Tree cutting in Thailand
Crack! Another dead branch came down. Bang! This one just missed the roof. Thud! Tree uprooted, its crown helplessly leaning on a fence. Trees, purposely spared while constructing our house, seem to mock our intentions.
At first it was alarming. Self-reproach loomed ahead. Was it our ignorance that was killing our trees? Bit by bit we noticed trees died on everyone’s land − and to no one’s surprise. We started to grasp why most Thai houses lie scorching in the sun, without any protection of shady trees: those are risky to the point of lethal.
So, time and again, we call in the rescuers. An experienced cutter in a rickety old pick-up truck comes up the driveway. He quickly assesses the situation and commands his team of mostly young, very strong men into the trees. They climb barefoot. No safety belt, goggles or helmet; just a chopper or a handsaw. They choose a position from where they start cutting the highest branches. Gradually only the trunk remains. That is when the leader of the gang with the chain saw comes in. He decides where the stripped tree should fall, sparks the engine, and in a wink the giant is felled.
The tree cutters make the hazardous job seem like a piece of cake. They don’t mind slippery bark or attacks of red ants. They balance on trimmed down stumps high in the sky. Up there they roll their cigarettes. They cordially pass over any suggestion to come down for a rest at a more comfortable spot. Likewise they laugh off my anxiety about the ravaging effect of falling debris.
For a Westerner and former city-dweller like me it is hard to make out if the tree cutters are highly skilled or utterly carefree – or both.
August 2017, text and image Karolien Bais
Horticulture deals as much with vegetation as with culture. As a foreigner in Thailand, I am often more struck by the cultural aspects of growing flowers, trees and crops than by the actual appearance of certain species.
Likewise it is fascinating to discover how plants, flowers and landscaping are applied for cultural events.