GENERAL INFO & SITE ACCOUNTS
Wilma & Jos Wanten; Reuver, The Netherlands Ė e-mail:jos.birds(at)hetnet.nl
After Malaysia in 2003 this was our second visit to South-east Asia. We alternated birdwatching with doing some culture stops like the old temple ruins of Ayutthaya, city and temple tours in and around Chiang Mai and visiting some hill-tribes in the north. I was aware that this period of the year wasnít ideal in birding point of view because most of the winter visitors had already left north to their breeding grounds. It was not always easy to find the birds but despite that we ended up with a trip list of 227 species of which 126 where lifers.
Travel arrangements were made through a Dutch tour-operator called Van Verre Reizen. The whole trip was preliminary arranged by them from flights to hotels and car with driver. They even arranged leech-proof socks for us which were handed over to us by their local tour-operator at Bangkok airport on arrival. Their website is at http://www.vanverre.nl/
Since we decided only a few weeks prior to departure to go to Thailand we were not able to make our usual proper preparations for the trip, but information on the web about bird-watching is widely available. The usual websites like http://www.fatbirder.com/ and http://www.camacdonald.com/ provide valuable information. Information about Doi Inthanon N.P. with site descriptions and maps is available at http://www.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/doi_inthanon_birds.html
We also used several trip-reports from the web for planning of the trip which are available at http://www.birdtours.co.uk/ and http://www.eurobirding.com/. We found the best reports at http://www.birdinggermany.de/thailand02.htm and at John van der Woudeís http://johnbirding.wolweb.nl/ which we used as a guideline for our own trip because of the accurate descriptions of the sites including maps. We used the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson as our field guide. It illustrates all the birds occurring in Thailand including distribution maps. The only drawback is that the text is quite short and it doesnít treat the abundance rates of the birds. On the other hand it is a fairly compact book thus easy to bring with you in the field (thatís why it is called a field guide isnít it!). We did not use any sound equipment this time. For general information we used the Thailand Lonely Planet.
We would like to thank the following people for their contribution and for making our trip such a success:
Van Verre Reizen: despite that they had to organize the trip in a very short period of time everything turned out to be greatly arranged. Everything went as scheduled.
Manop our driver for 8 days in the northern part of the country. He was great company and a very funny guy. Although his English was a bit limited we never had any problems understanding each other.
John van der Woude: as during our Malaysia trip in 2003 we used his report as a guideline for our own trip. Johnís reports are our favourite ones on the web. His way of writing an describing sites are perfect to find certain hotspots. And that is exactly where trip reports are made for.
The Thai people for being so extremely friendly and helpful.
Thailand is situated on the Indo-Chinese peninsula in South-east Asia. Except from the tourist destinations English is often a bit of a problem. The people are extremely friendly, the food is great and the country is very cheap compared to western standards. The unit of currency is the Thai Baht (TBH). The exchange rate was TBH 50 for 1 Euro. Changing money is no problem at all. Almost every town has an ATM. Many hotels also except Visa card and Traveller Cheques. Donít take too much clothes and other stuff with you. Thailand has lots of shops where you can buy your necessaries against fairly low prices. Besides that almost every hotel has laundry services for very reasonable prices. Do take medical precautions before arriving in the country. For info contact your local health authorities. According to the Dutch health authorities anti-malarial precautions are not needed.
Bangkok International Airport is one of South-east Asiaís major centres for international flights. Dozens of airline companies throughout the world offer flights to Bangkok. So getting there should be no problem at all. China Airlines and KLM offer direct flights from Amsterdam to Bangkok with tickets costing between Ä 500 and Ä 600.
Getting around in Thailand is easy, cheap and straightforward. The country has fairly good road, rail and internal flight connections. All towns are connected by good paved roads. Except from minor roads, signposting along the major routes is in both Thai and English language. Rental cars are widely available in major cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai costing from 20 to 50 Euro per day depending on the type of car you want. If you donít like to drive by yourself, drivers can usually be hired for an additional Ä 6 to Ä 12 per day. In most towns there is an abundance of cheap taxis and tuk-tuks which can be rented per trip or by the hour.
We visited the country during the transition between the dry and the oncoming wet season. The first 12 days we had fairly dry and hot weather especially in the region around Bangkok. Temperatures rose to about 35 to 40 degrees Celsius. The northern lowlands were hot also but less dry. In the higher regions like Doi Inthanon we had nice spring like weather with temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius. The last 3 days we had lots of rain announcing the oncoming wet season.
