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


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


By Charles N. Stevens

I ‘m up at 5 am, but Dolores remains in bed, still a bit under the weather She decides to skip breakfast and the day’s events.

I go down to breakfast, helping myself to fried potatoes, wiener-like sausages, scrambled eggs, a kind of “taquito”, bananas and passion fruit juice.

The air is almost cool when I leave on the bus with the group at 7 am. Although the skies are clear, a few low clouds wallow around the hills and canyons. We join the “waking up”of Chiang Mai, merging with its flow of cars, motorbikes, some with two or three people on them, pedicabs, small pickup trucks converted to busses, the people jammed into what resembles a low camper shell. The dogs wake up, stretching and prowling. The outdoor markets bustle. Trees are mirrored in a quiet canal where magenta water lilies bloom. We pass many houses with the crossed beams at the apex of the roofs, northern-style houses. The guide explains that originally the crossed and decorated beams may have had some religious significance, but no one today knows what it is.

As we roll through the countryside again, the hills toward the sun are cut off by a low streamer of clouds. Vendors sell watermelons along the country roads, piling them in great green pyramids. As we climb into the hills, clouds nestle in some of the valleys, and hide some of the peaks.

We are greeted by a cool wind when we get off the bus at the elephant camp. The huge animals stand in a compound of well-compacted earth, some of them tied to stakes. Young men bring the elephants up to a loading platform one at a time. They sit on their necks, their feet nestled just behind their ears, guiding them. The tourists line up on the bank, walk gingerly out to the loading platform, then two at a time, mount the elephant, the ritual taking place with a great deal of apprehension and nervousness, with much joking, laughing and screaming. Once boarded, the elephant with the tourists on its back waddles down a muddy path, slowly walking toward the river.

Not wanting to ride an elephant, I walk along another mud path to a kind of coffee shop, to its outside deck that overlooks the river. Benches and tables are on the deck ,shaded by large green umbrellas trembling in the light wind. As soon as I sit down at one of the quiet tables, a brown dog ambles slowly over to “adopt” me. After looking at me for a few moments, he curls up at my feet, and goes to sleep.

I listen to the babble of the Mae Ping River and the babble of the guides talking at the far end of the deck. Somewhere nearby a rooster crows in a high pitiful voice. The small muddy river flows quite swiftly, making a long tremulous V pattern around a snag just below the deck. Trees shrubs and vines grow luxuriantly down to the river’s edge. Some trees protrude far above the forest canopy, bursting out into the open air and sunlight. A yellow butterfly hovers over the river, the sunlight making silver ripples on the murky water behind it. More butterflies flutter along the top of the foliage. Thin clouds race across the open space above me, the breeze releasing leaves that fall to the water, and float away with the current. The trees and shrubs seem alive in the ruffling wind. The dog wakes up, stretches, then walks away from me as he can see by my aloofness that I’m not interested in him.

I amuse myself by looking at the antics of a chained-up gibbon then watch them feed bananas to the elephants. Some of the baby elephants throw dirt over their backs with their trunks. Chickens scratch in the copious elephant dung then peck at it, looking for bits to eat. Adult and juvenile elephants stand around in their chains by the trees, one of them lifting his chain with his trunk in a vain attempt to throw it over his head. A girl gives money to one of the elephants. He quickly carries it to the banana stand where he “buys” bananas which he eats immediately. He then trots back to the people around him, begging for more money.

I watch the bathing of the elephants at the river. As the\beasts partially or totally submerge, the young men throw baskets of water on them. One elephant sprays himself with his trunk while another trumpets loudly. We also watch working elephants moving huge teak logs.

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

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 43 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