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05/09/2018 - 10:52

A trekking tour to primeval forests

The tour guide informs that tomorrow the tourists are going to embark on a trekking tour to A Roang primeval forests - vast and seemingly endless primeval forests.

A Luoi forest in early morning dew

Exploration

Presently, the trekking tour to explore A Roang primeval forest in A Luoi District has gained popularity. According to its itinerary, tourists depart in Hue, then go along the National Route No 49 into Truong Son Jungle, passing various sites, such as Behem, Binh Dien, Pastol, Suoi Mau (Blood stream), Mo Qua pass, etc.

Reaching the village, tourists are warmly welcomed by greeting dances on the musical background of khens and gongs. Then, they are accompanied and guided by the head of the village to explore various aspects of the Ta Oi people's daily life, such as farming, knitting bamboo strings and weaving brocade.

Next, tourists relax in A Roang onsen, shaking off the weariness of a long day. When the night comes, a meal cooked over an open fire serves the specialities of this area, such as vegetables from the forests, fish caught from streams, grilled pork, etc. After dinner, tourists will attend camp fire activities and community exchanges. They will join with the Ta Oi people in their traditional dances and taste aromatic Can wine together.

The tour guide informs that tomorrow the tourists are going to embark on a trekking tour to A Roang primeval forests - vast and seemingly endless primeval forests. This deserted site, with high waterfalls, deep gorges with winding ranges of mountains appeal to young people who are interested in exploring, venturing and conquering nature.

A few years ago, a number of foreign scientists came here to record the singing of the birds, of which there are hundreds of breeds.  There is also a Afzelia xylocarpa tree of more than 500 years, which is considered to be a spiritual witness of the old forests. This tree has been documented and strictly protected.

Not all tour guides and tourists know that, in order to keep the primeval forests intact until today, the Ta Oi people have been practicing a so-called forest protection law for ages. By an open fire, Ho A Tul, a young Ta Oi girl sings a verse which roughly means, “Being in the sacred forests, mind every of your step, as well as hold every of your breath.” That is a reminder to everyone who sets foot in the sacred forests.

The sacred forests with huge trees are believed to be home to deities and wild beasts such as pythons, tigers, lions, etc., and therefore, they are associated with numerous astounding and fearful legends and myths, which lead to people’s showing their respect or reverent awe. Apart from their belief forms, the ethnic minority have their own ways to protect the forests by rules and regulations.

Rules and regulations, to name a few

The Ta Oi people have come to terms that a forest always has its own owner, and the ownership is passed from generation to generation. The Koh Sa forest belongs to several villages, and spiritual ceremonies with respect to it are performed regularly. Hunting and logging is allowed there, but farming is prohibited, cursing is forbidden, and an attitude of respect is required when crossing the forest. Fines for violators come in the form of cows or buffalos.

Koh tang kin forest also belongs to several villages. It is forbidden to cut down trees for cultivation, to hunt, to collect rattan, bamboo sprouts, dried branches for firewood and to defecate in the forest. A similar fine is applied. When there are disputes among villages, the villagers hold spiritual rituals together in the forest with offerings such as pigs, roosters, goats, sticky rice and wine to find a resolution.

The forest that belongs to every village is called “Tram Kanea”. The villagers hold annual worshiping rituals, offering pigs, roosters and goats to the deities of the forests, in return for a protection of the whole village. It is believed that a forest is home to a lot of ghosts, therefore, no one is allowed to cut down trees for cultivation, to hunt, to collect rattan, bamboo sprouts, firewood and to defecate there. A heavy fine of a buffalo or a cow is levied on violators, as a way to make an apology to the forest deities.

As for timber exploitation, the Ta Oi people have specific regulations. It is considered a taboo to cut down giant trees since giant trees have co-existed with the forest and have been a shelter for deities or ghosts. If the trees being cut down, the spiritual home of the deities is destroyed so the deities may take revenge on the villages by causing illnesses or crop losses. Therefore, offenders are severely fined with buffalos or cows.

As for watershed forests, they are exploited only for common purposes, such as for making post in a buffalo-slaughtering festival, or for the construction of communal houses or village arches. The regulations also allow some outstanding figures to exploit the forests for decent causes.

For example, people with good river-related skills are permitted to cut down trees to build boats, however the timber must be solely used for that purpose, not for sale or as a gift for someone else. A wrong purpose results in a heavy fine. Permission from the head of the village is also needed if the villagers want to cut down trees to build houses or make coffins. Once a request for timber is approved by the village elderly council, worship rituals must be performed as a symbol of an apology and compensation for to the deities.

As for forests where logging is allowed, villagers have the right to cut down trees and go hunting, however, the practice is under the strict supervision of the village and conducted with a high awareness of animal and plant protection.

Among the seasons, the Ta Oi people rarely cut down trees in spring and summer because they are reproduction seasons, because the cutting down trees does harm to small trees. Plucking and picking up only takes places in July, October and November; the plucking should be conducted in a way that the trees are not left leafless, or after vegetable roots are taken out, the stems must be re-cultivated.

As for the practice of winemaking on the trunk of Ta vat tree (Arenga Pinnata), the trunk must be holed in such a way that water comes out without damaging the tree. Once the wine is ready, the villagers bring it home to drink by an open fire with their singing and dancing well throughout the night…

Photo and story by Ho Hoang Thao

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