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LaughingDove Goes Travelling - SE Asia and Australia

Discussion in 'Asia - General' started by LaughingDove, 19 May 2018.

  1. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Just a quick note before I start: I would like to thank @FunkyGibbon, @Giant Panda and @Chlidonias for all their help planning this trip in a PM thread that stretches to 8 pages with 153 posts. I really appreciate it. Also special thanks to Chlidonias as it must be said that a lot of this trip has been particularly inspired by his Asian adventures. It’s also worth noting that the posts in this thread will be simultaneously posted on my page at travelblog.org here: BirderWilliam | William Bezodis | Travel Blog the content will be exactly the same, although there will be the occasional ZooChat-specific section like this initial passage and my plan is also to add some pictures to the travel blog site of any travel-type things that are of interest but not zoo or wildlife related so wouldn't really fit in the ZooChat galleries. You can also subscribe to updates on travel blog if you wish.


    Prologue


    Time for another trip! This time, I’ll be doing quite a bit more than I’ve done on any past trip ever by virtue of the fact that I’ll be going away for a lot longer than I’ve ever done before and I’ll be doing most of this trip backpacking on my own. It should be good!

    Anyway, a bit of background; I’ve finished my exams now and I’m done with school. I’m officially educated I suppose. I’ll be starting university in late September/early October but in the meantime, I’ve got quite a long period of time and what else is there to do apart from spend 113 days, or about 16 weeks, backpacking in South East Asia and Australia? So that’s what I’ll be doing for these next few months. My flight out of Warsaw going to Bangkok leaves on Wednesday afternoon (the 23rd of May) and the return flight is on the 13th of September. So that gives me quite a long period of time to see lots of cool things which I will of course be documenting in this travel blog in a way that’s hopefully reasonably humorous and entertaining – although the most entertaining bits of travel blogs to read are when things go wrong so hopefully there won’t be too much of that – and I’ll try and include some pictures as well, internet access permitting, as I go.

    So what will I be doing then? I don’t think anyone reading this will be surprised to hear that the focus of the trip is wildlife. I’ll be trying to get a bird list as high as possible as well as tick particular target species along the way, as well as look for a number of mammal targets that are especially high on my must-see list. There’s certainly lots for me to be on the look out for! The other thing about this trip is that due to the length and nature of it as a solo backpacker, I’ll be doing a lot of things at a slower pace than many of my previous trips and I’ve got a good length of time in a lot of places so I’ll hopefully be able to see places more thoroughly, go a bit further that I would have been able to do on a short trip – particularly one with non-birders also having their own interests – and give myself the best chance to see some wildlife in some incredibly biodiverse places which are also notoriously difficult for wildlife watching.

    I will of course be doing the vast majority of the travel by various means of public transport – although for much of the Australian portion of the trip I will be with relatives, which is a very good thing given the appalling public transport network in Australia – and doing the trip with an average daily spend that is quite low (although almost 4 months of travelling in another continent will never be particularly cheap) and I should be able to get good value for money with this trip in terms of the bird/wildlife list and of course the enjoyment and experiences. It’s said that travel broadens the mind, and I think the cost per unit broadness of this trip will be lower than previous ones, although the overall extent of broadness will probably be quite high. And I reckon the process of mind-broadening will probably be, at times, as painful as that sounds, but it will certainly be an adventure.

    So I was undecided about how much detail I should go into with the exact itinerary. I was going to just leave it at that and be all vague and mysterious, with the added advantage of nobody knowing if something goes wrong from the original plan so that I can pretend it was all intentional. But I’m super-excited about all the places that I’ll be going so I’m just going to write about it know, and my intention is to use the blog to be candid about the travels and being on my own for so long, I’ll probably go a bit mad if I try to keep up a façade of everything going perfectly and to plan and as I’ve said, it’s always more entertaining for readers when things go wrong. All of my readers are clever enough to know that not everything goes to plan when travelling. I’ve only got about three readers, but I know they’re all clever.