ACCOMMODATIONS & FOOD
Thailand has plenty of accommodations available from budget guesthouses to luxury hotels. Even the smaller towns have choice enough. Clean tourist class hotels start at about TBH 500 (Euro 10) for a double room including breakfast. Most of the time we used fairly luxury hotels with airco, pool, TV and mini-bar ranging in price between TBH 800 to 1800 (Euro 16 to 36) for a double room. One hotel that I would like to recommend in special is the Inthanon Highland Resort. We had a nice cabin there next to the garden pond for about TBH 1000 (Euro 20). The resort had a very relaxed atmosphere and a huge garden. The restaurant served great food and the service was outstanding. The food in Thailand is really delicious and cheap. Expect to pay around TBH 200 (4 Euro!) for a good dinner in local restaurants. Dinner in hotels cost slightly more from TBH 250 and upwards. Soft drinks and fresh fruit juices cost between TBH 15 to 30. A large Singha beer cost about TBH 70 to 100.
PARKS & CONSERVATION AREAS
Thailand counts about 94 National Parks and another 40 protected areaís or Wildlife Reserves. These are the main hotspots for birdwatching. The type of habitat in the parks and reserves range from several forest types (rainforest, deciduous forest, dry dipterocarp forest) to mangroves and freshwater swamps.
BIRDING SITES VISITED
Khao Yai National Park:
Measuring 2168 sq km Khao Yai is Thailandís second largest park. It is also Thailandís first national park established in 1962. It is located roughly 200 km east of Bangkok on an altitude ranging from 400 to 900 mtr and it mainly consists of tropical rainforest. The visitor centre is the starting point for several trails through the forest.
Doi Inthanon National Park:
This park is located 60 km south-west of Chiang Mai in the north of the country. A good paved road runs for about 45 km from the park entrance to the summit at 2565 mtr. Along this road there are several interesting birding stops. The most rewarding sites are the 37 km trail and the summit trail holding many interesting birdspecies found nowhere else in Thailand. The parkís birdlist counts 362 species. For more comprehensive information please check out at http://www.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/doi_inthanon_birds.html
Doi Chiang Dao:
Doi Chiang Dao is situated 60 km north of Chiang Mai. It is noted as the southernmost range of the north asian birds. The area holds Thailandís third highest mountain (2175 m) and mainly consists of deciduous and montane evergreen forest. Good trails can be found around Maleeís Nature Lovers Bungalows. A good website with lotís of info about the area is available at http://home.tiscali.be/fr018787/birding/chiangdao.htm
To reach this area take the highway 107 north from Chiang Mai. At the kilometer 107 point take a left and follow the steep and winding road for about 26 km to the top of the hill. The habitat at an altitude of 1500-1800 mtr consists of open areaís alternated with evergreen forest. The place is renowned for itís northern asian specialties and if you are there in the right season for northern migrants.
Thaton is located in the north at the border with Myanmar. From Doi Angkhang it is another 1ľ hours drive along highway 107. The area consists of lowland fields and riverbanks along the Maekok river. We did not see many new birds here but it tends to be a good place during the northern winter. It also holds a stake-out for Jerdonís Bushchat.
This area is located at the border with Laos and Myanmar near the golden triangle about 80 km north-east of Thaton. We visited the lake which is located about 4 km before you reach the town of Chiang Saen. Again this place is best during the northern winter but nevertheless we had some trip ticks here. We also paid a visit to the Rim Khong restaurant at the Mekong riverbank. Here we saw amongst Small Pratincole.
OTHER SITES VISITED
One of Thailandís most important cultural heritages. Extensive temple complexes about 85 km north of Bangkok which served as the royal capital of Siam between 1350 and 1767 AD.
Wat Doi Suthep:
This is a temple complex located on a mountain just 15 km outside Chiang Mai. The forests surrounding the temple at an altitude of about 1600 mtr belong to the Doi Suthep National Park. The reserve holds about 300 bird species but during our visit the bird activity was extremely low.
Mae Hong Son:
Our main reason to go to this area in the north-western corner of the country was to visit the hill-tribes along the border with Myanmar. This area is not often visited by birders but the area looked very promising. Especially the area around Tham Pla National Park and the road up in to the mountains to a chinese village called Mae Aw produced very good birds.
This is Northern Thailandís most important city. We did a city tour and paid a visit to a Kantoke show, the famous night market and several temple complexes.
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