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


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

By Charles N. Stevens

At the city of Lopburi we pass over a medium river where large fishnets hang up like sails from docks, shacks and piers along the banks. In town we stop to visit a Hindu temple, the Kala Shrine, now owned by monkeys. The monkeys are everywhere in and around the temple, even outside of the grounds and into the town. There are so many that they are like vermin. The smell of the monkeys and their feces as well as the odor of rotting garbage from the piles of food they give them combine for an unholy stench in the hot humid air. They climb the temple walls or squat on the ground, the smaller ones swinging in bicycle tire rims suspended from the trees. Wherever we look there is monkey movement, their long tails reminding me of rats. With so many monkeys it is difficult to appreciate their cute faces and their human-like movements and expressions. One monkey in a cleaned cage is much better. The bad monkeys, those that are aggressive to the others and to the tourists, often stealing their jewelry or glasses, glower from cages along one of the walls as if they are hardened criminals.
The people living in town, especially near the temple, must always keep their
windows closed. Special shielding protects the electric and telephone wires and cables in town as the monkeys travel on them above the street, often swinging from them or chewing through the insulation. Metal cones placed near the base on all television aerials prevent the monkeys from climbing them and shaking them down. Despite these annoyances, the town celebrates the monkeys every year at a ” monkey party”, a kind of monkey festival. Large temporary statues of monkeys line the street near the temple.
As we walk toward a crumbling Cambodian style temple nearby, Phraprang Sam Yod, I notice several people sitting and begging in the shade of the oversized monkey statues. I look up at the deteriorating towers of the temple, but the searing midday heat diminishes my appreciation of them.
In contrast we have lunch at the Lopburi Inn Resort, a complex of attractive motel-like rooms and restaurant away from the monkeys. I help myself to a hot, spicy curry which I ladle on a healthy serving of rice then sample small amounts from other steaming buffet pans, some of the dishes are spicy and others rather bland. I double back for another round of the delicious curry. Others say, “Oh my God! Did you taste that? in a warning to others to stay away from the spicy dishes. Most tried to select milder fare.
On our way again, near the Loburi River we pass houses raised on stilts then travel through the countryside with the familiar sights of rice fields and water-filled ditches at the side of the road. The bus gallops along on the wavy, uneven road. We are on Highway 311, but soon turn back onto Highway 32, a modern highway much like a freeway. The country is green with rice fields and trees. In the ripened fields workers cut the rice with sickles that look like curved machetes and gather the straw into bundles. Road stands sell what looks like jicama, baskets and hammocks. In some of the rice fields modern threshing machines spew plumes of rice into rubber-tired wagons pulled by small tractors. The stubble in some of the fields burns, the small flames licking up into clouds of yellow-brown and white smoke. Farther down the road several men herd what looks like thousands of small brown ducks.
All along the road large trucks \haul rice, a tied-down tarp on top saving every grain. We continue to see many herds of Brahmin cattle, the shades of their coats varying from almost white to near reddish brown. After travelling over so much flat country, the bus now curves around small hills, a relief from sameness. The land becomes less green as more and more rice fields are ready for harvest.
Passing over the Mae Nam Ping River, we briefly enter the large city of Nakhon Sawan. Past the city, rice fields become greener again, and men fish in the water ditches at the side of the road. Several trucks pass us carrying huge earthen jars lashed with restraining ropes. We are told they are water jars that most Thais keep near the front of their houses. Most of them are decorated with Chinese designs. Another truck passes carrying sacks of Thai white sugar, yet another with mounds of small round watermelons. We pass granaries where piles of brown rice wait on the ground to be processed then more rice fields recently flooded, a great attraction to the white egrets. Many small boys swim in the ditches to cool off.
I lean back in the bus seat enjoying what I see out of the window as we speed down the highway. What I see are momentary visions, a series of mental photographs—pinkish pigs trussed on their sides in bamboo-like cages so that they can’t move as they ride in the back of a pickup on its way to market. Chinese-style tractors with their small steaming engines far out in front. Vendors selling smoked fish at roadside stands. Other vendors selling small woven garlands of flowers. Our bus driver stops to buy a garland. He hangs it up front near the top of the windshield next to his Buddha amulet then gestures in a brief silent prayer.
At Pitsamulok we stop at the 13th century Mahata Temple. We remove our shoes then pad quietly into the temple where an almost life-like golden Buddha stands at a shrine flanked by two decorated golden columns. People kneel in the prayer area, their hands folded in front of their chests, their eyes closed. They gesture with unopened lotus blossoms then bow so far down that their foreheads touch golden pillows on the floor. A brief shower wets down the temple grounds outside.
Out of the main part of town we pass over a large river where people live in frail houseboats close to the banks. Long wooden planks lead from the houses to the muddy bank itself. I wonder about what happens during floods. As many city dwellers head for home, buses, motor bikes and pickups jammed with people clog the highways.
By 6:30 we arrive at the Pailyn Hotel in Sukhothai, our home for the night. Japanese flags decorate the plush hotel as the visiting Japanese Princess is also staying here. Once in our lovely room, we toast the evening with cocktails. Dinner at seven o’clock is various combinations of ingredients to be spooned over rice, fried Thai noodles, potato salad, fruit, and dessert. Before nine o’clock we darken our room and slip into bed.

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

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 49 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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