5 April 2011

Thailand - March 2011

19th March 2011

Morning flight from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi. Turns out that we are going to be splitting planes over the two legs, Airbus A340-600 to Abu Dhabi then a Boeing 777-300 to Bangkok. I have been avoiding Airbus like the plague after a number of fatalities and hull losses in 2009. Since talking at length with some former Airbus engineers I have decided to give them another go. To be fair, these planes have much more stable take off’s and landing. Definitely more comfortable too.
Abu Dhabi airport is nothing to write home about - fortunately a quick turn around. Have now flown on the all the major middle eastern carriers - Qatar Airways wins hands down! 

20th March 2011

Arrive early morning at Suvarnabhumi Airport. The airport is very new (only opened in 2006), quite efficient except for it’s customs officials, who could work anywhere in the world - they are all the same. Some job these customs lot - never smile or say hello, officious, self aggrandising, generally incompetent and always wasting pages unnecessarily in my passport.

Car Rental has been left to Adrian - handing over responsibility always bothers me and true to form he doesn’t remember who he has booked the car with or bought any confirmation of his reservation. iPad and some forward planning on my part save the day. Nowhere in the world has an SUV turned out to be the cheapest rental vehicle, but it soon turns out that most Thai’s drive SUV’s - very few cars on the roads or motorcycles for that matter. In fact we probably saw more motorcycles on the back of SUV’s than we did on the road. 

SUV sorted, we are wished farewell with a ‘wai’ (slight bow with palms pressed together)and a verbal ‘sawasdee’ - the first of many hundred given to and by ourselves. Ends up becoming quite formulaic and I have not quite gotten over bowing at people just yet.

Note from Editor : I have been using the term SUV for some time now. This is a truly useful American acronym. It has no comparative English word. (For my South African audience - read as bakkie.)

Out target for today is the western shores of the Bay of Bangkok, the northernmost section  of the Gulf of Thailand or Gulf of Siam. In particular we are heading to two small but rather famous fishing villages : Laem Pak Bia and Pak Thale. The major target here is the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, a winter visitor not normally numbering more than a few individuals every year. Enigmatic, highly unusual and critically endangered. The species is declining rapidly, with an estimated population of only 150 - 320 pairs in 2008 (down from 1000 pairs in 2000!). To put this into perspective, there are around 2500 Giant Panda’s and 3000 - 5000 Tigers surviving in the wild, both are currently listed as Endangered, but not critically. But Spoon-billed Sandpipers don’t make for cute stuffed toys. Another bird that I see become extinct in my own lifetime I suspect. 

After becoming a little lost, we quickly regain our bearings and start ticking off the innumerable wading species to be found over the salt pans. For the first time we are able to sit  and directly compare all the Calidris stints. A few hours in and we find a small flock of Spoon-billed looking waders. Pity, they turn out to be Little Stints with sticky mud hanging at the tip of their bills. Put the adrenalin away for later hopefully. Every Greenshanks gets a once over due to the known presence of Nordmann’s or Spotted Greenshank - another terribly Endangered species numbering less than 1000 individuals. 

Laem Pak Bia turns over many of the commoner waders and we head off in search of Pak Thale hoping to find a few of the haystack needles. Pak Thale seems a most unlikely setting for consistent sightings of these rare birds - it is a salt pan like any of the other thousand+ here. For one reason or another consistent sightings of Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank and Eastern Curlew occur here. A small gathering of waders requires a little walking amongst the salt pans. Initially nothing of significant interest, but a number Broad-billed Sandpipers provide us both with a much sought lifer. 

Clearly this laser eye surgery thing has done wonders for Adrian’s eyes, his spotting capabilities leave me at the races. First one Spoony, then another. Of the thousands of birds that I have seen, none has filled me with this level of satisfaction (Grey-crowned Crocias came close actually). I doubt the sight of any bird will ever mean quite the same thing. Bird trip to Thailand over for me, I could quite happily have got back in the SUV and flown out that afternoon or simply sat and watched the Spoonies for the next two weeks. I was so ensconced that the arrival of a number of Eastern and European Curlews - hardly grabbed my attention. I was still on the come down when we finally found a few Nordmann’s. 

Late afternoon and starting to run out of day - we sped along to the docks of Laem Pak Bia to see if a quick trip out to the sand-spit was still viable. Viable it was, no Chinese Egret - but two gorgeous Western Reef Egrets made good replacements. Much up and down from the scope to iPad trying to work our way through a number of Malaysian and Kentish Plovers for the newly described White-faced Plover. The ‘sighting’s book made mention of a single non-breeding female the day before and we came to the conclusion having found said female that no other specimens were in attendance. Just enough time for some sunset shots and a rather bizarre conglomeration of Black Drongo’s in the mangroves. Hundreds upon hundreds in dark swarming waves making their way into the mangroves to roost. Some sight!

It was decided to seek shelter in Phetchaburi for the evening before a short 50km drive to Kaeng Krachen NP the next day. The iPhone Tom Tom app struggled terribly, we attempted to find a hotel mentioned by Nick Upton called the Pet Kasem. The App had no luck and we ended up driving around for an hour until we eventually pulled up at some cesspit of a ‘hotel’. After all that, this was actually Pet Kasem! It really is a cesspit of mosquitos, dogs and flies. Even by rural Thai standards I could have little positive to say about it - it wasn’t even clean, something which Thailand is very much so. However, none of the other 5 or 6 ‘hotels’ we were guided to on the iPhone were even in existence. We figure it has been days since we last slept and it is going to be two weeks of very early mornings. Dinner and bed beckon. We plump for originality and order Thai Green Curry’s at a local restaurant with a magically refilling ‘pint’ of Singha. Seriously, every time we got to about a third of a glass remaining, off it shot for a fill up! The curry was positively radioactive - perhaps something to do with asking the waiter for a ‘hot’ curry. Note to self - at least try the food first before being stupid! 

If I have one motion picture / recollective dream a year it is a lot. However, this evening I could swear I dreamt of Spoon-billed Sandpipers all night. 
What a day!

21st March 2011

Departed Phetchaburi early doors and headed for Kaeng Krachen National Park. Reach HQ as dawn is breaking, but realise too late that we still have many miles to drive to reach decent birding habitat. With the early morning rapidly disappearing, we do get a few quality birds - pair of Barred Buttonquails walking along the road and a small flock of Vernal Hanging-Parrots. Mid morning activity is again rather quiet, but we are picking up the commoner species rather quickly. Arrive at Ban Krang campsite around mid day, Red-and-Black Broadbill already scoped - first Broadbill is a doddle. The afternoon heat is quite oppressive and we seek the shaded paths running along the stream. Birding is again quiet, but productive. 

