October 31, 1961 – Thailand

Rama Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand – Clear, warm

     I woke up feeling good today and anxious to see more of Thailand.  While getting ready to go eat Edith made small talk about something she said she had forgotten to put in her letter to the Herald but the problem was she hadn’t been there to see it.  So I knew she had used the letter I had started to Ramona to copy which wasn’t the first time.  I knew I would just have to keep them hidden after this all the time.

      At breakfast Mr. Herdsman had given us a warning about how we were to dress in preparation for our tour today.  He told us that men should wear a coat and necktie and ladies were requested to avoid slacks and shorts.  He’d also told us that movie cameras would not be allowed when we went to see some places. 

      As we walked outside this morning to leave on our tour at 9:30am I noticed that it had rained during the night and made the air smell very fresh. 

     Bangkok it turned out was a city of wats, Buddha’s and baubles.  Mr. Herdsman informed us that according to the last census there were over 300 wats or temples all over in splendid and ornate profusion.  He said Bangkok’s Buddha’s came in an assortment of positions such as sitting or reclining and were made of various materials including emerald and solid gold. 

      Our tour today took us first to see the world famous Wat Phra Keo or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  The guide explained that this Buddha had long been venerated by Buddhist and non-Buddhist travelers alike, having first come to light in Siam in the 15th century.  He told us it had been stolen by the Laotians and was later recovered by King Rama I who then installed it in the current temple where we saw it.  The king used this temple as his personal place of worship.  In truth it turned out to be made of a huge piece of Jasper rather than emerald and was guarded by bronze lions but it was fantastic nevertheless.  I had seen many Buddha’s on the trip so far but this turned out to be my favorite one. 

Wat Phra Keo Temple of Emerald Buddha

Temples with Emerald Buddha

      After spending time enjoying the Emerald Buddha, we went to see the Grand Palace which was likewise quite beautiful.  The construction had begun in 1782 under the reign of King Rama I.  Here in Bangkok we’d seen so many beautiful places and today just added to the total magnificence we’d experienced here. 

Bangkok Temple on Palace Grounds

Part of the Grand Palace

Model of Angkor Wat Ruins found in Cambodia

      After our morning tour we returned to the hotel where we were to have the rest of the day to ourselves.  We all had lunch together and then went our separate ways.  I made plans to go shopping again with Ethel later since Edith told me she wanted to rest all afternoon.  Edith and I returned to our room where she laid down on her bed and I decided to finish my letter to Ramona:

      Oct 31, Happy Halloween.  We just got back from the last tour in Bangkok and this was the most fabulous of all – just like fairy land.  This temple and there are many temples houses the Emerald Buddha, an emerald 24 inches high carved into the Buddha.  I took 10 pictures and then didn’t get everything I wanted.  Everything is gold paint on solid gold standards.  If the Commies every get Bangkok they will melt all these gold things down for sure. 

     Edith is still writing to the newspaper but yesterday I had this letter lying in the drawer.  This morning she said, “Oh! I forgot to put in my news letter how the people jumped in the canal while it was raining.”  So I knew she had read my letter because it so happened that she did not see that.  She hasn’t asked me to do any more letters for the Herald but I found she is copying mine and sending them in as hers – not lacking in nerve.  I’ll have to be more careful. 

     This afternoon Ethel and I are going shopping.  They have gold here very cheap but the little charms are about the same price all over.  We will go to a Thai silk place where I bought a little silver necklace and white enamel earrings. 

     I’ve missed two of your letters so far.  One in Hong Kong and one in Manila.  I got a letter from Anna W telling me how things are.  We go on to Calcutta tomorrow.  Open the packages from Singapore.  The red material is for Janice for a dress.  It is hand woven. 

