This past weekend we decided to check out a place we had heard of before but have never visited. We went to the Royally-Initiated Siri Charoenwat Forest Plantation Project, located in the Chonburi province around She-Ohn Mountain, about 15 minutes from our home.
Supposedly 26 years ago this area was a barren, bald mountain with few animals or plants. The king of Thailand, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, ordered the restoration of the forest to return the natural balance and as a gift to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on her 60th birthday celebration in 1992. This is why it is called “The Forest of Love.” We have always loved going though parks, nature trails, etc. so it was nice to find out about this place.
Upon our arrival we parked and walked out amongst the trees where we immediately passed a few Buddha statues. We walked a paved path to an interesting junction of visual stimulation. On the left was a huge lotus pond and on the right was a garden of indigenous varieties of thai banana plants. The lotus pond was striking with its carpet of lily pad leaves and its jutting lotus flowers. There was a bridge that led to the middle of the pond where there was a covered gazebo. It was beautiful.
We looked at the bananas from afar and then made our way into a forested walking path. The path itself was probably 1-1.5k and had multiple stop-offs for taking a rest. We saw many varieties of bamboo and thai trees and fauna. Trees that you pass are labeled with the name of the species in both thai and english.
Once we reached the end of the trail we found ourselves at another small pond in a space we were unfamiliar with. We weren’t sure of where we parked and luckily there was group of thai people approaching. They waved at us and smiled at our children. We asked and gestured, “where is the car park?” One lady nodded and said, “Yes! Come with us! No worries!” We fell in line with this group of about 15 very friendly thai people and assumed that we would be led back to the car.
As we walked, the woman who flagged us over told us she was visiting the forest from Bangkok, and that she and her employees were going to do an activity with the rangers. She said “you should join!”. We smiled and told her that we needed to find the car and would not have time for the activity. She nodded and seemed to understand. We continued to walked a paved road and then veered off onto a dirt path. This dirt path soon got narrower and narrower. We assumed that they were perhaps taking us through a shortcut? Eventually we found ourselves stepping over thorny branches, hopping over ravines, balancing across logs, and pushing bushes out of our faces. This might not be too difficult normally but we did have our 3 and 5 year old with us which was a little difficult. We finally stopped in the middle of the forest and realized that they were all there to build a dam out of bamboo and rocks. As they began tossing the rocks into the bamboo frames we asked the original lady again, “We need to go, we need the car park.” She apologized and said she misunderstood us. She motioned to a park ranger who said she would lead us out. Before doing so she asked our kids, “Selfie first!” She took a selfie with our kids and then grabbed my son’s hand to help lead us out.
After about 20 minutes of forest-trekking, we were out and on our way back to the car. What originally would have been a light journey turned in to a deep forest trek. Ha. Everyone was so kind and we won’t forget that trip to the “Forest of Love” anytime soon!