I’m still finding it difficult to acclimatise, having only been in Vietnam 5 months ago. Adrian must be completely lost having never been to south east Asia before! Returning from the trail, we bump in Peter Ericsson leading a small American duo. We exchange a few details and enjoy a very confiding Blue-throated Bee-eater together. As the afternoon cools, birding activity picks up along the road. We walk a section from stream 1 to 3 picking up Silver-breasted Broadbill and hearing a number of Black-and-Yellow. 

Camping tonight, so tent up and blow-up mattresses in - sort of. Showers are cold, no lights - so it is a head torch shower of some description with a short and hurried exit freeze to see a flock of Tickell’s Brown Hornbill. Shower completed, dinner is undertaken - no such thing as an English menu and we are the only foreigners in the park this evening. Eventually with the help of two park rangers, the chef and our limited knowledge of Thai food names - we get the nodding heads and action in the kitchen. Right now, we are not too bothered by what it looks like, it is going to be so hot it really doesn’t matter. Food turns out to be rather good, makes a break from the daily bags of crisps and Oreos. 
Not long after dusk has fallen and the Brown Boobook starts up. Fortunately we find him very quickly and decide to retire early after a fruitless hour hoping for more owls. 

22nd March 2011

It has been decided to make the drive up to Panoen Tong campsite early to look for Ratchet-tailed Treepie. Under the cover of a dark dawn, Large-tailed Nightjar allows for some close views and a stonking photo on my part. Further birding is wrecked by a number of local SUV’s racing along the road, some with tourists others empty. We continue to meander towards the summit stopping intermittently. At one such stop, I let Adrian out of the vehicle before attempting to park on the inner verge, only to slide into the ditch. Said ditch was of course overgrown making it visually invisible, but pillock here should have considered it’s probability given the nature of the roads! And we couldn’t even identify the birds in question. It is now 07:00, prime birding time and we are stuck - quite badly. I seem to have a ‘rental car incident’ on almost every trip now. (I locked the keys in the car up a mountain in Costa Rica - full incident described on my Costa Rica blog).

Removing the tangled vegetation, it looks a fairly standard job - jack the rear right wheel, lay rock, jack some more, lay some more rock etc until we can drive off it. How a Hi Lift jack would have been useful now - jack and push off. All we have a some duff little hydraulic jack better suited to a Morris Mynah. Kit out of the car, Adrian collect rocks and I start jacking the vehicle up. Proves to be a decent work out and I am happy with progress after 30 mins. This is still going to be a tricky roll off, as we need to reverse the vehicle off, but cannot steer out for fear of burying the front wheels in the ditch. Perhaps even a little shuttling may be necessary. I figure that Adrian should do the driving and I can push the cab using the bank is leverage while directing. First part goes according to plan, initial reverse works and the stone wall holds. The front right wheel is now at the ditch verge and needs moving. I figure a slow left turn and straighten should see the vehicle out. Everyone ready and off we go - backwards and bury the damn thing nose first. Adrian rather kindly did not have the hand break on or the damn thing in gear either. I should have known this as Toyota’s have a propensity not to engage easily between Rev and 1st. Not that we should have been in 1st anyway (too much torque), Turbo D gets much better traction in 2nd. Instead of hitting the break when he realised he wasn’t in gear, he gave it more gas - panic is a bastard. 

Anyhow, now we are really stuffed and and in serious danger of having done structural damage to various parts of the vehicle. Back left wheel is two feet off the ground, the sump and forward suspension are buried. The vehicle is precariously balanced on it’s undercarriage and jacking doesn’t seem to be an option. Too much risk that lifting the right front will cause the vehicle to slide further or even roll. If it can be done, we need more than just a stone wall, more like a column. It is decided to risk life and limb, this time we collect hundreds of kilos of rocks and boulders. More jacking and packing this time Adrian is having to push of the wall into the cab to make sure that it doesn’t roll towards me. Was probably quite futile actually but it seemed safer. Hours later and the rear left wheel makes contact with the road. Still more to jack though - we have discovered that 4x4 this vehicle may be, but it has piss poor traction and no limited slip diff. 4x4 for the city only it would seem - this things wheels would slip over a banana peel! Given the precarious nature of the vehicle, I consider the risk of slipping back into the ditch and rolling too high a risk to let Adrian back into the drivers seat. Instead he jumps on the rear left to add a little more weight. Came straight out with relative ease to put an end to a frustrating morning. A swarm of insects converges on us and we hurriedly pack up and get the hell out.

Structurally we seem to be fine, no leaks or cracks and the drive feels OK. Only the open road will really prove things which won’t be for a few days yet. Onwards and upwards we go rather late for everything we suspect. However, we have some decent luck - Long-tailed Broadbills nesting over the road at KM24. Some good bird parties produce White-hooded Babbler, Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler and Spectacled Spiderhunter! We finally get to Panoen Tong campsite rather late and going to wrong way (this road has restricted time for driving up or down). Stop the car, get out and two Thai tourists point shout at us and point excitedly at some bamboo thickets. Bins up and 4 Ratchet-tailed Treepies move across the road. I’m not sure what was more astounding, the Treepies showing up on demand or the non-birding Thai tourists knowing what we were looking for. No sooner than savouring our target species and we get a flyby from an Asian Black Eagle.

The day is picking up and the vehicle incident is starting to fade. The heat is starting to become oppressive again and we decide on a trip back down to the gate. Not too much moving on the way down, but continue to pick up the commoner species at will. 

The afternoon finds us moving along the road between the streams. We bump into Peter again to hear that he has just found a Grey-headed Woodpecker. We have no such luck, but pick up Banded Broadbill (4 from 7 with another heard). Rain starts to fall and birding activity goes from slow to zero. It is quickly becoming apparent that bird activity in the afternoon, at least in western Thailand dies and remains dead as opposed to Vietnam where is picks up. 

