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.