About 40km from Krabi Town in a thickly forested region known as Khao Khram lays an area of extraordinary uniqueness: Tha Pom. Through Tha Pom forest runs a stream, the water in which is so clear that the local people believe that it was created by magic and that guardian spirits protect it.
Myths and legends have sprung up around Khao Khram ever since people first settled here over 130 year ago. Before this time no one had ever lived in the forest. Legend has it that three wizards, wielding particularly strong magic known as ‘To Pom’, ‘To Man’ and ‘Nai Kamae’ brought their families to come and live in the forest. It’s believed that one of the wise men unraveled some of the mystery surrounding the stream by discovering where an underground waterway that leads to one of the pools, giving the pool its name, Tha Pom. It’s often said that a white crocodile resided in the forest and was often seen in the stream or in one of the pools. The villagers believed the crocodile to be the guardian of the forest. They also believed that no one should wash in the stream on Tuesday or Saturday as it could bring bad luck or even disaster to the community. Every year in May, local people perform a ritual in which all sickness and bad luck are washed away by the river, leaving them only happiness and peace.
The area is also home to a delicate and well-balanced eco-system. Tha Pom stream, although only 2.5km long becomes larger and turns into Pari Canal after it meets Kruat Stream before flowing into the Andaman Sea. The streams proximity to the Sea is the primary reason for the eco-systems extraordinary characteristics. Seawater regularly moves in with the tide to make the stream temporarily brackish, creating a mixed forest type. Mangrove trees and other mangrove forest species have adapted to live in this environment and can be found alongside the Chompuu Nam, (Eugenia Oblate) characterized by its twisted roots that line the banks of the stream. Both species are representative of different kinds of forest type, a characteristic not found elsewhere. For this reason the canal has earned the name Tha Pom Klong Song Nam from villagers – literally, ‘Two Water Canal’. The name implies that neither the forest nor the canal may be separated from each other. The villagers believe that if it wasn’t for their belief in the spirit of the forest then human encroachment would have long since seen the destruction of the forest.
The villagers are concerned that visitors to the forest are aware, not only of the ecological significance (it takes a millions of years for such an eco-system to evolve) but of the cultural importance too. The forest has provided shelter and food for local people for many decades and for these reasons the villagers are eager to preserve the forest for themselves and for future generations. Tourism can produce local income but can also have disastrous ecological consequences for such a fragile environment.
With the help of the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) a successfully well-managed system has been put into practice. A 700-meter long board walk has been built over the lowland area that runs parallel with Song Nam canal to prevent people treading in the swamp forest, whilst at the same time giving visitors the chance to witness the beauty of the canal and forest and learn about the environment there. The boardwalk sides an evergreen forest, a lower level of the nearby limestone mountain and reaches a swamp forest. It has been designed so as to have minimal impact on the environment, trees have been left in place and the boardwalk has been built around them. Along the route are several nature interpretation boards (most have though become unreadable over the years) as well as places to rest and observe the stream. The water in the stream is absolutely crystal clear and together with the knurled roots of the Chompuu Nam that form the banks create scenes of incredible beauty.
In order to preserve the local ecosystem, swimming is no longer allowed in the stream, though there is pool not far where it’s possible to take a dip. Kayaking is another popular activity in the area as well as boat rides to the meeting point of the two steams – Klong Song Nam and Klong Kruat that can be arranged beforehand. Don’t miss the chance to visit this natural beauty unique of Krabi during your green season holiday here.
ABOUT THE WATER
The water in the steam is alkaline as it originally runs through limestone karsts so calcium carbonate was dissolves into it. Calcium carbonate combines with particles in the water and then sinks to the bottom producing exceptionally clear water. The sediment is actually substances coated in calcium carbonate. The Krabi coastline is characterized by limestone karsts. When rain falls the water passes through gaps in the limestone and onto the earth while some is trapped in ridges. While rainwater is falling to earth it is acidified by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Over millions of years the water erodes the limestone in small ridges where it eventually collapses to form sinkholes in which plants grow. Trees then absorb moisture and the accumulated water forms a natural spring from which the water will eventually flow to create a natural pool. Such a pool is the source of Tha Pom.
THE CHOMPUU NAM
About 80 per cent of the trees in Khao Khram are Chompuu Nam trees. The Chompuu Nam plays a particularly important role in maintaining the balance of the eco-system in the forest. The tree lines the banks of the stream; they grow well in the wet conditions where its roots absorb ground-surface moisture. This means there is no need for the tree to send down a tap-root. This type of root, known as ‘stilt root’ system also helps support the tree in the soft, wet ground by the stream. The twisted roots of the Chompuu Nam help protect the banks from soil erosion caused by the tide of the stream. Without them surface soil would wash away and the steam would widen. The roots also provide a habitat in which other plants may grow around them. The Chompuu Nam produces pale yellow flowers, rich in nectar, which attract nectarvorous birds such as sunbirds and flowerpeckers which play a major role in pollination of the trees.