Another cold shower and suddenly there are English menus at the restaurant to go with the heightened number of foreign tourists. We put my fear of Elephants to one side and make a more concerted effort to find some owls. Across from the camp past the small dam we hear an owl calling, but cannot identify the species. As we approach, the beam of torches can be seen. Peter and his clients have been on the bird for about 20 minutes but cannot get a visual - we are standing no more than 15ft from a White-fronted Scops Owl. Eventually Peter and his clients depart without a visual - we continue concertedly for another half hour without success. Returning to camp, Peter kindly finds us and others to show a very confiding and patient Collard Scops Owl. We decide to return to the White-fronted with a more armour and more intent but despite the bird calling regularly and not seeming to move we cannot get onto it. 

I had up to this day only two species of bird that I had identified by call and not been able to get a visual on (African Broadbill and Freckled Nightjar from South Africa). That figure had now doubled and would go on to triple and quadruple very quickly and frustratingly.

Another night in the tent - condensation dripping all over and the evening being quite cold after the late afternoon rain. 

23rd March 2011

Up at sparrows fart, broke camp and headed out for a last few hours birding. No elephants to be seen or heard so far. (I am not a fan of pachyderms in case that wasn’t obvious - too many close shaves when I was guiding in Africa with the damn things). We target pitta’s again, but nothing - no calls, no response to playback - zip. The rain and overcast skys have stayed put meaning dawn is delayed. Someone forgot to wake the birds too, being this sluggish we decide to pack it in and start the long drive north to Mae Wong. Just then a Large Civet strolls across the road, stops, see us and dashes back to where he came from. We soon find what he was after - not 5 feet from the road a large white fluffy blob perched fast asleep on a small log in the middle of the forest - is a Little Egret! Which remained asleep as we continued down the road. We waited for a while hoping the Civet may return for his meal but to no avail. With that rather stunning sighting we are off. Not a moment too soon either as torrential rain hits so hard that we are reduced to crawling at no more than 5km/h. 

Much of the day is taken up with the drive to Mae Wong. The rather useful TomTom has taken us on another interesting ‘short cut’ through what must be someones private road, but no, we exit onto a normal road and go through this rigmarole a few more times before the ‘shortest’ route gets abandoned for the ‘quickest’ route. Note to any readers - never take the ‘shortest route’ in Thailand, not ever! 

Along the way it rains and or pours torrentially on and off for a good 200km. Towards the late afternoon the day starts to brighten up and we arrive at Mae Wong at around 16:30. Not having done our homework again and Adi not bothering with the rather large print of some excellent maps by Nick Upton we book two nights in the tent at Ching Yen campsite. Now getting on for 17:00, and in broken Thai - we are told that the camp site is 28km away in the mountains! Which would be fine normally, but with less than 80 minutes of light left we were going to have to get a move on. Roadside birding was reserved for the obvious, identifiable and as yet unseen only. We arrived with about 15 mins of day light remaining. A warm welcome from the ranger who lives up here - solitary doesn’t evoke the right concept of this poor chaps life. None the less, he hangs about with us in his broken English and our non-existent Thai explaining where to see various birds at what times etc. 

We were invited to put out tent up next to the only other couple here, some Thai tourists who had decked themselves out under on the concrete floor under cover near the toilets. Much sniggering and laughing when they saw our Robin Reliant of a tent in comparison to their Humvee version. Quite something for 5 people to stand around all getting the joke, having a good laugh and neither of us knowing what the hell anyone else is saying. Even for a cynic like me the power of humanity briefly breached the language barrier.

Those irritating little flies actually bite rather badly. Although you won’t feel them, the bites last for weeks. The first fews weeks are characterised my large oedema, excessive irritation, itching and discolouration of the wound. The itching can remain for up to a month. As I type, most of my bites have scabbed or healed but I fear half are going to leave scar tissue (18 days post bite!). 

Off for a shower - bloody hell these are cold ones. Just about shiver my way through a shower, get dressed and get to bed. Although we figure that we should at least make an attempt at seeing Mountain Scops Owl as they are calling quite vociferously. Turns out to be a futile attempt and they are much lower in the valley than my concern for Leopards allows us to trundle. No restaurant up here and another bag of Oreo’s will have to do. 

The end of a frustrating day, but looking forward to the prospect of some improved birding in the morning. We have have been reliably informed not to bother getting up until 07:00 as little seems to move before then. 

24th March 2011

As it turns out, this assessment turns out to be spot on and we walk about in a futile attempt to orchestrate some action. We take seat and look over the valley - dawn has now broken, some warmth is imminent and a Rufous-necked Hornbill starts a slow traverse of the valley a hundred yards below us... It would seem than Nick Upton has programmed the birds via his website - they keep on popping up exactly as planned! 

A rather noisy pair of Bay Woodpeckers move through the camp site. Silver Mesia’s dominate the undergrowth and both Chestnut-flanked and Oriental White-eyes gather in large numbers. Great and Golden-throated Barbets call from every available perch although both prove initially difficult to find. A Verditer Flycatcher trades blows with a Grey-chinned Minivet over perching space. Flycatchers are proving difficult on this trip - this will turn out to be the only Verditer we see surprisingly. We find White-necked Laughingthrush gathering near the top of the road again. Further down the road Adrian gets a glimpse of a White-gorgeted Flycatcher and we have extended views of White-browed Shrike Babbler - what a cracking bird! 

The road goes a little quiet and we return to camp to monitor the valley again. Although little happens here. It is getting on for 08:00 now and an attempt is made at the trail below the camp. Nick Upton talks about the first section that leaves from the Umphang Trail. Well, to complete the picture this trails takes a right into the valley - bottoms out vertically and has an equally steep exit near the summit trail and Ranger’s hut. Even when dry, the trail is tricky with sections that require long slides and trust in branches, twigs and vines for support. Even for two rather fit and tough individuals this was a tricky hike - pointless from a birding perspective. Stick to the Umphang trail, the birding there is exceedingly hot. 

A decent rest and is taken after the seemingly pointless slog. Seaweed crisps and Coke for brekkie - yum. Off to the Umphang trail which does not disappoint. The trail lights up with White-browed Scimitar-Babbler and some more White-necked Laughingthrush. Short tracks off the trail give access to the canopy peering up fro the valley below. Maroon Oriole and Stripe-breasted Woodpecker compete for our attention. Speckled Piculet and Silver Mesia seems to be everywhere. White-throated Fantail, Long-tailed Minivet and Yellow-cheeked Tit put in extended appearances. Red-whiskered and Black Bulbul in the canopy and some rather dull looking Golden Babbler’s amongst the Mesia’s. A streaked Spiderhunter darts into a leafless canopy and lands next to two Burmese Yuhina. Unfortunately they don’t sit about very long, or very still. It is now 11:00 in the morning and our cake has been iced and served with cherries already. (this is of course a useless but understood term - I hate cherries and fruit in general).

