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


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

By Charles N. Stevens

On our way again, we pass a sapodilla plantation, the trees looking like light-colored orange trees, its fruit brownish. Nearby is a sugar cane field, their pale violet-pink feather-like flowers waving softly in the wind. A hen with her chicks is so close to the road that I fear for their lives.
We approach the city of Sri Satchanawai to visit its 700-year-old temple. Even though the wooden houses look rather poor, many sprout television aerials. All over Thailand people in the country, remote villages and farms, watch television, learning much more about the world and what exists beyond their villages. In town we pass the ruins of the old city wall which follows the edge of the river. Gazing at the old Cambodian style temple and the large Thai stupa near it, we notice plants growing out of the joints and crevices in the temple rocks. Moving into the shade as much as possible, we avoid the burning sun. After viewing the temples, we walk over a long suspension foot bridge over the river. The bridge sways and ripples uncomfortably as we walk over it, the muddy river below visible through the slats.
For lunch we stop at the Sunathana Wang Yom Restaurant located in an attractive garden setting with palms and shade trees as well as bougainvillea of all colors. We eat lunch in a non-air conditioned but shaded veranda. Our first dish is a curry, coconut and vegetable soup which is scorching spicy even for me. I bite into a piece of hot pepper floating in the soup, my mouth exploding with its heat. With flames licking out of my mouth I attempt to put them out with cold Thai beer. One spoonful is more than enough for most of the people, who immediately gasp and warn others not to try it. We also have rice, a chicken dish, beef with vegetables, a spicy ground meat mixture which is good on rice. Fresh pineapple and watermelon round out the meal.
After lunch we walk around the pleasant garden grounds, but the weather is so hot that we linger under the shade of the larger trees. Dolores and I walk to the edge of the garden where we can see the river below. On the slow muddy river, a young man fishes from a shallow wooden boat.
We leave about one o’clock for the north with cumulus clouds growing on the horizon. We travel through rice fields with their isolated thatched roof shelters, seeing two more Buddhist crematoriums with their tall slender chimneys on the way. Teak trees become common along the highway. For the first time we begin to wind up into the hills where teak trees grow on nearly every slope, most of them in even rows. Most of these are part of a reforestation program, most of the large teak trees being cut long ago. Each time we swing into a new valley, it is planted in rice.
The bus begins to grind up steeper hills where dense undergrowth flourishes beneath the teak trees. Clouds continue to build into tall turrets over the mountains as we drive in and out of cloud shadows. Bamboo and bananas fill some of the canyons, several people at the side of the road working with the bamboo. Isolated houses appear in the forest, some with rusted metal roofs and sheds covered with thatch. Large earthen jars sit in front of every house.
Suddenly the land opens into a valley again where farmers harvest rice and vendors sell bananas by the roadside. Any valley that is large enough is planted in rice. The larger the valley, the more people it will support; the more people the more services they need—schools, stores, temples, and so villages are born. I notice that rice workers wear long sleeves when they toil in the heat, protecting their arms from the sun.
We pass a road sign that says “Phrae 20 km”. People work hard in the rice fields, cutting it, stacking it in wagons and threshing. Large straw hats protect their bronzed faces, and cloths hang down from the back of the hats to shade their necks. Across the field a fountain of chaff flies from a thresher. I like the looks of the stubble fields where each straws cut off to exactly the same height. There is a kind of beauty in it.
At Phrae we turn off the main road which now takes us by fields of tobacco, cabbage and peppers. A mile across the field a stupa and a great white Buddha look out over the crops. The land then becomes hillier and is covered with more brush and trees. We wind up through a deciduous rain forest, a forest that loses its leaves in the summer. The fallen leaves pile up in the forest, creating a severe fire hazard. Our guide tells us that men work with elephants at night to illegally remove teak trees. Spirit houses at the side of the road indicate people who have died driving this road. Our bus driver prays three time to Buddha for safe passage. The trees become thicker, their leaves gleaming in the afternoon sun. Vines wrap around their trunks, the whole forest becoming a mesh of leaves, branches, fronds, flowers and vines. I enjoy the primitive beauty of it.
The mountains then open to a small high valley which opens into a still larger one. Men walk from the rice fields carrying sacks of rice on their shoulders. Orange-clad monks walk along the road near large trees bearing yellow flowers. Again we climb into more hills where vines crawl over wild banana trees. Huge teak logs lie in a sawmill yard, the largest one with a hole down its center.
We enter the village of Phaya where the crowded umbrellas of the evening market nearly blend into one of all colors. At the edge of town is a huge lake, the largest freshwater lake in Thailand. We stop at a restaurant by the lake for relief and refreshment. While the rest nibble and shop, Dolores and I walk along the lake. Far across it, huge clouds rise over the hazy mountains, the entire scene reflected in the mirror stillness of the water. Fishermen along the wall fish for a white perch.
We walk back on the other side of the street where many food stands are set up, their umbrellas tilting to ward off the still hot, late afternoon sun. Some stands sell soft drinks and Thai whisky while others sell dried squid that dangle on strings. Whole fresh fish from the lake sizzle on barbeques. One stand sells brown eggs, chicken, chicken legs, duck heads, duck legs and dried squid on a stick. Customers sit on mats at low tables in the shade of umbrellas. They almost appear to be sitting on the ground as they eat the food with their hands.
We arrive at our hotel, The Rimkock Resort Hotel at Chiang Rai, at about 6:30. Walking into the hotel is like walking into a grand palace. The resort, only two years old, spreads out over several acres in the country close to the river. Although much newer and more modern in style, the hotel reminds me of the hotel we had stayed in in Manaus, Brazil.
Crickets already chirp in the darkness when we get to our room. As we settle into our luxurious room we celebrate with almost-warm white wine and Dolores’ tiny bottle of scotch with peanuts.
Later in the dining room, appetizers had been laid out beautifully with delicately cut
Vegetables and flowers. I take beef curry on rice, string beans, carrots, boiled potato slices with sesame and red snapper served in a divine sauce. Delicious!

Back near our room a huge green insect waits on the steps, another reminder of Manaus.

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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