Join our zoo community

LaughingDove Goes Travelling - SE Asia and Australia

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

  1. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw
    I think height ought to be a visa requirement in Vietnam. At immigration at the airport it would be just like a theme park, but the opposite. A 'you must be this short to enter' kind of thing.
     
  2. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw
    You Don't Know Man, You Weren't There!


    I don't really know the origin of the line in the title, I'm aware it's Vietnam War related, but I'm not exactly clear on the specific origin and it's not obvious from Google. Anyway, I'm mainly using it because that's how the Top Gear Vietnam episode ended.


    My flight to Bangkok was with Jetstar Pacific, which is the third branch of Jetstar that I've flown on this trip having also done Jetstar Asia (Singapore based)) andtstar Australia. There is a fourth branch, Jetstar Japan. Jetstar Asia is the Vietnam branch or Jetstar and I had chosen Jetstar over AirAsia which was priced similarly because Jetstar flies to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) rather than the main budget one of Don Muang (DMK) and that is much more convenient for getting to my aunt's house in Bangkok - a major factor given Bangkok's traffic and road works on the way to DMK - which is where I'll be staying for my 10 day stay here.


    Anyway, my flight took off at about 1PM, which is a very convenient time (especially by the standards of a LCC) so I had a bit of a morning in Saigon. You may have noticed that I've stopped using the name Ho Chi Minh City because that name is far too long and wordy and HCMC is a clunky acronym (or, to be pedantic, an I initialism). The two names are completely interchangeable anyway, and it seems to be mostly just tourists who go with HCMC.


    I tried to have a lie in to catch up on sleep since I didn't need to call a Grab until just after 9, but as I'm so used to getting up early, I was up at six anyway.


    After breakfast and sitting around for a bit, I called a Grab for the airport. A car obviously, because those are available here and there's no way I was balancing on the back of a bike with all my stuff, despite the constant motorbike divers who harass you to do so as you walk along with all your stuff. A Grab to the airport was 86k which is probably half the taxi cost, especially if there's traffic, which is a ridiculous decrease in price. Although having said that, due to being a public holiday still, when it came to booking there was a shortage of drivers and I was rejected a few times until I had to take a slight surge price of 113k. Still cheaper than a taxi.


    There was pretty torrential rain on the way to the airport and all the way until I departed in a thunderstorm. The roads in Saigon where quiet though. Weirdly, at the airport there were two Jetstar Pacific flights going on the same route from Saigon to Bangkok, one leaving an hour later than the other with the flight numbers BL663 and BL661. It seems weird that they'd be only an hour apart and the same airline on the same route. I suppose they don't operate any larger aircraft. There were several tour groups checking in, seemingly all Vietnamese tourists going to Bangkok and they were to sort of tour where everyone wears a particular coloured hat and then plays follow the leader with a big matching flag. There were three your groups, each way that a different colour, and I absolutely do not understand why anyone would ever want to go on on of those tours. It sounds like it would be a horrendously annoying experience, like a school trip but worse. And it's not like a group of children either, they're all adults! It's one of the strangest things I see in Asia and it's quite common.


    There was loads of tourist tat in the airport. Well, obviously, but there seemed to beor than usual. However everything in the airport was priced in dollars! Why? Nowhere else in Vietnam was stuff priced in dollars. And of course they used the opportunity to rip you off. $3 for a chocolate bar, $4 for a coke. Really? That's about 100k, the standard price in general seems to be 15k. That's even more scammy than usual for an airport.


    Because of all massive thunderstorm the runway was covered in water which makes it much more impressive to watch planes land and take off, especially take off with the massive plumes of water that the engines fire out.


    As I did with Malaysia, I can work out exactly how much Vietnam cost (I could do that with Singapore too, but because I bought stuff on the visa card, I'd have to add that all up.


    In Vietnam, my total spend for everything (not including flights, but absolutely everything else) was 9.1 million dong accurate to the nearest 100k. That's almost exactly £300 or US$389 or AU$540.


    That's over 15 days which works out to about 600,000 dong per day or £20 per day (US$26 AU$36).


    For a comparison, Malaysia was £1270 in 41 days = £31 per day. And if anything, Malaysia was roughing it more, although I did a few particularly expensive things in Malaysia, like spending 5 nights at Danum Valley.


    So £300 for my short two week trip to Vietnam. That's obviously a significant amount of money, but it's hardly a fortune and £20 a day given that I stayed in decent rooms and took taxis when necessary seems like quite good value. The extra flight cost, in terms of how much more it cost to fly to Vietnam and then Bangkok rather than going from Singapore to Bangkok is probably just under £50. I certainly think this visit to Vietnam was a very good use indeed of £350! Certainly a very enjoyable, and very productive wildlife sighting wise, last minute addition to the trip.


    Obviously I'm very pleased with how well I've done at the two locations visited. I saw the vast majority of my target species at Cat Tien and Dalat and I feel like I've done those two sites. However, there's certainly a lot more still to see in Vietnam, and another trip is certainly in order. There are a lot more endemic primates to see certainly! I'll have to come back before they're all extinct, which is a rather depressing thought.


