Rafflesia - My Family Travels

When the machete-wielding tiger-fighting farmer began growling, I looked up at Mom and Dad. “Are those the sounds tigers make?” “Yes Elliot, but I’m sure that we’ll be fine.” It was scary without the tiger-calls. Night already in the process of falling, we were in a jungle, in a third world country, with a foreign language, and no one knew we were there.

Honorable Mention 2009 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

Supposedly, all this was worth seeing this treasure of nature, the Thai Rafflesia. One of the largest flowers of the world. Truth be told, it stunk. Literally. In order to attract bugs to pollinate, it releases a scent of rancid meat. No surprise that the bugs it attracts are carrion beetles. Attracted to the smell of meat in the same way that, say, tigers would be. Tigers and beetles are not the only thing these flowers attract. Excited tourists are another prime example. “The largest flower in the world? We must see it”. Then they hop in their air conditioned SUVs and drive to the local plant-zoo, for sissies.

My family was not so different. When we heard there were rafflesia at a nearby national park we packed up and went. What we didn’t know was where the flower was. It wasn’t near the park, it wasn’t in a glass case set aside for the public, in fact it was nowhere near the public.

Shaky English and Thai communications with the Park Ranger had lead us to believe that there was one flower left. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of the jungle. So middle of the jungle, only a local would know where it was. A machete-wielding tiger-fighting local. Luckily the Park Ranger introduced us to him, so we knew which machete-wielding tiger-fighting farmer to follow.

In the end, he did a pretty good job. But that is at the end. We followed this man up a hill, nay, mountain, for a good 45 minutes. The sun had set and the creepy grey light you only get in the forest had begun to set in at the same time as our guide starting making tiger calls. Quality tiger calls. Roaring, yowling, and god-forbid, purring. He must spend a lot of time close to tigers. The scars on his face did look like claw marks. Too close from the looks.

Good stories have an exciting end and this is not a good story. The tiger farmer was the most exciting thing. We saw the flower, it was big, it stunk, and it was fairly worth it. But the machete-weilding tiger-fighting farmer. He was worth it. Every second of the trip up-hill and down-hill was too. So the moral of the story is… there is no moral, no concrete special thing like the world’s largest flower. But there is a more fluid, entreating special thing. And he carries a machete. 

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