A forest in Nam O fishing village in Da Nang has been barred from outside influences for generations, with citizens regarding the forest as a local treasure.
The forest, located just outside the Nam O fishing village of Lien Chieu District, spans 500 meters in length and 200 meters in width. Its highest point is 50 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by large rocks, its main inhabitants being birds, monkeys, squirrels and weasels.
At night, locals enter the forest with flashlights in hand to catch crabs as food. There are also other delicacies such as Porphyra seaweed, which was once used as offerings for ancient kings, as well as molted cicadas.
Bui Bon, 57, said Da Nang has been impacted by storms every year. But the villagers of Nam O have been kept safe thanks to the forest. Locals often taught their children to respect the forest, protect it and not interfere with it.
Villagers of Nam O make a living by fishing and making fish sauce, so they have very high demand for wood to build boats. But Bon said no one dares to cut down the trees in the forest, despite the fact that several trees there have very high-quality wood. People only collect branches and trunks that have fallen from the trees, or retrieve wood that has been swept away by floods, for use as a burning fuel.
During the war, the forest of Nam O was also a sanctuary for Vietnamese soldiers. Nguyen Cu, who is over 60-years-old, said that in 1968, American troops tried to drop napalm bombs to decimate the forest, but they failed.
“The ancient, primeval forest has layers of dead leaves, making it impossible for the bombs to combust,” he said. “The napalm bombs that were dropped into the rocky areas outside the forest meanwhile combusted, leaving black marks that still have traces even now.”
Nguyen Cu tells stories of people protecting Nam O forest in Da Nang. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong
To protect the forest, villagers formed teams to patrol it. Cu said that during the war American troops came to cut down the trees in the forest, but that the villagers came to defend it. In the 1990s, some Japanese were approved by city authorities to come to the forest’s rocky cliffs and collect rocks, but locals disagreed and requested that the rocks be returned to their original spots, he added.
Over two decades ago, Da Nang authorities signed a decision to allow over 36 ha (89 acres) of the forest, including numerous graves, shrines and other relics, to be used by businesses as an eco-tourism site. Fences were erected around the forest, but so far, the project has yet to be fully deployed.
Nguyen Ha Bac, secretary of Lien Chieu District, said villagers have pledged to protect the forest for generations, so city authorities have classified the Nam O reef area as a natural forest, which means trees cannot be cut down and the area cannot be used for concrete construction.
The city plans to build a walking trail, made of wood, to surround the reef area. There will also be spots for people to stop by and rest and marvel at the beauty of the forbidden forest of Nam O.
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