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Tag: out-in-thailand (page 1 of 2)

Chiang mai Burning: A Crisis in Northern Thailand (video)

SMOKE: A Crisis in Northern Thailand, the Health Effects and a Solution…

This film was presented as a work in progress at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Agriculture on January 8th, 2016 to create awareness and begin a dialogue about the yearly smoke crisis in Northern Thailand.

Note: There are subtitles for people who don’t speak Thai and/or those studying the language.

Burning in Chiang mai…

When I arrived back in Thailand after the Xmas holidays this year, the Chiang mai air already had the telltale signs of burning. One day the smoke was so strong we walked around to the backyard to see what was on fire (nothing – just another day in paradise?)

It’s not even February (typical burning season) yet I’m already housebound due to coughing. When I checked on Asian air quality forecast to see about any possiblities of escaping the boredom, it was quite apparent what with all the oranges and reds, it’s not looking good for me.

A Crisis in Northern Thailand

Orange: 101-150 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
Red: 151-200 Unhealthy

For 2016 the powers that be ‘officially’ started the burning in early January. The changes were announced in the New Burning Schedule Ordered in an Attempt to Tackle Smoke Issue.

  • 1–10 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Doi Tao, Mae Taeng, Mae Wang, Doi Saket, Hod
  • 5–15 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: San Pa Tong, Chom Thong, Sameng, Wiang Haeng
  • 11–20 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Mae Jam, Mae On, Phrao, Fang
  • 16–23 Jan: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Om Koi, Chia Prakarn, Kanlayaniwattana
  • 26 Jan– 5 Feb: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Doi Lo, San Sai, Muang Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao
  • 6–16 Feb: 9.00am – 3.00pm: Hang Dong, Saraphi, Sankampaeng, Mae Rim, Mae Ai

From what I’ve know, not many are following the schedule set out by the governor. But if caught will any be prosecuted? Only a handful were charged during the recent disaster in 2015.

Here are two posts on the subject from last season. One by me (where I was still struggling to keep a positive outlook), and one by Hugh Leong walking you through useful vocabulary.

Chiang mai Burning: Could You Survive Thailand’s Polluted North?
Thai Language Thai Culture: Breathing in Chiang Mai

Chiang mai smog

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It’s Cherry Blossom Time in Khun Chang Khian, Chiang mai

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry trees are blooming in Thailand – hurry if you can…

Depending upon traffic, an hour from Chiang mai is the Khun Chang Kian Highland Agriculture Research Center. Around this time of year (Jan/Feb) visitors squeeze up a hairy one lane road to see the Center’s cherry trees in bloom.

Siam and Beyond: The variety of sakura growing in Thailand is the Wild Himalayan cherry (Prunus cerasoides). Its name in Thai is นางพญาเสือโคร่ง /naang phá-yaa sǔea-khrông/, which means “Tiger Queen.”

Thailand isn’t exactly known for its cherry trees, but as the story is told, over 50 years ago China’s defeated Lost Army planted the trees in Santikhiri (สันติคีรี) to remind them of their homeland. Looking to attract more tourists to the region, in 1974 Thailand extended the planting to other suitable areas in the north of the country.

Cherry Blossoms On Sunday (the day after Children’s Day) I attempted the drive up the mountain to Khun Chang Kian but turned back due to the massive amount of cars trying to do the same.

The grade is fairly steep and traffic goes both ways so you are constantly forced off into a dirt shoulder. That’s if there is one. If not, one of you will need to reverse. And if there’s a long line going up and another coming back down, it can be a nightmare.

My car has an automatic transmission with a button for a break (weird, huh). The combination of a steep hill and constantly having to stop and start did me in! The cars behind crowded too close, leaving no room to go from brake to accelerate. Turning around at the overlook, I promised myself a Monday return.

The trip up the mountain can be made in a regular car if your timing is right. Sunday was a wash but going back on a weekday worked out great.

Tips: If you don’t have access to either a truck or motorbike, at the scenic overlook partway up the mountain transportation is available. But do know that parking there is limited. And if you do go in a regular car and a truck (four-wheel drive) comes the opposite way, stay on the road but give them enough room to go off the shoulder on either side. Sometimes it works and sometimes not but it’s worth a try.

