ADSactly Travel - The Secret of the Rain Forest
One of the most beautiful rainforests in Thailand is located in the province of Trang. Southern Thailand is infamous for paradisal rain forests, islands, and beaches which attracts millions of visitors annually. The culture is still very much tribal with tribal beliefs that all living things are connected to nature, with the highest honor to the family. Mother Nature is a big part of the family connection, much like the first "Avatar" movie but unlike the film, Thailand has never had to give up the tribal family way of life. The culture was never forced to give up its spiritual beliefs and abilities. Our families were never torn apart through treacherous acts that are associated with diabolical colonizing ideals. One of those spiritual beliefs is the 3 ancestral spirits that the people of Trang still believe protects them and the town 'til this day.
The Festival of Family
I travel to Trang annually to attend a local festival simply called "Por Tha" which is directly translated as "Father Grandfather." The festival is to praise the 3 ancestral spirits (oversoul) that the people of Trang believe most of them originated from. In these annual festivals, a host is chosen for a lifetime and lends their body for one of the ancestral spirits to enter and speak to the elders. Among those present and deserving, 1 of the 3 ancestral spirits will grant a wish, and that person then has to pay for the following year's festival. These festivals cost between 500k baht to 1 million baht so you can imagine, we're not talking about granting children's wishes of toys and teddy bears.
2018 was my 6th straight year at the "Por Tha" festivals. One could say that the first 3 years of me attending was to see if the deserving person the year earlier, got their wish. Being it's my 6th straight year, I've been a true believer since my 4th year's attendance. My 2nd year was the most amazing festival for me because it was the rags to riches story with one of the elders. He was told he would receive the number 1 lottery number in a dream and to play the numbers exactly as they appear. To my surprise when I showed up the following year, everything had happened as stated and that elder had won the number 1 Thai national lottery.
The festivals are always filled with family members enjoying the festival's feasts and celebration lasts 3 days. In these 3 days, there are performances of Thai traditional dance (Southern style) and the local form of traditional music that the 3 ancestral spirits used to love and listen to. The festivals include Thai traditional dance performances by children, women, and men. There are improving performances by the adult men performers over music played with traditional instruments. These improving performances have been around for hundreds of years, passing down the artistic abilities from generation to generation through chosen mentors. The local joke is that the Hip Hop culture borrowed these performances and renamed it "freestyling" the past 50 years.
In the 3 days of feasts and Thai traditional dance performances, family members and friends gather to eat and drink together to wait for the arrival of 1 of the 3 ancestral spirits. If we're lucky, 1 of the 3 ancestral spirits come all 3 days of the festival and by come, I am referring to the ancestral spirit entering the host's body. They then communicate with the family of their bloodline and grants 1 wish to the deserving person. I am an in-law so I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be accepted as one of the family and enjoy visiting and witnessing the impossible, year after year.
Finding the Secret
During the 3 days of the Por Tha Festival, I always take the kids to the Khao Chong Wildlife and Nature Education Center. It's a national park style center that hosts groups of school children from around the country and teaches them about the evergreen rain forests.
The center has many walking trails that are amazingly filled with tall trees and small wildlife. You see insects and small animals scurrying along to complete their daily tasks as well as visitors trekking to different waterfalls. The most known waterfalls in the Khao Chong Wildlife and Nature Education Center are Ton Yai, Ton Noi, and Ka Chong waterfalls but deep within this rain forest lies a great secret.
I couple few years ago while visiting Khao Chong, I followed 2 monks on a trail off the beaten path. I remember thinking to myself, where are these monks going? We followed them about 400 meters and to my surprise, there was an unmapped waterfall named Ton Pliw Waterfalls.
Even the Amazing Thailand website has no mention of this marvelous waterfall. It's a 3 stage waterfall and I began with the 3rd stage so I could drink from its waters with my Lifestraw.
The first time I made it to the 3rd stage of Ton Pliw Waterfalls, I followed the monks to the main pool. From the top of the 3rd stage, I saw a group of 8 local kids climb up to the 2nd stage. From the top, I was wondering what they were doing because the formation they were in didn't seem like they were about to swim in the 2nd stage pool (which is great for families, BTW). Then it happened. I saw the secret of the rain forest.
The kids one by one, slid down the face of the 1st stage waterfall like they were professional extreme athletes. My brother in law and I looked at each other and smiled. We yelled at the kids, "Wait for us!" We hiked down and the kids explained to us which points to slide on and the safety of the entrance points on the pool below. The rock formation has no sharp edges and the algae on the surface made the perfect lubricant, preventing injuries.
There are 3 slides in all, with the highest and fastest being the most dangerous. Not because of the height and speed but the entry point at the pool below has a huge boulder in its path. We had to lean backward upon entry to avoid smacking our heads from the forward momentum. Since that day, I've gone down those slides countless times and have enjoyed the secret of one of the evergreen rain forests of Thailand.
A Piece of my Heart is Down South
I can say that about most countries I've visited because Southern hospitality is very real and Thailand is no different. The locals in Trang are welcoming and they always go out of their way to help each other as well as visitors. These are some of the reasons I always plan my next trip to Trang as soon as I get home from the last one.
The Por Tha Festivals are now apart of my family life and I'd have it no other way. I've seen the greatest things happen at these festivals, somewhat short of miracles. I'm extremely grateful for all the family and friends I've made there over the years and hope I get the opportunity to make many more great relationships in the upcoming years.
Traveling to Trang, one may not get to see and attend the Por Tha Festivals but everyone reading now knows one of Khao Chong's greatest secrets. That secret is sliding down the magical waters of an unmapped waterfall named Ton Pliw. You can make money anytime, at any age but to find something exciting that makes you feel like a kid again, is literally priceless.
Authored & Photographed by @stewsak
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