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


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


By Charles N. Stevens

We stop at Charrin Gardens, a coffee house by a chocolate-brown river. The proprietors who had lived ten years in the United States bake American type pies for Southeast Asian tastes—passionfruit, corn, taro, pumpkin and even pecan—amazing. Not wanting any pie, Dolores and I walk down to the river then cross it on another unsteady bridge constructed of interwoven slats of split bamboo supported by a steel frame. The grounds contain hundreds of roses of all colors.

Vendors sell fresh corn and barbequed corn on a stick by the side of the road, the stands along the way being good indicators of the types of crops grown in any certain area. Yellow corn cobs hang to dry in large clusters. Piles of golden corn kernels dry on tarps in the sun. Other corn dehydrates on front porches and around the trunks of trees. Mounds of shucked corn cobs rise in front yards, and more is stored in small wooden “houses” or cribs.

We pass another field where women wearing broad sun hats, bending all in a row, whack at the ripe rice plants with their sickles. In California this work would be done by large machines in huge flat fields. It seems to me if they used machines here that it would take all the regularity out of their lives—the planting of rice in flooded fields, the tending of it, cutting, harvesting, and drying. Dealing with rice is woven into their lives.

One village specializes in basketry and brooms. Women sit on the ground and make brooms while a young woman with fifty or so brooms arranged artistically on the back of her motorbike displays her wares.

For nearly ten minutes we stop at steamy natural hot springs. Rotten egg-scented steam rolls out of two hot water vents enclosed in low stone walls. Several women carry small baskets of chicken and quail eggs that tourists can lower into the hot water to hard boil them. The entire area is surrounded with barricades of souvenir stands, cheapening the place considerably.

Heading into the National Forest which our guide tells us still contains wild boar, monkeys, snakes and exotic birds, the scenery again becomes jungle-like. Clouds brush the tops of the mountain peaks. The lush tangle of trees contains the same, red-flowered vines we had seen before and other vines with deep pink morning glory-like flowers. Very little teak grows here. The road winds through some very tall trees that appear to be virgin timber, a rarity.

After reaching the summit we descend toward Chiang Mai. We parallel a clear babbling stream by the roadside and a series of vacation houses belonging to the wealthier citizens of Bangkok. Only a few clouds are scattered in the sunny sky as we look over to see the golden spires of temples protruding from the trees. As we drop in altitude, we see more and more teak trees. Our driver, not wanting to take any chances with his future, again honks three times each time we pass a roadside shrine.

For lunch we stop at the Baan Suan Restaurant where we sit outside on the lawn under the shade of the spreading trees. They serve noodle soup, chicken curry, rice, noodles, sweet and sour fish, bananas and beer.

Moving on, we visit the inevitable “factory” tour where the main idea is to sell the merchandise that they produce, this time a silver “factory”. A few artisans pound at silver pots as we walk in, but mainly we are ushered into an immense show room with long glass cases of silver objects, most of which seemed to have been made somewhere else.

From the silver “factory” we drive on to a silk “factory”. After seeing a film on the manufacturing of silk, we pass through a room where several young people pull and clack at looms in a frenzy of activity, the work difficult in the hot stuffy room. Most of the silk that we see in the air-conditioned show room had been made by machine, not by sweaty people on hand looms.

Our last “factory” of the day is about the making of umbrellas, parasols, and fans. We watch them gather linty material on frames in water which they allow to dry. When dry, they peel the material off the frame like a piece of paper or parchment, a tough translucent material. Workers carefully split bamboo to form the frame of the parasol and the raising and lowering mechanism. Other workers dye the paper, apply it skillfully to the umbrella frame, then decorate it with painted flowers and other scenes. The colors are dazzling and their production is very interesting to us.

At close to 5 pm we arrive at the Empress Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city. Luckily the hotel is located near the center of town. The resort gives us a nice room on the fifth floor with a fine view of the city and the mountains beyond. Exhausted, we lie down and drift off to sleep.

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