SEPTEMBER 17, 1955
BANGKOK, Thailand—We were called at 6 a.m. and went out on the river to see the floating market from the river. Canals have been dug to carry the water back on the land, which is very fertile and grows crops in abundance.
Rice is the basic food here, as in many other countries in this area, but unlike Japan, for instance, which must import much of its rice, the people here have a surplus and export to many countries.
We saw the people this morning who live on the land and in the boats. In some cases without boats these people would be bereft of all means of transportation. The small children go to school by boat, all the produce goes to market by boat, all the necessities of life come to their door by boat. The ice cream vendor rings a bell, the butcher blows a horn, someone else sounds a bugle, and the housewife knows just what she will find by her float.
Everyone bathes in the canal. All the wash is done in its muddy waters and, strangely enough, comes out looking clean and white. And, of course, the canal is the only outlet for sewage disposal.
Our guide remarked that a child becomes accustomed to germs from birth, and I'm sure that is so or the infant mortality rate would be even higher than it is.
The life on the river is the life of the people of Thailand, and a picturesque life it is and full of color. The boats are laden with fruits and vegetables and usually are towed in long strings. The women often do the rowing and, as you look at some of the older women who cut their hair short like the men, it is sometimes hard to decide whether you are looking at a man or a woman.
The children are very friendly and wave at the sightseers' boats as they pass.
Late in the morning we went to see the royal barges, which are only used on state occasions—one barge for the coronation, one for the yearly state visit to the Temple and the smaller ones for members of the royal household. The barges are beautifully decorated, but on state occasions they are also gaily decked with flowers and other decorations and rowed by men in gorgeous costume. Our guide evidently loved all the pageantry, as people do in every part of the world.
It was late on our return and I decided to do a little shopping, since I could not get to our meeting place and still have some time in a meeting and be back for the lunch given by the American Association of Thailand.
So we visited Mr. Thompson's silk shop and found wonderful ties for men, beautiful scarves of every size and color and silks to match the long evening scarves, which you long to see made up for some young person who could wear them gracefully.
I had not realized until I saw them at the luncheon that so many Americans are here, for business or government reasons, but it is quite a colony. This makes it especially nice for those with young families.
In the political committee in the afternoon I sat through three hours of speeches, then we all went to a very pleasant cocktail party and later to an informal buffet dinner at Mr. and Mrs. Anschutz's house. We met some very interesting people of various nationalities whom we might not have the opportunity of meeting elsewhere.