    The flight with Jetstar Pacific was good. It was clearly an older aircraft, but it was fine. I had pre-ordered a meal for the flight because I guessed I would be hungry by then. It cost just over 100k which at the time of booking I had no idea of how much that actually was. I got a noodles with vegetables and tofu meal with a bottle of water and you'd pay 60k at the very least for that on the ground, more like 70-80k, so that's better value that I would expect for a meal bought on a budget airline. They did unfortunately serve the meal just before a big lot of turbulence, it was a bit like eating on a horse tornado (which is a much better name than carousel), and it's a good thing that I'm not at all prone to flight sickness because it was almost too bumpy for me.


    It's not a long flight from Saigon to Bangkok, less than two hours, which feels like no time. They also decided to give out the Thai landing cards to fill in right before landing, just as we were told to stow our tray tables for landing.


    There was a really long queue at immigration and the first thing I did was go to buy a local SIM, as you do. The person I bought it from then set it up and seemingly it was the first time she had ever put a sim in a phone. She had to do it, not me. I just had to point out what she had to do.


    Because I'm staying with in aunt in a fairly obscure area, I had to either get a taxi or a grab. There's some weird regulatory stuff in Thailand with the Grabs and there's oddness about them and airports, so I went to get a taxi. There's a system at the airport than involves getting a ticket and going to find a taxi. The first few taxis didn't know the place and didn't understand the address I had written down, so told me to go and get a new ticket. Then one did agree and decided that his meter was 'broken' and it would cost 400 baht. Rubbish. I did eventually find a taxi who was willing to use a meter and didn't know the way but was willing to have a go. This is why you should use Grab! I knew roughly the way though so it was fine and cost about 250 baht, much less than 400.


    So I'm staying in Thailand until the 13th when I return to Warsaw. I don't have anything particularly adventurous planned, mostly just relaxing in Bangkok, but I might get a little bit of wildlife in. The last big lot of additions to the list will be the Vietnam stuff.


    Oh, and a random thing. I've noticed that my trousers are starting to get a hole in them about mid-way up my thigh. I should now sell them to a young person for twice the price I paid. I believe that's what the youth think is fashionable.
     
    Chlidonias and Brum like this.
  3. ThylacineAlive

    ThylacineAlive Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    20 Oct 2012
    Posts:
    8,747
    Location:
    Connecticut, U.S.A.
    Don't be silly, I'd just lay out on the roof.

    ~Thylo
     
  4. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2010
    Posts:
    12,907
    Location:
    UK
    Or just get yourself lashed to the bicycle rack :p
     
    ThylacineAlive likes this.
  5. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw
    No blog post today, maybe tomorrow.

    However, any ID suggestions for this bird from Cat Tien?

    [​IMG]
     
  6. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw
    A Bat Temple and a Parrot Zoo


    There wasn't enough yesterday to do a full blog post, much of the day was spent chilling since I'm staying with my aunt in her house on the outskirts of Bangkok (the Suvarnabhumi Airport side for anyone who knows Bangkok) I've got a nice room and I don't need to worry about spending too much money sitting around doing nothing.


    Most of the day yesterday felt like it was spent sitting in traffic in Bangkok as we went into the city. Primarily so that I can get a suit tailor made which I am doing because getting a tailor made suit in Thailand is a comparable price to an off the peg suit from a cheap discount clothes shop in Europe.


    At this point, just imagine that clip from Monty Python's parrot sketch is playing: "this is irrelevant isn't it? Well yeah, it's not easy to pad these out to thirty minutes"


    Today, however, my aunt and I went on a part-day trip (until 2:30) to the nearby town of… Chachoengsao. Good luck pronouncing that (it’s actually not as bad as it looks once you’ve heard it). I certainly won’t be spelling it out again. The cheap way to get to the aforementioned town from Bangkok is to get a train and from there try and use Songtheaws to get a rode. This is a common mode of public transport which can also function like a shared or private taxi in Thailand which are pickup trucks with covered backs and a bench on either side for passengers. However, we used a private vehicle and are on the right side of Bangkok for going there anyway.


    However, to get out of where we are involves going on a notoriously bad road called Ramkamhaeng, bad for traffic that is. And there is also construction going on there. headed out in the morning and sat in the traffic waiting to joing the road for almost an hour. But the road was clearly girdlocked for quite a way and it would have taken a minimum of three hours to cover about 1km to get out of the traffic, so ended up going a completely different way (i.e. completely the wrong direction) to avoid trafffic which added about 30 mins of driving, but definitely saved time.


    So Chachoengsao is about an hour's drive away without traffic and there were two places that we were visiting today, as suggested by the title. A bat-infested temple which had been recommended to me and a bird zoo that I had never heard of but my aunt had been to and suggested, and they're only about 7km from each other.


    The bat temple is a place called Wat Pho Bang Khla, in the smaller town of Bang Khla just outside Chachoengsao, and the interesting thing (for me) here is a massive colony of Lyle's Flying Foxes that roosts in the trees around the temple. I knew it was going to be a big colony, but wow. That's a lot of bats!


