Thailand and the trees. The occidental point of view. By Jordi Pla.

Far from the
tursitic highlights of Thailand, as Pattaya or Phuket (main destination for
Europeans, Americans and Australians) travelers coming to this country have the
opportunity of being privileged observers. For example, In Ayuttahaya (north of
Bangkok), Chiang Rai (the northest area of the country) or Kanchanaburi (in the
middle of Thailand but next to Myanmar) you can truly perceive how native
people live. The further you are from the asphalt, the deeper your connection
with nature. . 

What shocks you at
the beginning in the rural areas is how simple and easy they are. Life goes on
surrounded by dogs, which usually live in packs in the streets. By the way,
never before had I seen so many dogs with amputations. After asking around, the
answer turns out to be really obvious: “we heal them because we are Buddhists
and they wonder “what if this dog was someone of my family?”. This point of
view shows that there’s a link between people and animals, a mutual respect
that surprises occidental people, specially taking into account the poverty of
the place. 

This harmony between
human and nature is especially clear when it comes to trees. These are
venerated as the animals in the streets, respected. The tree is a shelter, a
safe place where fears become tiny. Moreover, trees chosen to place tributes
are majestic, impressing, with a log height and width that shows their power
over any other living being. So it’s the perfect place to pay tribute to Budha,
this tribute will remain along the tree’s life, and people will be able to
enjoy it, generation after generation. 

And how do
occidental people react in front of the sign? Most of them with respect, a lot
of respect. On one hand, towards the religious image or sculpture  that remains at the bottom of the tree. But
also because it makes you feel insignificant when you look at the top trying to
catch its height.

One of the most
visited areas by people from Bangkok during weekends is Kanchanaburi. It’s one
of the most humid areas, especially during the monsoon season. But it’s thanks
to this respect that you can enjoy a luxuriant nature in national parks such as
Say Yok or Sri Nakarin. 

However,
Kanchanaburi is also well known by lovers of history and films, due to the
awful facts that occurred during the Second World War. As the movie “The bridge
on the river Kwai” shows, thousands of prisoners of war, Thai and Burmese
caught by Japanese, were enslaved, many of them until their death. The goal was
the construction of a railway that joined Burma and Bangkok, to avoid the risk
that represented the sea transport. 

At one of the
toughest sectors of the way where the tasks were the hardest and where the
prisoners suffered the most (known as Hell Fire Pass), there’s a museum and a
short route to recall that horror from the past. And just in the middle of the
way in the most atrocious spot, a magnificent tree grows just in the middle of
the trench. When we asked to the guide about the tree, he answered the obvious:
“At the beginning they were planning to cut it down but it would have been a
huge mistake, since it gives us a message: even in the place where humans
haven’t behaved as humans, live grows up, and everything starts over
again.   

I love the respect that Thai people show to living. Buddhism is probably
one of the reasons. I don’t consider myself linked to religion, on the
contrary, especially taking into account all the disasters striking the world
nowadays. However, seeing the attitude that a wide number of Buddhists have, I appreciate
they feeling  their natural heritage as
something to be preserved. I’d love other parts of the world, nature was valued
the same way they do. If only it wasn’t quantified in dollars, since anyone
assigning a price to it would, for sure, underestimate it.   


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