How to get there…

As per the map below, drive out of Chiang mai, heading towards Doi Suthep. A few km past the Phuping Palace and Gardens (zoom in to see it on the map) is a three way junction. At the junction is a hard to miss sign to Khun Chang Khian telling you to turn right. Keep on that small road all the way to the Khun Chang Kian Highland Agriculture Research Center.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

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Rock Stacking and Graffiti at Phimai’s Ancient Khmer Temple

Graffiti at Ancient Khmer Temple in Thailand

The Ancient Khmer Temple at Phimai…

Beautiful temples are dotted all around Thailand. As a fan of Khmer style temples especially, it’s been my aim to visit each and every one (and I’m counting on Joe’s book to show the way).

During a baking hot trip to Buriram, the ancient Khmer temple at Phimai Historical Park was a must-see.

Graffiti at Ancient Khmer Temple in Thailand

Pssst: No, I don’t know the gal in the photo. I needed a photo of the sign to jog my memory. She didn’t move fast enough.

wikipedia: The Phimai historical park (Thai: ปราสาทหินพิมาย) protects one of the most important Khmer temples of Thailand. It is located in the town of Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima province.

The temple marks one end of the Ancient Khmer Highway from Angkor. As the enclosed area of 1020x580m is comparable with that of Angkor Wat, Phimai must have been an important city in the Khmer empire. Most buildings are from the late 11th to the late 12th century, built in the Baphuon, Bayon and Angkor Wat style.

Graffiti at Ancient Khmer Temple in Thailand

After admiring the main part of the temple area I veered off to a quiet part of the grounds. That’s where I discovered a wall decorated with modern graffiti.

Graffiti at Ancient Khmer Temple in Thailand

But graffiti isn’t new to me, even on ancient monuments (Pompeii comes to mind). It was the carefully stacked rocks that caught my curiosity.

Graffiti at Ancient Khmer Temple in Thailand

Along the entire wall marched varied piles. Some tall. Some squat. All had graffiti at their feet. Many of the scratchings include รัก /rák/ (love).

Graffiti at Ancient Khmer Temple in Thailand

Nearby the wall was a tree shading a part of the lawn. Under the tree I found even more stacks of rocks. No graffiti. There was nowhere to write.

Graffiti at Ancient Khmer Temple in Thailand

Cheeky buggers…

Graffiti at Ancient Khmer Temple in Thailand

Almost a thousand years ago, the walled city of Phimai (ancient Vimayapura) (Siribhadra and Moore 1997:232) was a major center of the polity of Angkor, which dominated much of mainland Southeast Asia from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries A.D.

To create the stacks and etch on the walls, large slabs were stripped from sandstone blocks carved and fitted over a thousand years ago. It’s awful to think about really. But, I’d still like to know why. Why stack rocks?

Googling for answers specific to Thailand, I found this article: Rock Stacking in Koh Lipe, Thailand

gokatayama.org (no longer online): The art of rock stacking has different meanings in various cultures. While in Koh Lipe, Thailand I witnessed an entire island dedicated to stacking rocks. In Thailand, people visit this island off the coast of Koh Lipe and stack up the rocks and make a wish.

Curious. Does anyone know the significance of the rock stacking at this particular Khmer temple? Do the rocks represent the person of their desires? Or just desire?

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Doraemon at Thailand’s Wat Sampa Siw

Doraemon in Thailand

Doraemon in Thai news…

Doraemon (famous Japanese cartoon cat) has been in the Thai news lately. But first, let me catch you up on the old news.

Last year reports started appearing about the much loved Doraeman cat cartoon invading the murals on a Thai Wat:

YARPNEWS (no longer online): For the uninitiated, Doraemon is a blue, earless robot cat from the 24th Century. The character first appeared in Manga comics in 1969 and has since starred in TV, films, musicals and video games. He was even called the ‘Cuddliest hero in Asia’ by Time Magazine.

Fester LIVE Udon Thani: A TEMPLE in Suphan Buri province has become a national sensation after an unusual character was spotted hiding in its wall paintings: the Japanese cartoon character Doraemon.