Well, that is Chong Yen cleared up, it is decided to move to H&Q for the night. The morning involves another long drive and I could do without having to make the very slow decent of the road extension. It also seemed much hotter and drier at lower altitudes and we hope for some different species. The drive down doesn’t produce anything particularly stunning, Chestnut Bunting and Crested Serpent Eagle aside. After days in the tent, we are running low on battery power for our devices and ourselves, so we take a Bungalow for the evening. A raucous call outside the room reveals a family of one of my favourite birds - Red-billed Blue Magpie. The afternoon heat becomes oppressive and the bamboo forests turn up little except a large congregation of White-crested Laughingthrushes and a male Black-throated Sunbird - who doesn’t leave his perch in the gardens for an hour or so.

Turns out that our shower is another cold one - it doesn’t get easier no matter how many days on the run! Again no beer allowed - the national parks have a blanket ban on alcohol which is a damn good thing, but I’d really fancy a beer right now. Some silent Nightjars cruise the grounds and bed calls. I wouldn’t suggest that you run and jump into bed in Thailand - the beds look large and comfy but they only really differ between a 9 and 10 on the Mohs Scale.

25th March 2011

Early morning lock and load and a slow drive out of Mae Wong. Nothing moves much and we start belting towards Doi Inthanon. The TomTom delivers almost perfectly yet again, but overestimates the distances involved. It would seem that the programs are set to estimate the distance to the centre of the park, not the gate.

We stock up at the local cafe with more crisps and Oreos before heading up to the summit. The summit area and trail is ver hot - we clear up in perhaps 45 minutes! Calling vociferously in the car park are a pair of Black-backed Sibia. On entering the forest, we have Rufous-winged Fulvetta and Chestnut-tailed Minla crawling all over the place. We walked straight through to the small canteen for some coffee and have more Minla’s at arms length and then a Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush moving about near our feet. Green-tailed Sunbirds all over the Rhododendrons. Coffee finished we go back into the forest and tape out a White-browed Shortwing followed by stunning shots of Pygmy Wren-babbler. Pallas’s Leaf and Ashy-throated Warblers are in abundance. 

Very satisfied, we head off for Mae Pan. The drive down produces a few more species, the highlight being some Brown-throated Treecreepers. After much messing about up and down the exceedingly steep roads we arrive at what seems to be Mae Pan. It is quite deserted but we find a few staff.The now customary procedure of trying to tackle the language barrier and turn it into useful accommodation begins. I fail spectacularly, we walk past all the rather decent looking bungalows into a dank and mosquito filled ditch. here stands a room with exactly two beds and a toilet crammed in. Dirty, dark and no electric. I decline but am unable to get an answer about the other properties except a shrug of the shoulders. Restaurant seems not to have opened for days. As will happen a number of times over the next week, it is not a bad thing to cut your losses and move on - the sooner the better. So we do, which is a pity - Mae Pan looks pretty decent. 

Back to headquarters to find accommodation. Here I fail again, thinking that the park staff have directed me towards the Reservations Office, they have in fact sent us to the Hilltribe village. Well, this fact didn’t even become apparent until we went in search of the Crake. The bungalows here are in very good condition, had hot water and were conveniently located. 

With an hour of light remaining we went in search of the Black-tailed Crake. Much map reading and finger pointing eventually convinced us that the tiny pond in front of us was not in fact the likely home of said crake. It was only now that we realised we were in fact in the Hilltribe village. Back in the SUV for a quick sprint next door. Found the venue and got iPhone calling. An immediate response and tick tick tick contact calls. These things were under our feet, literally so close that if I had put my boot out I could have kicked them. But do you think we could see them, in what could only have been 15 inches of grassy vegetation? Not a chance. More heard but not seen. it occurred to me that if they got that close tomorrow evening then I may just jump into the pond and flush them!

With dusk falling as quickly as the temperatures, we headed over to Mr Daeng for dinner and a read of the recent bird sightings. Dinner was excellent and my first beer in a weeks has caused a slightly wobbly head. We are both getting a little concerned at the lack of Thrush and Flycatcher sightings. In fact I am starting to wonder if we are a few weeks late for the Winter migrants. Turns out, that we are the first birder in almost a month to visit Mr Daeng which doesn’t fill me with much confidence.

What we couldn’t have known at this point was that all the good birding and relatively good weather that we had had was now over. We had now chalked up 250 species in 5 days of birding. Clearing up at will at most venues with composite ease. The weather while not great to look at or photograph in had probably helped by extending the mornings until much later. Over the next 9 days and 5 venues we couldn’t even scrape together another 100 species, were completely fogged out, rained out and disappointed by really duff bird activity. Having said as much, the last 5 days had been some of the best birding I had done in years and I would not trade it for anything!

26th March 2011

Another good day in the offering hopefully as we drive towards the fabled KM37.5. True to form, there is a Large Niltava calling, the light just bright enough for a decent view. And so to the trail, we walk/stop, walk/stop for 600 metres - zero, absolutely nothing calling or moving. Perhaps we are too early, perhaps it will get better. It doesn’t! For all our efforts we scramble one of the few Slaty-bellied Tesia’s out for fleeting glimpse and don’t manage much more of a White-gorgeted Flycatcher. We call time on one of the most disappointing mornings I have had anywhere in the world. Head down the road and bird KM34.5 instead. Life picks up quite rapidly here with many more leaf warblers and even some Bulbul’s! We hope for some Parrotbill’s in the bamboo stands but find nothing. Just into the broadleaf forest Adrian has another one of those moments of inspiration and pulls a Green Cochoa out of a hat. Fully 50 metres away, motionless as a Trogon and it’s green plumage hardly obvious in the dappled shade. Took a while for him to get me onto it, but manage he did. 

