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


This is the 17th in a series of articles about a visit to the fascinating country of Thailand


By Charles N. Stevens

Except for a few squiggles of cirrus clouds, the morning dawns clear in Bangkok. We waste no time in getting downstairs to breakfast. I begin with a Thai breakfast of greens on rice, mixed vegetables, and kimchi, then finish with fruit and a croissant with marmalade. Dolores has nearly the same.

After a short rest, Dolores and I walk down to the dock in front of our hotel where a shuttle boat is about to leave. We are 5 minutes early, but they won’t let us on, the rules being very precise. With the 5 minutes past we step on the boat with one other passenger. The pilot toots his shrill horn, looks around for any late passengers scurrying to the boat, then heads down the river. So far, with a nice breeze blowing, the day does not seem quite as hot. We cruise down the river very slowly, our seats quite comfortable. In the sparkling air, we see each bank of the river very clearly—the poor houses that look as though they are ready to collapse into the river, the vegetable market boats of every description, grand hotels, restaurants, and parked river barges. A man races by us in a long sleek boat loaded with greens for the market.

We arrive at the River City Dock, a mall, largely dark because of the king’s birthday, a national holiday. We don’t want to shop anyway, so we walk past a series of outdoor food stands to the Sheraton Royal Orchid Hotel, its lobby full of flowering orchids, greenery, and koi fish gracefully swimming in a clear pool.

Outside again, we take another slow shuttle boat to the Hotel Oriental, a very old hotel, modernized through the years into a first-class establishment. Since author Somerset Maugham had once stayed at the hotel, a Somerset Maugham Room has been set aside in his honor. Prince Charles and Diana had also been guests as well as many other celebrities and royalty. We are particularly interested in a special reading room founded in honor of Jeffrey Archer, an author and member of the House of Lords in England. The comfortable room is furnished with setees, chairs, a desk, floor lamp and a large glass-fronted bookcase full of good books, including those by Jeffrey Archer.

As we walk out of the back of the hotel, taxi drivers descend upon us, wanting to take us anywhere. As we walk along the street, a man carrying a cellular phone warns us that we should not walk where it is not safe, a ploy to get us to use a cab.

We finally find the dock for the express boat, the dock almost a temple-like structure still being built. We wait a long time on the bobbing floating dock, but we see no boat. We move back from the dock to wait in the shade, but boat soon arrives, and we jump on to join the crowds.

We get off the boat at a station near Wat Pho Temple. We walk inside a large wooden structure lined with food stands and poorly lit shops. A dog sleeps in the middle of the walkway, undisturbed by the people walking around him. Out in the street again we meet the searing heat and the stench of drying fish and seafood. We pass large wicker baskets of dried fish, squid, and shrimp, all contributing to the smell of the street, an odor so powerful that we almost gag on it. We breathe only through our mouths.

Walking on to a busy intersection, we can see the temple we have come to visit. Several young men come up to us, telling us that the temple is closed today because of the national holiday. We push through them, not waiting for their suggestions as to what we should do instead, like taking one of their taxis somewhere else. We cross the street to the white outer wall of the temple where we find out that it is indeed open. We pay 10 bahts, about 40 cents for our tickets, and walk in. The young men had lied to us. Especially upset, Dolores wants to go back and give them a piece of her mind.

We remove our shoes, and walk into the temple of the reclining Buddha, a 150 ft. Buddha covered with gold. It is one of the most stupendous sights I have ever seen, stunning to look at. I gaze on the Buddha’s face, especially his serene smile. The inner peace reflected by the smile seems to relax me.  Worshippers pray amid the strong scent of incense smoke. They bow on the floor, dip unopened lotus blossoms in water, and apply gold leaf to small statues. So many people have applied gold leaf to the statues that the gold appears to have been put on with a putty knife. The filmy parts of the gold leaves that have not stuck ripple in the breeze. The reclining Buddha’s feet are imprinted with hundreds of designs and pictures fashioned of inlaid mother of pearl.

On the other side of the Buddha people buy about 100 small coins that are weighed out to an exact amount. They then walk along the wall where a long line of iron kettles or buckets have been set out, dropping a single coin in each of the buckets. Each bucket has a slightly different tone as the coins drop in, the continuous dropping of many coins at once in the different buckets creating an eerie tinkling music that resounds throughout the temple.

Outside, we stroll around the grounds looking at the rest of the fine smaller temples and stupas, the stupas all covered with ceramic tiles, some in the shape of raised flower blossoms. Fortune tellers abound on the premises along with astrologers and palm readers, even a woman who sells small birds that are brought in confined to a cage, then released, for a price, for good luck. The astrologist has written questions in large letters on a board—”Do you wonder why you work hard and are still poor? Do you know why your life seems to move around like a gypsy? Does romance just come for a while then always go away? Do you wonder why others are promoted ahead of you? He claims to have all the answers.

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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