Have a happy birthday, Love Mother

     After finishing the letter I made a point of sealing it up to mail out when I went downstairs.  I was tempted to leave it out for Edith to read so she would know that I know what she was doing but I didn’t.  Instead Ethel and I met up at 2pm as planned and headed out by cab to the Thai silk area where I’d been the day before.  Today I wound up buying two ties and Ethel bought some material.  I liked what she bought but resisted the temptation to go buy the same material too.  I found out that a baht is a tical and a tical is a nickel in American money.  After shopping we explored a little further where we found a fish market and a gem cutting factory that was interesting to see in action.  Ethel and I then visited the Thai Silk Factory where we enjoyed watching silk being made.  Ethel and I had had a great time walking around together and I found we got on very well.

Ethel and Our Tour of Silk Factory in Bangkok

Another View of Ethel During Tour of Silk Factory in Bangkok

Bangkok Basket Shop

     Back at my hotel room I found Edith awake and looking well rested.  She asked me if I’d mailed my letter and then seemed disappointed when I told her I had made a point of mailing it on my way out.  I lay down on my bed to rest till it was time to go to dinner.  It felt good to put my feet up after walking around so much earlier today.

      Dinner came and went and was very good.  After dinner Edith wanted to go along with a few others to see some entertainment but I stayed behind with Flo, Curt and Ethel.  We decided to play some Canasta before turning in for the night.  We were going to have to get up early to leave for Calcutta and I didn’t feel like making it a late night. 

      I was in bed and asleep by the time Edith finally came in.  I was sure Edith would be tired in the morning after being out so late.

October 30, 1961 – Thailand

Rama Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand – Clear

     Today had to get up early again so we could get some breakfast before leaving on a boat trip up the Chao Phya River. 

      We boarded a private launch to take the ride and see the picturesque scenes of native canal life.  The river had many canals for boats to use as their principal transportation thoroughfares since they are economical.  Our trip took five hours and was really something to see.  We started off seeing Wat Arun, Temple of the Dawn, who had been given that name because at first light of morning the temple had a reflection of pearly iridescence.  This Buddhist temple was one of Thailand’s most famous landmarks.

Chao Phya River by Motor Boat

First View of Wat Aroon, Temple of Dawn

Temple of Dawn

Temple of Dawn Detail Made from Broken Dishes and Pottery

      After seeing that and several other temples we went on to see the canal of floating markets.  There were hundreds of floating boats and they were all very colorful. Many boats had food for sale while some had people washing dishes, babies, themselves and their clothes, all in the same river.  I really enjoyed this portion of the trip and found it fascinating.  We stopped at several of the boats to shop and purchase things we liked.

Bangkok, Thailand Klongas Canal and Market

Bangkok Floating Market

Another View of Bangkok Floating Market

Third View of Bangkok Floating Market

      Our boat trip also gave us a chance to see two Royal barges being prepared for a big celebration.  The royal transports were regal, long and narrow with a golden swan head on the bowsprit.  Mr. Herdsman told us one of the barges was to be used to carry the king and the statue of the Buddha for the celebration.  Both were so colorful and impressive to see that I wished I could have ridden on one of them.

Golden Swan Royal Barge

Another View of Golden Swan Royal Barge

      We were free to do what we wanted in the afternoon after we returned from our trip so as usual Edith and I decided to do some shopping.  Mr. Herdsman had recommended a little area where shopping would be good so we took a taxi to see what we could find.  We spent several hours wandering from shop to shop looking at all the little items for sell.  When we finally returned to our hotel I was quite pleased with the earrings and necklace I had purchased. 

      Dinner was good and afterward we spent the remainder of the evening playing Canasta with Curt and Flo.  It was a pleasant change of pace for us to be able to play cards quietly and talk about things we were seeing on our trip.  Edith and Flo thought the Golden Buddha was the most impressive things we’d seen in Thailand so far whereas I liked the floating markets best.

      When I went to bed I remembered that I still had to finish my letter to Ramona and promised myself I would get it done the next day.  I wanted to get it mailed while we were in Bangkok.

