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


This is the fifteenth in a series of articles about a trip to the fascinating country of Thailand


By Charles N. Stevens

We had slept well except for the alarm clock beeping in the middle of the night, rousing us out of our dreams. It’s dark outside when we wake up, the skies appearing to be cloudy or at least partly cloudy.

Down in the breakfast area the same wonderful array of food is laid out for us. I take mounds of potatoes, not only because I like them, but because they seem so nourishing, so soothing. We also have some nice cinnamon pastry along with some of the dishes we had had yesterday. I wash my usual morning pills down with passion fruit juice.

In the dim light outside, the streets appear to be damp, even puddly, as though they had been washed down by a gentle shower not long ago. In our rooms we pack all our belongings for the air flight back to Bangkok. The rising sun reflects golden lights from the windows of the taller office buildings, an electric sign atop a tall white office building across town still blinking on and off as if it were night.

At 7:30 am a rather rickety bus picks us up to take us to the airport, our group barely fitting into the small interior. I take a high seat in the very back of the bus, the arctic air conditioning blasting directly on my head.

We arrive at the Chiang Mai airport, a very modern facility with polished composite floors, huge glass windows and echoes. While waiting in the terminal, I take my walk, striding the length of the building five times. We wait upstairs in the departure lounge for our flight. From the windows I can see the tail of our Airbus poking over the top of the jetway. Beyond the airport is a near-jungle, the hills behind them dimmed in haze and low clouds. Most of us sit in plastic bucket chairs, the chatter of the tourists and their footsteps echoing around the room. Music sounds softly from speakers in the ceiling. Occasionally we check the color TV monitor listing all the flights.

A woman wearing a yellow uniform traces figure eights on the floor with her mop, releasing the pungent smell of some extra-strength cleaner. People carry hand luggage, flower bouquets and plastic bags stuffed with souvenirs and gifts. We’re surrounded by ads—Singha beer with its ad “Compliment spicy Thai food with refreshing Thai beer”, the Bangkok Bank, and Scotch whisky.

Near 9:30 am we board our Thai Airways Airbus featuring Royal Orchid Service. Inside the plane all the seats are orchid, the interior beige. Peeking through the plane window, I see that only a few clouds are widely scattered across the sky, no storms in sight. Off at 9:55 am, we look down on green fields and muddy rivers, even a hill featuring a temple and a Buddha. The gentle curves of the rivers contrast with the sharp-angled geometry of the airport runways below. Small cloud shadows creep across the land.

The cabin crew swings into action almost immediately, presenting us with box lunches decorated with an orchid motif. Inside each box are two “dates”, three yellow balls that seem to be fruit, and are rather sweet, two of what appear to be apple turnovers, but probably are not, and a tiny container of orange juice. I eat the “dates” and the round yellow balls and drink the juice. Dolores and I slip our “apple turnovers” into her purse for future reference. The busy attendants quickly serve tea and coffee.

By 10:40 am we begin letting down for Bangkok, our ears snapping and popping. Below, the land looks hazy and steamy with fuzzy dabs of clouds floating over the green fields.

Our bus meets us at the airport, transporting us through the traffic to the Royal River Hotel where we are assigned once again to a lovely room with a balcony overlooking the Chao Prya River. Once inside our air-cooled room we assemble our second lunch, our “apple turnovers” from the plane which turn out to be filled with meat and vegetables, and bananas we had taken from our previous hotel in Chiang Mai.

At 1 pm we leave the hotel with another couple and a single woman, picking our way through the hot sun to the local shuttle boat station, about two blocks away. We buy our tickets from a little lady standing on the floating dock which is lifting and pitching in the waves kicked up by boat traffic on the Chao Prya. The fare is 4 bahts each, or about 17 cents. We wait on metal benches attached to the dock, riding up and down on the ripples and waves. Finally, our boat arrives, a long slender steel boat with a full-length cover over the passengers. The man at the wheel swings the stern around to the rubber tire fenders attached to the dock, at which time people jump on and off. Then the stern swings away again, the green water in between the dock and the boat widening. The stern then meets the dock again, and more people leap on or off. When the stern brushes the dock, and the waves are in the right place, we spring onto the boat, clutching our little paper tickets. The boat boy in the rear blows a shrill whistle, each series of blasts communicating with the pilot, telling him how he must maneuver the boat. We bob up and down, hanging on, caught in a whirl of sounds, the piercing of the whistle, the throbbing of the engine, the roiling and splashing of the river, the shouts of the people, the grating of the floating dock sliding up and down on its metal pilings.

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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