Trip Report – November 2007
DAY 1: Start your trip in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand staying at the Rachamankha. After relaxing in this stunning hotel take the local form of transport (the tuk-tuk) to visit the Chiang Mai night bazaar had have dinner on the river at The Riverside, a popular local restaurants.
DAY 2: After breakfasting in the courtyard of the lovely hotel, head up to the local mountain, Doi Suthep and visit one of Thailand’s most stunning temples, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. You must wear appropriate clothing ( women cannot show their knees) and birding the grounds is a must. From there it is only a couple of minutes to visit the King’s Winter Palace (also good birding) and then have lunch in an Hmong village which is just past the Palace and then to the left.
Head back to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon by the pool (jet lag cannot be ignored) before going to a forest monastery, Wat Umong, to listen to Buddhist monks give a talk in English by the lake ( they don’t do this every day so check out Lonely Planet for the actual days). Dinner that night in the hotel – the food is good but its served too quickly – and an early night!
DAY 3: Start the day at a local park, Buak Hat Park. Its a small park and doesn’t look like there is much there but a walk around will offer
some good birds. You could then wander around in Chiang Mai and take a boat trip. The river is ugly through town but if you take Mae Ping River Cruises (behind the Wat Chaimongkhon) they take you to quite an interesting spot – it is actually where one of Sylvestor Stillone’s movies was shot! After lunch meet your guide and leave for your first major birding spot south of Chiang Mai at Doi Inthanon. On arrival bird the grounds of your hotel there in the late afternoon – this can be a very rich experience. Dinner at the hotel, Ttouch Star Resort – both the food and the hotel are basic but good.
DAY 4: An early start – your guide will take you to one of Thailand’s most rewarding birding spots at Check Point 2 – this is an unbelievable experience. The lights are left on here all night and the moths ( the size of your hands) gather. At dawn dozens of bird species arrive to eat the carnage left on the road from these moths. It can be foggy so a spot light is a good idea because you can get the night hawks this way. Then further up the mountain, stopping en route to see the Twin Royal Pagodas. Later in the afternoon, on the way down, visit one of the Park’s waterfall areas for some interesting species. Dinner is open – there are several resorts in the area that maybe worth a visit.
DAY 5: Another day at Doi Inthanon. Start with spotlighting for nighthawks at Check Point 2 then cover ground not covered the day before including lunch at the Royal Project and a visit to the other main waterfall which can be very productive.
DAY 6: Depart Doi Inthanon and drive north to Doi Ang Khang.We didn’t get this far but next time I would add it. Bird enroute and also stop at Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong, amongst other spots along the way. Once again be sure to bird the grounds of your lodge before either heading to a local meditation center (for those interested) or relaxing over dinner.
DAY 7: If you didn’t take your guide with you, use a local bird guide to meet you at the lodge and head out for a day’s birding in areas overlooking the Burmese border in the Doi Ang Khang park. Lunch at the Royal Project and possibly a visit to the Tha Market.
DAY 8: Use this as another opportunity to bird Doi Ang Khang and possibly fit in a visit to Fang Hot springs.
DAY 9: Now had back towards Chiang Mai and stop at one of our favorite spots, Chiang Dao – En route you can visit an elephant camp and enjoy an elephant trek. Stay at Chiang Dao Nest I we preferred Nest 1 but Nest 2 is also good) which is a lovely spot with a great food and relaxed environment. Birding around the grounds is rewarding and it is a short walk to a beautiful Temple which is both wonderful and good
DAY 10: Before you go, get the Nest to book you a local bird guide and go up to the top of the mountain. This birding day is not for the feint of heart. While Doi Chiang Dao can offer up Giant Nuthatch and Hume’s pheasant the road up there is full of the deepest pot holes imaginable! For those not up to it, there are caves in the area, a temple to visit and beautiful grounds in which to relax.
DAY 11: Time to head south so back to Chiang Mai for a flight to Bangkok and then drive to Khao Yai. Stay at the Juldis ( make sure you get the main building – the others are in need of a makeover) Birding in the grounds of the hotel can deliver Hornbills amongst others. There is a great little local Thai restaurant for dinner (menu only in Thai so it makes ordering interesting) on the right hand side of the road if you head back down the road. Can’t remember the name of it but it is worth trying to find..