    Anyway, this is roughly what I’ll be doing:

    I arrive in Bangkok on the 24th and I’ve got two days in Bangkok staying with an aunt who lives there just to rest a bit after a long flight and hopefully get over the jet lag.

    Then I fly from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. I’ve then got just over two weeks in Peninsula Malaysia, which is a bit tighter than I maybe would ideally have left myself, where I’ll be doing some things in KL and day trips to nearby places as well as visiting the major birding/wildlife sites of Bukit Fraser and Taman Negara for roughly 4 days and 7 days respectively. A lot of the itinerary is deliberately left approximately with only flights booked in as firm brackets for how long I spend in each place. On the 11th of June, I then get a flight from KL to Sandakan, a city in the far Eastern part of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. I’ve then got almost four full weeks on Borneo, where I’ll be doing a number of wildlife sites across the state of Sabah before flying out from Kota Kinabalu on the other side of the state. With the current plan, I’ll hopefully be visiting Sepilok and surrounds, the Kinabatangan River, Lahad Datu, the Danum Valley, Mount Kinabalu, Kota Kinabalu, and possibly some other places from Kota Kinabalu like the Crocker Ranges depending on how long I end up choosing to stay at each place. I’ve left the names in here so that anyone who’s interested can look them up.

    From Kota Kinabalu, I’ll then be heading do Darwin in the Northern Territories of Australia – via a rather annoying self-transfer in Singapore – where I’ll be travelling with an aunt who lives in Perth in Western Australia who will be meeting me there. After that, I’ll be heading over to Cairns, which I visited for just 5 days two years ago and really like so I’m excited to return and do some of the surrounding locations. I’ll also be meeting up with my parents and brother at this point and we’ll be doing Cairns and surrounds as a family trip, although I’m hoping to keep the additions to the bird/wildlife list ticking over (I’ll also have a car for Darwin and Cairns which will probably be a welcome relief after not far off two months on my own and reliant on the whims of public transportation. After Cairns, I’ll be down to Perth in Western Australia to spend some time with much of my family on my mother’s side who lives there, and then I’ll be off on my own again for a final month of travel starting with Singapore and heading up to Thailand for my return flight out of Bangkok – that bit of the trip’s not really planned yet.


    So that’s the plan. To anyone who actually read that whole thing: I salute you for your perseverance. I’ll hopefully waffle less when I’m writing actual travel blogs and actually have something to say. If you’ve got any thoughts/comments/jokes/insults/whatever feel free to leave them. If all goes to plan, this will be a great trip. And in fact, if not all goes to plan it may well turn out even better!


    Also note: I’m going to be writing this stuff as I travel so there will be typos and writing mistakes and bits where it gets boring or incoherent or doesn’t make any sense. Hopefully it will be interesting overall though and more people reading and interacting with these posts will encourage me to keep writing this. It will be great to bring you all along for this adventure that will be my life for the next few months!
     
    Last edited: 19 May 2018
  2. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to see and photograph a Marbled Cat :p as the species is unrepresented in the Zoochat gallery!
     
  3. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    That would indeed be a very nice species to see. Certainly not an easy one though!

    The Bay Cat at Taman Safari on the other hand... definitely an option that's doable as a side-trip from when I'm in Singapore.
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Back off-display unfortunately, last I heard.
     
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  5. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    That's a shame, but good to know. I'll have to keep an eye on the situation and see if anything develops by August.
     
  6. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    Sounds awesome,I’m very jealous! How many different species of birds do you think you’re going to see?
     
  7. Najade

    Najade Well-Known Member

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    What are the dates for the Australian legs of your trip?
     
  8. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    It's quite difficult for me to predict that because I'll be going to a number of places that are incredibly diverse but where the birds are notoriously difficult to find. Danum Valley for example. I also haven't finalised where exactly in Thailand I will be visiting and I'll be able to add a few species if I go a bit North but with Peninsula Malaysia/Singapore + Sabah + Northern Territories + Cairns + Perth; 500 species maybe? Someone who's been to those places will probably have a better idea of how realistic that is or not.
     
