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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Our first day in Bangkok

As we took a walk through the neighborhoods in Bangkok, we noticed that there were many Chinese who lived there. Many of them were cleaning and painting their houses to celebrate Chinese New Year which we were told would come in a few days. In just about every compound or inside their houses I noticed the charming miniature spirit houses, decked with fresh flowers and little figurines. Even in front of our motel parking lot was a miniature spirit house on poles with fresh flowers and little figurines. Flowers and all the daily offerings to the little spirit houses are done to keep the spirits happy, and for the general welfare of the property. Wherever we went, even in the city, the luxury hotels had spirit houses. Some are very beautifully decorated with all kinds of flowers and fruits. It takes a little longer for us to perceive that Buddhism is by no means the only way the Thais approach mystery of the spirit. All of those miniature spirit houses influence all levels of the Thai society, from the lowest to the most sophisticated. Most of the Thais wear a gold chain around their necks with clanking collections of amulets. It's just like Christians wear crosses and religious medallions. Almost no Thai would think of venturing forth from home unguarded by some sort of magic charm. They believe that by wearing those amulets they are saved by certain powers, and some people have personal accounts of their power. There are so many different types of shrines, and each one has a certain type of power to the believers. It was very interesting to see all of those different shrines.

It had been a long and interesting day and both of us were very tired, so our first night in Bangkok we went to bed very early. There was so much noise all around the neighborhood that made it almost impossible to fall asleep. The people who lived in the house across from our hotel kept about six geese locked up in a very narrow space, and they were very noisy. I guess it was their last call to stay alive as all of them would be killed for the Chinese New Year. Also there was a very large lizard who was hiding under the roof of our motel porch. Those animals only make noise during the night. It fills its lungs with air and then it will call very loudly. By counting the calls you can ask all kinds of questions. For instance when it starts calling you can say something like, "will I be poor or rich?". When his last call comes and your word is poor, the local Thai people say you will be poor. A lot of those people are very superstitious and really believe in that. The lizard makes several calls during the night, but whenever it calls, people make a wish. I was told that it's very good luck if a lizard is around your house. I was always very glad to see him around the motel because he would take care of the mosquitoes.

As always, the day starts off with a clear and sunny sky. I was getting so used to the warm climate that I hated to think that I had to go back again to the winter. Zep's step-son came to our motel in the morning and we had breakfast together and after that he took us through Bangkok for sightseeing. We spent most of the day riding around in taxis from one place to another. This city is a wild mess of traffic. The noise from all the cars and the air pollution is just unbelievable. It seems nobody worries about speed limits.

Jeff and Lu Lu with ladies in native costumes 
 Jeff and Lu Lu with ladies in native costumes 

We went to the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok and checked what Lu Lu's visa status was. I was told that there was no way that they could give Lu Lu a visa. We were told to wait for a few days as the mail from the Minister office of Home Affairs would arrive soon. They handled all the visa distributions.

From the Burmese Embassy we went to the UN building to pick up our friend Zep. She decided that we should have dinner in her favorite Chinese restaurant which was a popular place for many UN officials. The food was very good, and I was very surprised at how reasonable the prices were. We had six different entrees with drinks for only $14 for all of us. The food in this part of the world is very cheap.

After dinner we drove to a very nice neighborhood outside of the city of Bangkok. Ida, a Burmese whom we had met in Washington at one of the house parties of one of our friends, told us that whenever we would visit Thailand we should come to Bangkok and visit her. Ida was a representative for Dupont Company. She had a beautiful home with help around the house. She told us during our visit that she was planning to move to Delaware State, close to the Dupont headquarters and buy a house there. She was living all by herself and that frightened her a little bit for making a move to the States. She asked us if we wanted to move in with her once she bought the house in Delaware. She said that she needed a chauffeur and that I could work for her. I told her that I had a good job and that I was looking for a chauffeur myself to take me to my office in Waldorf every morning. We visited her another day, but from other friends I heard that she never left Bangkok. I really didn't blame her for staying, considering all the help she had around the house. She would never be able to find that in the U.S..

The next day Zep took us for a sightseeing tour around the city of Bangkok to some very interesting places. As always we had to take all kinds of taxis. In Bangkok I noticed three wheel taxis. There were imported from India. You see them racing through all those narrow streets in Bangkok.

First we went to the What Arun (The Temple of Dawn). To get there you have to cross the river in a small boat. Before you get to the river you pass by all kinds of small eating places set up on the side of the street. On little self-made fires they fry pieces of bananas in oil, or fish and so many other food items. Lu Lu always had a soft heart for those people and can't pass by without buying something. All around the river front there are hundreds of fish all around. The whole area smells like spoiled fish. It must be a delightful odor for the Thai people, but not for me. Lu Lu showed me all the dried fish she used to use when she lived in Burma. For Lu Lu it was a great pleasure to see all of this. I was glad when we got into the boat to cross the river and got away from all that fish odor. In the background I could see the structure of the temple buildings. The grounds and the temples around are very interesting. Just for me to look at the art and the way those buildings were built is so different from the Western style. It amazes me how people have the talent to build structures like that. Hundreds of small and large figurines are hand carved all around the buildings. Some of the temple buildings are built out of wood and others from stone. The colors they use on those temple buildings makes their structures even more attractive to visit. There were some concrete stairs in the largest temple which the tourists could use to get to the top platform. I climbed all the way to the top and took close-up photos from of some of the figurines. From the top of the temple you could really see how polluted the city of Bangkok was. There was a thick smog screen of bad air all above the river in front of me.


CONTINUED: Visit to the Bangkok temples
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora



  Contents:
- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index