    There were easily several thousand bats in the trees all around the temple, several hundred metres in each direction of trees all filled with the flying foxes. Extremely impressive. I'm pretty sure it's the biggest flying fox colony I've seen, it seemed quite a bit bigger than those I've seen in Australia.


    There was of course the usual large amount of bat noise that you get with these large colonies of flying foxes, but it wasn't the highest density of them I've ever seen so it was hardly deafening like some colonies I've seen in Australia, they just filled trees going on for quite a way. Despite it being almost ten by the time we were there, there were still lots of bats flying around between the different trees which was really impressive and a lot of bats were fanning their wings too, which was cool. Quite a nice backdrop to have the big bat colony, in a buddhist temple surrounded by all the temple buildings. Because it's a buddhist temple, the animals in it are totally protected and won't be harmed by anyone, so the bats are all really conspicious and easily out and visible all across the temple.


    Also of interest, in one of the trees there I saw a Freckle-breasted Woodpecker which was actually a lifer. A very cool temple with a massive bat colony, very nice to see,


    Once we had looked at the bats for a while, we headed to our next spot. This was the bird zoo about 7km away called Suan Palm Farm Nok which translates from the thai as Palm Park Bird Farm. It is primarily a large collection of parrots, and appears to be the private collection of a - presumably extremely wealthy - individual that has been opened for visitors.


    There is a sign at the entrance that self-proclaims them as "one of the largest parrot zoos in the world" (with broken grammar, but I forget exactly how it was broken). In standard zoo-nerd fashion when zoos claim things like that, the response is to think 'yeah right'. But amazingly, I wonder if they're actually on to something...


    The collection, in terms of number of species as well as number of individuals of particular species (think several dozen Hyacinth Macaws. Yes, clearly very wealthy) is really quite astonishing. The zoo itself exhibit wise is very private collection ish. There are some nice grounds with water features and lots of palm trees, but all of the birds are in cheap wire mesh type cages which would not pass in a traditional zoo. Mesh boxes with some wooden perches and nest boxes. However, while aesthetically (and also for photography purposes) awful, all of the enclosures were awful, the vast majority of birds were very healthy looking and well kept. In fact, they all were with the exception of one area with sick birds which I wasn't supposed to go in but all the signs were in Thai and you can claim 'farang ignorance'. Apart from two free-flight aviaries, all of the enclosures were small, although the vast majority would pass as acceptable in a European bird zoo, I'm not talking parrots in a budgie cage at all. In fact, if they were decorated and looked zoo-exhibit ish they wouldn't look unacceptable, but they're purely functional and private collection-ish. In fact, they're exactly the sort of cages you might get in a behind the scenes breeding area for parrots.


    In terms of breeding, as the 'farm' suggests, they do breed a lot of birds. There's a building with incubators behind glass and there must have been at least two dozen eggs in active and turned on incubators, and that explains the large numbers of individuals for certain taxa, especially the large macaws. I don't think I've seen a collection with that many Blue-and-gold, Green-winged, Scarlet, or Hyacinth Macaws before. Also insanely large numbers of African Greys, Eclectus (multiple subspecies, but I still need to check them - signage was limited), and Rose-ringed Parakeets. With the latter, there were an insane number of different mutations.


    The vast majority of cages held a pair of birds with a nest box. Presumably breeding pairs or attempts at breeding pairs. However, I've been skirting the real amazing part of the place, the collection. It seems like a person, my guess would be a wealthy Thai, has decided they would like some parrots. And that they would like ALL the parrots. And in Thailand, with enough money and enough determination, if you want all the parrots, you get ALL the parrots.


    The zoo was divided taxonomically (ish) into various groupings of parrots: Large Macaws, Small (Medium) Macaws, Conures, Amazons, Lories, assorted smaller parrots (various African species, Monks, Blue-rumpeds, caiques, that sort of thing), and cockatoos.


    The cockatoo section really impressed me. One species of Black-cockatoo (+heaps of palm cockatoos, at least twenty individual Palm Cockatoos), Galahs and Major Mitchells, the Pesquet's parrot was here for some reason, but what was really impressive were the white cockatoos. I've never seen that many species of white cockatoo (corellas, etc.) in one collection before. It seems that this private collector just decided: right, I want white cockatoos now. And then got them.


    In terms of other birds, there is quite an impressive collection of pheasants as well, some peacock pheasants, Bornean Fireback, and an interesting little row of aviaries with a few different subepecies of Silver and Khalij Pheasant which shows how the plumage of those two species varies. There’s a wide variety of domestic peafowl mutations too, as well as a few different waterfowl, Victoria Crowned-pigeon, Eagle Owl and three species of hornbill. There were a couple of mammals too: some domestics, a paddock with Chital and Rusa, and a row of enclosures containing squirrels. Both Black and Cream-coloured Giant and some odd looking squirrels ranging from white to maroon which I think were all subspecies of variable.