October 29, 1961 – Thailand

Royal Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand – Clear but rain at noon

     We had some of the morning to ourselves so it felt good to be able to sleep late for a change.  I slept hard all night despite the nap I’d taken yesterday afternoon but Edith didn’t because of her cast.  I liked taking my time to get ready today.  We dressed slowly, had breakfast in our room and then organized ourselves for our move to the Rama Hotel after lunch this afternoon.  We’d been put up at the Royal Hotel overnight since we had arrived a day early and our intended hotel wasn’t ready for us. 

     Our first stop was the Buddhist temple called Wat Pho (for short) and the reclining Buddha located near the Grand Palace.  It was one of the largest and oldest wats in Bangkok and originally it was center of education for learning traditional Thai medicine.  The wat or temple was impressive.

Reclining Buddha in Bangkok

Another View of Reclining Buddha

      The reclining Buddha was the first of many temples we went to see that afternoon.  We saw the Golden Mount Temple and then finally the five ton solid gold Buddha at Wat Traimit.  That Buddha was the most impressive of all the ones we visited that day.  The statue was almost 10ft tall and was made of 5 tons of solid gold.  At one spot on the temple grounds we had a chance to see some monks in their orange robes.  I found it very interesting.

5 Ton Goldn Buddha

Gold Leaf Buddha in Bangkok

Bangkok Temples

More Bangkok Temples

Another View of Bangkok Temples

Still One More View of Bangkok Temples

Temple Monks in Bangkok

Bangkok Temple Stupas

Second View of Bangkok Temple Stupas

Third View of Bangkok Temple Stupas

Bangkok Temple Wats

Another View of Bangkok Temple Wats

      While touring the city we passed a Chinese Buddhist funeral procession.  The hearse was quite ornate.  It was preceded by some large floral pieces and a huge roasted pig.  The hearse was followed by decorated light trucks filled with cases of soft drinks, and I presume, other food for the mourners to eat after the interment.  Most of the mourners were on foot.  

      Our touring done we returned to our Royal Hotel for a light lunch.  Afterwards as it started to rain hard we were transferred to the Rama Hotel for the remainder of our stay in Bangkok.  The Rama Hotel turned out to be a wonderful improvement over the other one because despite being beautiful it was very modern and we’d been given a terrific room.

      After check in we had free time so Edith went to our room to rest and Ethel went with me to do some window shopping since the rain had tapered off.  The shopping was fun but after awhile we just started wandering the streets people watching.  The Siamese people were small of stature, very polite and all seemed to have a smiling nature. 

      We returned to our hotel with just enough time to clean up for dinner.  Our meal was good and it was accompanied by music and dancing.  While eating Mr. Herdsman told us that since the Siamese people lived in such a hot climate their dances tended to have slow movements.  He said both sexes dance but they never dance together which I thought that was different.  Mr. Herdsman also told us that Thailand had compulsory education for children from 6 to 14 years of age.  We all agreed that their promotion of education was advanced and to be commended.

      Dinner done, Edith and I returned to our room to spend the remainder of evening relaxing and catching up on our correspondence.  I realized I hadn’t written Ramona and her family for several days so I decided to take some time before going to bed to write them a letter:

 Oct 29, 1961 – Bangkok, Thailand

Dear Ramona and Everybody;

     This is to save my strength.  This hotel is not so much on the outside but one of the nicest rooms we’ve had.  Just built and very modern.  In Saigon our hotel was very modern also.  We came to Bangkok a day early due to the closing of the Cambodian border. 

     Last night we stayed at the Royal Hotel which was very nice but old.  When we got in I was so tired I lay down and went fast asleep – slept for 2 hours – then Bob came to the door and said don’t forget dinner at 7:30pm at the Caravan Hotel.  It was Edith’s birthday and she did not know it but a party was planned.  We dressed and all took the bus over.  The Hotel Caravan is quite grand, the grounds are beautiful and fountains, etc.  We had a lovely dinner, the music was very good singers American style.  Then the floor show came on – Siamese dancers and music – the costumes were more beautiful than the Bali or Java dancers but the dancers were much the same type of thing.  Very good though.  Then the waiters brought in a huge decorated birthday cake with candles and Bob had Edith come up to the bandstand and introduced her.  She got a big hand which pleased her very much.  The whole thing was done very nice.

