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


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


By Charles N. Stevens

During the night we had heard a strange tapping at our window, like birds pecking the glass. As the hotel is in a rural setting, roosters crowed even before dawn. Small crickets chirping and the dripping of the fountain in the courtyard, like falling rain, added to the sounds of the night. Closer to dawn lone motorbikes speed down the road sounding like mad hornets.

We eat an early breakfast at six o’clock. I feast on pancakes, French toast, two small, wiener-like sausages, fried noodles and tiny bananas.

Feeling the need for exercise after the ample breakfast, I stroll around the hotel grounds. At this time of the morning is relatively “cool”, but there is so much moisture in the air that it seems to settle on the skin. As I walk, I look at all sides of the hotel which is pure white and constructed much like a Buddhist temple. Near the front of the hotel, I notice a group of orange-robed monks walking barefoot by the side of the road. each holding something out in front of him, perhaps an offering bowl for food. Throughout the grounds, particularly on one side, stand large ceramic animals, much like I had seen for sale at roadside lots. There are giraffes, skinny elephants, horses, turtles with vicious fangs, cranes and squirrels climbing ceramic trees. I pause by a large murky pond where koi, invisible in the murky water, rise lazily to the surface where they briefly display flashes of white, orange or black. Myna birds, English sparrows, pigeons and black birds with long tails busy themselves with chattering and their morning feeding. I notice that the pigeons nestle on some of the window ledges of the hotel which probably explains the tapping noise we heard in the night.

Near the end of my walk, more workers begin arriving at the hotel on their motorbikes. A few clouds are visible through the morning haze, a distant thunderhead catching the first rays of the sun.

We leave the hotel just before 7:30, again passing houses raised on stilts that not only protects them during flooding, but also gives them a place to house their animals and store implements. We roll past the crumbling old city walls and portions of the moat belonging to the original site of Sukhothai, like Ayutthaya, once a capital of Thailand. Looking out on the ancient grounds of the palace and temples, we can see only vestiges of what once had been there. In a park-like setting nearby, magenta water lilies bloom in large ponds, and beyond. a pure white Buddha sits among the trees.

We walk through the historical park on a stone walkway leading through dew-soaked grass. The columns of the first temple we approach are built of a pinkish basalt-like stone smoothed with terracotta. A large Buddha sits among the remains of the columns. The capital at Sukhothai, abandoned for two thousand years in favor of the capital in Ayutthaya had fallen to ruins. It is the site where Phor Khun Ramkamhaeng developed the Thai script that is still used today. We continue walking the grounds, but the morning sun has already overheated the air, and we find ourselves longing for the cool climate of the bus.

Clouds hover among the mountain peaks as we leave the park. We pass many unpainted wooden houses, many of them raised on piers, with small stores intermixed among them. Our bus speeds by the familiar scene of palms and banana trees, standing water, water plants and packed earth.  A smaller road takes us by rice fields and other crops of corn, tobacco and chili peppers. Long-legged roosters run around houses built among palms and banana trees. Across the fields stands a Buddhist temple with a tall slender white chimney, a crematorium for the dead. All the Buddhist dead in Thailand are cremated, making graveyards unnecessary. Rice fields, once harvested, are plowed to make room for alternate crops, particularly tobacco or soya beans. We see the new shoots, their delicate green contrasting with the black earth.

Stopping at the edge of a small village, we get off the bus to walk to the local school. We trudge down a muddy road then walk through the same type of raised, unpainted wooden houses we had seen from the bus. Beneath one house pinkish-white pigs root in the mud. Beneath some houses are bamboo racks for drying tobacco leaves. A woman tends to her small son beneath another. Long-legged chickens strut around beneath and around the houses, and skinny dogs with their ribs showing wander around with their puppies. Piles of rice husks left over from threshing rest on the ground. A characteristic pungent “barnyard” smell drifts through the complex of houses.

At the two-story school we take off our shoes, placing them near the many neat rows of sandals left by the students. We first enter the door of a rather dark room where enthusiastic kindergarteners respond to an energetic teacher. With great gusto they sing songs for us, all of which we love hearing. Their faces are alert and their eyes bright as they belt out their staccato-like songs. The teacher soon involves us in the music by having us shake bamboo instruments with different notes which we play when he points at us, forming a complete song. Upstairs we see older students in an advanced class playing the gamelan-like instruments of a Thai band. In other classes some of the students seem bored or unruly, some of them throwing spit wads at each other.

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.

Leave a Response