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


This is the 18th in a series of articles about a visit to the fascinating country of Thailand


By Charles N. Stevens

We enjoy having the temple grounds largely to ourselves—with no one hurrying us. We sit in the

shade and share a bottle of ice-cold soda water. It’s like sipping a bit of heaven.

We walk back through the stench of the boat dock, walking around the same dog that was in our path before, still sleeping in the same place. Luckily a boat comes right away, crowded as usual with locals and even a few other tourists.

Back in our hotel room we have a lunch of trail mix, peanut butter or cheese on crackers, cookies, bananas, and water. We decide to rest our weary bodies for a while.

By 3 o’clock we’re on our way back to the boat dock for another ride on the express boat. The boat is crowded as usual, but we push ourselves on. After we reach our destination, we walk down to the next dock about 50 feet away to board a small ferry that will take us across the river. The cost is 1 baht, about 4 cents. When the ferry arrives at the dock, it’s full of band members all wearing persimmon and black uniforms with gold epaulets. All the members file off the ferry, their instruments gleaming in the sun.

At the other side of the river, we visit Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, a magnificent tall Cambodian style structure decorated with ceramics. Steep steps lead nearly to its top, but we don’t try to climb them. Many others do, all of them huffing and puffing in the heat. We decide just to amble around the grounds. Several monks write notations in notebooks or read from their book of Buddha in the quiet places around the temple. We had never seen so many cats and dogs at a temple, although most tourist sites around the world have their share. Along the stone wall with gratings a cat fills nearly every niche, most of them asleep. Cats of every color and description, even Siamese cats call the temple their home. The dogs are in bad shape, most of them with bare spots from mange, running sores or general malnutrition. Each dog seems to spend most of its time scratching fleas or its itchy skin. All the cats and dogs are as filthy as old garage rags. No one touches them or disturbs them, none of them showing any fear of anyone, none showing signs of abuse.  The temple also seems to be a meeting place for young couples as many sit on the lawns and talk to each other.

We take the ferry back across the river, then the express boat towards our hotel. Where the express boat docks there is a large outdoor restaurant, the name of which we shall never know because it is spelled out in Thai script. We walk in and are seated at a bench and table near the center. None of the servers speak English except one woman whom we must rely on. We order Singha beer. For dinner Dolores selects chicken fried rice, and I risk a spicy chicken curry with steamed rice. We wait a long time for our order, but the time gives us a good chance to look at the people and absorb the activities at the restaurant. Many families are in the restaurant with their children, and many young couples peer at each other over the smaller tables. We do not see any other “gringos” in the restaurant. Next to us people dine from a shallow oblong tray of vegetables and meat supported in a framework with two small fires beneath it. Others had similar bowls on frameworks.

We enjoy just sitting in the restaurant, watching everything, savoring the

experience. Express boats dock and slide away, the heads of people on the boat passing by us in the dim light, a silver lining around their heads because of the bright lights on the bridge supports. Our meals finally arrive. Dolores’ chicken fried rice is delicious. My chicken curry is Thai-hot, very hot and spicy, but with a very nice flavor. Sweat breaks out on my forehead, cheeks and above my lips, and my face flushes. It’s gorgeous and authentic with clusters of green peppercorns swimming in the sauce.

We stroll home in the dark, the lights of passing cars flickering on the buildings. We pass a small restaurant where people laugh at a table as they drink something red from bottles. Barbequed chicken pieces are ready for sale. People walk in and out of the lights. Back in our room we rest briefly.

At 8 pm we leave on the hotel boat just for a relaxing ride to River City and back. On the way, as we pass the palace, we are treated to an elaborate fireworks display in honor of the king’s birthday. We had never seen anything like it. The pilot stops the boat in the middle of the river so that we can all watch the show. The rockets burst nearly over our heads, the lighted remains and ashes falling in a steady rain into the river. It is a magical display of fireworks, the kind one can become lost in. It is like looking into a wild fantasy or peering into strange dreams.

We pass many dark barges on the river, usually three or four lashed together in a row, the ones going upstream high in the water, the loaded ones floating downstream so low in the water that they almost appear to be sinking. I observe the cabins of each one. Most are dark, but during the fireworks I could see their black shadows on top of the cabin roofs. In one I see a few fluorescent lights, in another a kitchen, in one a hammock. The barges contrast to all the tourist cruises on the river, the dinner cruises with their lights, tables and glassware, the bottles in their bars all neatly arranged near their sterns.

Back in the room we pack a little, then fall exhausted into bed.

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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