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  9. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I get to Darwin on the 7th of July, then I fly Darwin to Cairns on the 18th of July, then Cairns to Perth on the 3rd of August, and leave Perth on the 13th of August.
     
  10. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Musings from a Plane

    I’m writing this from a comically empty A350 over North East India, nearing the Bangladeshi border. Of course it’s the middle of the night local time so it’s dark and there’s nothing particularly to see. As you may have guessed from the title and from the content so far, I don’t really have a tremendous amount to say yet so this will largely be a pointless post. Content-light let’s call it so just skip this post completely if you’re not interested.

    Back to the comically empty then, I think the adequately describes the state of the plane. I would say about a tenth to maybe a sixth of seats have passengers in them, it’s ridiculous. Every single person on the plane has a group of 3 seats to themselves (it’s a 3-3-3 configuration plane so there’s no point taking up more than three) and there are still numerous blocks of 3 seats empty. I don’t know how they’re operating this plane at anything close to profitable, I hope for the airline’s sake that it’s a full flight on the way back (and so that the route doesn’t get cancelled before my return flight in September). I’m fairly certain that there are fewer passengers on this widebody A350 from Helsinki to Bangkok – I’m flying Finnair and transited in Helsinki by the way, probably should have mentioned that earlier – than there were on the regional Embraer 190 on the hour and a half Warsaw to Helsinki leg with its 2-2 configuration and about 20 rows. I can be fairly certain in that, because there was only one bus taking all the passengers off the first plane (which was a completely full flight as far as I could tell) and one bus bringing all the passengers onto the second flight and the bus boarding the Bangkok flight seemed emptier.

    Just to quickly delve into the flights themselves, both the A350 and E190 were new aircraft for me, and it’s always nice to try a new aircraft. Finnair was a new airline too and I’m quite impressed by how nicely done the cabins are and the very attractive livery. The Embraer 190 Regional Jet was particularly nice, so much more comfortable than a B737 or A320. I know, they’re fairly different planes and most of my experience with the latter two has been on budget carriers – so I’m comparing apples and oranges – but they’re both still fruit so I think the comparison stands. The E-jet feels much more comfortable and much roomier than a 737 or 320. I can’t really make a comparison about the A350, it certainly feels nice and roomy with a whole row to myself. I think A350s look particularly cool from the outside with the sunglasses look, possibly the nicest looking commercial aircraft in operation (and great with the Finnair livery), and they may well be extremely efficient, but there’s nothing particularly special about them from a passenger perspective I don’t think.

    My transit in Helsinki was very quick, it was supposed to be an hour and 50 minutes, but it was cut down to about an hour gate-to-gate because we were delayed taking off from Warsaw. It may have had something to do with a US Air Force C17 that was taxiing around and then took off before us. It was clearly not a normal occurrence because all the airport ground staff were taking pictures of it.

    And I just finally want to add that Ubik by Philip K Dick is a really good book. Really good. I liked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, also by Dick, very much when doing it as a text in Literature lessons at school but Ubik is possibly even better. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book which I started this morning on the flight from Warsaw to Helsinki and I may finish it on this flight if I don’t manage to get back to sleep. I’ve managed about 4 hours sleep so far, which is more than I normally would get on a flight. Having three seats to yourself helps. But yeah, Ubik. Great book.

    There is wifi available on board the flight, but you’ve got to pay for it and I’m not doing that just to post this rather meandering ramble of a blog post so I’ll be posting this from Bangkok.

    Note: some pictures on the travel blog link in the first post
     
  11. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Jet Lagged in Bangkok


    I had pretty much the whole day today in Bangkok as my flight landed at 7:15. I think the moment that it hit me that I was actually here and actually in South East Asia was when the plane taxied past a few ponds between the runway and the terminal and I got some immediate waterbird ticks. Yeah!

