Join our zoo community

Chlidonias Goes To Asia, part six: 2019

Discussion in 'Asia - General' started by Chlidonias, 7 Dec 2019.

  1. FBBird

    FBBird Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    15 Oct 2010
    Posts:
    2,406
    Location:
    Dorset, UK
    'Cabbages and Condoms?' Some kind of green vegetable-related brothel?
     
  2. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    4,293
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    I think they were bought out by Brothel Sprouts!
     
  3. FBBird

    FBBird Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    15 Oct 2010
    Posts:
    2,406
    Location:
    Dorset, UK
    'Falls off chair!'
     
  4. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2010
    Posts:
    12,801
    Location:
    UK
    I think you may have slipped in at the very end of the year with the best pun on Zoochat for 2019 :p
     
    FBBird likes this.
  5. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    Are you starting that thread then? I feel like every nomination would be a FunkyGibbon one...
     
    Brum likes this.
  6. Brum

    Brum Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    27 May 2011
    Posts:
    3,158
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    Even better than this attempt from the Nonsense Thread? ;)

     
  7. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    DAY SIXTEEN - the one with more bus travel


    Travel day! Always so delightful and enjoyable.

    I had bought my ticket the day before for the bus between Chiang Rai and Loei. The first bus was at 11am even though there was an 8.45am bus on the schedule at the counter. The girl simply said "there is no bus" for that one. I presumed that they don't run it in the off-season due to lack of passengers. Certainly the 11am bus only had five other people on it. A few more were picked up along the route but for most of the trip the bus was basically empty. For the first seven hours it was therefore a comfortable enough journey.

    I had been contemplating breaking this long bus journey by taking one bus to Phitsanulok the day before (c.6.5hrs) and then going the rest of the way to Loei today (another 6hrs), but I couldn't be bothered. The ride was fine too, not a bad trip all things considered, so it was a good decision to have made. At 6pm the bus stopped at a roadside restaurant for a meal. I hadn't eaten since 8am, which surely must be close to the biological limit of human starvation. I figured that the bus must be going by a different more-direct route because we hadn't passed through Phitsanulok at all - then at 6.30pm we rolled into that town, seven and a half hours after leaving Chiang Rai. If it was another six hours to Loei then by my calculations I wouldn't get there until 1am.

    I asked the ground host (that's like an air hostess but it was a bus and he was male) how long to Loei and he said "three hours". I was hoping that was correct because I now had someone in the seat next to me - the bus had filled up completely in Phitsanulok - and there was nowhere to put my legs. The bus did in fact get to Loei at 10pm as scheduled. I was very surprised.

    I got a tuktuk from the bus station to a homestay called Sugar Guesthouse which I had booked the day before over the phone. The owner was named Pat and she spoke perfect English. Her homestay is no longer deliberately advertised anywhere and it can't be booked online - she only accepts travellers who can find her correct phone number or who just randomly turn up. But it is the cheapest place in town (200 Baht for a room) and is really very nice. As with Bed Friends I definitely recommend it if passing through Loei.


    Animals seen today:

    BIRDS:
    Feral Pigeon Columba livia
    Asian House Swift Apus nipalensis
    Swallows (probably Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica)
    Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
    Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
    Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis
    Sooty-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus aurigaster
    Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala
    Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus
    Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
    House Sparrow Passer domesticus
    Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
    White-vented Mynah Acridotheres grandis
    Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus
    Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
    Crested Tree-Swift Hemiprocne coronata
    Asian Openbill Stork Anastomus oscitans

    MAMMALS:
    None.
     
  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    DAY SEVENTEEN - the one with the other monkey temple


    The monkey temple I would be visiting today is named Wat Tham Pha Puu, and it is on the outskirts of Loei. I found out about it from a trip report on Mammalwatching, and I haven't seen any other information about it anywhere. With only one source to go on - and a source very sparse on actual information at that - I wasn't at all sure how reliable this site was going to be. The monkeys which visit the temple are Indochinese Grey Langurs, a species formerly included within the Phayre's Langur (which is what they were being identified as in the Mammalwatching report). They had been on my hit-list for Vietnamese primates when I was there (as were Assamese Macaques, incidentally) but I never got a chance to look for them there in the end.

