Saffron robes, usually worn by Buddhist monks, are tightly tied around the trees near the Boon Rueng Village. The forest looks wonderful, but many would ask why is it done in such a way. Thailand is a very religious country and Buddhist monks and their robes are particularly venerated. It turned out to be a very interesting story, which was accompanied by a wonderful lunch in nature.
Boon Rueng village community employs peaceful negotiations, the local establishment of regulations and women groups to give an alternative to the economic development scheme in their region. The village is also situated near the Ing River, a tributary to the Mekong. Over 50 fish species come to the Mekong from the Ing in every flooding season. There are also many indigenous birds in the area.
For three hundred years the local people have relied on local wetland forest for food and other resources. The government supports urbanisation schemes and using of wetland for constructing economic zones in this borderland region: Laos is very close, but also Yunnan in China is close enough to attract the Chinese investors. This infrastructure may affect the water system, which is not only potential damage for fish funds and other flora and fauna but also may cause a lack of water for rice paddies. Villagers claim they are not against economic development and constructing the economic zone, but not in this forest.
“Forest is our supermarket”, tells us one of the women in this initiative. They collect vegetables and herbs in the forest, make herbal juices and teas, but also the insects. We sit in a communal house overlooking a beautiful Buddhist temple; the house is used for meetings and as an information point and it is also a small ethno-museum, showing the fishing gear and items, rice bowls and water containers. All of this is made of wood from the forest.
We made our way to the forest too. It is a lush wetland wood, which gives beautiful shade from the heat. We walked around it, looking at protected plants and trees. The whole community cares for this forest to remain intact, and this includes also the Buddhist monks. By wrapping their robes around the trees, they “ordain” the trees and make them holy. In this way, the monks fight the deforestation and protect the whole area. For this purpose, a small temple is erected in the entrance to the woodland.
The locals prepared also lunch for us. Sitting on sharp carpets, we were welcomed by beautiful crispy pork, chicken drums, eggs, spicy spring rolls, and sticky rice. A touch of exotic stuff was fulfilled with fried bamboo worms, but most of us gave precedence to the rice brandy, hardest drink we tried in Thailand so far. It is served in cut bamboo and surely opens up an appetite!