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


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


By Charles N. Stevens

Dark humid clouds cover the sky, the lower ones slithering around the mountains, but the temperature is almost pleasant.

At breakfast we are presented with another artistic assortment of food— fried rice, pancakes, sausages, tiny, sweet rolls, bacon, and fruit.

After breakfast we stroll around the garden-like grounds of the hotel, and peer out over the banks of the river. The water in the river seems low, muddy sand bars peeking through the water everywhere. The river scene is a primitive contrast to the order and beauty of the hotel grounds.

After a brief visit to our hotel room, we again go out, this time for a real walk. Just as we start, we are greeted with the soft rattle of rain, sending us into the shelter of covered walkways. When the rain stops, we move out into the open again, the small interwoven concrete blocks of the walks still damp from the shower. Walking among the trees and flowers is very pleasant. We duck under the covered walkways once again to avoid a passing shower, the low drumbeat of thunder rumbling somewhere in the distance. Even with the clouds the grounds are attractive and full of color with bougainvillea and other white and lavender flowers that I had never seen before, a true paradise carved out of jungle.

We leave the hotel at about 8:30 am. the clouds sagging low as the bus pulls out on to the wet streets. We pass a house with a thatched roof all by itself near the rice fields. Children are lined up in orderly rows on the lawns of several schools. They sing the national anthem and recite prayers before school starts, as water buffaloes graze nearby in a grassy lot.

Arriving at a village of thatched huts in the mountains, we have our first glimpse of where the Akha people live. Aggressive children try to sell us little nets, bracelets and even flowers. The tribe originated in China but moved through the hills into Thailand so that they could preserve their own culture. Some of the women wear colorful costumes, one of them carrying a baby in a sling-like shawl on her back. Many of them sell trinkets and dolls, not of their own making, at crude stands. Hens with chicks trailing after them have the run of the encampment. From their village we look out on the jungle-covered mountains and forests of bamboo, banana trees, teak, egg-plant trees, and others I can’t name.

Passing in one door and out the other, we visit one of their homes. With the light of only two candles, the house is quite dark inside. In the feeble glow of the candles, I make out a long, matted rack used for a bed. The kitchen is a wood fire on the floor with a round frame on top for setting pots. A small flame burns under a pot, the house permeated with the smell of smoke which is said to keep the termites away.

We drive a short ways through the mountains to the village of the Lisu people where they have much better facilities, including electricity and television. They also don’t try to sell us anything. Many of them live in thatched roof houses with woven bamboo fences. The people are generally dressed well without any distinctive costumes. Pigs root in an enclosure. We are surprised to see a Baptist church near the middle of their compound. The village is dominated by the sound of school children, some of them yelling out of the open windows of the small school. Children must attend school through the 6th grade. Many of the students are very curious about who we are, and what we are doing there. Their teacher, dressed in village garb, appears serene, but almost aloof from the children, as though she doesn’t know how to control their boundless energy.

Traveling over muddy roads through rice fields, our bus slips and slides, our wheels sometimes spinning in the muck. This takes us to the Yao people, the last of the mountain tribes we shall see today. They wear very colorful costumes— red, black and some white. They have their souvenir stands all set up with attractive articles. We buy three dolls. They talk to us from the stands, sometimes loudly but not aggressively, none of them overbearing. For a long time, we watch women weaving and cutting their village costumes.

For lunch we stop at a restaurant called Ton Nam, built over a pond and approached over a foot bridge. Polished wooden floors decorate the inside. Like a shrine, the ceiling and eaves are also of polished wood with wooden figures. We begin with a nice soup of broth with mushrooms followed by spicy sweet and sour pork, rice, a whole barbequed fish sliced diagonally so that the meat is crispy, and a platter of mixed vegetables. We end with a long tray of beautifully cut fresh pineapple. The hills around us are covered with jungle, a few cumulus clouds floating over the mountains

On the move again, we roll along the road under a clearing sky, the sky very blue, and the visibility excellent. We stop near Chiang Rae, at the city of Maesei on the Burmese or Myanmar border. A bridge passes over the river which is the border between Thailand and Burma. A sign on the bridge reads “Welcome to Myanmar”. A regular stream of cars, small trucks and motor bikes flows both ways over the bridge, but we’re warned not to cross it as we might never be able to get back into Thailand. The street near the border is crowded, and the sun now burns in with a vengeance. Stands along the street sell everything from garlic, bracelets, cooked sausage, and cooked ducks to dried squid and fruits of all kinds. Pedicabs and motor bikes, some with people raising umbrellas against the hot sun, race along the street raising small clouds of dust. The asphalt appears to have been flooded with muddy water that has dried out in the sun.

We leave town at about 2:20 pm. We are near the Golden Triangle, the area including parts of Thailand, Burma and Laos where the opium poppy is grown. The guide explains to us that now most of the opium poppies and marijuana is raised in Burma and Laos. Refined opium had come into Thailand at Chiang Mai where it was then transported to Bangkok to Eastern Europe to the United States. As we climb into a hilly area, the clouds gather again, becoming very dark on the horizon.

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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