    From the Loei bus station I caught a songthaew at 7am to Wat Tham Pha Puu. I had got Pat (the owner of the Sugar Guesthouse) to write the names I needed in Thai to show the drivers. The temple is only about 20 minutes (or 9km) from the centre of town. There are no English signs at the entry road to the temple, so (as a tourist) you wouldn't find it if the driver didn't tell you this was the place. Between the main road and the temple it is about a one kilometre walk. There were a lot of dogs on the road but all were harmless. The road leads mainly through residences until a golden archway appears over the road and then, abruptly, you are in forest.

    After a few minutes walking through the forest, always looking around for signs of monkeys jumping through trees, I came across a small temple in a clearing. Was this the temple? Whereabouts should I be looking for the langurs? The reports on Mammalwatching, or at least those by certain people, rarely give specific details - they'll generally say something really vague like "The guide took me to the place and we saw the animals." I was wondering if I should just wait here and expect the langurs to show up for some reason, but something didn't seem right. I could also hear music coming from further into the forest. I decided to continue on along the road and after a little bit longer I saw the roofs of what proved to be the actual temple complex.

    And there, right before I reached the temple entrance, I found the langurs. It was only 7.30am. There's a big limestone hill covered in trees off to the side of the temple and I think the langurs probably sleep up there and come down in the early morning, simply passing by the temple before dispersing off into the forest for the day to feed. I don't think they are taking food or being fed, as is the case with macaques at temples. So you'd probably need to be here early morning or late afternoon if you wanted to see them.

    I went into the trees to try for photos but found myself engulfed in mosquitoes. There were literally more mosquitoes in this one spot than I'd encountered in all the previous days combined. I retreated back to the road where there were only some mosquitoes and not a blizzard's-worth. I ended up seeing the langurs quite well through the binoculars as they moved about, but only one photo turned out "okay".

    [​IMG]


    When the langurs had all left I headed back to the main road, seeing a few birds along the way. I waited twenty minutes for a songthaew back to town, then collected my bag from the homestay and set off for the Laos border. I felt a bit bad about only staying one night in Loei and then leaving immediately, but I'd successfully seen the langurs early enough to make that possible and I was intending to be spending up to a week in Laos - the more time I had there the better, I thought, because it was a "new" country for me and I was hopeful of more new mammals and maybe even some birds. That, um, didn't really work out and in retrospect I would have obtained more enjoyment from spending longer in both Chiang Rai and Loei, but "hindsight is 20/20" and all that.

    I caught a bus to Udon Thani at 10.40am (they run every half-hour, take three hours, and cost 97 Baht). In Udon Thani there is a city-loop bus same as in Chiang Rai, which costs 20 Baht and does a circuit from the airport to Bus Terminal 2 (on the outskirts of the city, where the bus from Loei had dropped me) to Bus Terminal 1 (in the centre of the city, where I needed to go). The taxi drivers at Terminal 2 tried to convince me that there was no such bus, but I waited them out. From Terminal 1 I then caught a minivan (every hour, 55 Baht) which took an hour to get to the border town of Nong Khai, on the banks of the Mekong River. Just outside Nong Khai there is a public aquarium at the university, which I saw the sign for as the minivan was dropping off students (but I didn't have any time for a visit).

    It was 4pm by now and I generally prefer to cross land borders in the morning when there are fewer people in the queues. I walked around Nong Khai for over half an hour trying to find a hotel cheap enough to stay at. It wasn't easy, but I settled on the Ruathai Guesthouse which had fan-rooms for 300 Baht. I don't think there are any cheaper places here.

    It was unbelievably hot in Nong Khai. I'd got a fan-room because I needed to wash my clothes which had been piling up. Generally when travelling I just wash my clothes in the sink and hang them to dry overnight under the fan, but on this trip I'd somehow been finding myself in air-conditioned rooms most of the time. Clothes don't dry in air-con rooms because they aren't warm enough and there is no air movement. And because I'd been moving around constantly there wasn't time to get anything washed by actual laundry services. I pretty much just had the clothes I was wearing left. Unfortunately the fan in this room wasn't a ceiling fan but rather a floor fan on a stand, which meant that when the clothes were hung in front of it all the air-flow was blocked from my bed. After some trial and error I managed to arrange the clothes rack to allow some breeze through, but it was an uncomfortable night.

    Tomorrow morning I would leave for Laos.