     If it wasn’t for all the time we spend in airports going thru customs – all the time spent in hotel lobbies waiting for our rooms to be assigned and then again in airports waiting for planes – we would not be so tired.  Then as I look back I find myself thinking all I can remember is the dining rooms.  Breakfast anywhere from 6 to 9am, lunch 12 to 2pm and dinner 6 to 8pm.  And the planes, food trays every time we get on regardless of the time. 

     Saigon is a nice clean place and the hotel beautiful.  We had a roof garden there where I was proud to say I climbed the circular stairs and took a picture.  This was very high in the air.  My stomach did flip flops but I did it anyway.  The dining room very modern done in yellow, orange, green, black with modern stained glass doors and a fountain and garden patio.  Also  stand for music which was very good.  The food good also. 

     We have an extra day here and if I buy anymore material I hope I cut my throat.  If I don’t you probably will when I get home.  Lots of gold and silver here.  I don’t know how expensive.  We visited temples this morning and Buddha’s.  I’m sick of them.  The reclining Buddha is huge.  I bought a picture and took some of the buildings.  Then the sitting Buddha which was just gold painted, then the solid gold Buddha.  I was so tired by this time I took a picture found it was set for panorama and had to take another.  This Buddha is over 5 tons of solid gold.  It rained today like a cloud burst for about an hour and half. 

     This afternoon Ethel and I walked through the market which was like the farmers market.  All kinds of food fish and foul meats – dried cooked and raw.  Very interesting and very smelly.  The streets all have canals with boats.  While it was pouring rain people were walking around the streets with their ordinary clothes, no rain clothes – every once in awhile someone would jump in the canal, of course the children never stopped swimming and playing.  Most of the money I am spending goes for stamps – so there. 

     Will write more later before mailing this letter.

      My hand got a little cramped from writing so I resolved to postpone finishing my letter till tomorrow.  I left my letter on the table and went to take a bath before I headed to bed.

Postcard from Vietnam

Hotel Caravelle, Vietnam

October 28, 1961 – Vietnam

Caravelle Hotel, Saigon, Vietnam – Clear and rain

      I woke up feeling refreshed and rested this morning although Edith didn’t.  She seemed to have trouble getting comfortable sleeping with her cast on and she woke up several times during the night.  After packing my things up and helping Edith pack up her suitcase we joined our tour group for breakfast.  Once our meal was done we were to do some touring before leaving in the afternoon for Thailand (previously called Siam).

     At breakfast Edith reminded me that I had been invited to go to the home of a Lieutenant I’d met on the airplane at the start of my tour.  He had been so kind as to give me his card and invite me to come to his home to meet his family.  I regretted that I wouldn’t get a chance to see him again because it would have been fun to visit with him. 

      Our bus loaded up to leave on our morning tour and I felt sorry for Edith because she felt miserable.  I was glad for her sake that we weren’t going to be doing much touring today.  Our exploration of the city took us to see various historical buildings, various temples and gave us a good perspective of the area.  It was interesting to compare this culture with what we had seen in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.  At one stop we happened on a Palanquin funeral procession that had a lot of pomp and circumstance to it so I was glad we were able to stop and watch it for awhile.  The Palanquin was very colorful and I wondered who the funeral was for but I knew he or she had to have been someone of substance.  While some of the people were dressed up many weren’t. 

River in Saigon

Temple in Saigon

Temple Grounds in Saigon

Temple Mosaic in Saigon

Another View of the Temple Mosaic in Saigon

Palanguin Funeral Procession

Another View of the Palanguin Funeral Procession

Third View of Palanguin Funeral Procession

      On the way to the airport several of us wanted to stop at a store to do a little shopping and get stamps.  A few people went to a liquor store but those who purchased some said they found alcohol products were very expensive.  I bought some stamps so I could mail the letters I had waiting to send out while I was still in Saigon.  I really wanted Patrick to have stamps from Viet Nam along with the ones I’d gotten him from the other countries. 

