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Birds and Temples of northern Thailand - March 2023


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This is a long overdue trip report which was put on the rear burner by my other and newer hobby! Anyway, here it is. It will not be as detailed as I used to write them, so do ask any questions as the report will move along.


By the end of last (2022) year I was browsing through my options for the next travel destination. It should be one that allows for me to drive, for Zvezda to have a decent share of the local culture, and for both of us to spent an occasional day or two birding. One country floats to the top, and after reading two reports posted by @pault (see below) I have had my starting and ending point. A short discussion with Zvezda where I have sold her the idea of local culture, cuisine and many many temples that she will be able to visit and photographed ... done deal.



Having the start and the end already fixed, it only remains to me to decide of the loop, and where to stop. These two web sites came very handy: 




Adding a few must-see stops in between this was our final itinerary:


5.mar    Bangkok - Khao Yai NP
6.mar    Khao Yai NP
7.mar    Khao Yai NP
8.mar    Khao Yai NP - Phetchabun
9.mar    Phetchabun - Phitsanulok
10.mar    Phitsanulok - Phrae - Nan - Pua
11.mar    Pua - Doi Phu Kha NP - Pua
12.mar    Nan - Rd 1148 - Chiang Rai
13.mar    Chiang Rai
14.mar    Chiang Rai - Chiang Saen
15.mar    Chiang Saen - Thaton - Rd 1340 - Fang
16.mar    Fang
17.mar    Fang - Chiang Dao - Chiang Mai
18.mar    Chiang Mai
19.mar    Chiang Mai - Inthanon
20.mar    Doi Inthanon
21.mar    Inthanon - Kamphaeng Phet
22.mar    Kamphaeng Phet - Kanchanaburi
23.mar    Kanchanaburi - Kaeng Krachan NP
24.mar    Kaeng Krachan NP
25.mar    Kaeng Krachan NP
26.mar    Kaeng Krachan NP - Bangkok


which looks like this on Google Maps:



Of course we have ended our trip in Bangkok but Google only allows for a limited # of stops. In total we have stayed 22 nights in the country.


Before even starting with location-by-location descriptions, one word of advice (aka WARNING): DO NOT TRAVEL TO NORTHERN THAILAND IN MARCH! Just read on the web. 


Now to more positive aspects of this country which we both have visited for the first time. As expected, food is delicious and not as spicy (hot) as I have expected. Driving is easy and comfortable, roads are well maintained and outside of main towns, almost empty of heavy trucks. People are always courteous, even when it is obvious that they do not understand what you are asking them (as not many outside of bigger tourist destinations speaks any decent English). And for Zvezda, there is one beautiful temple at each corner!



P.S.: I do not know what for are the "hearts" on the map so just disregard them :)).

Edited by xelas
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Must be quite a new hobby to derail birding and safaris!

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And here is one more, who has been looking forward to this report! 

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oh my neck has grown soooo long waitng for this. 

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Khao Yai is probably the most visited national park in Thailand, because of its proximity to Bangkok and the fact that it was the first national park established in the country. While entering it from the north makes for a quicker approach, we have had plenty of time so we decided to use the southern entrance. That allowed us to drive across the entire park and to get the first impressions of it. 


It took us about 60 minutes only to reach the Bangkok outskirt and to reach the main road, and about 2 1/2 hours to reach the southern entrance of Khao Yai. Traffic inside the Bangkok was slow (we have started or drive at 9:00) yet without any major congestions, and the GPS navigation worked like a charm. For drivers: the toll gate on paid highways have a dedicated fast lane. If paying with cash, DO NOT use them! 


As many other national parks we have visited after, also Khao Yai has one main road/artery along which one can move. As being a bigger, and more visited park, there are a few side roads but it is really very different to what a general game drive in Africa looks like. At least main hikes are well signposted. And to our relief, there were almost no crowds even at the more important hangouts. In fact northern Thailand looked like a less visited part of Thailand (although the month of March must have its impact on low number of visitors).



Sunrise at Khao Yai



One of the observation points



A lovely hike



Waterfalls are many but it was not the season for them



Yes, Zvezda tested this suspension bridge first



The jungle in Khao Yai is dense (not a good news for birders)



Knowing your way around is important



One of the trails



Waiting for the elephant


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On park's northern side is the main accommodation hub. There are b&b, lodges, hotels, campings in every price range. Quite a task to find what would be "the best" for our 3 nights stay. Finally I have booked a lodge that is located very close to the entrance of the park having in mind that we will have a full day guided birding there. While not among the Top 10 it is priced well above the average we have paid for the rest of the trip. Of course it was comfortable, with nice room and well maintained property. And it was a walking distance from the park entry: Recal Isaan-Isan Concept Resort. There is a restaurant with obviously delicious (and spicy) food that offered us an introduction into what we will be eating for the next 3 weeks. And drinking (Alex).




















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Some sources reported up to 72 species of mammals living inside the park. For an average visitor, seeing an elephant and a gibbon is the Prize of the Day. We were lucky on both, plus some others.

Mammals most often are spotted as individuals; definitively not a wildlife experience one can get in Africa or in India, yet they are around.