    Animals seen today:

    BIRDS:
    Feral Pigeon Columba livia
    Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
    Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis
    Asian Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica
    Streak-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus blanfordi
    Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum
    Green-billed Malkoha Phaenicophaeus tristis
    Nutmeg Finch (Scaly-breasted Munia) Lonchura punctulata
    Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
    White-vented Mynah Acridotheres grandis
    Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
    Little Egret Egretta garzetta
    House Sparrow Passer domesticus
    Himalayan Swiftlet Collocalia brevirostris

    MAMMALS:
    Himalayan Striped Squirrel Tamiops macclellandii
    Indochinese Grey Langur Trachypithecus crepusculus
    Variable Squirrel Callosciurus finlaysonii
     
  9. amur leopard

    amur leopard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    23 Feb 2019
    Posts:
    2,648
    Location:
    London
    On the plus side, it is better than the pangolin photo :D :p
     
  10. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    11 Jan 2015
    Posts:
    4,293
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    I know a really good joke about this:

    Professor X: what’s your super power?
    Me: Hindsight.
    Professor X: That’s not going to help us.
    Me: I see that now.

    :p
     
  11. Brum

    Brum Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    27 May 2011
    Posts:
    3,158
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    :D:D:D
    The second bit of "Brum plagiarism" in this thread! :eek:
     
    devilfish likes this.
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    That was actually a coincidental choice of words on my part :p

    I've written the posts up to the end of Laos already, so the one which I posted right after Brum's hindsight post was in fact written almost a week ago.
     
    Brum likes this.
  13. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    Well, see, while most of the people on here snub you just as a matter of course, I prefer to listen to what you say and take it on board. I'm just better that way. Also you're easy to plagiarise because most people don't realise I've even done it, because they're always snubbing you.
     
    Brum likes this.
  14. Brum

    Brum Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    27 May 2011
    Posts:
    3,158
    Location:
    Birmingham, UK
    It's good to know that someone pays attention to my ramblings, even if they get stolen and passed off as others work. And I imagine this conversation is confusing some people reading this, so bonus! :D
     
  15. MRJ

    MRJ Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    29 Jan 2008
    Posts:
    1,181
    Location:
    Melbourne
    You are all mad.

    I have proof.

    My wife says I am mad so you must be too.
     
  16. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2010
    Posts:
    12,801
    Location:
    UK
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    DAY EIGHTEEN - the one where I go to Laos


    I got a tuktuk at 6.30am to the border. The crossings were quick and easy through the respective immigrations on either side of the Friendship Bridge which spans the Mekong River.

    The Laos visa-on-arrival costs US$30 (for most nationalities), plus a US$1 "fee", plus an extra US$2 because I didn't have any passport photos. Technically you need to provide two passport photos along with the visa form but I knew that they would waive this for a couple of dollars so I didn't bother bringing any. There's not even any need for an "oh no I forgot the photos" because they don't care at all. In fact they probably prefer it because they get to pocket the extra money. I had specifically brought US$35 in cash with me for this visa and made sure that the three US$10 notes were pristine because it is generally the case that American notes get rejected over the tiniest rip or smudge. I hadn't been as careful in my choice of the $1 notes for the simple reason that the bank only had five of them to give so I just took them as they were. The border guard rejected three of those five $1 notes, and I had to pay that amount in Baht.

    When I got off the free Thai shuttle bus which runs across the bridge between the two immigration points, I had been immediately intercepted by one of the touts who lurk here to nab unsuspecting tourists. He had a bus to the capital city Vientiane. An actual bus? Yes yes, an actual bus. I played his game, letting him get me the visa forms and all that sort of thing. Saved me standing in the queue. When I got through Customs (such as they were) he said his bus was just over here. It was, of course, a car. I can't remember the price he quoted for the ride to Vientiane because the Laotian money (called Kip) has more zeros than I have fingers, but needless to say it was somewhere in the region of "take a hike buddy".

    I left him to try and take advantage of another tourist and found an ATM. It wouldn't let me take out 1.5 million Kip because it was "over my daily limit" (?), so had to settle for only one million.

    I knew there was a bus to the city but not where to catch it and nobody was offering any answer, so I took a songthaew for 200 Baht (which was probably ten times the real price but I had no scale to judge by yet). A songthaew, for those of you who aren't familiar with Thai transport, is basically a small truck which operates as a taxi; in the back there is a bench along each side for the passengers, cargo goes in the centre of the aisle, and if need be there are also railings for people to hang off the back. The ride took about an hour - it's just over twenty kilometres.

