Colorful Stripes on the Trees

There are many trees in Thailand with colorful strips around their bodies. Usually, there is such a tree in any Buddhist Wat (outside of course). But then, they are not only at Wat’s territories – trees with ribbons could be found along roads, in parks or forests. So, why? – Well, that’s cause of spirits again.

tree with colorful fabric stripes

Most popular thing connected to spirit world in Thai is Spirit House. Thai people put them in front of every house, building, plantation and so on. And what’s about trees with colorful strips made of fabric – that’s also Spirit Houses! In other words Thai people believe that spirits live in these Spirit Trees. It’s said that trees with spirits are usually old and big.

So, Thai people mark trees with spirits (Ton Mai) by colorful fabric stripes and moreover they leave offerings (drinks and flowers) in the roots or lower branches. All that – is to keep spirits in a nice and peaceful mood.

Thai people believe that different kinds of spirits live in different types of trees. Most popular and widespread spirits are Nang Tani and Nang Takian (but I have no idea why).

Nang Takian live in hopea trees. That’s somebody like an elf. Human can see them as beautiful Thai ladies in traditional costumes. They are harmless and friendly.

Nang Tani is probably the most popular type of spirits living in the trees. They live in banana trees and they prefer some types of banana trees to others. Actually, the favorite banana tree for Nang Tani is Kluai Tani. It’s uneatable even if it looks like the simple banana we all know. Thai people believe that these spirits are beautiful young greenish Thai ladies in traditional green costumes. They may appear to the human-being near a banana tree slightly waving in the air and not touching the ground with their feet. Different legends say they appear to people either on the full moon or when banana blooms. It’s believed that Nang Tani are friendly and even can give bananas to monks passing by (can’t get what for – as they live in uneatable bananas). But then, it’s also believed that this peaceful nymphs may punish… men who behaved badly with a woman.

There is another interesting things about spirit trees in recent past. Buddhist monks wrapped orange fabric around trees in the forest to save them from cutting down. It worked because as soon as a monk wrapped fabric around the tree it became sacred to every Buddhist, so they could’t harm it.

And if it’s about fabric stripes, then I should mention Thai boats. Longtail boats – the beauty of Thai seashores. Almost all of them have got some colorful fabric stripes on the nose. Looks very cool as long as they not bleached. So, why again? Do spirits live in boats as well? – no, not so. It’s simpler this time – Thai people believe that these stripes set the sea spirits calm and peaceful, so nothing could happen with the boat with such “protection”.

colorful fabric stripes on boats noses

If you haven’t got any accommodation for your next trip booked yet, try it here: Airbnb.
You will get $25 discount for your first booking
and would be able to stay in a nice room or apartment rented from locals and not just in a dorm!  

And if you haven't decided yet where to stay on your next trip - try AirBnb! You can rent a room or a house from locals and that's usually cheaper and cozier that staying in a hotel. Plus, $20 bonus for your fist stay is a nice bonus! Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “Colorful Stripes on the Trees

  1. hi, alice-
    i’m a graphic designer and i’m working on a site for a client who does thai massage. in looking for photos for his new site, i discovered your work. would you be willing to license the image on this post for us to use on his site? we’d happily link back to your site and/or credit you as you’d see fit. if you’d like to see the intended test site, please email me and i’ll send you the link.
    thank you!

  2. Hi Alice,
    From your article: Do spirits live in boats as well?
    Thai people call spirit that live in boat as Mae Ya Nang (means Grand mother). We belive that she will protect us in the boat. Before we have traditional racing boat ,there will be respect protocol.

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