Noticing Doraemon’s huge popularity with Thai schoolchildren, artist Rakkiat Lertjitsakun added the sky-blue robotic cat to murals at Wat Samp Pa Siew in Muang district.

Temple abbot Phra Maha-anan, who hadn’t noticed Doraemon’s presence in the murals until he was told about them by a Khao Sod reporter, said he wasn’t angry at all. Mr Rakkiat was just trying to help today’s children learn about good and evil and heaven and hell, he said.

Things calmed down until this week, when the Wat decided to get into the amulet market:

Doraemon in ThailandBangkok Post: A 700-year old temple in Suphan Buri’s Muang district has made headlines again by issuing issuing amulets of a god holding an iPad and of a famous Japanese cartoon character wearing a Thai headdress, and distributing them to visitors as souvenirs, reports said.

Bangkok Post: UPHAN BURIA temple which uses imagery featuring Japanese cartoon character Doraemon on some of its souvenirs has been warned it may be violating copyrights. Wat Sampasiew in Muang district of Suphan Buri produces locket pins featuring Doraemon which it gives away free to visitors.

But Wisarut Inyaem, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Suphan Buri office, has urged the temple to avoid violating the intellectual property of Fujiko Pro, the creator of Doraemon, and iPad developer Apple Corp.

Call me cynical, but I don’t believe there’s a whole lot Fujiko Pro can legally do about Doraemon’s copyright in Thailand. Ripped off designs, software, movies and music are sold openly on Thai streets, in malls, pretty much everywhere. A couple of times a year there’s a big kerfluffle in the news, products are taken off the shelves, but days (hours sometimes) later it’s business as usual.

What Fujiko Pro could do is educate the Temple abbot about the rules of international copyright. How difficult could that be?

Doraemon at Wat Sampasiew…

In 2011, right before the floods hit, I stopped by Wat Sampa Siw. Yeah. I know. I’m lax about sharing my adventures in Thailand and elsewhere. I get to have all the fun and you mostly get nadda from me. My bad. But don’t thank me for finally sharing these photos – thank Kaewmala. Yesterday, when I mentioned the zillions of Doraemon photos I had, she sort of guilted into me it. See?

Anyway, I’ll start you off with this [apologies] awful video I took. But seriously? One of these days I’ll invest in a tripod that works. Tips on make and model are welcome.

In the video, except for the obvious Doraemon shouting ห้ามจับภาพ /hâam jàp pâap/ (heh hehhhh), the cat cartoons can’t be seen. And even though I had my face right close to the mural, I still had difficulties locating the cartoons. Everyone did. But soon a novice monk stepped in to point out the hidden Doraemons.

Doraemon in Thailand

Doraemon in Thailand

Doraemon in Thailand

Doraemon in Thailand

Doraemon in Thailand

Doraemon in Thailand

There are more hidden Doraemons than I’ve shared here. But, after staring at mural photos for an hour, I once again lost sight of that darn cat. I took a fair number of photos both before and after the novice monk rescued me, so Doraemon could be hiding most anywhere.

Doraemon in Thailand

The young man to the right is the novice monk who saved the day. To the left, a senior monk who just happened to nod “yes” to my camera waggle. Don’t let the stern faces fool you. Both laughed at my antics but sobered up as soon as my camera came into play.

Temple paintings Thailand…

Artist Rakkiat Lertjitsakun: “Inserting hidden messages into temple paintings is an age old tradition,” explained Rakkiat. “Years ago they would hide depictions of sex in the murals; nowadays it’s a blue cartoon robot cat.”

Whenever I visit a Wat with paintings (not all have them), I look for the fun scenes. Some characters are humorous while others are quite risque. Over the years I’ve amassed a growing collection and one day I’ll share them in a post. Remind me if I forget.

Below are a few I found at Wat Sampa Siw. This is the first time I’ve come across a blood spattered scene in a Thai mural but not a first for male and female body parts (body parts are a fav with Thai mural artists).

Doraemon in Thailand

The guy enjoying his nap has an actual name:

thai-language.com: Choo Chok – ชูชก /choo-chók/ is a greedy Brahman character in the story of ‘เวชสันดรชาดก’ /wâyt săn don chaa-dòk/ who finally died from eating too much.