    The thing that really amazed me was that I hadn’t heard of this place. And I don’t think there is any mention of it on ZooChat at all. It’s not a massive world-class zoo or anything, but it’s quite an impressive parrot collection. Not the world’s biggest or anything, but significant. I would definitely recommend doing a combined bat temple + parrot zoo day around Chachoengsao, although doing so as an independent traveler would probably require hiring a taxi or songthaew from Chachoengsao station to drive you to and between the places and wait, which I guess would cost 800 baht-ish, you should be able to get it for less than 1000 from Chachoengsao, more from Bangkok, which would be a significant cost for a budget traveller in Thailand. We spent a few hours at Farm Nok (nok is bird in Thai, pronounced something like rhyming with look) which was very enjoyable, great collection. I could have spent longer there, and I would recommend four hours to look around it all at a slow pace, then headed back.


    Although much of the day had been over cast, the heavy rain didn’t start until the late afternoon after we got back. On the drive in the fields and rice paddies and such there were loads of birds, a dramatic contrast to Vietnam. There were loads of egrets and openbill storks and jacanas and mynas and rollers and weavers just everywhere. The fields in Thailand seemt to be full of birds, and in Vietnam you’d have absolutely none at all in roadside fields like that.


    Overall, an excellent combination of locations to visit as a day trip from Bangkok. Ideally, I will do a species list for Farm Nok (on ZooChat), but I don’t know if I will get around to it. Most birds were unsigned so I will have to check IDs.


    The next blog post likely won’t be for a few days, possibly not until Sunday. I’ll be in Bangkok mainly just relaxing. I’ve been eating a lot of Salak fruit which is weird because it’s mainly an Indonesia fruit, but I like the stuff.


    New mammal:


    Lyle’s Flying Fox


    New Bird:


    Freckle-breasted Woodpecker
     
  7. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw
    Something that I forgot to include in the main post but that is worth noting because there's a chance that people reading this might decide to visit based on that review:

    The entry fee to Farm Nok is quite high at 450 baht for foreigners which is very high for Thailand and given that it's not a hugely fancy sort of place, nor is it a full day on its own. We managed to get in at the local rate which is still high at 215 baht.

    Oh, and there's accommodation in the zoo too. It doesn't particularly matter but I just thought I'd mention it.
     
  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,958
    Location:
    the world of tomorrow
    I don't think I've heard of it before (or if I had, then I've forgotten). It has been around for a while though. The following link is from 2011 and has loads of nice photos.
    Suanpalm Farmnok
     
    LaughingDove likes this.
  9. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw
    Hanging Around in Bangkok and Some Field Guide Discussion


    It's been a few days since I last posted a blog, primarily because I haven't been doing anything particularly blogable. I've mainly been getting a few jobs done where I'm staying at my aunt's house. There are a couple of things I would do in Bangkok, namely the snake farm and insect park, but the issue is that I'm staying quite far from the city and in an area that makes it difficult and time consuming to get in to the city. I've got no immidiate access to public transport and getting a taxi in Bangkok is cheap enough but getting in to the city takes literally hours and sitting in traffic for hours is extremely slow and frustrating. If I was really bothered, what I would have to do is actually go and stay in accommodation in the city centre to do things in Bangkok but I'm not all that fussed, and it feels like too much work. Lots of nice fruit around here though, I bought almost 3kgs of mangosteens the other day which I’ve just about eaten all of. (mangosteens have a lot of shell, so that’s not as insane an amount of fruit as you might think)


    The other thing that I would have done is visit Khao Yai National Park for a few nights. This is doable, you can get a bus and then a songtheaw and then you have to hitch the last bit into the national park itself - apparently quite easy - and it's cheap to camp in the National Park. However, I went to Khao Yai went I visited Thailand in April of last year and I feel like I did it quite well then so don’t have a desperate urge to go back. I would quite like to go and try and find a Bengal Slow Loris so that I could make it a four-loris trip, but I saw a Bengal at Khao Yai last year, so I’ll just have to accept four species of slow loris in two years. Poor old me.


    I’ve also started uploading a few pictures to ZooChat, plenty more to come, and hopefully I’ll get around to putting some up on the travelblog site too where I intend to add some more scenery and non-wildlife type pictures in addition to the photos of animals that I’ll be putting on ZooChat. I don’t know if I will get around to doing all of that stuff though, because once I return to Warsaw I’ll have less than three weeks before I’m heading off again, this time to start university in the UK. (and there obviously won’t be a blog, I don’t think there are many slow lorises in Oxford. Even with my loris abilities, I think I’d struggle. Well, there might be some specimens actually but that’s not the point I’m getting off topic. It’s not easy to pad these out to thirty minutes)


    Originally, I had my flight booked to return to Warsaw on the 13th, that’s Thursday. However due to some complicated issues where I am, I have had to change that and I’m now flying back on the 10th, which is Monday. It’s unlikely that I would have done much on those three extra days anyway, so it’s not really a big deal but it means I’m flying back the day after tomorrow.


    Tomorrow, though, if all goes to plan I’ll be doing a nice all-day birding day trip to round off. So that should be good and expect a blog post on that, and then I’ll be flying back on Monday morning. Of course expect a blog from the flight home because where else would I write my random nonsense about planes? My field guide should just about make it through one more day of birding, but if the trip was going on for much longer, I would genuinely be buying a new Birds of South East Asia field guide because of how utterly wrecked mine is.