    Immigration was surprisingly efficient and I was met at the airport by my aunt who I will be staying with for these two days while I am in Bangkok. I’ve not really got anything planned particularly for these two days in Bangkok as the main Thailand part of my trip is at the end in September just before I fly out, but it was cheaper to have the major intercontinental flights in and out of the same airport and Bangkok has the advantage of being able to stay with my aunt so I’m using the two days at this end just to rest a bit and get over jetlag so I wouldn’t be as tired arriving in a new city on my own and finding my way around. That’s what I’m doing in KL on the 26th.

    So today I just rested a bit, and I am currently trying my best not to fall asleep too early so that I can get onto a reasonable time zone as soon as possible. Of course I did have a wander around the local neighbourhood to see what birds I could find and I found a nice, diverse range of common Bangkok species around the ponds and areas of greenery. Even a squirrel too. No lifers because of my trip to Thailand in April of last year, but lots of year birds and a great start to the trip. I’m planning to do, largely more of the same tomorrow. Maybe venturing a bit further but no real major trip planned, and I’ve got a crack-of-dawn flight on Saturday to KL.

    Oh, and durian is an excellent flavour for ice cream by the way.


    Birds Seen:
    Little Egret
    Black-winged Stilt
    Pheasant-tailed Jacana
    White-breasted Waterhen
    Feral Pigeon
    Black-headed Munia
    White-vented Mynah
    Common Mynah
    Tree Sparrow
    Yellow-vented Bulbul
    Asian Palm Swift
    Zebra Dove
    Asian Openbill Stork
    Little Cormorant
    Streaked Weaver
    Red-collared Dove
    Large-billed Crow
    Black Drongo
    Oriental Magpie Robin
    Pied Fantail
    Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
    Olive-backed Sunbird
    Asian Pied Starling
    Javan Pond Heron
    Striated Grassbird
    Plain Prinia
    Plaintive Cuckoo
    House Swift
    Streak-eared Bulbul
    Small Minivet
    Yellow-bellied Prinia
    Asian Golden Weaver
    Cattle Egret
    Brown-throated Sunbird
    Coppersmith Barbet
    Black-crowned Night-heron


    Mammal:
    Variable Squirrel
    +unidentifiable microbats


    Herps:
    Many Lined Sun-skink
    Water Monitor
    + a frog species, a toad species, and a turtle species that I will hopefully get around to trying to identify
     
  12. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    This is almost certainly not true.
     
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  13. Vision

    Vision Well-Known Member

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    Does the ice cream smell as bad as the fruit? I found the taste to be okay the few times I tried it, but the smell would be a killer for ice cream :p

    Nice birds, by the way! The jacana and barbet are ones I've always wanted to see.
     
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  14. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I like durian, but I didn't think much of durian ice-cream.
     
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  15. TZDugong

    TZDugong Well-Known Member

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    And he's off!

    Thailand is a place that I'll probably never go to (I have a nut allergy, and Thai food apparently has lots of nuts), so hearing about it will be extremely interesting.
     
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  16. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I actually thought the ice cream was nicer than the fruit, although I quite like the fruit too. The ice cream I had had quite a nice durian flavour and also bits of candied/caramelized durian in it. There was very little noticeable smell to the ice cream.

    Next time you're in SE Asia, you should definitely give durian ice cream a try @FunkyGibbon. You might be surprised ;).
     
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  17. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    There's plenty of Thai food without nuts in it, and also lots of highly plasticky Western-style food which is quite typical of Thailand.
     
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  18. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't dislike durian ice-cream, I should add - it's perfectly nice, but not something I'd particularly choose over other flavours of ice-cream.
     
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  19. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    On the Klongs in Bangkok and Relaxing before Malaysia


    I was going to title this post with the word ‘chilling’ rather than ‘relaxing’ but given the heat and humidity of Bangkok, I decided that would not be appropriate.

