Wat Prang contains a very famous tree (in certain circles). Of course, we didn’t know that. We just happened to be innocently driving through small town of Pua, and decided to visit the wat on a whim. It was lively compared to the usual lonely affair, with scores of novice monks walking about chatting in groups – but it wasn’t particularly grand or spectacular in any way.
We were about to leave, when suddenly a man sitting behind a counter selling amulets called to us. As we turned to look, he jumped up and instructed us follow him to a tree. He then began to prod at the trunk with his fingertips.
“See?” he pointed up. Just beyond the wiggling branches of the tree, we could see the roof of the main temple. The bells hanging from the roof were jangling slightly. The branches were not touching the roof. The man grinned.
“Is it the bells moving? Is that what he wants us to see?” I asked Caroline.
“Uh… maybe?” said Caroline.
“That’s the wind, though, right?”
We showed the man that we were confused. He then told me to jab my fingers into the trunk of the tree, so I did. The upper branches wiggled, and the bells on the temple jangled. I stopped jabbing the tree, and the bells kept on jangling.There was a breeze; of course the bells were jangling. We looked at the man and shrugged.
Written on a little sign next to the tree was one thing in English: DIK DEAM TREE.
Now, hours later, with the power of the internet, we have learned what was supposed to be so fascinating. Dik Deam means ‘tickle’ in Thai, and when you ‘tickle’ the trunk of the tree, the outermost leaves jiggle. Apparently certain people have decided that this is some kind of phenomenon, and apparently nobody has sat these people down and gently informed them that if you jab any tree with a thin trunk, the outer leaves are going to wiggle. Here’s a little pop-up video of the tree in action. Go on, click it. I’ll wait.
No, I didn’t make that video; it’s the same tree, but they’ve changed the sign since filming.
So there we were, without any of the knowledge I’ve just gifted to you, trying to figure out what this smiling guy was attempting to show us. After we shrugged, he made his hand into a fist and pushed on the tree with it. And so I made a fist too, and punched the tree.
After that he seemed satisfied (or horrified that I’d punched his magic tree) and went back to tending his amulet stand. We thanked him profusely for what, we did not know, and then drove away.