    So a couple more blog posts and I also intend to do a roundup post of the complete costs and also species seen over the whole trip. I was going to include this at the start of my next proper post, but I’ve managed to turn what should be a couple of sentences into a post over 600 words long so I’ll just post this.


    While I’m here though, I thought I’d include a little bit of field guide discussion because that’s always fun. Some of you may be aware that there’s a new field guide out for Thailand. I haven’t actually seen it yet, but I’m already highly critical of the concept and it’s ok I’m British so I’m allowed to have strong opinions about things I don’t know enough about. I will probably get the book eventually, although it does cost 60 euros.


    The current bird field guide for Thailand is the Robson one, which is the same as the Robson guide for South East Asia just with the non-Thai birds removed and this is the guide that I’ve got and I’ve been using. It’s quite good, I’ve got the ‘concise edition’ so it’s incredibly compact and it’s by far the most compact but still effective field guide I’ve ever used. It is getting a bit out of date though – the taxonomy really is dire in parts – and it is a bit out of date. There is a new field guide though, the Lynx and Birdlife Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and it’s the first in a new series of field guides being published by Lynx and Birdlife and they’re due to be a series of field guides that all match and are compatible which is theoretically I good idea I think. The next one to be publish is for Vietnam and I do really like how they’ve done the covers. There are a few interesting and novel features: they’ve separated the subspecies ranges on the map and the text and plates do look very neat. However, based on size and weight information, they’re unusable in the field. They’re also being published in hard back, hopefully a paperback version would be to come, but they’re still unusable.


    Then some ridiculous things: next to each species account is a QR code that links to images from the internet bird collection. What is the point of that? What birder decided that a very useful thing they would like in the field is a QR code linking to images. If you have the ability to scan a QR code and load some online images, you are able to google it in far less time. Pointless. And a big thing with this new Birdlife and Lynx series of books is that they are all ‘consistent’ with taxonomy by using Birdlife’s taxonomy. Which is quite possibly the least consistent checklist of all the large ones available, it’s really splitty in some areas and lumps heaps in others.


    I really like the guides in theory, but I don’t see what they’re actually for. They’re not efficient compact field guides that you would carry around in a backpack. Are they trying to be a home refence? If that’s what they’re trying to do then that’s what they should go all out on and they shouldn’t call themselves field guides. And while I think there is certainly a need for field guides to use in the field, I’m not sure whether there really is a need for field guides that sit at home, especially for birds with the online hbw.com and I would rather the information and work put into field guides like that be put in to HBW Alive to make it even better.


    Thoughts? Has anyone actually got the book? (yet)


    For reference:

    Lynx and BirdLife International Field Guides | Lynx Edicions

    Birds of Thailand | Lynx Edicions
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,958
    Location:
    the world of tomorrow
    Thought I'd point out that Dusit Zoo is closing permanently at the end of this month - so this would be your last chance to see it. Such a shame too.

    That is a weird thing that seems to be happening with field guides lately - instead of making them useful in the field, they are making them less useful by making them larger and heavier amongst other things. But the people involved in writing them are usually actual birders, so they can't be ignorant of these issues.
     
    FunkyGibbon likes this.
  11. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw
    Yeah, I knew about Dusit. Apparently quite a lot of it has been moved off site already. Luckily, I visited Dusit when I was in Thailand last year and much of the moving started not long after that.

    I wonder if this is to do with so many people going birding by car. Then it doesn't matter how big or heavy or delicate the book is because you just leave it in your car the whole time.

    And although the people who write those guides are birders, they're naturally the most experienced birders in a particular area so don't have to have a field guide on them the whole time, and because so many birders who go birding internationally hire guides (often the people who write the field guides - the Vietnam Lynx guide is being written by Richard Craik from Vietnam birding), they don't have to have a field guide on them the whole time either because the guide is identifying everything and having a big book sat back in the car or in the hotel is sufficient. When I go birding in Poland it's usually sufficient for me to leave the field guide in the car or at home, and I guess in New Zealand you don't have to carry around a field guide to identify the two bird species you might get on a species-rich day of birding :p.

    I think the market of serious birders who travel internationally but who don't have their own private transport and don't hire a birding guide so therefore need a light, portable field guide is smaller than you think.
     
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,958
    Location:
    the world of tomorrow
    Those are good points actually. It's not very often that I meet independent birders in Asia - I mean, I usually meet a few on any trip but overall the number is tiny, and the vast majority of trip-reports are from tour companies or the people on the tours.

    And you're right, I never have a field guide when I'm in New Zealand unless I'm going to be somewhere with waders and even then a field guide is useless because waders all look identical anyway.
     
    LaughingDove likes this.
  13. Mr. Zootycoon

    Mr. Zootycoon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    3 Jun 2015
    Posts:
    852
    Location:
    probably in a zoo
    A bird guide is always going to be a compromise between putting as much information (and illustrations!) in as possible and still be compact enough to be handy in the field. I imagine as more and more birders use guided tours the latter becomes less and less important. That being said, I often use a car to get me to the location were I want to go birding but I usually can't take my car into the area, and even if I could I often don't want that. So even with a car you still need a portable field guide!
     