    It took another hour to find a hotel. I hadn't expected this to be difficult, and I certainly hadn't expected the prices the hotels were charging! I settled on the New Hotel where a room was 120,000 Kip, or about NZ$20. This was the cheapest place I could find.

    I really liked the little that I saw of Vientiane. I'm not a city person at all. If I'm going to be exhausted and sweaty I'd much rather it was in the middle of the jungle somewhere and not surrounded by buildings, but there are some cities in southeast Asia which I just like. Vientiane reminded me much more of Vietnam than Thailand. They even have the little shops and stalls everywhere selling what in Vietnam is called Banh Mi (think a baguette filled with salad and meat, but in Laos called Khao Jee Pate). If I'd been on a long trip I might have found myself hanging out in Vientiane for a few more days.

    I wasn't sure if I'd be coming back through Vientiane later in the trip (there is another border crossing further to the east, which I was contemplating taking on the return to Thailand), so today I aimed to get out to the Lao Zoo. Although it is "in Vientiane" it really isn't, being instead about 65km north of the city, on the route to Ban Keun. It is quite easily reached by bus but it takes a fair while to get out there and back, so I don't know how accessible it is in real terms for the locals.

    It was about 10am before I could set off for the Lao Zoo, still a surprisingly early start given that I had begun the day in Thailand. Pre-trip information-gathering had said that I should take a bus from the Morning Market (next to the city bus station) but when I got there I was told that I had to go to the Southern Bus Terminal to catch a Ban Keun bus. This is also what the receptionist at my hotel had told me, but the city bus station was closer so I'd figured it would make sense to try there first. It cost me 30,000 Kip for a songthaew ride to the other bus station (double the real price, as I found out later), and then I got a shared-taxi on the Ban Keun route for 25,000 Kip to the zoo, arriving there at 12.30pm.

    The Lao Zoo is a very chaotic sort of zoo, although that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I initially started keeping notes with the view of writing a walk-through review of the zoo, but quickly abandoned that idea as the grounds were such a mish-mash of old cages, really good new enclosures (notably for bears and macaques), empty cages, unsigned but still-inhabited cages, signed but apparently-uninhabited cages, occasionally animals in cages signed for other species. There is no apparent pattern to the layout at all, just cages spread everywhere. Even places which looked long-abandoned or off-limits turned out to have inhabited cages, even to the extent of having new signage in some cases. I almost missed the Hog Badger because it was in one of these "abandoned" areas which appeared to have no actual access path - and yet the enclosure itself had new signage on it when I reached it. There is also no map for the zoo, neither in paper form nor signboard form, so I just took every path which wasn't marked "staff only" and hoped I saw everything. Even so, I suspect I probably did miss animals.

    The zoo mostly functions as a rescue centre nowadays, and only the animals which cannot be released again remain at the zoo after treatment. There is a smattering of the old exotics left, but otherwise the inhabitants are local animals. With the notable exceptions of the macaques where there were easily fifty-plus animals, and probably the bears (of which I saw none but for which there are a great many enclosures), most of the species are represented by only one or a few individuals.

    I wrote out a species list and general impression here (and of course there are a lot of photos in the gallery): Lao Zoo species lists, October 2019 [Lao Zoo]

    I spent about two hours there. It's not a bad zoo, nor is it really a good zoo. It has elements of both. The only species of particular interest to me were a Hog Badger and a Common Otter (presumably of the local subspecies) - I had been hoping for some much rarer species due to both the location of the zoo and the fact that it takes in a lot of rescued or confiscated animals. I would recommend visiting if in the area, but it is a long trip - from the Southern Bus Station to the zoo is about two hours (and between the Southern Bus Station and the City Bus Station in the centre of Vientiane, which will probably be your starting point, is another hour). I spent two hours at the zoo, versus five-and-a-half hours on buses getting there and back. Whether that is a good ratio of zoo to travel might be debatable.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    I had a preconception that I would not see many wild animals in Laos. The impression I had gained from trip reports was that the country had been stripped even cleaner than Vietnam. By the end of the first day my Laotian bird list was only five species long. There weren't even a lot of individual birds either, one or two here and there, and a few little flocks of sparrows. I didn't know how or if things would be different once I left the vicinity of Vientiane.


    Animals seen today:

    BIRDS:
    (Thailand)
    Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
    Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
    Feral Pigeon Columba livia
    Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis
    White-vented Mynah Acridotheres grandis

    (Laos)
    House Sparrow Passer domesticus
    Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
    Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
    Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
    Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis

    MAMMALS:
    None - as would remain the case for the next few days...
     
