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|Saturday 21st February 2004, 16:15||#1|
Join Date: Dec 2003
Khao Lak, Thailand
this report contains opinions.
this report does not contain dull bird list.
January-February 2004 Me, Myself, Wife & Kid spent a twoweek vacation in Southern Thailand. We had developed several reasons to go there:
-wanted to add some more birds to Soma's lifelist (Soma is our twoyear daughter)
-fed up with all the work and no fun!
-every other finn also been there.
For two weeks I wondered that there is something wrong with the world, as the poor live there in constant warm with sweet fruits and spicy thai foods, and we rich highstandard people eat potatoes surrounded by snow & stress. I am beginning to feel that our western political leaders have some sort of conspiracy in trying to prohibit the westerners to flee out of our hell, into paradise...
How was the trip? Yes, it was! Ruined in the manner, that I only got 89 bird species to my thailist (tried for one hundred), and ended with 585 on my world list (aimed for 600). The guilty for this miserable result were Craig Robson and Suomen Lintuvaruste Ltd. Namely, a month before our journey I had ordered the only southeast asian bird guide, that that finnish retailer had, as a christmas gift for myself. The book was Robson's A field guide to the birds of South East Asia. Only when returning from Thailand, I noticed that same guy also had produced Birds of Thailand - it was sold in Phuket airport. The Thai guide is almost identical shortened version of the brick sized SE Asia-book (which actually is not a field guide!), and besides more manageable amount of species (under 1200) it has following advantages:
-pictures & text on same doublepage
-also maps (totally lacking of SE Asia) on same page
So whenever I observed a lifer, I had to hassle between colour plates and text section, and like this was not inconvenient enough, the plates and species definitions have different numbering systems. As many of the birds were in sight only short moments, I often picked "false" identification remarks.
Of course things would have turned out even worse. As they did in India, where we had onehour stopover, during which I didn't manage to manage my indialist even to ten species, even though the last item was afteridentified yet three weeks later in here in Birdforum (thanks to Sumit!).
If there is something positive to be found from our trip, not once for two weeks did we worry about all the undone jobs back home. The temperature was daily (& often nightly, too) over 30 degrees, the sea warm & clear, people friendly - Khao Lak is the most safe place abroad I've ever visited. It almost felt like that if I left my wallet on sand & got snorkelling for hours, my money would be there when I returned. As I now mentioned this topic, to be precise, nowhere have I so often witnessed criminal acts than in the United States – the most dangerous country on Earth...
Natural hazards there also were less than, say, in Cajun Country. We only saw one snake (in the jungle), felt very few mosquitoes and did not manage to meet ground leeches. But every time we got swimming on Khao Lak Beach, we hit some mysterious Cnidaria. Did not see it; it burned skin like a nettle.
Spotting birds in the jungles of one of the world's biodiversity hot spots (older rainforests than in Amazonia!) was a jolly job - even in the forest I had to carry a telescope, if I was to identify birds in canopy. A local birder guide is a must, if an outsider wishes for serious spotting. Fishspotting was much easier: they swam near, were in sight for a long time and there were plenty of them. The first living creature I saw on my first swim was Sepia latimanus. Funny cephalopod who changes its colour in split second, expressing its mood (annoyed). Khao Lak beaches are of white coral sand with occasional rock outcrops covered with oysters and corals. Corals build their calcium communities on underwater rocks, and with their strong beaks, parrotfish eat them, resulting on white sandy manure. So it is parrotfish droppings that makes these beaches tourist attractions.
Similan Island is a superb place for snorkeling & diving with great visibility (30 metres) due to its marine location (50 kilometres offcoast). It was a “what-a-feeling” to swim there, looking corals & fishes some ten metres below. A scuba friend from Pori was even more marvelled of diving among sharks etc. – she apparently dived almost daily for two weeks.
I concentrated in birding, and in birding I concentrated on quality before quantity. Like Buceros vigil was a great sight: a longbilled & -tailed bird of the size of a goose looked like a pterodactyl in flight. We also saw this male coming to the nest to feed the female, who he had enclosed in the treehole nest.