DAY 12: Book a local guide for 2 days – our was amazing. Khao Yai not only has incredible birding but also the best opportunity for seeing other wildlife. This will be a long but very rewarding day culminating with a spot lighting tour in the evening.
DAY 13: Another fabulous day at Khao Yai – different route through the park but another opportunity for birds, elephants gibbons and more.
DAY 14: I’m sure it will be with regret that we leave Khao Yai but there is more so see yet as you head to Kaeng Kraechen – stop en route at Laem Phak Bia, Phetchaburi for some shore birding – this is the spot for Spoonbill sandpiper. If you haven’t taken a guide with you, beware that signage in the area around Phetchaburi is all in Thai and finding the right spot can be very frustrating so do plenty of research before you go. Accommodation at Kaeng Krachen, A & B Resort is the most basic that you will experience but the birding should be worth it. You will need a guide – they will also arrange your accommodation as the people at the resort don’t speak English so their website is in Thai..
DAY 15: This will be a full day birding in Kaeng Krachen. For the safety of visitors and animals alike, vehicles have restricted times to ascend and descend the mountain. This means we will spend the first part of the day at the lower part of the mountain and then move to the summit in the afternoon.
DAY 16: Today bird Kaeng Krachen in the reverse – starting at the summit and then, after working your way back down. At the end of the
day head for the nearby town of Hau Hin. After a couple of days in KK park, you will thoroughly enjoy the stunning and luxurious Anantara resort which is your final location in Thailand. The grounds of this hotel are probably the most stunning I have ever experienced and the lagoon pool is to die for. The town of Hua Hin can offer some nice restaurants (the hotel’s restaurants are very over priced) and great opportunity to purchase Thai carvings etc. While a little touristy it is a nice place to wrap up your trip.
DAY 17: Relax at the resort, wander through the town or head back Laem Phak Bia to hunt for the Spoon-billed sandpiper. If you have a
guide with you ( or can speak Thai) hire a local fisherman to take you out to the Laem Pak Bia Sand Spit for Malaysian Plover and several gulls. Then finish the day with souvenir hunting and dinner in Hua Hin town.
DAY 18: Depending on your flight time, you have an option to leave on this day ( if the flight is later in the day) or for very early departures we recommend staying at the hotel at the airport and leaving the next day .
General Notes: Thailand is a fascinating country but driving can be very challenging because of the other drivers on the road. The roads themselves (on the route we have described above) are all pretty good but be careful at night because occasionally you will come across a section of road that has disappeared!!! The signage is in English and Thai with the exception of the area around Phetchaburi and remember that gas stations may not be as numerous as you are used to so don’t get caught short of gas or snacks/water. On the whole the maps are quite good and getting to the places we have described (with the exception of Laem Phak Bia) should be easy to find.
Everywhere in Thailand can be a bit dirty but the area around Bangkok is really bad so we advise you to stay away as much as possible.
We went at the end of November – peak season is February.
Hotel Rachamanka – Chiang Mai
Touch Star Resort – Doi Inthanon – no longer on the internet
Chiang Dao Nest – Chiang Dao
Juldis Resort – Khao Yai – no longer on the internet
A&B Resort – Kaeng Krachan
Anantara Resort – Hua Hin
Guides & Resources
Guides – Doi Inthanon – Chinantana -nextsteptraveller@ yahoo.com
Her english is great. She would also go with you to Doi Ang Khang and Chiang Dao if you want that.
Chiang Dao- get the hotel to arrange it – we used someone called Buatang – his English was quite poor.
Khao Yai – Nine – Greenleaf Guesthouse & Tours – birdman_nine @ hotmail.com. This guy is great!!!
This website is superb for info on birding in Thailand – http://www.thaibirding.com/
BirdingPals is always a great resource for free and professional guides.
Field Guides – Birds of Thailand – Craig Robson
A guide to the birds of Thailand – Boonsong Lekagul, Philip Round
Lonely Planet Guide