    LaughingDove likes this.
  14. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw
    A Final Bit of Birding and Zooing


    Yesterday afternoon, after posting that last post, we went to a nearby weekend market at a temple (Wat Bang Peng Tai). This is worth noting because there were a number of exotic animals kept at the temple including Red-necked Wallabies, Sulcatta tortoises, morbidly obese Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, and quite an extensive collection of exotic waterfowl. Nothing incredibly rare, but not the sort of stuff you'd find commonly in a duck pond and reasonable diversity - three species of whistling ducks and four species of swans for example. Even Greater Flamingos too. The temple is on a Khlong, one of the many canal things that go through Bangkok, and the waterfowl enclosures are mostly entirely on the Khlong with floating wooden areas as the land area (some of them also have a bit of actual land). Actually rather good enclosures, decently large in both water and land areas and best of all for exotic waterfowl, all were fully netted over so the birds could be fully flighted. The largest enclosure was even a walkthrough.


    Also at the market I had quite an interesting experience. At a fruit stall, I saw some fruit that I hadn't seen or tried before called Langsat (and also know as Longan which is confusing because that's a different tropical fruit that I have had before, and also bought at this market. Langsat comes up in Google as the thing I'm talking about though). They look like little potatoes and inside They're segmented rather like a mangosteen with lychee like flesh and a distinctive flavour. The flavour is really distinctive and nice and when I tried this mystery fruit for the first time, I just couldn't place the taste. I really remembered this distinctive flavour but have no memory of ever eating the fruit. It's a really distant obscure memory and only of that flavour not anything else, and it must be that I've had that fruit before when I was very young and growing up in Thailand (where I lived until I was six). A really weird distant memory of the taste only.


    Anyway, this morning, on my last day, my aunt and I headed out very early for a day trip. I decided that the best thing to do would be to visit Bang Pra Lake. This is a birding site, well over an hour from Bangkok but definitely a day trip distance, and a place I visited when I was in Thailand in April of last year and really liked. It's located extremely close to Khao Kheow Open Zoo which I also visited on that same trip to Thailand last year and is a really good zoo, although having been recently I didn't feel a desperate need to go back, and instead I decided to visit another place that's similarly close and that I hadn't visited before: the Bang Saen Aquarium. If you didn't spend too long birding, and certainly by private transport only, you could do all three places in a day trip from Bangkok if you got back to the city late (which I couldn't do).


    Bang Pra is a semi-natural lake and is a 'non-hunting area' meaning locals can use it for various purposes (including fishing) but not hunt the wildlife. There is also a government run waterbird and wildlife breeding/rescue centre located here, but it's not open to the public and although some people have managed to get in, when I tried to visit last time I was turned away.


    As we left early, before sunrise, we got to the lake just after 7:30 with about an hour and 45 mins drive. Soon after getting there, I remembered why I like this place so much. There are large numbers of conspicuous birds everywhere and a really high diversity too. This is because of the wide variety of habitats with the open water of the very large lake, marshes and reed beds along the sides, grasslands and open forest, and further back the surrounding hills are rainforest. This means you get a very high diversity of birds and the lake is a shallow reservoir meaning high productivity and therefore large numbers of birds. The standouts must be the large numbers of big birds, storks especially, that can be seen flying overhead. There are lots of Lesser Adjutant Storks which are descended from reintroductions. There are lots of prinias and bushlarks and birds like that too and I saw loads of Stork-billed Kingfishers which was surprising given I didn’t see any at all when I was in Thailand last year. And because of the forest nearby, there are forest birds about too including barbets, laughingthrushes and treepies and amazingly for me I found an owlet! Maybe it’s not so amazing for me any more, I seem to be seeing loads of owls…


    From the public access track you can see the edge of the wildlife breeding centre and the enclosures visible include both species of adjutant stork which is cool. Although lessers can be seen flying around, Greater Adjutants are quite an unusual species. Today, I noticed that the big ‘no entry’ gate was open… Well it wouldn’t hurt to go in would it. I can always claim ‘farang ignorance’ if I get told to buzz off. However it turns out that there was some kind of event happening today where a fairly large group of probably mildly important people were being guided around with various visitors with the group milling around too. The perfect opportunity to have a look around! So that’s what I did…


    The centre is actually really extensive, from the path you can see a few waterbird breeding aviaries, but it actually goes on a long way and holds a wide variety of birds and mammals as well as some reptiles. I checked out the waterbird breeding aviaries first, including both species of Adjutant as mentioned as well as Asiatic Black-necked Stork and Sarus Cranes and, most excitingly White-shouldered Ibis! I had seen some mention of the centre holding this extremely rare species, and I’m very pleased to have been able to go in and have a look. They didn’t seem to have many individuals though, seemingly only three with two in one aviary and a singleton in another. Continuing on from those waterbird aviaries was a large free-flight aviary that was exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a proper open-to-the-public bird park, although this was certainly the exception and the only enclosure that wouldn’t fit the description of “decent and functional for a breeding centre”, with the exception of a few small cages holding some mammals that I think/hope were temporarily separated from main groups. Further on were some more birds, with a row of aviaries housing mostly pairs of hornbills of several species. There were also a few birds of prey, a couple of groundbirds, and some other waterbirds like Whistling Ducks and Darters.