Further into the forest, a nesting Pale Blue Flycatcher and a Large Niltava keep us occupied for a while. A Velvet-fronted Nuthatch induces a few ‘oohs and ahhs’. I saw this bird very well in Vietnam, but it is a little beauty and although we saw it many more times on this trip, it always illicited a verbal appreciation. The forest quietened down after this with only the occasional bird party. The bamboo stands were teeming with warbler and we sat down to try and photograph some of them. In amongst the warblers were the odd Tailorbird and some Striated Bulbul overhead. We had both seen glimpses of an odd warbler without getting particularly curious. Sit still it did for a little allowing us to get very good views. We were pretty certain on first impressions that all we needed to do was turn to the Seicercus warblers and pick our species. Our bird was missing a few things and had a few others to boot - no lateral head stripes, in fact other than having a chestnut cap, this was a Yellow-bellied Warbler. We fiddled about trying to get photos of the damn thing to no avail. The more we looked at head pattern, body shape and breast/chest colouration the more we started to wonder... This was no Tailorbird nor was it one of the Seicercus warblers. We have called it as a Broad-billed Warbler. Without photos, I doubt very much that it will get by the Thai Rarities committee, but I will submit in any case.

Skipped the Oreos and crisps for lunch and made for Uncle Daeng instead. It was now mid-day and the further down the mountain we went the warmer it seemed to get - not sunny, just warmer. We figure now is a good a time as any to tackle the two Water Redstarts. I have already seen both of them in northern India, but they are cracking birds and I am looking forward to showing Adrian the White-capped in particular. 

One waterfall after the next turns up nothing. We even walk half a mile downstream at Sirithan Waterfall, still nothing. Am starting to get really concerned about the lack of various migrants and the position of other. We are too bloody late already. We are heading home for the last available waterfall above the Hilltribe village. Things don’t look promising when the structure of the area seems to have had a dramatic change from Nick Upton’s description. Far from being an open river system, a damn has been put in and the river has been channelled into streams. A large botanical garden covers the area in dappled shade. Rather different from the wide, open and boulder strewn Kosi River of the lower Himalayas where I was used to seeing Water Redstarts. 

Well, the streams produce - Plumbeous Water Redstart and Slaty-backed Forktail move about obviously, but prove elusive and distant for any photographs. We carry on up the trail and our mood improves further with host of small colourful birds attending to an Erythrina tree - Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Asian Paradise Flycatcher and Japanese White-eye.

The day has disappeared and rain falls again. We debate chasing the Blossom-headed Roost or going after the Crakes again. We fancy the Crakes, but still have enough time to hit the lower Dipterocarpus forests first. Mr Upton has said this place gets rather hot and can be unproductive in heat of the day. Trust him, he has in an understated way summed this up rather well. A more acute assessment of this area would be - up one hill, up another and another and another in searing heat with cicada’s for company. Nothing else moves. It may as well be a deserted desert. We flush one bird, we know it is a 
White-rumped Falcon, but don’t get excited much with views like that. Dispirited again, we jack it in and head for the Crake hoping for salvation. 

One of the reports that we have read mentions a wooden hide, for which we search up and down and cannot find. Perhaps it pertains to the house on the other side of the marsh? We call and call, but nothing. In the distance, almost underneath the pine trees at the back of the marsh we get a response. This time a full call is delivered and we are in business again. This time we do get into the marsh, although it is dry up here, much thicker vegetation and even less chance of seeing them. Back to the mown lawn and I puff nervously on a fag. Damn things, I started smoking again yesterday. Dusk is creeping in and no response from the Crakes. Rain is starting to fall again and I dispatch Adrian to get the umbrella - zip goes the black bum of a Crake past me. Of course I now feel particularly guilty having at least had a flash of the thing. We stand for another 10 minutes without further luck and I am about to enter remorse mode. One last pack of crisps I reckon before departing, the rain has lifted slightly. I’m about to get into the car when Adrian tells me to stand very still and look slowly over my shoulder. There stand two Black-tailed Crake’s in the mown grass where we had been minutes earlier. The relief I felt matched my appreciation for the bird! As I turned to pick up the the telephoto lens, I saw what appeared to be a wooden hide - well it looks more like a bus shelter right in front of us. So we had been the masters of our own downfall, the poor Crakes had been wanting to come out for ages, but as we were standing on their feeding grounds they were having none of it. They had probably done the same thing the evening before - had we not walked away and stayed for pack of crisps, I doubt whether we would have seen them at all. Unfortunately the lighting was too poor for decent photographs, but life was improving! Dinner and bed could be done with a smile, even if the South African cricket team were choking again, we were still doing fine.

27th March 2011

Up early for another crack at the summit. Still short a few birds and we decide to target the Speckled Wood Pigeon. Summit is buried in fog and there is some serious Buddhist singing and chanting going on - I rather fancy it actually, as opposed to Heavy Metal, this is Heavy Tin. If there are birds then they cannot be seen in the fog. We take walk along the lower boardwalk. Not sure why we bothered calling the White-browed Shortwing out yesterday. They are positively teeming on this section of the summit - in fact they turn out to be the only species present. But one can never get bored of these, just wish that Lesser would be as confiding or common! 

Back down the road until we reach a break in the clouds - no Speckled Wood Pigeons, but we do get Ashy Wood Pigeon instead. Further down the road we try again at KM37.5. We target the road heavily for Spectacled Barwing but draw a blank. Another trip down the trail proves deader than a morgue. Back on the road and an unusual woodpecker - 

Fulvous-breasted at 1670metres asl! Called continuously and we taped him in just to be absolutely sure, but according to Robson - this guy was a little lost.
Further down the road we attempted the dry Dipterocarpus forest area. This time we decided to drive the road instead of walking it. The piss poor excuse for a 4x4 we have made this quite hairy. Wheels spinning and slipping all over the show on a very single vehicle only dirt and sometimes concrete road. I would not like to have reversed any section here. None the less, we did make it up about half way and found some space to perform a 39 point turn. Birding status the same as yesterday - nothing. No point in messing about any further and we departed for the drive to Doi Ang Kang. 

We got slightly lost, as the TomTom had few points of reference up here to aim for. None the less, we prevailed and ended up driving along the Myanmar / Thai border for some distance. The scenery is rather spectacular, fitting for some of the exciting birds we were looking forward to. The weather had cleared up nicely, sun was baking and the roadside birding was not bad - Shikra, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher & Brown-breasted Bulbul. We had decided to stay at Ban Luang Resort partly because of it’s location and also due to  us having dipped on White-capped Water Redstart up to this point. En route, I was convinced that a few Crested Finchbill’s had flown by, but the verge was too steep for us to see them again -  never mind I figured, we’ll see them tomorrow. Got to the resort and the very helpful owner Khun Tawatchai showed us about. Put some mealworms down for the Water Redstart who duly obliged before being peppered by a Rufous-bellied Niltava. Mountain Bamboo Partridge called nearby - although I didn’t put much effort into finding them - we were assured that they were much easier in the morning. At this point we were quite keen to set off for our main target bird - Giant Nuthatch. 

