By Theresa Yiju Lin
Satun Province is a place with many tourist attractions. Thaleban National Park was established in 1980 as a marine national park. The funding of the park was to awake people’s conscience and to stop them from abusing the environment. The location is very close to Malaysia and shares some of the natural and cultural characteristics.
The park is 37 kilometers from Satun and 90 kilometers from Had Yai, and driving is the best way to commute. There are about 406 wildlife species-mammals, bird species, hornbills, reptiles and amphibious animals in the tropical rainforests. There are also special kinds of pines and shaped-leaf trees found in the park, as well as particular types of orchids.
The government promotes eco-tourism, which brings thousands of tourists to the province each year. The rainforests of Thaleban are both on the lowland and higher elevations. The tourist center is between two limestone mountains with many caves. The southwest monsoon is between May and October which adds a lot of humidity to the area so remember to bring the rain gear while trekking.
210 residents and seasonal bird species can be identified in the Thaleban National Park, which makes it a superb bird watching resort. The hiking trails lead to beautiful caves, waterfalls and the Khao Jin summit also greet the visitors with pride.
Indigenous Sa Kai people live in the forest of the park and seldom make contact with outsiders. Their lifestyle is set by following the forest system, and they support themselves by hunting and gathering. Sa Kais also move from place to place, searching for the food and security. Today, like many other primitive tribes around the world, Sa Kai people are forcing to change their lifestyle massively because of civilization and deforestation.
Sa Kai is so valuable because people like them are disappearing every single day, and suddenly one day, they will be extinct. Most of the Sa Kais live in the deep jungle on the border between Phatthalung, Trang and Satun Province. Not only the Sa Kais fear that one day their name will only exist in the language, but also Thai government officials. They both want to spread the words about Sa Kai so more and more people will know, cherish and preserve Sa Kai culture.
When visiting Sa Kais in the Thaleban Park, experienced global trekkers recommend bringing the following items with you: walking shoes or trainers, slippers or sandals, extra pants and T-shirts, a jumper or a jacket, a sleeping bag and a torch. Sa Kais live in the Tub, a hut made from palm leaves. They usually move and leave their home because of diminish food supply in certain area or no longer feel safe in that particular location.
As a traveler, I always think that meeting local people is as interesting as exploring the nature and hanging out with travel companions because conversing with the locals helps you understand their culture, values and beliefs. Additionally, I am a very sociable person, and I enjoy talking with people. While traveling, languages become the biggest problem of trying to communicate with the locals. When this happens, use baby talking: a lot of pointing, gestures and facial expressions. It can be a fascinating experience. Some Sa Kais speak southern local Thai, but most of them cannot write. Although the government tried to implement the education programs, the Sa Kais did not adapt them very well. Their traditional wardrobe consists of one piece of red clothing. Today, they also wear T-shirts because of the external influence.
Going on a day tour at the Thaleban National Park, with the tour guide’s help, you are able to communicate in depth with the Sa Kais, but if you want first-hand contact, this might be what you need to do! It’s fun to create some new communicating methods! Although Sa Kais are very friendly and shy, they are easy to talk to.
Many Westerners choose to visit Thailand for its unpolished authenticity because it will make their holidays different from merely an ordinary vacation. Meeting the Sa Kais actually will bring you so close to where you want to be. Many visitors plan a one-day trip to Thaleban Park and see the Sa Kais. If you have enough time, they welcome you to spend days with them to understand more of their culture.
Accommodation is possible in the park so please inquire at the tourist center. Besides, if you need to find a tour guide, do so at the office. If you want to know more information about Sa Kai and Thaleban National Park, visit Thailander, Responsible Travel and Geographia Web sites.