Asian elephant



Lar gibbon





Northern pig-taile macaque







Sambar deer 



Barking deer 



Asian monitor lizard



Forest crested lizard



Black giant squirrel juvenile



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Much more prolific is the birdlife. About 400 species are reported from Khao Yai. It is important to hire a guide, if only for one day, as they know where to find them, and how to reach the spotting locations. Based on recommendation by @paultwe have hired Guide Jay - https://www.facebook.com/khaoyaitrekking/ - for a full day of birding which included his own vehicle (could do it also with mine), snacks and lunch. At 7000 Bath it was expensive but necessary spending. He came with his wife Intira and thus we had two guides. Having them helped us a lot when we explored the park on our own next day. 


Jay, Intira and Alex




Wreathed Hornbill



Great Hornbill



Oriental Pied-Hornbill



Himalayan Cuckoo



Chestnut-headed Bee-eater



Red-headed Trogon



Hill Blue Flycatcher



Silver Pheasant



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Great hornbills photos @xelas


Khao Yai seemed quite good for mammals too. Really enjoying your TR and am keen to see photos of other parks when you have time.

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Excellent photos of birds and other wildlife from Khao Yai! A very enjoyable and informative trip report, Alex and I’m looking forward to further episodes.

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Kanchanaburi & Tatmok National Park



There are more than 12 hours driving a car between Bangkok and Chiang Mai (or a short flight), thus it has to be done at least with one overnight. As we have wanted to explore as much of the north as possible, I have decided for 2 stops.

Kanchanaburi is not where many (if any) tourist would overnight. Better and more known towns are Nakhon Sawak, Phitsanulok and Sukhotai. But I have an invitation I could not decline. On Facebook I have seen birding posts by Mike Rose; I liked his photos and asked him, if he would show us around his local birding spots. He kindly agreed, and thus Kanchanaburi ended on our travel itinerary. He recommended Tantara Resort as it is only a short drive away from his house. The place is locally owned and run. It was fit for purpose but when the house dog is the highlight of your stay ...











Mike is a retired teacher from UK who decided to swap the birds and the weather from his home country with much warmer (but not less rainy) weather and for more colourful birds. Also his Thai wife is a retired teacher, and they have welcomed us with smiles and a wealth of local knowledge and informations. To thank them for their time we have invited them to a dinner. Mike wife's took us to a local CYO type of a restaurant. It was a very interesting evening, a lot of fun, and the food was different to what we ate in other places. Pictures can tell you more:











Edited by xelas
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Next morning Mike took us to Tatmok NP. Another area up the hill, with only one road to use, and a few places to stop where there is enough place to park your car. As the traffic was almost non-existent we were able to stop whenever there was a bird spotted by Mike. Unfortunately visibility was getting worse and while there were some excellent views over the hilly area, the burning and the produced smoke in the air really impacted the long distance/landscape photos. 









But it did not impact the bird photography and these are a few birds from that area:


Red-whiskered Bulbul



Golden-fronted Leafbird



Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo



Crested Serpent-Eagle



Black Baza



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Great photos and an amazing flight shot of the Black Baza by Zvezda!

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Looking forward for more!

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Beautiful photos @xelas I have just realised that in all my thai trips, I don't think I saw more than 1 mammal - a macaque. you've just put Khao Yai on my list. 

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@xelasI don’t think you went to Kanchanaburi after Khao Yai. :P


This is really interesting. A good couple of days in Khao Yai - particularly glad that you got such a great sighting of the gibbons. 


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Great start, Thailand is on my list but no way would I self-drive :o Black Baza, wow great shot! That was one bird we dipped on in the Western Ghats, really wanted to see that one!

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Thank you all for your kind and encouraging words! This TR will be more photos and less words as I have started it very late ... but always better late than never!

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On the way to Nan



I knew back home that there will be several non-birding days within our itinerary. Next 1 1/2 days were dedicated to temples (wat). There are so many temples in Thailand. Some old and some new, some small and other large. But they are all very colourful. Our first temple complex was recommended to us by Mike. It sits on top of a small hill.  Easy access, enough parking space and several funky cafes nearby.


Wat Phra Thart Pha Sorn Kaew















What shouild be a nice view in any other month of the year




Our zoom lens were never far from us - Grey-faced Buzzard circling over The Minimal Cafe.


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There is an abundance of accommodations on offer in Thailand, and most of them can be booked at last minute via Booking or Agoda apps. That was the case with our next stop; as I have no idea how long will the morning birding last, I have not booked next overnight in advance. The Pride Hotel in Phitsanulok is a newly opened, smaller and modern hotel, and located close to the main road.










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Next day we passed by many but stopped at one newer and one older temple. The newer one is quite a large complex and was quite busy with visitors.


Wat Phra That Cho Hae























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The older one was its stark contrast, none but us wandered around much smaller site. Its best feature is a large statue of reclining Buddha, one we have not seen many during our visit.


Wat Phra That Chom Chaeng

















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@xelasI am enjoying photos of the cultural sites as well as those of the wildlife 

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