  18. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    DAY NINETEEN - the one with the sauna of death


    There was only one reason I was going to Laos and that was to visit a village named Ban Na Hin. I'd had the Thai temples already locked in place on the trip plan, and I just had to have a look around to see what else was in the general vicinity. North Thailand is bordered by Laos so that was the obvious place to look at. A search online found a recent mention of a Laotian Langur being seen near Ban Na Hin. I looked up what scant information there was and found that not only was Ban Na Hin quite easily reached from Vientiane but the limestone forests there seemed to still hold a good amount of birds, including the recently-described Bald-headed Bulbul and the range-restricted Sooty Babbler. The most comprehensive trip reports (or rather, the only comprehensive trip report) was about ten years old already, which wasn't all that encouraging, but at least I knew the langurs were still there.

    This morning the tuktuk driver who took me from my hotel in Vientiane to the city bus station accidentally paid me for the ride. The price was 30,000 Kip, I gave him a 50,000 Kip note, and he gave me 70,000 back. I actually counted it, thought "yep, that's right" - automatically just assuming I had given him a 100,000 Kip note, even though I'd never had one of those - and it wasn't until I was on the bus afterwards that I suddenly thought "hang on, where did that extra money come from?" I'm not sure if he thought I'd given him a 100,000 note, or if he'd counted out the 20,000 change and inadvertently handed over all the notes by mistake. Either way, in effect he had paid me 20,000 Kip to take me to the bus station.

    Getting to the Southern Bus Terminal from the city station only took half an hour this morning, as opposed to an hour the day before. On the way between the two terminals the bus passes the "School for Gifted and Ethnic Students". I had seen this school the day before as well, and it is such a confusing name. I was imagining the situation of two mothers having coffee together, possibly at a cat cafe:

    "My son just got accepted into the School for Gifted and Ethnic Students because he is so clever" says the first mother proudly.
    "Mm, so did my son."
    "But ... your son has an IQ of 12..."
    "Yeah?"
    "And you've repeatedly said that it's a good day when you don't accidentally drop him on his head..."
    "And?"
    "He failed potty training!"
    "So?"
    "How did he get into the school?!"
    "Oh, he's ethnic."
    "We're ALL ethnic!"

    Yeah, I don't understand the name of the school.

    My bus to Ban Na Hin was at 8am (although I wasn't entirely convinced it was even the right bus). It was scheduled to take eight hours. I got out another 700,000 Kip from an ATM at the station to be sure of having enough cash. I knew I wouldn't need that much extra (probably) but I didn't know if the village would be big enough to have an ATM and I didn't want to be caught short. At worst I'd just have a pile of notes left over which I'd change at a loss when I returned to Thailand.

    I arrived at Ban Na Hin at 2.30pm (after only about 6.5 hours on the bus). Several kilometres before the village, the bus had been passing through various decreasing patches of forest on the ranges of limestone crags. This was where the Laotian Langurs would be living. The road was so dusty and busy that everything was grey. The ground, the leaves, the trees, the rocks, literally everything was just grey from the dust kicked up by all the trucks. Everything inside the bus ended up being grey as well because the windows were all open. They needed to be open due to the intense heat. The wind coming through the windows was like a furnace rather than a cooling breeze, and I could have almost made coffee with the water in my bottle, but it was still better than the windows being closed. Just to add to the uncomfortability levels, I also got mosquito bites while on the bus!

    After checking a couple of homestays - they're all pretty much the same price - I got a fan-room at Loso Guesthouse for 50,000 Kip per night. There was a Blue Rock Thrush on the roof. In retrospect I thought I should have got an air-con room, but with even more retrospect that would have been wasted money because the electricity ended up taking a vacation.

    I had a print-out of the ten-year-old trip report I mentioned earlier, which had a map of the village and the trails in the area. I was planning on being here for almost a week - some days being for birding on the various trails and some days specifically looking for the langurs back in the limestone forest. I checked out the nearest trail, the Namsanam Waterfall Trail right beside the village, which had a sign that said a fee and guide was required. I decided to leave that one for the early morning when there was nobody around. For now I walked up the road a little way to the start of the Nammouang Waterfall Trail. This was only about a kilometre from my guesthouse but it felt like three. Seriously, it was really hot here. I saw one bird in the forest, a Streaked Spiderhunter. Not a single other call or movement. This wasn't a good start.

