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Thailand November 2022 (1 Viewer)

opisska

rabid twitcher
Czech Republic
This was probably the most complicated trip to plan - between my wife's and my own health limitations (meaning we want a rental car trip and we do not want malaria), the ongoing covidism in some places, a dead specific time window to go, in a season that's bad for many destinations, a dreadful offer of flight tickets to most places and a weird holiday on Sri Lanka causing no availability of rental cars there, it took me several days to find something I would actually like. Eventually I settled with a trip to Thailand starting next Tuesday - even there getting the tickets for a sane cost was not optimal and we ended up with a very funny itinerary, where we go by bus to Vienna, then fly to Istanbul - but not IST but Sabiha, so we have to transfer across the entire city ... but hey, it costs only 700 EUR!

I said "settled" because we have already been to Thailand before. Back in 2014 it was our fist visit to the tropics and we spent several days in Khao Yai, which we absolutely loved and that's definitely where we are going again this time. As to what else we do, I am not sure - the rental period for our car is 11 days and 5 hours. The country is large, but the really interesting things are pretty far away from each other. Khao Yai should entertain us for a couple days, but there isn't much around it, just agricultural landscape - yet the really attractive things like the mountains around Chiang Mai or the Malay Peninsula are full day's drive away, not really that attractive on such a short itinerary...

Preparing this trip made me realize how I actually know nothing about purposeful birding outside the WP (and maybe Chile and Argentina). Yes, I have birded in many world destinations but it was basically always "let's go there and see what's there, everything's gonna be new anyway". I had a few "target species" before, but those were just things that really caught my attention while browsing through a field guide. Yes, in the last few years, I began to plan the trips around targets, that's true, but those were mammals ...

In Thailand we will probably also mostly target mammals, if anything, but I think we'll have a SIM card and internet, so I'll be posting where we are and maybe y'all can tell me if there is a fantastic stakeout for a great species next to me, right? :)
 
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YuShan

hikingbirdman.com
United Kingdom
Damn, 700 euro... I paid €348 for a return flight London - Bangkok in 2019.

I loved Khao Yai too. Cool thing is that you can camp there, so I could enjoy the "nightlife" in the park (which included bears and an elephant pulling down trees less than 100 meters from my tent) and also be around before sunrise. I didn't have my own transport, so hiking and sometimes hitching (easy) to move around inside the park. Btw: just outside Khao Yai there is a cool cave with bats flying out at night.

Doi Inthanon was awesome. You can also camp there (less than $1 for one person and a small tent in 2019). This also avoids paying the entrance fee every day again if you stay multiple days, at least for me passing the top gate on foot. Saw tons of birds. I also camped in Sri Phang Nga, which is a wonderful place to bird.

My entire trip to Thailand 31 Jan - 3 March 2019 costed me a grand total of €938, including international and domestic flights, accommodation, food, park fees, transportation (and €30 fine for overstaying my visa :LOL: ). And I had such a great time!
 
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opisska

rabid twitcher
Czech Republic
Sadly now and on short notice, 700 Euro is a "cheap flight". I think people are hungry for travel but airlines have gotten a big hit and don't have the capacity now. I considered many destinations - Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Oman, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Malaysia - and everywhere it was the same - cheapest flights about a double of what it was pre-covid. My colleagues are now going for work to Argentina and the prices are insane, 2000 EUR return ...
 

YuShan

hikingbirdman.com
United Kingdom
Many people are also escaping to warm countries this winter. You still receive your £400 energy grant, even when relaxing on a beach in a hot country :ROFLMAO:
 

jurek

Well-known member
I was in Thailand twice, few years ago.
  • Getting from Bangkok to the north: Doi Ithanon and area requires either internal flight (which was unexpensive then) or a full day of driving. If you already rented a car, then Khao Yai, Kaeng Krachan and Pak Thale around Bangkok will keep you busy during 10 days.
  • Kaeng Krachan is better than Khao Yai. Check if you can camp there.
  • If you camp, plan so that you can sneak out at night, preferably with a car (avoid get locked behind a gate).
  • Weekends in national parks are unbearably crowded and birdlife is scared. I spent this time going to Pak Thale and surroundings. A splendid area of salt pans, coasts and wet grassland criss-crossed by roads, with Spoon-billed Sandpiper being a star. There is a long row of beach hotels around Mai Phayung Kitchen as called by Google Maps, you can choose whatever suits your budget and avoid driving otside the area for night.
  • On the first day in Kaeng Krachan and Khao Yai, better take a birding guide (not a regular guide) from Baan Maka and some place near Khao Yai. He will show you difficult birds which require calls, and you can get other info for free.
  • There are quite a lot local and travelling birders around, so try to get current local info. I am not sure how, but my guide checked that X or Y was recently seen or not seen. This is especially useful for owl roosts and wintering waders. Maybe others on Birdforum know?
 