Thai people like to call someone who eat a lot or eat too much as “choo chok”, it’s not a compliment though.

Doraemon in Thailand

Btw: If you are in Bangkok right this minute, you can just make the last day of the Doraemon Fair at Terminal 21. From what I gather, it’s a celebration marking the 100 years before Doraemon is to be born.

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Jumbo Banquet & Jumbo Queen

Jumbo Queen Contest

Thailand’s Jumbo Banquet and Jumbo Queen contest…

I received a Dumbo sized disappointment this weekend. All over the Internet there were announcements of Samphran Elephant Ground’s Jumbo Banquet and Jumbo Queen Contest. I’ve been dying to take photos of a Jumbo Queen contest so was thrilled at the thought of a new adventure.

jumboqueen.com: On the 1st of May in 1996, Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo celebrated its 10th anniversary by hosting the first Jumbo Banquet. Now an annual event, the banquet features elephants feasting on tons of their favorite vegetables and fruit – in a show of thanks to the elephants for all their hard work and the happiness they bring to the public. Organizers were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown for the event by the public and the media alike.

Jumbo Queen ContestThe following year, to add to the entertainment, the Jumbo Queen contest was incorporated into the festivities. The aim of the contest is to select the contestant who best exhibits the characteristics of an elephant, by virtue of her grace, elegance and size, to help promote elephant conservation causes in Thailand.

In preparation, I contacted long-time friends to see if they wanted to ride along with me. They weren’t totally convinced so I raved hugely about the Jumbo Queen contest as well as the Jumbo Banquet. They finally agreed to come along so I then double-checked the information from the source:

jumboqueen.com: The event start from 08.30 – 17.30 with regular price.

Next up, I called my regular taxi driver to discuss price and times. And on Sunday morning early, excited to see the Jumbo Queen contest and Jumbo Banquet, off we all went.

Jumbo Queen ContestThe entrance fee at the Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo for foreigners is 500 baht for adults and 300 baht for kids. For Thais it’s 100 baht but for Thai drivers it’s free.

I don’t fuss at the price differences but I know some of you do so there you go. Note: I haven’t found it mentioned anywhere else and didn’t find the Thai price at the ticket counter. The lass selling the tickets was not comfortable with me pressing for the answer (twice) but hey I needed to know.

Jumbo Queen ContestOnce in the park we looked around for the Jumbo Queen contest. There was a big sign mentioning a crocodile (alligator?) show, a magic show, and an elephant show. And in the late afternoon, the Jumbo Banquet but no Jumbo Queen contest.

A bystander mentioned that the contest had been canceled several years ago. He also shared titillating gossip about the reasons. I won’t share them here because while I found the telling quite hilarious, it might contain shred of truth so I’d rather be safe (yup, I’ve been warned – TiT).

The official statement is that the Samphran Elephant Grounds and Zoo ran into problems with the contest and the problems need to be sorted first. But they are not sure when the next Jumbo Queen contest will be.

What did we end up doing? Well, my son was raised in SE Asia, meaning that I’ve seen a gazillion crocodile farms, elephant shows, and monkeys in cages scratching their butts. So after attending five minutes of the alligator show and a part of the elephant show, and being unwilling to stay the full 8 hours in the hopes of seeing elephants being fed (again), we took off.

Cost for the excursion: 1,500 baht for the nonexistent Jumbo Queen contest + 2000 baht for transportation = 3,500 baht.

But here’s the thing. I knew better. Thais are not known for keeping their websites updated so really, even with all of the information out there saying that there was a Jumbo Queen contest on 1 May 2011, to avoid this snafu all I had to do was call. My bad.

Jumbo Queen Contest

Jumbo Queen Contest

Jumbo Queen Contest

Jumbo Queen Contest

Jumbo Queen Contest

Jumbo Queen Contest

Jumbo Queen contests can be found from Chiang mai to Pattaya and elsewhere. And no surprise, you can even find a Thai Lady Boy Jumbo Queen contest!

Pssst… Talen… wanna go?

