Thursday, 7 January 2016

Amazing Thailand ( Bangkok )

As the title page of my blog suggests, this is one of those trips far and beyond the "Pear Tree", a trip essentially to celebrate my wife's retirement from the country's much maligned teaching profession, an escape from this country's winter storms, and as always, an opportunity to look at another's countries wildlife and fauna.

Thailand was our destination, a few days to sample the delights of Bangkok metropolis, a short flight up north to Chiang Mai, and then a return flight down to the south of the country to relax and enjoy Krabi and the islands around that part of the coastline.

I did not want to monopolise the trip with my constant need to search out new birds and wildlife, so no binoculars, no long lenses on the camera, and no trips out to any national parks.

But this did not mean no wildlife, its amazing what you can find around the sub tropical gardens that surround the hotels and towns. So this is a discrete look at what I found, throughout our stay.

The whole trip had been organised via the internet, something I had never done before, and to say I was slightly apprehensive would be an understatement, maybe a generational thing but it all seemed too easy, something must surely go wrong.

Our journey started with a short drive to Gatwick Airport, the weather was horrendous, cold, wet and windy, but Thailand and its warmer climate beckoned, we were happy to be leaving the country and the tirade of storms heading this way,  Abigale, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond and Eva, to mention a few.

  So now the first hurdle, my apprehension was now reaching breaking levels, we approached the Emirate check in desk, I handed in the paperwork I received over the internet, I expected a blank look of  "we don't know who you are and what are you doing here" but no, a smile, a passport check, and our cases whisked away never to be seen again until we reached our destination.
Apprehension starting to lift now.

After several hours confined to an aircraft you begin to appreciate the distance you are traveling, our journey entailed an eight hour trip to Dubai, a short changeover and another seven hours to Bangkok, we arrived in the early hours of the morning, we were shattered, economy seating is not the most comfortable and some of our fellow passengers not the most amenable, to say the least.

Apprehension rising again as we approached the check-in at our first hotel, surely this would be the time something was going to go wrong, but no, everything was in order, we made our way to our room, apprehension slipping away now.

Our intention was to crash out at the hotel for the first day and catch up on our sleep which was now in total disarray.

Late evening and our first real look at Bangkok from the balcony of our city hotel, warm humid air greeted us, this river that our hotel looked out on the Chao Phraya runs right through the heart of Bangkok, reminding me a little of the River Thames running through London, the River traffic looked chaotic, pleasure cruisers with bright lights beaming out, long boats flying along the river, small tug boats hauling great trains of barges up and down the river.
As it turned out, Bangkok has an excellent river taxi system which allows you to reach various parts of the city without encountering the busy street traffic,

As my wife readied herself for a full day of exploration, I made myself comfortable on the balcony of our room, something I have become accustomed to, waiting !  the whole of Bangkok stretched out before me, I could see some birds circling on the thermals above some of the high rise buildings, I could just make out that they were Storks and after a quick consultation with my field guide I identified them as two Asian Openbill, not a new bird I have seen these before in India, two smaller birds accompanied them, possibly raptors but I could not identify them, frustratingly.

Asian openbill
Down on the river, I could see large clumps of Water Hyacinth flowing along with the current, Little Egrets could be seen and a number of  Chinese Pond Herons flying from one clump to the next, feeding on the small fish sheltering under the floating Water Hyacinth, up to six seen at one time, albeit on different floating clumps.

Breakfast on the terrace alongside the banks of the river Chao Phrayer provided me with an encounter with a new bird, a very small Dove, only slightly larger than a house sparrow, very similar to the Peaceful Dove, but a slight difference in the stripes around the breast separates them.
These in Thailand I believe are known as Zebra Doves, supposed to be quite wary, but these were feeding around the breakfast tables and very approachable. they were also accompanied by a number of Tree Sparrows, which at the time I felt unusual, the only difference being the grey underside appeared to be replaced with a warm  fawn colour

Tree Sparrow
A cruise down the River Chao Phraya in search of the Grand Palace was our next tourist hotspot, a truly remarkable complex of the most ornate buildings you will ever come across.well worth the visit despite the hordes of tourists.
Grand Palace Bangkok
Sometimes less is more !
Grand Palace
Finally a wildlife sighting, another little Zebra Dove, the photograph does not really show how small and delicate this little dove is.

Zebra Dove
This high rise building at the centre of the photograph caught my eye, still under construction it will be one of Bangkok's tallest buildings. called the 'MahaNakhon tower' with 77 storeys, I love the missing pixelated effect of the outer shell, looked like it was falling down

So much to see, so little time,       to be continued...........

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