opisska

rabid twitcher
Czech Republic
Not sure if we'll go to Pak Thale. Yes, it has some good birds, but looks a bit ugly :) Do you know what is the malaria situation in Kaeng Krachan? It is at the border with Myanmar where the highest malaria risk is, but it doesn't seem that you actually get very close to the border while visiting it ...
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
Cyprus
I was in Thailand twice, few years ago.
  • Getting from Bangkok to the north: Doi Ithanon and area requires either internal flight (which was unexpensive then) or a full day of driving. If you already rented a car, then Khao Yai, Kaeng Krachan and Pak Thale around Bangkok will keep you busy during 10 days.
  • Kaeng Krachan is better than Khao Yai. Check if you can camp there.
  • If you camp, plan so that you can sneak out at night, preferably with a car (avoid get locked behind a gate).
  • Weekends in national parks are unbearably crowded and birdlife is scared. I spent this time going to Pak Thale and surroundings. A splendid area of salt pans, coasts and wet grassland criss-crossed by roads, with Spoon-billed Sandpiper being a star. There is a long row of beach hotels around Mai Phayung Kitchen as called by Google Maps, you can choose whatever suits your budget and avoid driving otside the area for night.
  • On the first day in Kaeng Krachan and Khao Yai, better take a birding guide (not a regular guide) from Baan Maka and some place near Khao Yai. He will show you difficult birds which require calls, and you can get other info for free.
  • There are quite a lot local and travelling birders around, so try to get current local info. I am not sure how, but my guide checked that X or Y was recently seen or not seen. This is especially useful for owl roosts and wintering waders. Maybe others on Birdforum know?
I think we took an overnight bus and hired a car in Chiang Mai.
 

opisska

rabid twitcher
Czech Republic
Not nearly as much as I would like to! Always some problems preventing us from traveling even more, recently mostly of medical character. It's really a shame we do not have one unified country across the planet with a unified healthcare so that one could go to procedures in random places depending on where they are at the moment :)
 

3Italianbirders

well-known member
Supporter
Italy
Not nearly as much as I would like to! Always some problems preventing us from traveling even more, recently mostly of medical character. It's really a shame we do not have one unified country across the planet with a unified healthcare so that one could go to procedures in random places depending on where they are at the moment :)
😁
 

Oldnintheway

Well-known member
Malaria? In Thailand?? I lived there for 4 yrs, albeit a while ago, and never heard of it. Plenty of Dengue. There is beautiful country in the Phetburi-Prachuap area. The salt pans, Kaeng Krachan, and so much more within reach. Sadly, I never spent the time there that I'd hoped to. E-bird is useful in Thailand. The Bangkok parks around Suan Rot Fai are worth some time when you're in the city. I'm partial to the Phang Nga area but that's a bit far. There are also overnight trains from Bankok-Chiang Mai, don't eat train food.
 

temmie

Well-known member
Some random snippets / thoughts:
I was in Thailand, January 2014. The first week (4-11) I did:
  • Wat Phra Phutthabat Noi (Marbled Wren-babbler quick stop)
  • Khao Yai
  • Kaeng Krachan (one of the best places in to see Asian Leopard)
  • Laem Pak Bia and Pak Thale near Petchaburi

I joined the couple of Raphael Lebrun and Eva Andreu. Every site was very much recommended and perfect for a week. If I had extra time, I wouldn't have mind to spend an extra day in Khao Yai (better views of the ground-cuckoo, and more chances for Eared Pitta, sadly missed), one in Kaeng Krachan (another Eared Pitta miss, this time a calling one at the hide near Baan Makan. No playback allowed!) and one around Petchaburi (mainly for some general birding, and e.g. for the wintering site for Yellow-breasted Bunting which I only learned about after the trip. There is also a harrier roost but we were a bit far from all the action.
Raphael's report is here: https://www.cloudbirders.com/be/download?filename=LEBRUN_Thailand_1201_20132014.pdf

Traffic in Thailand is very dangerous. The very first day, I saw my life flashing in front of my eyes, seated in a minibus on a ring road near Bangkok. The minibus saw a traffic jam too late, and only saved the bus by finding a gap on the other lane where traffic was still flowing a bit.