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The Peace and Quiet of the Thai Countryside

Chainsaw Critters of Thailand

Loving the sounds of Thailand…

For the past four days I’ve been driving in and around the freezing Thai countryside as far as Khon Kaen and then back to the noisy city of Bangkok again. After leaving skyscrapers behind I drifted past wickedly green rice fields to mist covered mountain tops to dry hillsides creaking with bamboo.

For three nights I slept on either boards or lumps camouflaged as beds, waking up each morning to pains deep in my bones. Drugs R Us…

Along with a gazillion squat toilets and spirit houses I photographed Khmer ruins, ancient burials, dinosaur bones and communist hideouts. Oh, and I found some paraphernalia hiding in the leaves! But more on that stuff later…

I also took videos of the peace and quiet of the Thai countryside. Below are two.

The critters making all that racket are called cicada (or is it cicadas?) a known delicacy of the region. I’ve located two Thai spellings, จักจั่น and จั๊กจั่น but as Talking Thai Dictionary (reviewed here) has จักจั่น /ják-ga-jàn/, I’ll go with that one. You?

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Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

A motorcycle safety campaign in Thailand?…

Another campaign for motorcycle safety is being launched in Thailand. And while this campaign is not the first, with the graves mounting up the motorcycle accidents can’t be ignored.

I don’t often see babies hanging off the side of motorcycles in Bangkok. Or tucked in front of the driver, or between a second or third passenger even. But on my recent trip to Krabi it was the norm. Driving around, especially in the mornings and late afternoons, it was common to see babies tucked somewhere in the mix of motorcycles and people. Even with expats (who should know better).

Helmet laws have been in place in Thailand for quite awhile but most riders in the countryside ignore the laws. Police included. In Krabi I was stopped by the police in a school zone. And what were they doing? The police were waving through kids getting out of school – most of the kids on motorcycles were without helmets.

But on March 1, the campaign for motorcycle safety comes into play.

Will it work? Unlike the sign below, I’m not ‘sure’ because there are too many TiT variables. The only fact I am sure of is my plan to report back in a month. And again, with photos.

The campaign for the safety of motorcyclists and passengers…

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

sŭam mùak ní-rá-pai
Wear hat safety (helmet)

táng kon-kàp láe kon-són
Both rider and passenger

1 มีนาคม 2554
nèung mee-naa kom sŏng pan hâa rói hâa sìp sèe
1 March 2011

rêrm dtrùat jàp bpràp nâe
start checking catch fine, for sure!

Basically, it says that on the 1st of March the authorities (in Krabi, anyway) will start checking to see if motorcycle riders and their passengers are wearing helmets. And if caught without, there will be a fine. For sure.

Motorcycle safety AND education is sorely needed in Thailand…

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

Ok, this family is traveling on the soft shoulder but how many vehicles in Thailand do you see swerving around? Tons. Weighing tons. And when a body is flying through the air, a helmet just might insure that it’s an accident without a fatality.

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

Check out this series of three photos. Two women. Two babies. One motorcycle. No helmets.

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

But who is driving? Who is in control of the motorcycle?

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

Are you sure? Really?

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

The female driver has a helmet but the back passenger in the headscarf does not (it’s Krabi, remember?) And the little baby tucked in front of the driver is sans helmet as well (but does sport a knitted blue hat).

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

Another noticeable and scary habit in Thailand is how close motorbikes travel to automobiles. There is no way this driver could stop on time if that car needed to brake fast; it’s an accident waiting to happen. Again, no helmets. And what’s going on up the road?

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

The ability to break fast is doubly important for trucks following motorbikes. Does that look like three car lengths to you? Again, an accident waiting to happen.

Motorcycle Safety Campaign in Thailand

I was going to ask if scarves make a difference in an accident but my lovely Muslim friends would slap me upside the head right quick. So I won’t.

More on the motorcycle safety campaign…

On and off we hear about horrific traffic accidents on Thailand and sometimes motorcycle safety campaigns follow right quick. The Phuket motorcycle helmet campaign hit the streets of Patong in 2010. Do anyone know if it’s successful? I was there for the motorbike convention but those riding the big bikes tend to have mighty fancy helmets to show off.