Khun persuaded us that we should instead go to the King’s Project and see some of the Thrushes that were apparently there. Given our lack of Thrushes and the time of day, this made better sense. So off we went, on a fruitless search for a ‘mushroom farm’, which we never did find or any Thrushes either. We did get Spot-winged Grosbeak, Blue-winged Minla and Hill Blue Flycatcher. Dinner was taken at the King’s Project where we planned our movements for what promised to be an epic day. 

28th March 2011

Dawn broke to the most un-birdable day I have ever had. Fog and cloud had descended to ground level. After breakfast we decided to head for KM21. It took half an hour of 10km/h driving to get there, drive past it, miss it again, drive past and finally find something that looked like a trail system. Started to rain, couldn’t see my bloody hand even. We hoped that visibility may have improved inside the forest, but it only got worse. It took no more than 5 minutes to turn around. We cruised up and down the road, missing the Army camp a few times - finding it, not bothering and returning. Drove up and down some very steep roads, but could not escape the dense cloud. Ultimately we headed for the Farmland Trail. We could actually see down here, but there was little int he way of birds. More rain and we left for the King’s Project again. The chap on the barrier let us in for free - I think he simply took pity on us. Inside visibility was OK in patches and we did rather well. White-tailed Robin, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Mountain Bulbul, Streaked Wren-Babbler and Common Rosefinch completed the morning. 

Decision time it was. We were definitely leaving Doi Ang Kang. We had decided already  given the paucity of Winter Migrants, that we would not bother going to Chiang Saen for waterfowl either. This meant we had a problem, it was mid-day and we were 750 kilometres from our next target of Nam Nao National Park. Khun was surprised we had decided to leave early, although I couldn’t understand why - Hume’s Pheasant could have walked up and kissed me on the cheek without being identifiable.

So we would simply drive and see how far we could get before it got dark. The mood was down right sombre to suicidal. Our trip was starting to unravel. We were now dwelling more on what we had missed rather than what we had seen. Well, when I say we - I could just be referring to myself, we had gone rather quiet and the monotony was only broken by the odd direction or distance instruction.

Well, we covered 30km after an hours of severe declines and fog. 50 km during the next hour due to the most seasick inducingly bendy road (I’m sure my English is going as potty as my balance was just thinking about it). I wouldn’t drive this section of road again for all the money in the world. Trying to get a move on was ridiculous and then we got stopped at a road block for the first time. The Colonel wanted a chat - even though we couldn’t he continued valiantly just as we do to non-English speaking foreigners. Speak loudly and slowly with plenty of facial expression and italian gesticulation and eventually they will understand you right?. Wrong - out with the passports, drivers licenses etc. Bags searched and finally happy with themselves we were allowed on our way. Nice fellows, just couldn’t understand anything of what they wanted. Another twenty minutes down the long drop though. Three hours of driving and we had managed 120km. The roads opened up a little and I was able to put my foot into the corner. We covered the next 200km in a little over 100 minutes. By this time we reckoned that the largest town anywhere near us was to be the target - Phitsanulok. Another 150km to go and about two hours of light left by our calculations. Just when things were looking up, a small stone clipped the windscreen, as many had. Five minutes down the road the windscreen cracked. 

Now the added problem of having to deal with the Rental Company about the car. Adrian was getting fissile and I was trying to keep him calm. Now for anyone who does know us, this must seem like a typo. To put the frustration into context, it took us 20 minutes and two international phone calls just to get the Thai dialling code - inexplicable. Phone the Rental Company, they tell us to phone the Insurance Company, then the Rental Company again. Back and forth this went, probably not helped by the language issue. I was driving to Phitsanulok regardless of windscreen condition. As it happens the only Budget office was located here at the airport. Adi had by this stage become actively nuclear and it was dark. The road was bumpy, wet and the crack was getting longer. We then got a phone call from a chap who spoke perfect English and seemed to have dealt with everything - be at the airport in the morning, mr Bang will be waiting for at 09:00. Result! 

All we had to do now was find a hotel. After such a day, I was not bother by how expensive the place was either. The first one tells me that they only have one room left - conveniently the most expensive one to. I actually laughed and just walked out, expecting the bloke to come running out with a negotiated price, he didn’t. I mean did I look like the hen picked husband of a large family who desperately needed a place to stay and was simply going to sue for peace? Come on dude, I am a seasoned traveller from the 3rd World, I know how this game is played. Nothing, perhaps he was too proud to bargain. Next hotel is full, and the next! Starting to wonder if a Public Holiday has been announced at the last minute - what the hell are all the hotels in Phitsanulok doing full? The town does seem to be packed too - I’m getting that horrible feeling that our man at the first hotel didn’t bargain because he didn’t have to. Oh well, no chance I was going back. We found a plush hotel on the river bank which I expected was going to cost an arm and a leg. The Grand Riverside Hotel was very plush, but equally affordable at B1600 for a deluxe suite even. Room service, a few emails and bed. 

29th March 2011

For the first time in what felt like months we did not wake at 05:00. A leisurely breakfast followed by a clean of the car. Arrived at the airport at 08:00 to find that Mr Bang was not only in attendance, but had just about everything ready too. Quick check of the vehicles and we were off for Nam Nao National Park hours before I expected to be moving. Traffic was painfully slow in places, but we got to Nam Nao with plenty of time to spare. Straight onto the trails for an afternoon session that basically gave us everything we needed inside Nam Nao. Red-headed Trogon, White-bellied Yuhina, Eurasian Jay, White-crowned Forktail, Ashy Bulbul, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush and Yellow-vented Flowerpecker. Then the rail fell, and then the cloud came in. I don’t normally swear much on my blog - but it was turning out to be very much a case of ‘fuck this!’. 

Had a rainy early dinner and went to bed thoroughly peeved - on a nanochrystalline diamond hard bed (>10 Mohs Scale). 

30th March 2011

Up at the usual 05:00 hours, even the sparrows have yet to fart in this weather. It was bloody freezing, impossible to get warm and to improve my mood - the gentle pitter patter above is not associated with the resonance of the early morning suns rays striking the tin roof. Why come all the way to Thailand when can thoroughly enjoy british weather in Britain - which is conveniently located near the arctic and hence has a temperate climate to match!