Thailand has some excellent websites with info about birding sites (and what birds to find), like Thaibirding.

While Thailand is birded intensively and there is a big birding community of which some photographers seem to share the most perfect pictures of skulking pittas and other highly desired birds almost every day on my FB feed, the birding isn't always easy. It took quite some effort to see some pittas and pheasants, and there were plenty hours without a single bird seen or heard, especially in the afternoons.
 

DMW

Well-known member
Not sure if we'll go to Pak Thale. Yes, it has some good birds, but looks a bit ugly :) Do you know what is the malaria situation in Kaeng Krachan? It is at the border with Myanmar where the highest malaria risk is, but it doesn't seem that you actually get very close to the border while visiting it ...
Kaeng Krachen is fantastic for birds and mammals - I've seen 2 leopards, including melanistic, and sun bear here, plus various smaller mammals. I suspect malaria risk is largely theoretical. I've not heard anybody even mentioning it.
 

opisska

rabid twitcher
Czech Republic
I have heard a lot of people say that birding in Thailand can be difficult. Is it, reallly? :)


( I hope the video works from mobile ...)

Other than the Firebacks, we finally got a photo of wild Red Junglefowl, isn't that the most absurd wild bird? You are in the middle of jungle and you hear ... a cock?! Our mammalwatching in random rural areas brought us Eastern Barn and Collared Scops owls. In Khao Yai proper, there were some nice birds, but just a few - to see any of the specialities, one would really have to focus on them and we got carried away by the mammals, as usual. But Khao Yai is really a gem for mammals, we got an Elephant, two Serows, both species of Gibbon, all four common Squirrels... Sadly, even walking around at night is suppressed, we got stopped and escorted to the campsite. Which, btw., was really full even on a weekday, so we run away before the weekend started.

The Fireback video is from a place with far less to see (we only found Finlayson's Squirrels) and very little birds besides the many, MANY firebacks walking around and on the main track - but with a far greater vibe - no other visitors, no night visit regulations, just please enjoy! - Sakaerat Biosphere reserve, roughly half way between Khao Yai and Khorat. If you are ever around, you really should consider a visit!

I was originally planning more time for Khao Yai, but we have really seen what we wanted during the day, so we decided to not come back after the weekend and instead we will head to Phu Khiao, because it just seems splendid.
 

opisska

rabid twitcher
Czech Republic
Birding in Phu Khiao seems far easier than in Khao Yai - it's probably the combination of a different kind of forest and almost no visitors on a Monday morning. We drove the 23km long access road there and back, stopped for birds and for a few longer walks along the road - visitors are not allowed alone on any trails here, but the road is really great anyway, so it doesn't matter. The moment I fell in love with this place was when we found Orange-breasted Trogon from the car - there used to be times when I considered trogons to be near-mythical and here you can see one while driving?! Further highlights include Banded Broadbill, Red-billed Blue Magpies, Pied Hornbill (sadly no Brown) and (edit!) Green-eared Barbet. Also Rhesus Macaques, Indochinese Langurs and Lar Gibbons, all of this from the comfort of a paved road. A much appreciated comfort - the forest around sometimes seems almost familiar (there are pines for heaven's sake!!!) but even the seemingly dry areas are overrun with leeches for some reason.
 
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opisska

rabid twitcher
Czech Republic
Besides the Flying Squirrel, Phu Khiao also provided Indochinese Gray Langurs and Assam Macaques (which we thought first were Rhesus, but got corrected on the SE Asia FB group for mammals); there was also a Golden Jackal near the campsite at night and plenty of the reintroduced Indochinese Hog Deer. After exiting the reserve, we drove to the nearby dam, where we found Rhesus Macaques for real this time and eventually we settled in "My DREAM campsite" a deserted campinground with a silly name but nice surroundings. This was the only accomodation we found in a large area around Phu Khiao - we wanted a place outside of the reserve, so that we could drive at night around to look for mammals - an idea which we got after meeting an elephant on a public road that leads to the reserve entrance. This worked nicely, just the mammals didn't really cooperate - we saw a civet of some kind, but too briefly and that was it, except for the aforementioned elephant which showed up again - and scared the bejesus out of me since I noticed it standing by the road at the last moment. Next day we looked around the highway 12 through Nao Nam a little, trying to find some caves (which we failed at), then we embarked on the long drive to Kaeng Krachan, which we broke only to sleep in a random hotel and to visit a Lelu's Flying Fox colony at some Wat.
 

opisska

rabid twitcher
Czech Republic
Kaeng Krachan is a special place. After two and a half days there I still can't really decide whether I like it - there is a slightly unpleasant atmosphere of "don't go anywhere without a ranger" - even the shortest trails around are reportedly guided-only ... There are also some rules about not moving around at night, but the times limits are conflicting, some people successfully break the rules - and the worst thing is that nobody is willing to discuss what the rules actually are. Without a 4x4 to tackle the rough road up, this basically leaves you with walking around the Ban Krang camp, driving the 15 kms of the road from the gate to the first river crossing - and walking around wherever you decide to stop - and walking the next 1.5 kms of the dirt track beyond the river crossing and that's it.

