Here in Thailand, you’ll see colourful strips of material wrapped around trees all over the country. Legend has it that a female spirit, called Nang Ta Khian, or Lady of Ta Khian, lives in the trees and surrounding areas. The trees are also called Ta Khian (Hopea odorata) and can grow up to 45 metres in height, so pretty big.
The spirits, known collectively as Nang Mai (Ladies of the Tree) sometimes appear as beautiful women and people wrap the material around the trunks of the trees in order to keep the spirits happy. Also, Ta Khian trees are sometimes felled for their wood, but people believe that consent from the spirit must be given before the tree is cut down, so a special ceremony is usually carried out.
It’s not only Ta Khian trees that are used for this purpose. In February, I went to Koh Chang on holiday and there were two really tall fig trees, with huge roots, some of which were around 18 inches high, at the bottom of my friends garden, right next to the sea.
They were both ceremoniously wrapped. He suggested that I bring my own piece of protection and add to the collection around the tree.
I don’t really believe in spirits, but I think it’s a nice thing to do (maybe I do believe), but a little piece of me is still there on Koh Chang.