    Then I got to the first bit with mammals which was several rows of aviary-type cages holding dozens and dozens of slow loris. Presumably all confiscated from the illegal pet trade. This then continued to the main primate area (which also had a single Dusky Pademelon for some reason) with a number of callitrichids, a few different macaques, two species of gibbon (lar and Nomascus sp. Which I haven’t had a chance to look at yet), and three species of langur (I think dusky, phayre’s and a third species that was jet black all over but with whitish on the head that I’m not sure of the species. My photocopy of the Francis field guide plates has been wrecked and I can’t see anything appropriate on google. I do have photos, but in the mean time this is a horrendous picture from google of the same individual)


    There were also large numbers of Asian Small Clawed Otters, several groups with some young ones separate and being given milk in isolated cages, and various other birds dotted around. One building had quite a few parrots of different species and hundreds of tortoises of three species, Radiated, Indian Star, and most interestingly Ploughshares. The latter comes from a confiscation at Bangkok airport from a few years ago and I had heard about them being sent to the Bangpra (there are news articles from 2013 a about this) and it seems they’re still there. As we left the centre back into the birding area, it seemed like the visiting group had done a symbolic release of captive bred Lesser Adjutants, Lesser Whistling Ducks, and White-breasted Swamphens. I say symbolic, especially for the ducks, because they were released into the hunting ground of an awaiting White-bellied Sea-eagle.


    Quite an interesting centre, and a shame that under normal circumstances it’s not open to the public, because it’s a great thing to do with a birding trip and potentially also a Khao Kheow Zoo trip which is only 7kms away.


    After the birding and looking around the wildlife centre, in the afternoon we headed down to Bang Saen which is just on the coast in order to visit the Bang Saen aquarium. This is quite an old, but perfectly nice, aquarium which is part of the Marine Sciences Institute of the local university and it’s worth a visit for an hour or so. The focus is local marine life, and there was a very nice display of quite a few species of jellyfish. Nothing super-exceptional, but a nice enough little aquarium and worth a visit since it fitted in well with out itinerary.


    We then had a late lunch at the food stalls on Bang Saen Beach and then headed back to Bangkok. I’m in a hotel tonight for my last night in Bangkok before my flight early tomorrow morning because, for rather complicated reasons that I’m not going to go into here, I have been evicted from where I was staying at my aunt’s house tonight. Those are the same complicated reasons that made it necessary for me to move my flight forward to tomorrow rather than three days later on Thursday as was originally planned since I didn’t feel like sitting in a hotel in Bangkok for three more days. I was going to move my flight so I’d have flown out yesterday but I was assured that I would be able to stay in my aunt’s house until tomorrow. Oh well, it’s one night in a hotel which is no biggie, and I fly out early first thing tomorrow morning anyway. It was definitely worth staying for that Bang Pra trip though, great birding and I’m stoked to have been able to get into the no public access breeding centre.


    New birds:


    Chestnut-capped Babbler

    Lineated Barbet

    Common Hoopoe

    Yellow-eyed Babbler

    Blue-tailed Bee-eater

    Indochinese Bushlark

    Green Bee-eater

    Brown Shrike

    Grey-breasted Prinia

    Green-eared Barbet

    Australasian Bushlark

    Spot-billed Pelican

    Pied Kingfisher

    Spotted Owlet
     
  15. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw
    Return Home

    The good thing about an early morning flight is that Bangkok's traffic is much reduced at 5AM. The other side is that, well, sleep is good too. Bangkok's main airport, Suvarnabhumi (there is a secondary airport used mainly by Low Cost Carriers for regional flights) is a very large airport as you would expect. But unusually, the whole airport is just a single massive terminal. There is only one passenger terminal, and the efficiency with which immigration, security, and check-in operates with all passengers in the same place is quite impressive.

    With all this efficiency and lack of traffic, I was through immigration and at the gate with two hours to wait for my return flight to Warsaw with Finnair via Helsinki. Finnair operates an A350 on the BKK-HEL route (twice daily!) which is probably my favourite aircraft to look at, from outside. It's just a really sleek, cool design. And I do particularly like the Finnair livery. In fact, I think the overall Finnair branding is the most sleek and cohesive of any airline I've flown. They've gone for the silvery white and dark blue all over and it looks excellent. Even the boarding passes have really tastefully done wintery reindeer and flower designs.

    Out on the tarmac was a Norwegian Air International B787 aircraft. A few months ago (actually probably over half a year ago now) I had heard that Norwegian was going to start flights to Bangkok but they were yet to receive the notoriously difficult Russian flyover rights. I don't know if they ever got the flyover rights or if they're adding about 40 minutes to flight times by going around. I think Norwegian wants to do flights to East Asia too, but those can't be done without the flyover rights so I hope they've got them. Norwegian is in the budget long-haul market, so it will be interesting to see if they can cut prices between Europe and East/South East Asia.

    While I was waiting I got a tea and decided that it would be a good idea to have tea with a hint of Sprite. In my head it was black tea with sugar and lemon. In reality it's black tea mixed with Sprite, which is not the same thing. I wouldn't recommend it.