    I managed to sleep surprisingly well last night given the jet lag, and I’ve managed to make the 5-hour time zone adjustment quite quickly. I’ll be going forward another hour tomorrow in Malaysia but that shouldn’t be a problem. Today though, I got up early this morning to go for a walk along some Khlongs, or canals, around the same area as my aunt’s house where I’m staying but a short drive away.

    These are artificial waterways but are flanked with vegetation of different sorts including trees, reeds, and paddyfields, so they attract quite a bit of interesting birdlife for a city. There are also raised concrete walkways going along the sides of the Khlongs giving quite good access. It’s certainly quite an interesting birding site and not a typical touristy location. I saw quite a number of species, though surprisingly not a single species of kingfisher, including the first lifer of the trip and quite a nice lifer too – Lesser Whistling Ducks.

    After walking around the Khlongs in the morning as it started to get a bit hot with reduced bird activity (although I got an excellent view of a Yellow Bittern on the way out) so we headed to a mall for lunch and to wander around a bit before returning to my aunt’s house in the afternoon. The mall was air conditioned throughout, so I suppose I was chilling then, although it would have been more enjoyable without the music of Ed Sheeran and his ilk playing throughout.

    I wandered around a bit in the local area after that and got everything ready for heading off to Malaysia tomorrow. It’s quite an early flight though and I’ve got an alarm set for 02:30 tomorrow morning, which isn’t ideal, but at least I get into KL at a good time.

    Once I start the more intense travelling in Malaysia, these posts will probably get more condensed as I see more things and have spare relaxing time, but I’m enjoying the relaxation while it lasts here in my aunt’s house and I have actually built in plenty of time in the schedule in Malaysia.


    New Birds Seen:

    Racket-tailed Treepie

    Indian Cormorant

    Scaly-breasted Munia

    Chinese Pond-heron

    Vinous-breasted Starling

    Asian Koel

    Pink-necked Green-pigeon

    Dusky Minivet

    Red-wattled lapwing

    Lesser Whistling Duck

    Baja Weaver

    Little Grebe

    Little Heron

    Paddyfield Pipit

    Greater Coucal

    Zitting Cisticola

    Cinnamon Bittern

    Red Avadavat

    Common Iora

    White-browed Crake

    Pacific Reef Egret

    Spot-necked Dove

    Bright-headed Cisticola

    Yellow Bittern


    Changeable Crested Lizard

    Asian Common Toad

    Asian Grass Frog


    That brings me up to 56 birds that are new for the year list with 59 species for these two days in Bangkok which I don't think is too bad considering how I've just stayed in the local area.

    Note: there are some pictures attached to the posts from today and yesterday on the travelblog link above
     
  20. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Arrival in Malaysia, KL Bird Park, and a Rainy Adventure in Bukit Nanas:


    2:30 AM was quite an early start, but at least it meant that the Bangkok traffic wasn’t too bad. I got to the airport in good time and got through with plenty of time to spare. I had some breakfast at the airport and also got a tea. Unfortunately, this was from a coffee shop where they think it’s appropriate to charge a comparable price for a tea bag in some almost-boiling water as for a fancy coffee from one of their machines.

    The flight was good, I got an emergency exit row (extra leg room, yay) which again turned out to be completely empty so no one else in the group of three. The plane wasn’t overall super-empty though and there were many other rows with people sitting in the middle seats. Anyway, we landed about half an hour early, I grabbed a Malaysian Sim card from the airport, mainly so I could have data for interneting, and I was soon through. I decided to take the KLIA Ekspres train into KL. A bus would have been slightly cheaper, but the train is more efficient with a nice view of scenery too. Unfortunately this scenery was almost entirely palm oil plantations.