Saigon Market Place

Another View of Market Place

      We didn’t have a long wait at the airport before we boarded our Thai-Royal Orchid Air Service plane to travel to Bangkok.  During our comfortable flight the stewardess made her way down the aisle handing out orchid corsages to each woman and they were so beautiful.  The stewardesses were dressed in orchid colored uniforms consistent with the name of their airlines and each one treated us very well on the whole trip. 

      I was seated next a Mr. Ishida of Tokyo who worked for a company called Electric Power Development, LTD.  After we introduced ourselves we visited for awhile and I learned quite a bit.  Initially he told me that earlier he had been in Washington, D.C. for two years to negotiate a loan for his government.  When I inquired about the war he explained that Red China currently surrounds Saigon and due to the existing conflict the borders in and out of Cambodia had been closed to traffic.  I explained we were getting into Bangkok a day earlier than planned just because of that reason.  He said he regretted that we wouldn’t be able to see Cambodia because there were some wonderful things to see there.

      From my window seat I could see a little of the countryside and the pilot pointed out we were flying over the Mekong River district where there had been floods over the previous week.  Mr. Ishida added that our plane had to fly out over the South China Sea to avoid crossing over Cambodia because we weren’t supposed to enter their air space.  It made me wonder what would happen if a plane did make that mistake.

     While we waited at the airport for our bags I had time to admire how it was decorated in silver and turquoise blue.  I really liked the color combination.  Once we had our luggage and passed through customs we made our way to the bus.  Driving through the streets of Bangkok I found everything looked new and clean with the color of the buildings predominately in pastel shades.  Our guide for this portion of the tour was Mr. Herdsman who told us that the city was so spread out that no one could really tell where the center was.  He also mentioned to us that the metropolis had a population of one and a half million people.

      Our destination, the Royal Hotel, was very nice but old.  At check in I was given three letters from home and it pleased me a lot.  One letter was from Harry White and the other two from Ramona.  Once we got into our room Edith and I only unpacked a few things before lying down on our respective beds to take a nap.  I didn’t even read my letters.  Before I knew it I heard Bob knocking on our door to remind us it was almost time to meet in the lobby for dinner.  I helped Edith change and I made sure she looked extra special nice because today was her birthday and tonight was a celebration for her.  She didn’t know that the dinner tonight was a surprise party for her set up by Mr. Herdsman. 

      The bus took us to the Caravan Hotel for our dinner celebration.  The hotel was quite grand and what we could see of the grounds was covered with elaborate beautiful fountains.  Our meal turned out to be close to gourmet quality and we all devoured everything they brought us.  While we ate singers entertained us by playing American style music.  After eating we were treated to a floor show with Siamese dancers whose costumes had heavy jewels and were more beautiful than the Bali or Java dancers we’d seen.  Although their costumes were different the dancing seemed very much the same. 

      Once the dancing was over Edith started to get up but no one else did so she sat down.  Once she was seated again the waiters brought in a huge decorated cake with candles and placed it on a table on the stage.  Bob called Edith to join him up on the stage.  After she was up there Bob introduced her to everyone eating in the dining room and then announced we were going to celebrate her birthday.  She was surprisingly shy when it came time for her to speak before cutting the cake.  Everyone gave her a big hand and sang “happy birthday” to her when she tried to blow out the candles on the cake.  Edith had a big smile on her face and I was glad the celebration had cheered her up because she’d been depressed a since getting hurt.   In fact she seemed happier than I’d seen her in several days.

      After dinner we returned to our room for the night.  I helped Edith take a bath and then I soaked in the tub for a long time.  When I’d finished my bath I noticed that Edith had already fallen asleep so I was able to lie in bed and quietly read and reread my letters from home.  It was good to read the general happenings from home again.  Ramona was good about writing nice long letters with lots of details.  Reading her words made me relax and not be quite so homesick tonight.

      Having finished reading I had no trouble in going to sleep.

Postcard from Singapore

Singapore Town Hall

Dear Janice,

     These are unusal stamps.  The weather is good.  We are having a good time and this place is fabulous.