Coffee and a bag of Oreos. Trying to be positive we figure that the birds have to get out come rain or shine and so should we. Rain gear on, although why we bother I have no idea - it is now probably wetter on the inside. The trail is quiet and birding is tricky, so we abandon the trail and head for the open pine forests around the campsites. Buff-breasted Babbler is first up - quite appropriate given the weather and our mood. Definitely named by an optimist - Drab-brown Babbler more likely.

Rain eases slightly, in fact it may actually have stopped and a Sultan Tit makes an appearance. Bad mood is instantly lifted with the sighting of a one of my highly targeted birds - not because it is rare, simply it’s beauty. Joined quickly by a flock of Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches feeding some hungry chicks. Both Golden-crested and Hill Myna’s perched above. We trudge back to HQ feeling markedly better and even the weather is contemplating a change. After breakfast we decide to risk a trip to higher ground and make an attempt at Phu Goom Kha. The birding gets better immediately and the cloud has lifted a little too. Brown Prinia, Bar-backed Partridge, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Large Woodshrike and Oriental Turtle Dove before we hit the end of the road. Not quite the 14 kilometres we were expecting. As it turns out we were on some other track completely, at least two kilometres short of the correct turning. None the less, we were seeing birds again. 

Off to the Dong Paek trail. We get to the correct place now and head off. Blossom-headed Parakeet flies past. I’ve left the amplifier int he SUV, quick jog back to fetch it and miss nothing fortunately. THRUSH - I’ve been waiting to say that word for a week now. Scamper into the bush to find it - beautiful Eyebrowed Thrush which allows extended views. Back on the trail. Start fiddling with various Woodpecker calls now - we are not doing so well with the Woodpecker family. I had similar trouble in Vietnam. If there is one relatively rare and hard to find woodpecker that I seem to have all the luck with, it is the Great Slaty Woodpecker. Northern India, Vietnam and I wasn’t to be disappointed in Thailand either. Great views, although cloud and overcast condition made photography futile. We had excellent views of a number of other woodpeckers, notably the Yellownapes. Grey Treepie showed briefly and then the silence was broken by a trumpeting elephant. So we about turned and walked out having had a very successful morning to date. Which got even better with a party of Minivets - Small and Swinhoe’s. 

We spent the afternoon walking the longer trails in the reserve hoping for some Falconets. As opposed to the Great Slaty which I can conjure up at will, I cannot buy a Falconet. And so it was that we were defeated in this pursuit once again. However, we did not lack for good quality birds. A memorable pair of Black Baza cruising through the mist, Black-hooded Oriole, Rosy Minivet and the icing for sure - White-bellied Woodpecker. To see both giant woodpeckers within hours of each other was something very special. 

Nam Nao had over delivered by our estimation for which we were very grateful. A decent sleep was to be followed by an early departure for Khao Yai National Park. 

31st March 2011 - 1st April

Khao Yai National Park is held as a birdwatching gem and conveniently located near to Bangkok. It seemed an appropriate place for one last push at the fag end of our tour. A good couple of days and we may yet have a shot at 400. 
The drive down was again a little slow in places due to trucks. We had decided to stay outside the park as the weekend was getting nearer. A massage was also needed and so it was that we stayed at the Juldis Khao Yai Resort and Spa. The resort was pretty good, although it always seems to strike me as odd that the more expensive the hotel, the more you pay for. No free wireless here. No massages either, always closed, open tomorrow - which it never was. Disappointing but not terminal. 

Khao Yai was such a disappointment that it would be a complete abomination to write anything much on it. Perhaps it is better at other times, perhaps some of that dodgy Japanese radiation had killed everything feathered before we got her. 
The highlights and sure there were a few over the two days :
Silver Pheasant, Wreathed Hornbill, Black-and-Buff Woodpecker, Banded Kingfisher, Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoo, Brown-backed and Silver-backed Needletails. The cumulative number of individual birds that we saw didn’t much number more than the above list. Banded Kingfisher was a glimpse before flying off. Ground-Cuckoo was a hopping back and rear end. Silver Pheasant was a scattered 1 second, barely enough time to identify visual. It’s isn’t just that the number of birds was poor, the one we did see were terrible views. 

We walked in Khao Yai on the back of a 320 species list and 12 days of acclimatisation to calls and habits. We were not undercooked by any stretch, probably as good in the field as one can be in two weeks. We knew our calls, knew what we where looking for and where. There simply wasn’t anything here. Not that it was any consolation, but two French birders we bumped into had already been there for 4 days and seen an equally useless number of species. 
How on earth this park can justify an entrance that is double everywhere else (B400pp) is beyond me. To say that the facilities are better is a real stretch. The trails are no better and the roads are worse. Even in the mountain of Doi Inthanon you can pull on to the verge almost anywhere. You cannot pull onto anything for the entire length of the entrance road and very little inside the park. So at about 09:00 when the temperature has gone through the roof and you cannot walk, you can’t even drive around.  

You’ll have to make your own mind up and I’m sure there will be howl’s of derision at what I have said above - you’ll have to find out for yourself. You could not pay me to go back to Khao Yai - not ever. In fact if I regret anything it is not continuing back to Kaeng Krachen and spending an extra two days there. 

2nd April 2011

We left the hotel after breakfast for the 200km drive to Muang Boran. A decent highway allowed us to make good time. Although things got a little tricky near Muang Boran, we managed to find it easily enough. We decided to drive in rather than catch a motorbike taxi. We probably didn’t follow Nick Upton’s directions very well, but we got to the correct spot easily enough. For the first time in days, we have bright and sunny conditions - precisely what we could have done without actually. Heat is oppressive, but the birds are good. We walk for two hours along the banks for the ponds ticking over with almost everything we were looking for : Cotton Pygmy Goose, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Bronze-winged Jacana, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Slaty-legged Banded Crake, White-browed Crake, Oriental Pratincole, Black Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Painted Stork, Striated Grassbird, Asian Golden Weaver, Streaked Weaver and Black-headed Munia to finish the day.

The rest of the day was spent getting back into Bangkok, finding our apartment and seeing a little of the expat community of all things and getting rather drunk on Leffe blonde. 

