We were to meet at a gas station near a skytrain station at the uncivilized hour of 5 am - yes, bare hours after my return from Pattaya. The skytrain doesn’t run that early, so I took a taxi to our rendezvous point. Apparently, taxis don’t run with metres at 4:30 in the morning, either. After being quoted the ridiculous price of 200 B, I “bargained” it down to 100 B (read: looked shocked and started to walk away), still twice as high as it should be.
The taxi driver had limited English but was very keen on practicing it. He took a call on his mobile, speaking rapidly in Thai, but I could tell I was at least one topic of discussion as a couple times he said “farang.” (This happens a lot here – apparently everything I do is noteworthy or very funny. Who knew I was such a comedian?) After hanging up, he explained that his youngest child – the “Baby” – was calling him. Then he politely asked if I was American. “No,” I said. “Canadian.” His eyes lit up and he clasped his hands in a victory salute. “Ah, Canada! Canada Good Guy! Canada Good Guy!” “Yes!” I agreed happily. Then he asked if I liked spicy Thai food, could I speak Thai, did I have babies, and so on, punctuated by frequent gales of giggles. When he dropped me off, he squeezed my hand and said, “Friend! Friend!”
I could not find the gas station, which I’d been told was immediately visible from the steps of the skytrain station. I saw a Shell and an Esso, both open, but no Caltex. I called the trip leader. She told me to walk down the road from the skytrain station. “Which way?” I asked. “Down the street.” “Yes, I understand, but in which direction?” “Down the street. You walk down the street.” This was starting to feel a lot like the day before, only less comical as 25 impatient birders were waiting for me – the adage “the early bird gets the worm” applies as much to birders as it does to birds (that said, while I am frequently still awake in the wee hours, I’ve never gotten up at 3:30 in the morning to go birding – or go anywhere, for that matter. Those who know me understand what a heroic triumph of will this was.).
After walking up and down the street for a good while, I saw someone waving at me across the street from the Caltex, which I imagine would be immediately visible from the skytrain station were it actually lit up and open for business. I had found my rendezvous point. I climbed into the van and settled in for a good couple hours as we drove north to Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Watch out for monkeys. Seriously. They leap through trees, bringing brawny branches crashing down.
Orange-breasted Trogon, front and back.
Photos: N. Nuttum
Ferruginous Flycatcher. Photo: N. Nuttum
My trip list: asian fairy bluebird (isn’t that a lovely name?), ochraceous bulbul, black-crested bulbul, asian brown flycatcher, striated babbler, gray-headed flycatcher, dark-necked tailor bird, green-billed malkohas, black eagle, paradise flycatcher, ferruginous flycatcher, black-naped monarch, ashy minivet, hill blue flycatcher, blue pitta, blue-throated flycatcher, bronze drongo, ashy drongo, emerald cuckoo, lesser greenleaf bird, greater greenleaf bird, rosy minivet, slender-billed oriole, asian barred owlet, greater flameback woodpecker, and blue-bearded bee-eater (or at least its nest cavity). We also encountered many specimens of that great ambassador of the aves class, the Falling Leaf Bird, which, despite its great ubiquity, is one of the hardest to spot. Can you see it here?Look closely. Can't see it? Try harder.
Next time: Return to Pattaya!