Acridotheres tristis was the only easily spotted species. It is a large dark greyish starling, who in flight looks a bit like mockingbird because of flashing wingpanels. It also has a melodious song. This was the first species I observed in country, and it appeared in any village.
There was one species that I missed because of being colourblind: my wife spotted Phaenicophaeus curvirostris in the jungle. It is large bird with bright red belly, and I could not spot it because for me tree leaves appear orangecoloured! Perkele.
A strange feature was that although spending much time on the beach
-shorebirds I observed only few
-of waterfowl only one unidentified Anas couple
-terns: fistful of Sterna caspia
-gulls: nada. Once I thought I saw one above the village, but to my disappointment it only was an egret…
Fishing owl Ketupa flaviceps we spotted on a spotlight during a night boat safari on a distant jungle lake. Cool! Next morning we were waked up not with the usual cock-a-doodle-doos, but mourning gibbons & langurs. Another Ketupa (zeylonensis) we observed on the sea (Phang Nga Bay) inside karst mountain lagoon.
Columnlike karst mountains were rather uncommon sight. Some of them out on the sea were basically circular like atolls – only that instead of some metres, they rose some hundred metres above sealevel. Those lagoons could be approached by canoe via tunnels carved by tide. Magical places, like the one that can be seen on the Leonardo Dicaprio-movie The beach (except, that there was no white sand beaches, but mangrove mudflats. Believe me, The beach is just an urban tale!).
It was amazing how tropical rainforest can grow on vertical cliffs. Somewhere there in jungle karst area (though not vertical, but after one kilometre carrying twoyear kid it felt almost like) we also spotted flowering Rafflesia, the world's largest flower. Even though it did not all the time feel like holiday, when carrying the kid in the heat (I guess many fellow europeans there wondered why the heck am I hauling that telescope all the time instead of just enjoying the Sun & the sea), I was infected by jungle: listening to all the cicadas, katydids & birds by night was magical; want to get back to jungle.
Elephant ride was once-in-a-lifetime experience in that sense that I was all the time worried what happens if it slips and I’m to be under it’s few tons. Soma slept half of the time. Another exotic experience was to sleep in a floating bamboo hut in Chew Lan Lake of Khao Sok National Park with some twenty metres water below.
Everywhere in inhabited areas there were cats, dogs & chickens around, of which our daughter was fond of. I think, that as we every evening had a dinner in some local restaurant, Soma got an idea that we go there to see cats. Just as we were heading for the end of our vacation, there started the Bangkok chicken flu hassle. Actually it started in Europe; the flu apparently was a way bigger news here than it was where it was.
In Similan Island's cafe there was a semitame 1,5 m Varanus bengalensis. Soma of course wanted to pet it, running after the lizard, calling it "big fish" - the lizard escaped on a tree.
Other strange lizards we met was a gliding lizard Draco taeniopterus in the jungles of Khao Sok. Our guide noticed it on a tree trunk; we would have passed it unnoticed. It was amazing, how sharp sight the local guides had - they pointed animals from great distances without binoculars (and we had difficulties in spotting them with binos).
One stranger that kept me puzzled for a week was a rasping voice I kept on hearing clear & loud in the evenings. First I thought it was some bird, then wondered if it was a bat and ended up deciding it to be a cicada. One night I actually saw, that it was that common gecko Hemidactylus frenatus. After dark they were all around, around lighted areas. One morning I counted nine of them climbing upside down on the restaurant ceiling.
Thai food burns the tongue. It is said that water doesn't help there, but bread. I noticed that Singha beer eases the burn. Though after one meal with one litre of sixpercent beer you don't feel much like walking back to hotel. In fact drinking in the tropix ain't much fun, as because of the heat you easily drink yourself quickly outta game.
One day we strolled on local market where I found a snackfood stand selling fried insects. Of course I had to try. Giant waterscorpions tasted like shit, but fried insect cocoons (order unidentified) were delicious with soy sauce. Grasshoppers and cockroaches were also for sale, but no swift nests… It was just just then as Soma wanted to have meatballs - so I gave her these cocoons, which the kid ate with appetite she seldom shows back at home.