However while this all may leave a bit of a bitter taste at the start, it sort of becomes moot when you find out that it doesn't matter as the wildlife comes all the way to the campsite to meet you anyway. We have explored the roads, drove three evenings and one morning a little over the curfew, but still we saw most of the mega mammals straight in the camp. I am not going to ease you into it, but start with .. the Sun Bear! that came one afternoon to treat itself to some jackfruit - they obviously put the food out for it which is not the best conservation strategy, but it's kinda nice for the visitor. A midnight walk around the camp produced again the bear (a bit scarier at night), Small Indian Civet and Malayan Porcupine! To top things off, I found a shrew (probably Southeast Asian) right next to the tents. The roads around only produced some squirrels, Dusky Leaf Monkeys, Stump-tailed Macaques, Northern Treeshew and one very hot leaf turned out to be a  murina bat sleeping arrangement. Other people's reports have all sorts of exciting things - cats, civets, marten, bears ... - along the access road but we found everything really quiet. We also completely failed to see any ungulates at all.

After two nights camping in the park, we spent the last night in Baan Maka lodge - an evening walk on the property quickly brought a Slow Loris, some driving around produced some interesting mediu. size rodents (not sure if a rat species) and Burmese Hare - bringing the mammal list to 35.

As for birds, I would have to go though them again later - there were some Broadbills, some Barbets, some Hornbills, some Owls, the usual :) We are really doing the tropical birding wrong, because we are not targeting the hidden gems of ground-dwelling birds, instead we just walk around and see what pops ... but it's just so much more relaxing, especially after all the struggles with the mammals. But the eventual bird list from the trip is gonna be quite long, in particular thanks to today's visit to Pak Thale - we haven't found any Spoon-billed Sandpipers, but saw at least 19 other shorebill species and many other things.
 

DMW

Well-known member
Glad you saw a Sun Bear - KK must be the best place in the world so see this. It's a few years since I was there, but there were no rules about walking anywhere without a ranger during the daytime. Leaving the camp site after they put the barrier down at dusk was prohibited. Like a lot of birders, I used to sneak out after dark and walk along the road as long as I wanted. After a few days I was chatting with the friendly rangers and they mentioned with a grin that they knew what I was doing at night, but didn't give me any hassle or tell me to stop. It actually is quite risky, and a German tourist was killed by an elephant, but there's a bit of a story behind that.
 

opisska

rabid twitcher
Czech Republic
I'd like to hear that story one day!

Anyway, the trip is over after a full day whale watchin - which brought only Bryde's whales, as they didn't even look for anything else, sadly but the whales showed off to no end and that was nice. There was also an unending parade of winter-plumahe terns, which is surely everyone's favorite thing to look at ... I am aware that there are some exciting species possible in the gulf, bit frankly, am I gonna check every tern or am I gonna just stare into distance hoping for more cetaceans? We have some photos, so we'll see...

Overall we saw 36 species of mammals in 11 days, our best mammal trip outside of Africa (which simply can't be beaten due to the ease of adding more and more ungulates to the list). Interestingly, the most contributing order here was primates with 9 species! We have solidly IDed about 100 birds and I know about at least 40 other species and there is a lot of photos left for later, so my educated guess is that birds will be around 200 species which is par for the course of our typical trip - again, outside of Africa, of course. I'll provide hopefully some more insight into this later.

Overall Thailand has proven a great choice. It's very easy to travel in. The traffic is nowhere as bad as people make it sound (once you get past the driving-on-the-wrong-side thing and the weird controls that make you wipe down some brittish imperialism from your windscreen everytime you want to turn on an indicator), nature is readily accessed, parks have campsites and hotels outside of parks are easily booked online the same day. The terribleness of the food is somewhat mitigated by learning how "coriander" is in Thai and the constant diarrhea responds to activated charcoal well. And everything is dirt cheap, people are nice and it's incredibly safe - frankly I can't really think of a safer jungle country.
 

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