EDIT: I discovered this video over at the TV forum (CCTV of accidents in CM):

Will this latest campaign for motorcycle safety in Thailand take hold? We’ll see… we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Ao Nang’s Long-tail Boats

Ao Nang Long-boats

Rockhounds have fun on Buddhist holidays too…

Friday the 18th to Sunday the 20th was a religious holiday in Thailand – มาฆบูชา /maa-ká-boo-chaa/. It’s where Buddhists go in for merit-making in a big way.

Makha Bucha: The full moon day of the third lunar month. The Lord Buddha’s sermon to the first large gathering of monks. Celebrated on 18 February 2011.

I’m not Buddhist but I happily took off for the three days with a fellow rockhound. Ok. Ok. Ok. He’s the real rockhound as my days of studying the past through microscopes are long gone. But checking out rocks is interesting regardless because seeing what the earth’s structure is up to still grabs me, and to boot, my camera gets a massive workout.

After each day of poking around outcrops, and before heading back to the hotel, we drove to Ao Nang beach to watch the sunset. And what a spectacular view for a camera. Any camera. Wow.

Ao Nang’s Long-tail boats…

Ao Nang's Longtail Boats

The only thing I know about Ao Nang’s Long-tail boats – besides the fact that they didn’t show my camera a bad side – is what I located by googling. And while I found them stunning, whoever wrote this wiki post holds an opposing view.

Wikitravel: Long-tails arrive on the beach near the junction of the two roads; these Long-tails, though, account for a problem: the level of noise-pollution, provided by an endless chain of undampened boat-motors, is substantial. As long as there is no schedule (or mufflers provided for the motors) and each tourist goes individually and numbers of visitors are ever increasing, this problem will continue to worsen and spoil the beauty of this beach.

I do get annoyed by Long-tails when staying at the Felix River Kwai Resort so I’m not totally opposed to his opinion. But… just not at Ao Nang beach. Long-tails on the river are all noise. Long-tails on the Andaman sea feel like they’ve been a part of the scenery forever. But they haven’t. That’s what this site is saying anyway.

kkkgroup (no longer online): The concept was developed in Thailand as a simple low cost means of motorizing boats used in rivers, canals and seas where people and cargo must be transported through shallow waterways. It is also commonly used for coastal transportation, small scale fishing and tourism. It is ubiquitous sight in Thai river and sea Long Tail Boat was created by local people living in the middle part of Thailand around 1937 (BC) 2480.

Along with the ten gigs of photos I took a handful of movies. Apologies in advance, but there’s a spot on my lens that I could not locate. After first seeing the spot I took off filters and cleaned everything. Twice. But nadda. My camera will have to be cleaned professionally and the movies suffered for now. My sad movie skills are to be suffered as well I’m afraid.

I arrived around 4.30 and these two photos were taken a bit before 5 in the evening. So if you do want to take Long-tail boat photos in the evening sun, somewhere around there seems the perfect time.

Ao Nang's Longtail Boats

Ao Nang's Longtail Boats

Several families were digging through the sand looking for shellfish (?) mostly ignoring me waggling a camera. There was mom, pop, and several kids, all with buckets and shoveling away.

Ao Nang's Longtail Boats

Like I mentioned, I took a zillion photos of the Krabi area. It’s not possible to share them all here so eventually there will be a gallery for just that. Time.

More about Long-tail boats…

Ko Phi Phi: Longtail Boats
Traditional Longtail Boating
Long Tail and Long Boat Racing
How and where to rent Long-tail boats on Krabi

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Design Flaws of Nesting Birds in Thailand

Sunbird nest

Nesting birds in Thailand…

With a deep, plant covered balcony wrapping around my condo in Bangkok, I am gifted with nesting birds. But one thing I’ve noticed is that not all birds are talented at building nests that work. There are fatal flaws in their workmanship.

Last year I had a Streak-eared Bulbul nesting in June, and then Olive-backed Sunbirds from December to January. As you can see in this post, the Streak-eared Bulbul’s nest had to be reinforced to stop the baby chick from falling out (I know, I know, I need to finish the saga – and I will).

Fast forward to the nesting Olive-backed Sunbirds.

