, my favorite food.

As the boat moves out into the wide canal, we see much of what we had seen from the other boat only not as close. I cannot help but wonder what the canal folk think of the wealthy tourists cruising along on such a fine boat. Finally, back on the Chao Praya, we see the other side of the Grand Palace and the Temple of Dawn constructed in the Cambodian Trang style. The boat deposits us back at our hotel.

Back at the hotel we relax the rest of the evening in our room. A maid enters our door to turn down the bed. She leaves an orchid blossom on each of our pillows.

MONTEREY PARK AUTHOR PUBLISHES 4th BOOK – Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s:

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 43 year resident of Monterey Park has recently published his 4th book: Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Inglewood, California in the l930’s. This was a time during the depression when unemployment was affecting many and the banks were closed, while the clouds of war were gathering in Europe. But he was lucky enough to be raised in a loving family, the power of that love reflected throughout his stories.

Stevens is the author of three previous books about his experiences during WWII:

An Innocent at Polebrook: A Memoir of an 8th Air Force Bombardier (Story of his 34 bombing missions from his base at Polebrook, England over Germany and France)

The Innocent Cadet: Becoming A World War II Bombardier (A prequel to the first, telling of his training in the U.S. before going overseas into combat.)

Back from Combat: A WWII Bombardier Faces His Military Future from Combat: (This book details the time from when he returned from combat in England until the end of the war.)

He is known to the readers of The Citizen’s Voice as the author of Travel Log Articles including “Cruising the Rhine and Mosel”,” Best of the West”, “In Search of Snow” ,  “From Paris to Normandy on the Seine”, and “Exploring New York”.  He is retired, having taught for 32 years, primarily in the Montebello Unified School District.

Those interested in purchasing an autographed copy of any of his books, may contact the author at 323-721-8230 or  Normstevens24@gmail.com.

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