    The village's electricity supply turned out to be somewhat unreliable. It worked okay during the day, but at night it simply failed in its obligations. The fan in my room was giving out little more than a vague wisp of air movement which was imperceptible from more than ten centimetres away. The windows were sealed shut, and with the door closed there was nothing the heat could do except increase. I don't know what the temperature got up to during the night but had to be at least the mid-forties. Compounding it was the fact that I was under a mosquito net - it was a choice of die from heat exhaustion or from malaria.

    I barely got any sleep, partly because it was far too hot and partly because I had to keep going outside every couple of hours just to cool down. It was probably still in the thirties outside but it felt refreshingly cool. Every time I got up, I'd spend a while whirling a towel around trying to create some air movement through the doorway to cool the room down a little. Didn't work in the slightest. I couldn't just leave the door open because I didn't want my bag to walk out while I was asleep, and I couldn't go sleep outside because there was nowhere to hang the mosquito net.

    So much sweat was running off me that it felt like I was crawling with ants. I went through three litres of water before morning to try and not shrivel to a dessicated husk. A room such as this would make a really good torture device I think. I'd call it something like a "sweat box".

    In the morning there was no water from the taps - I had to "shower" using my remaining bottle of water.

    It was such a terrible night I'd decided that if I saw no good birds the next morning I'd leave. Just pack it in, give up, and quit. Oh my goodness, those are all synonyms! The forests where the langurs lived started six kilometres from the village, a distance I definitely wasn't going to be walking in this heat, and I really had no idea where to even find them. The limestone langurs have very specific sleeping and feeding areas so unless you know where those are (which I didn't), especially when the numbers of the monkeys are so low (which they probably are), you're just trying to blindly luck into them while walking along a winding dangerous ribbon of dust. I figured there was a vanishingly small chance of me seeing any at all. Basically what I'm saying is, I'd been so miserable in the night that I did not want to be here. If I saw no birds tomorrow I was going back to Thailand.


    Animals seen today:

    BIRDS:
    Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
    House Sparrow Passer domesticus
    Feral Pigeon Columba livia
    White-vented Mynah Acridotheres grandis
    Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
    Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
    Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis
    Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna

    MAMMALS:
    None
     
  19. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    DAY TWENTY - the one with the synonyms


    Sometimes when I'm travelling I'm having a thoroughly miserable time but also enjoying myself at the same time. However, just being miserable with no reward is another matter entirely. I had decided during the night that if I didn't see anything worthwhile on the Namsanam Waterfall Trail this morning then I would leave. I saw four birds, so I left. Those four birds were a Collared Owlet, a Puff-throated Bulbul, a Common Tailorbird, and an Ashy Drongo. The first one actually turned out to be a lifer for me (i.e. a species I had never seen before, even though it is in reality a common species), but I didn't realise that until I had got home and was working through the bird list properly.

    The Namsanam Waterfall Trail has a notice board at the start with prices and guide requirements but I think it is old. I feel like the trails and any conservation initiatives for the area were set up a decade or so ago, and then quietly forgotten. I met an American birder on the trail who had been in the area for several days and only seen about ten bird species. The owner of the guesthouse at which he was staying had told him that everything had been shot. I heard two gunshots just this morning while on the trail for two hours. There were birds around, but seemingly all small and high up in the canopy where they couldn't be seen properly (or shot).

    At 8.30am I was back on a bus bound for Vientiane. This one was a proper air-con coach rather than the fall-apart mini-bus I came in on, and it was also half an hour faster, reaching Vientiane in six hours.

    Looking back I don't regret bailing on Ban Na Hin - hearing the American birder talking about how few birds he'd seen and how his guesthouse-owner was confirming the poaching levels there now, I don't think I'd have gained much by staying. Maybe I'd have seen a langur but I think there was only ever a slim chance of that happening. I wish I'd had my laptop with me (or even one of those smart-phone thingies) so I could have quickly googled some alternative site to visit in Laos, but that couldn't be helped.

    I do feel like I could have hung out in Vientiane for a couple of days because it was a nice city, but I knew I wouldn't be seeing any new animals there and figured if I headed straight back to Thailand I'd at least be able to keep adding birds to my year-list, even if none of them would be lifers. So when the bus dropped me at the Southern Bus Terminal in Vientiane, I took a bus to the city station and then another directly to the border and crossed back over the Mekong to Nong Khai.

