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Thailand (or elsewhere in SE Asia) the last two weeks of December? (1 Viewer)

melisande

Well-known member
My husband and I will have two+ weeks of vacation at the end of December and would like to bird SE Asia for the first time. What areas would be good at this time of year? We were originally considering Thailand, but then heard that the holidays are really not a great time to visit due to greatly increased traffic. We then considered Malaysia, but were warned about the rainy season. Are these two warning correct? And if so are there better places to bird in SE Asia this time of year. Ideally, we would like more than just one small region, as it is supposed to be a relatively long trip.

Would summer just be a better time for this region? (Due to work restraints, we can only take major trips around the Deceber holidays and in the summer, not, alas, during the Spring or Fall).

Also, if any one could recommend a guide or company that could set up a privately guided trip for us, that would be great too!

Thanks!
 
Others with more experience than I will hopefully chip in, but having visited Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysian Borneo and the Philippines in December, I can confirm it is a wonderful time to visit - particularly as there are boreal migrants as well as resident species. Unsure if we were lucky, but we didn't have any issues with weather, save for the standard heavy daily downpour in the afternoon.
Thailand, Sabah and the Philippines are all quite easy to do independently, there is a wealth of information available online and others will be able to chip in with recommendations depending on locations/timing/budget. I can't help with organised travel I'm afraid.
 
Others with more experience than I will hopefully chip in, but having visited Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysian Borneo and the Philippines in December, I can confirm it is a wonderful time to visit - particularly as there are boreal migrants as well as resident species. Unsure if we were lucky, but we didn't have any issues with weather, save for the standard heavy daily downpour in the afternoon.
Thailand, Sabah and the Philippines are all quite easy to do independently, there is a wealth of information available online and others will be able to chip in with recommendations depending on locations/timing/budget. I can't help with organised travel I'm afraid.
How did you bird independently? How did you work out the transportation, figuring out logistics, etc? I have often thought about trying to do an independent trip, but fear that I will miss out on a lot of the specialty/hard to find birds without expert help. (Also, I have some pretty serious, non-negotiable dietary issues that need to be handled somehow.)
 
We lived in Thailand for a year and visited on multiple other occasions as well for my work. December is a great time to go there, the weather is not too hot or rainy. Head up to Doi Inthanon near Chang Mai, it will be crawling with migrants. From Bangkok, heading to down to Kaeng Krachan by car for a few days is excellent too. Khao Yai should be visited but do not go on a weekend, it is very popular. Lots of decent birding within or very near Bangkok too. Malaysia is great also, add a trip to KL and then go up to Fraser's Hill. That will add a ton of stuff not in Thailand. Or, head over to Siem Reap in Cambodia and again, you will get a ton of birds not easy to get in Thailand. I can point you to some good guides if interested.
 
We never used any tour companies. I'd search for local guides online and set things up with them. In most cases they can arrange transportation to get you from your hotel. A lot of Bangkok is easy to bird on your own also. Not sure about KL in that regard.
 
Ok, sure, that would be great if you could recommend some local guides. We never go on scheduled group birding tours, but we have started using an independent guide to set up our trip, travel with us and set things up with local guides. I have to be super careful about what I eat (else I could end up in the hospital) and it just feels safer to have someone always with us to make sure mistakes aren’t made (sometimes it is difficult even with a guide to translate LOL).

Another option is to find a place where I can shop and cook my own food … and we have done that, but then I don’t feel like I am on a vacation.

That is amazing that you lived in Thailand for a year. I’m envious!
 
Companies or groups that we have used and which I can recommend:


Birdwatching tours in Khao Yai

Note the above site can also be used to set up trips to Kaeng Krachan, which I think is a better site than Khao Yai, of I had to pick one. Also if you head down there from BKK there is the option of going for Spoonbilled Sandpiper too.


 
Companies or groups that we have used and which I can recommend:


Birdwatching tours in Khao Yai

Note the above site can also be used to set up trips to Kaeng Krachan, which I think is a better site than Khao Yai, of I had to pick one. Also if you head down there from BKK there is the option of going for Spoonbilled Sandpiper too.


Thanks!
 
If you decide to go to Kaeng Krachen, then staying at Baan Maka would be good. The owners speak very good English, they have their own kitchen so would probably be OK with dietary requirements and can organise guides to the local nature reserve and bird hides. They can also organise transport from Bangkok to the accommodation.
 