3rd April 2011

Early morning departure for the airport. Having been on my best behaviour for the last two weeks, I finally reach my flashpoint with the Rental Car people. All we had to do was call them 15 minutes prior to arrival. No answer. No place to park the vehicle. Adrian is dispatched to find out what is happening - there is no-one at the desk. We unload and I dispose of the vehicle in one of the car parks. It is now cutting things quite fine for checkin when a bloke finally pitches up at the desk and say that we cannot drop the keys and go -  we have to check the vehicle over with them first. I didn’t quite have the energy to blow up, so the keys were put down and I went to check in. Adrian decided he would do what was required, if the plane left without him - then he would simply have to deal with it.
The Rental chap must have hired a buggie for they seemed to race over and return very quickly. Checkin was easy, but the Customs lot were agin waiting to thwart everyone. 

Fortunately we had no problem or delays with Etihad and were comfortably returned to Blighty in better condition that when we had left surprisingly - or perhaps the hangover had eased up. 

Distances Covered

After swapping vehicles in Phitsanulok, we ended up making use of two vehicles both were Toyota Vigo 1 and half cabs and drove a cumulative total of 3534 kilometres. We had no punctures or vehicle trouble other than burying ourselves in a ditch and cracking the windscreen. Both vehicles had low mileage of around 14 000 kms on the clock. Typically I filled up when the tank was getting to about half - this cost approximately B1200 a shot. The cost of diesel did vary slightly around the country but was normally around B30 a litre. We spent just over B8000 on fuel in total. The official speed limit on most of Thailand’s dual carriageways and motorways is 90km/h. The speed limit is not observed by the motoring public or enforced by the police - and we were able to travel at speeds of up to 140 km/h. On clear runs, one could average 110km/h, but if the road became a dual carriageway and trucks were about then expect to sit for a long time. 

Navigationally, we used the TomTom App for iPhone - which is not available on standard TomTom devices oddly enough. I also use Google maps heavily, constructing my own digital maps in advance should we need them. Road maps of Thailand seemed almost impossible to find. The TomTom App was excellent requiring only a little intuitive thought when aiming for Doi Ang Kang and Muang Boran. Be careful of spelling, Nick Upton’s website, Google, the map book and the TomTom all had slight variations, particularly with the letter ‘H’. 

Getting stuck behind trucks was perhaps the most dangerous driving situation. Vehicles do not overtake in any sequence and often an SUV will make a run on overtaking a raft of vehicles in front and behind you as well as the truck - typically on a blind, uphill bend. It is best to either overtake trucks very quickly or hang back. I’d also advise that you drive with your lights on - it seems to help the Thais who suffer from a lack of spatial awareness or who cannot see three dimensionally. If you want a more apparent reference, they have the same depth perception as most Africans and Indians. 

Other than bad overtaking capability, the Thai’s are a pleasure to drive with. They are very courteous, simply putting you indicator on allows you to move into space even where none may exist. They do not get aggressive or angry and it is very rare to hear a horn being tonked. They do overtake and undertake which I find works much better than this ‘keep left, pass right but if you are an old fart driving a Nissan Micra - then do sit in the fast lane at 60mp/h’ business. I learnt this technique in the US, where again, traffic flows even when there are pillocks on the road hogging ‘‘lanes’’. If you get rid of the lane concept - you don’t create anarchy on the roads, you create flow.

Drive Description Distance       (kms)   Time (hrs)

Bangkok to Laem Pak Bia         160       3
Phetchaburi to Kaeng Krachen     60       1 1/2
Kaeng Krachen to Mae Wong     490       8
Mae Wong to Doi Inthanon        420       7
Doi Inthanon to Doi Ang Kang    285       6
Doi Ang Kang to Phitsanulok      520       7 1/2
Phitsanulok to Nam Nao           145       3
Nam Nao to Khao Yai               390       6
Khao Yai to Muang Boran          190       3
Muang Boran to Bangkok            65       2

Post script

Out final tally of birds was 351 species, an excellent effort. The ‘’if’s and buts’’ wrecked any chance of a 400 list. But it is certainly attainable - perhaps add an extra day, hit the same route three weeks earlier in the year, hope for some better weather and include a trip to Chiang Saen - sorted. 

The families that we had very poor results in were : Pheasants (5), Waterfowl (1), Cuckoos (2), Raptors (13), Pittas (0), Flycatchers, Thrushes, Parrotbills (0) and Warblers - Leaf, Bush and Reed. 

As it turns out, the monsoon arrived early and battered peninsula Thailand severely causing a state of emergency to be declared. Suvarnabhumi Airport was shut due to flooding and we managed to sleep through a rather large earthquake that struck neighbouring southern Myanmar and shook Chiang Mai as well as Bangkok while we were in Mae Wong.

Accommodation, Entrance Fees and Food

Phetchaburi - Pet Kasem B400pn Avoid!
Food - Local restaurant B450

Kaeng Krachen - Entrance Fee + Vehicle B430
Ban Krang - Tent B60pn (Good)
Food - BK restaurant B100 (Edible)

Mae Wong - Entrance Fee + Vehicle B430
Chong Yen - Tent B60pn (Good)
Food - Not available (Ranger did offer his own which was very kind)
HQ - Bungalow B600pn (Good)
Food - Restaurant B100 (Good)

Doi Inthanon - Entrance Fee + Vehicle B430
Hilltribe - Bungalow B600pn (Very Good)
Food - Mr Daeng B500 (Very Good)
Food - Huge restaurant next to shop B300 (Rubbish)

Doi Ang Kang - Ban Luang Bungalows B1200pn (Very Good)
Food - King’s Project B500 (Very Good)

Phitsanulok - Grand Riverside B1600pn (Excellent)
Food - Grand Riverside B400 (Excellent)

Nam Nao - Entrance Fee + Vehicle B430
HQ - Bungalow B700pn* (Very Good)
Food - Local restaurants B150 (OK)

Khao Yai - Entrance Fee + Vehicle B850 per day
- Juldis Khao Yai B3550** (Average)
Food - Restaurant across road B650 (Average)
Food - Country Steak B1000 (Excellent)

Bangkok - Private business apartments that are not available.

*30% discount for week night bookings
**Week nights at B1650 and Friday/Saturday nights at B1900.


  1. Hi Clayton,
    A very nice, vivid and personal account of your trip. So much nicer to hear it like it is as opposed to inflated trip reports designed to get customers.

    Well done!
    Peter Ericsson

  2. Thanks for the kind comments Peter! It was great bumping into you in KK. One day I plan to guide - but I am not going to sterilise my writing for the sake of it! Hope the Spoonies come back in a few months!