    Regardless of how pretty the plane looks (from the outside, I'm not actually super impressed about how it looks on the inside which, I suppose, is probably more important for the passenger) Bangkok to Helsinki still takes more than ten hours sat in a metal tube filled with people and explosive liquid. Actually the A350 is composite so it's not even a metal tube. Or to quote a US religious leader's justification for buying a private jet rather than flying on commercial airlines, it's a "tin can filled with demons".

    I did watch one film that I thought was 'interesting' called Rampage. It's the most ridiculous and scientifically nonsensical film I have ever seen and it tries to be completely serious and scientific. No spoilers regarding characters or plot, this is just the context, but right at the start of the film is a sentence stating what CRISPR is. As in, the gene editing technology. Then they use that sentence, which doesn't actually explain what CRISPR does, as an excuse to do whatever absolute nonsense they like and vaguely state that that's all scientifically accurate with genetic engineering. You've taken the 'speed gene' from a Cheetah, 'size gene' from a blue whale, 'strength gene' from a beetle and then turned that into an infectious pathogen? Presumably also the 'bullet proof gene' from, well something. That's now how that works! That's not how ANY of this works! And there's a hippyish primatologist who can talk to animals too because well obviously. It's vaguely entertaining and the scientific nonsense could be funny, but there's already enough anti GMO and anti gene editing nonsense without this.

    We landed early which is actually quite common because most airlines build in extra time to their flight scheduling anyway, and my connection at Helsinki was just under three hours which is quite a long time relative to other connections with Finn but isn't really that long.

    Upon arrival I was greeted with cold spitting rain and a bus to the terminal. Helsinki clearly doesn't have enough air bridges. As I was wearing my usual thin light tropical birding gear (because that's all I had) and it had not occurred to me at all that it might be cold in Finland. As I was packing my hand luggage I deliberately put the rain coat in my checked bag because I wouldn't be out in the rain. I've forgotten that the cold is a thing too. It wasn't all that cold, 18 degrees according to my phone, but I've clearly become quite used to the heat because that felt chilly.

    As soon as you arrive, to go to the transfer section, you immidiately have to go through security. You know, in case you've built a bomb while on your flight or something. I get that they can't be sure of the standard of security where the flight originates, but they have to trust it enough to operate flights that originate there. And what do they expect you to do? Smuggle explosives or weapons through a theoretically weaker security at a different airport but not use them on your first flight, instead keep hold of them for your connecting flight? Stupid. I cleared immigration and customs at Helsinki too but that's normal because the flight's within the Schengen Area now so gets treated as a domestic flight. I would complain about things some more, especially about how everything's so expensive here that I'd need a mortgage to buy a croissant, but I'm at Helsinki airport as I write this and I'm really tired now. The whole of the first flight was in the day an in my usual waking hours but the second flight is a takeoff late afternoon and land early evening one which, is a middle of the night to stupid o'clock in the morning Bangkok time flight.

    I had an Embraer 190 as I did on the outbound flight. It's a nice little jet that makes a change from all the boring A320 and B737 family aircraft. I had an older plane judging by the interior, but I like the E-jets, nice little commuter aircraft. It's just under a two hour flight from Helsinki to Warsaw which I mostly just slept on, although I always stay awake for takeoff and landing because I really enjoy those bits. When I'm tired I can sleep on planes no problem, but the BKK-HEL flight was entirely during my usual active hours. We were we were a little bit delayed in taking off due to a failure in the phone system between the cockpit and the cabin, but less than half an hour and no biggie.

    And now I'm home. Not sure what to do now. Actually, I know exactly what to do which is to sleep, but yeah. I would post something more coherent as an ending but I'm far too tired. I will do a roundup post, maybe tomorrow or if not then in a few days. But I'm home now. Certainly a great trip.
     
  16. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    13 Jun 2007
    Posts:
    23,958
    Location:
    the world of tomorrow
    The Rock is a hippy now? What kind of hippies do you have in your land?
     
  17. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
    Posts:
    2,519
    Location:
    Oxford/Warsaw

    I assume you've seen the film then. He (as in, the characr he plays in the film) strikes me as an odd sort of militaristic hippy character. Like Greenpeace but with Apache Gunship Helicopters and being able to talk to gorillas.
     
  18. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Aug 2008
    Posts:
    4,507
    Location:
    California, USA
    Welcome home. I can link you up with a good croissant mortgage lender if you need one.

    I have really enjoyed going on this journey with you. Thanks for taking us along via your very entertaining and informative travelogue.
     
    LaughingDove likes this.
  19. WhistlingKite24

    WhistlingKite24 Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    2 Jul 2018
    Posts:
    953
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Just want to say @LaughingDove I really enjoyed reading your posts. Sounded like an amazing trip!!:):):)
     
    LaughingDove likes this.
  20. SabineB

    SabineB Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    12 Aug 2013
    Posts:
    144
    Location:
    Cologne
    @LaughingDove I would really like to say thank you for all the great adventures you let us all participate! so.... THANK YOU!
     
    LaughingDove likes this.