    Interesting side-note: once again there is a thirty-day visa on Thai land borders. Several years ago they reduced the land-border crossing to a fifteen-day visa to try and stop the "resident" ex-pats doing border runs - it seems that has now changed again, at least for me on this day at this border.

    It was also (much more) interesting how abrupt the change is from no-birds to lots-of-birds when going from Laos to Thailand. On the Laotian side of the river I only saw a few sparrows between Vientiane and the Mekong. On the Thai side, as soon as I came out of the immigration building, there were Common and White-vented Mynahs, Zebra Doves, House Sparrows. It's not an imaginary effect either - I was actively looking out for birds all the time in Laos because everything I saw there was going to be "new" (as in, I had never been to Laos before). My total Laos bird list ended up being only sixteen species long.

    I had been going to go to the nearby town of Udon Thani to catch a train to Bangkok, but fortunately I'd noticed on the way through a few days before that there was a train station in Nong Khai, quite near the border point. I went straight there to see if there were trains direct to Bangkok from this town, and there were. They are, in fact, the same trains which run from Udon Thani. I bought a ticket for the next morning.


    Animals seen today:

    BIRDS:
    (Laos)
    Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodei
    Puff-throated Bulbul Alophoixus pallidus
    Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
    Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus
    Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
    Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
    House Sparrow Passer domesticus

    (Thailand)
    White-vented Mynah Acridotheres grandis
    Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis
    Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
    House Sparrow Passer domesticus
    Himalayan Swiftlet Collocalia brevirostris
    Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus

    MAMMALS:
    None
     
  20. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,914
    Location:
    not travelling
    DAY TWENTY-ONE - the one with the train


    There's not much to say in this post, and probably not much in the next few posts either, because I left Laos early and headed back to Bangkok where very little happened. In particular for today, I was on a train all day from 7.45am to 5.10pm.

    On the train I was sitting next to a Chinese girl, from whom I found out that the annual Fireball Festival was happening in Nong Khai the next day. I would have liked to have seen that, so that was a bit annoying. Maybe I should get one of those smart-phone thingies like everyone else so I can find out about these things while on the road.

    I prefer the train to the bus when travelling. Partly it's because trains are usually more comfortable (and at least in Thailand, much cheaper), but also I tend to find that I see a lot more birds from trains than from buses. I think the main difference must be because the trains have routes through more rural landscapes (hence more birds in the fields) whereas buses are obviously running along highways and these tend to end up lined with towns and scattered buildings.

    Unfortunately on this train the outsides of the windows were so coated in dust that I could only discern the identities of the most obvious birds. Even if there were entire flocks of doves or finches along powerlines I could only make educated guesses as to what they most likely were rather than knowing for sure.

    When I got to Bangkok I walked from the Hualamphong train station to Pier 4 in order to catch a river-boat to the Khao San area. It's been two years since I last walked that route so I was hoping I would remember the way (I did - it's easy). The guesthouse I picked was the Bella Bella Guesthouse, where I've stayed before a couple of times. I was in a room on the fifth floor, and for the whole six nights I was the only person on that floor.

    The guesthouse had computers for internet access. I'd been able to get on the internet in Chiang Rai and I think that was the only place up until now. For the next week I could log onto Zoochat, check my emails, google directions for getting to some bird-sites around Bangkok, things like that. Really unfortunately, though, I did not check Mammalwatching. On the very day I got into Bangkok someone had posted a report onto that site about an apparently-reliable site for Grey-shanked Doucs in Vietnam. I had seen both the other douc species while in Vietnam on previous trips but the Grey-shanked had eluded me - basically because they had been hunted out from the places I went. If I'd seen this report while in Bangkok, I'd have had the time and money to just catch a flight over to Danang. Instead I found out about after I got back to New Zealand. I'm a bit annoyed about that. I, um, may have to go back to Asia...


    Animals seen today:

    BIRDS:
    Feral Pigeon Columba livia
    House Sparrow Passer domesticus
    Himalayan Swiftlet Collocalia brevirostris
    Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis
    Asian Openbill Stork Anastomus oscitans
    Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
    Pond Heron Ardeola sp.
    Little Egret Egretta garzetta
    Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
    Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia
    Great Egret Egretta alba
    Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis
    Asian Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger
    Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectens
    Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
    White-vented Mynah Acridotheres grandis
    Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
    Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
    Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
    Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala
    Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos

    MAMMALS:
    None
     
    Vision, MRJ and Brum like this.