    I got into KL Sentral station and made my way across to the part of KL where my hostel is using the monorail. I’m staying in a dorm in a place called Sunshine Bedz. I got to the hostel at about 10:30 and a just dropped off my backpack before heading out by about 11 after grabbing an early lunch. I decided to go to KL Bird Park to start the morning and I did the lazy option of getting a taxi rather than working out the bus to get. I liked the bird park, the whole place is pretty much just a large free-flight aviary that you walk around with various small aviaries inside. I think they claim to have the largest free-flight aviary in the world. What I didn’t like though was the entry price: 67 ringgit! By this point I already felt that I was haemorrhaging money although I was always going to visit the bird park once and it was a necessary expense.

    A couple of the highlights were a few unusual owls, Crestless Fireback, Malay Peacock Pheasant, and an unusual (sub)species of Eurasian Jay with an all-white face. Very different to what I’d see in Poland. (I haven’t checked which (sub)species yet). Unfortunately, it did however rain quite heavily in the early afternoon so I had to take shelter for about 30 minutes. It cleared up afterwards though so I saw the whole bird park fine. Also within the bird park and the surrounding botanic gardens I saw some Common Tree Shrews, a Grey-bellied Squirrel, and some Long-tailed Macaques. Also a few bird species, most interestingly for me Asian Glossy Starlings.

    After KL Bird Park, I headed to Bukit Nanas Eco Park, a small area of rainforest with a canopy walkway in the centre of KL. Unfortunately, just as I arrived it started to rain so I sat in a covered area, hoping it would stop soon. It didn’t. It just got heavier. An hour an a half later, there was a slight lull where it just drizzled so I just decided to try an walk about in it a bit. The forest area itself is really nice with great views of trees as well as the KL skyline behind, although visibility was of course quite limited. The lull with the drizzle only lasted for about 15 minutes though, so I decided that I should just go as it started to get heavy again. My plan was the cross the park because I had arrived at one end and I could get the monorail back to the hostel from the other. Unfortunately though as the rain got heavier and heavier, the paths all turned into streams and a few of the paths were blocked off so I had to go a bit of a way around. Eventually, I made it to the other end, absolutely soaking wet, and having seen pretty much nothing wildlife-wise, just a couple of Oriental Magpie-robins. It looks like a nice park though, definitely with potential on a good day.

    However when I got to the exit on the other side, there were a couple of other tourists wandering around looking confused and also soaking wet who I had seen entering the park on the other side. All of the gates on this side of the park were locked and there was no way out with a fence blocking access to the road and the monorail station just opposite. There was no other choice but to climb up and jump the fence, which was just about manageable.

    Eventually I made it back to the hostel, by about 6, absolutely soaked. The main problem with the rain is that it really impedes my vision because my glasses just get covered in water and I can’t see through them anymore. I wouldn’t call it an enjoyable visit to Bukit Nanas exactly, but it was certainly interesting. It’s a shame that I didn’t manage to see any wildlife there though, because from what I’ve heard there’s quite a bit.

    I got some dinner from various street stalls around the hostel so that was good and I am of course now exhausted and will be going to bed soon. Tomorrow I’m planning to do a day trip to Kuala Selangor which will be quite a long day trip with a 2+ hour bus each way but it should be good. That is, of course, if it isn’t appallingly raining tomorrow as it was today. There are thunderstorms forecast tomorrow from the early afternoon onwards though, so I’ll have to see how it goes. I’m really hoping that it won’t be as bad tomorrow as it was today. Unfortunately, my times don’t seem to align very well with the rest of the people in the hostel. I want to get up at 6 and go to bed as soon as possible, though I don’t know how likely that really is. That seems to be the main disadvantage of dorms (breakfast is 8:30 to 11 for example which indicates the general timings, obviously that’s no good time-wise for me).

    Certainly an interesting start to the trip!


    New Birds:

    House Crow

    Crested Myna

    Asian Glossy Starling


    New Mammals:

    Common Tree Shrew

    Grey-bellied Squirrel

    Long-tailed Macaque