If you decide to go to Kaeng Krachen, then staying at Baan Maka would be good. The owners speak very good English, they have their own kitchen so would probably be OK with dietary requirements and can organise guides to the local nature reserve and bird hides. They can also organise transport from Bangkok to the accommodation.
Totally agree and should have mentioned this. Baan Maka is a fantastic lodge, we have stayed there several times.
 
If I were to set up a trip out of BKK, it might look like:

Spend a couple days in BKK to get acclimated and un-jet-lagged. There are plenty of places to bird in the city to get the easy species.

Hire a driver to get you up to Khao Yai (2.5 hrs) and hire a guide there. Two days would be good. Not on the weekend.

Do the same to go to Baan Maka and Kaeng Krachang. Spend at least two nights there. It is about 3 hours from BKK.

Fly to Chiang Mai (1hr) and spend at least three nights and do Doi Inthanon. If you have more time, go to Doi Lang also.

Fly back to BKK and then fly over to Siem Reap. At least four days in Cambodia.

Fly back and then fly to KL. Three days to go to Fraser's Hill and other nearby places.

That would be between two- three weeks or so if it wasn't to be rushed. If I had to drop one place, it would be either Cambodia or KL, flip a coin, They are both amazing places to bird.
 
If I were to set up a trip out of BKK, it might look like:

Spend a couple days in BKK to get acclimated and un-jet-lagged. There are plenty of places to bird in the city to get the easy species.

Hire a driver to get you up to Khao Yai (2.5 hrs) and hire a guide there. Two days would be good. Not on the weekend.

Do the same to go to Baan Maka and Kaeng Krachang. Spend at least two nights there. It is about 3 hours from BKK.

Fly to Chiang Mai (1hr) and spend at least three nights and do Doi Inthanon. If you have more time, go to Doi Lang also.

Fly back to BKK and then fly over to Siem Reap. At least four days in Cambodia.

Fly back and then fly to KL. Three days to go to Fraser's Hill and other nearby places.

That would be between two- three weeks or so if it wasn't to be rushed. If I had to drop one place, it would be either Cambodia or KL, flip a coin, They are both amazing places to bird.
Wow! Thanks for that itinerary. I’ve already started looking at it in more detail. One concern I have is hiring guides through lodges once we get there instead of hiring directly ourselves in advance. We used to reserve through lodges and have them set up the guiding, but we have found it hit or miss. The biggest issues is not the quality of the guide, but simply availability. At one place, they guaranteed us a guide for each of the four days we were going to be there, but in reality that turned out to be one full day of guiding and three mornings only. At another place, they told us they could get all day guiding for us, but it turned out that in practice we only had a guide for 10 out of the 14 days we were there (and we wound up pleading pretty hard for 5 of the 10 days, so if we hadn’t really pushed, we would only have had guiding 5 out of 14 days). Neither of these experiences were in Thailand (Costa Rica and Ecuador respectively). Maybe it is different there? Can you reserve with guides ahead of time (wire money, etc).

I would worry about making the (costly) trip all the way from the US only to find out that guiding wasn’t as available as advertised.

Really, that is the only quibble I have with the kind of itinerary you suggest. Well, that and making sure food options will work for me. But I guess we can always communicate with the lodge ahead of time about this.

Also, what about the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. From eBird, it looks like they have been seen not too far from Bangkok. Are they findable withiut a guide?
 
Yeah, you should get all the guiding arranged before. I didn't mean to imply to look for one after you get to the site! I set things up ahead of time and wired money in many cases, but often you can just pay them upon arrival too.

For the spoonies, I'd want a guide. Otherwise you'd need to drive yourself and I do not recommend doing that. Or get a driver with good English willing to drive all over the area. When we got it we were with a guide and it would have been a real pain otherwise. That guide was based out of BKK and picked us up and drove us to Baan Maka and then we found the spoonie on the way back up. I'd give you his contact info if I had it. That was on our first trip to Kaeng Krachan. A year later we wanted to go with him again but I could not find him. We did get a guide via the Thai Natl parks site. Also check the Baan Maka site, the owner there may have some guides.

Thailand is like a second home to us. Absolutely the nicest people in the world live there and it is gorgeous and the food is insanely good. Great birds too.

The guide I recommended for Malaysia is in our top 3 guides ever, anywhere. He is a bird finding machine and a great guy.
 
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