By the way, meatballs there started to sound bit like "yak", as the localmenu is so delicious. Once we accidentally landed on an italian restaurant, and I really was disappointed to notice that from the menu I got.
Durianfruit was only for locals. It is a footballsized fruit, that looks bad (spiny), smells bad (something rotten) and tastes... umm, I actually couldn't decide if it was like a banana or if it was like a banana after someone had eaten it & it had gotten out from another end of the first eater. Locals like it. It was the only fruit among all the akees, ananases, bananas, papayas, sadopillas etc. that did not taste deliciously sweet. The sweetness of these others, in the other hand, was something rather different than is sold on european & north american quickmarkets. It was a pleasure to eat these food - fruits, rice & seafood, that you knew was fresh (picked the same day); and a bit frustrating to realise how tasteless canned life we live outside the tropix. A bit frightening to realise, how much we are on mercy of the socalled developing countries (good, that most of their businesses are owned by our international companies?).
Of local agriculture the biggest thing (& almost only visible sign) was gum tree growing – plantations everywhere. These poor will get rich in 40 years, after the world runs out of oil?
Khao Lak was established as a tourist resort just some years ago, and there is lot of building going on. We actually changed the hotel during our stay, because the first place was surrounded by two hotel construction sites. With large ads was advertised "land for sale - build your dream house here": contact a german internet address. Right now the place is "the ultimate hideaway", but it would not take long before Khao Lak is just another hotel coast. The local poor fishermen are pushed away from their paradise beach lots? The jungle will be overturned for tourist facilities? At least there is good opportunity to do so, as land management seems to be more liberal than in eg. Finland. Waste treatment is simple, you just burn the garbage on backyard. Yet, the only time I witnessed someone throwing thrash on the beach, it was a european tourist. There must be something wrong with the world, or maybe it is just the way world is.
Last edited by very boring banned member : Tuesday 2nd March 2004 at 07:37.
|Tuesday 24th February 2004, 09:07||#3|
Join Date: Feb 2003
A very enjoyable trip report, Karwin, precisely because you do express opinions, show some emotion and have a great deadpan sense of humour (what else would you expect from the country which produced Aki Kaurismaki?). The worst type of trip reports are the ones which go "Drove to Trujillo. On way we ticked Spanish Imperial Eagle and Great Bustard. Then we stopped at river. Here we ticked...etc." These are all too common, so it was refreshing to read yours and to find out that water scorpions taste like crap.
I'm going to be using Robson's guide in the field for the first time later this year in Singapore. It looks a great book in many ways, superb plates for the most part, very detailed text. But the lack of maps is a major drawback and nowadays why don't all guide books have the plates opposite the texts and the maps? Stevenson and Fanshawe managed it perfectly well with an area containing 1,300 birds in their East African guide. I hope that any future edition of the SE Asia book will do this.
Last edited by Edward : Tuesday 24th February 2004 at 11:58.
|Tuesday 24th February 2004, 10:45||#4|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Doncaster, UK
Although I really can't imagine eating insects!!! Bllleeeeaaarrrggghhhh!
(But that's just my opinion.)
Nice style of report definitely!
|Thursday 26th February 2004, 03:05||#5|
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Thanks Karwin... that was very entertaining and educational. I enjoy your sense of humour..
|Thursday 26th February 2004, 07:22||#6|
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Cheshire Peaks, UK
Great Karwin I empatise with you entirely, I love the Far East having lived in Singapore for two years and travelled frequently to Taiwan, China, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Malaya and Thailand. I actually rate Indonesian food above Thai. The birds are superb in all the Far Eastern countries favourites are the Kingfishers, Sunbirds, and Orioles, same as you I am Red/Green colour blind and it plays hell with birds high in the canopy. Thanks for a great read.
|Friday 11th February 2005, 21:46||#7|
Join Date: Dec 2003
Popular Finnish singer Aki Sirkesalo got lost with his wife, daughter and son in Khao Lak's christmas tsunami. He had recorded his next album last autumn, and that is going to be released in two weeks. His Finnish website was opened this week.
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