Much love, Grandma

October 27, 1961 – Singapore

Raffles Hotel, Singapore, Singapore – Clear, warm

      My day began early so I could finish packing, help Edith get ready and meet our tour group in the lobby.  I only had time for a light breakfast in the dining room before I had to board our bus to go to the airport.  I took a last look at the hotel because I was going to miss staying there.  It had been so very nice.

      At the airport we got our tickets and then joined others in the waiting area till it was time to board our plane which turned out to be the largest one we had been on so far, a Pan American.  Our flight only lasted a couple of hours so we were just served beverages and didn’t get a meal.   

      We arrived in Saigon, Viet Nam at 12:25pm and were taken to the Caravelle Hotel without much of the normal delay getting our luggage at the airport.  The hotel was beautiful, very modern and we were told it had only opened a couple of years before.  Walking into the lobby we noticed an extensive use of Italian marble.  I especially appreciated that it had an air conditioning system that felt wonderful and reduced my discomfort from the humid Saigon climate. 

      After checking in and before we went to our rooms Curt called us together to let us know we wouldn’t be able to enter Cambodia, our next scheduled stop.  It seemed they had just closed the border due to problems.  I for one was glad that we hadn’t already flown into Cambodia if there were problems because who knew if we would get out without there being an issue. 

      The afternoon was ours to do with as we wanted so Edith decided to lie down and I decided to walk around, look at the hotel and then shop with Gertrude.  In looking around I found a good spot on the hotel roof garden which had a view of Saigon, however, to get to the roof Gertrude and I had to climb circular stairs.  I was proud of myself that I was able to do so because it was so very high in the air. 

View of Saigon from Roof of Caraville Hotel

Another View of Saigon from Roof of Caraville Hotel

      I was anxious to see what the stores had to offer.  Gertrude and I went to several shops to see what they had to offer but things seemed to be more expensive than what we’d experienced elsewhere. Though I was disappointed in our shopping results I was pleased to find that the city was very, very clean and orderly with its wide streets.  The Saigon River ran through the city and that made it very green and attractive. 

      When I returned to the hotel I went to check on Edith and to let her know it was time for dinner.  I helped her clean up and I let her know the results of my shopping that afternoon.  When we went to the dining room I wasn’t sure what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised when I found the menu had a nice selection of choices.  Our food turned out to be top notch and what you would expect in a gourmet restaurant.  I guess I was taken aback finding such a great quality meal here but I shouldn’t have been.  The dining room was stunning and modern as well with colors of yellow, orange, green and black, stained glass doors, a fountain and garden patio.  There was a little stage or stand where they played music for those eating their meals.  Although there was a harp present only a musician on a piano entertained us.

      After dinner Edith and I retired for the night.  We played a little Canasta although Edith had trouble handling the cards so we soon gave up and I decided to write a letter to the Fillmore Herald and Patrick before turning in.  I finished the one to the Herald and then started Patrick’s:

 Oct 27, 1961 – Saigon, Viet Nam

Dear Patrick;

     I don’t know if you are saving stamps or not but what do you think of this letter? 

     This is a lovely clean place and I had a lovely dinner – Chicken Havana with bananas and strawberry melba.   I received a nice letter from your mama and one from Penny. 

     Tell Penny I am looking for a birthday gift for her and I hope she has a wonderful birthday. 

     We had to cancel our trip to Cambodia as they closed the border.  However, there is nothing exciting around here.  We flew in here today at 27,000 feet, 5 miles up in one of the largest Pan American planes I’ve seen.  We will fly to Bangkok tomorrow afternoon. 

     Prices are very high in this place, for $1 I got stamps for two letters and this letter and I have 8 cents left over which won’t buy anything.  Love Grandma

      It felt good to have finished my little note to Patrick and I got it ready to be mailed.  By the time I had finished writing Edith had fallen asleep.  She had had to take a pain pill and it made her sleepy.  I took a nice bath, washed my hair and then went to bed too.

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