Sunbirds arrive at my condo with much fanfare. In stereo, they tweet LOUDLY every time they do something. Search for a nesting spot? TWEET! TWEET! Build a nest? TWEET! TWEET! Lay eggs. TWEET! TWEET! Feed the chick. TWEET! TWEET!

From December to January my condo is filled with their loud tweets. And honestly, I don’t know how they avoid being eaten by predators because their COME EAT ME chirps are a feast in the making.

Last year they built their nests outside my kitchen’s sliding glass door. That is a perfect spot because it’s dead easy to take photos and videos. And as that whole side of the condo is glass I got a prime view of their nesting habits.

But this year they decided to build their nest under a palm by my living room. Again, that side of the condo is wall-to-wall glass so I can watch from inside as well. Not as easily, but it’ll do.

Below is nest number two in that spot. The December egg had already hatched and flown away. And when that happens, my housekeeper throws the nests away.

Soon after I took that video the nest ended up on the ground. Shoddy workmanship, I say. My housekeeper shoved the nest into the branches of a tree outside my kitchen, and then came to show me what was up.

I was worried that the parents wouldn’t come back, but they did.

A couple of days later I’m in the kitchen and the Sunbirds started going crazy. TWEET! TWEET! TWEET! TWEET! TWEET! TWEET!

Hanging from a palm, they were looking into my kitchen. They were looking right at me.

So I walked outside and heard a wee cheep! cheep! cheep! After two nesting seasons I know that sound – it’s a baby Sunbird. At first I thought the baby was trying out its wings and was in the trees. No. Trying to follow the noise, it sounded like it was above me somewhere. No.

Looking down, there it was. In a pot. This teensy thing about the size of my thumb had tumbled out of the nest and into the dirt below. Lucky him for landing on soft ground. And even luckier that I don’t allow my cats outside. But both cats were watching closely from behind the glass. Tails twitching.

Time for this Cat to get into action, again. I needed to secure the nest to the tree somehow so I went to find tape. The only strong tape I had was heavy-duty packing tape. It was ugly but it’d do. After I got the nest secure I took a second look to make sure the job was done. The sun is stronger at that edge of the balcony so a fan taped to the back was the solution. Yeah, it just kept on getting uglier! But it was functional and that’s what mattered. Oh, and the flashlight was functional too, as a mini spotlight.

Sunbird nest

With a soup ladle in one hand, I scooped up the chick. In the other hand I held a paper towel to keep the oils from my hands getting on his feathers (apologies, but I’m going to stick with male this round). I used the hand with the paper towel to keep him from jumping out of the spoon.

Sunbird chicks have oversized bony claws. I got him into the nest but he clutched onto the side tight. But I needed him IN the nest, not on the edge. And as I couldn’t have him fall out again I poked him softly with the end of the spoon. That didn’t work. Also, I was worried about hurting him with too much force so I switched to using my index finger.

Softly softly, I poked him into the nest. Face first. And honest, except for manhandling him more I didn’t have any other choice.

So there’s this chick stuffed into the nest, with its butt sticking out. I wasn’t sure if it’d survive like that for long. I mean, would he smother in there? It was a worry but I left him and his parents to it.

Besides the chick smothering, there were two more worries: 1) That my handling of the chick would drive the parents away and 2) that my butt-ugly remake of their nest would do the same.

But as you can see below, after checking out the nest the parents and baby chick settled down fine.

This last video might be more than you want to know about nesting birds. I found it informative because I’ve always wondered how they kept the nest filling up with bird poo. And now I know.

Btw – do you remember back with the baby Streak-eared Bulbul, where I would shake the tree limb so he’d open his mouth wide? And then I’d take snaps? Well, the baby Sunbird reacted the same. I’d wiggle my finger right under the lip of the nest and he’d pop out just like a cuckoo clock.

Sunbird bouncing out

And the only things stopping him from shooting totally out of that nest were his big clawed feet.

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Enterprising Thai Farmers

Thai Sunflowers 5 Baht

Thai Sunflowers 5 Baht…

The people of Thailand are enterprising. No doubt. I was reminded once again of that very same quality just this month.

After Paul mentioned the Sunflower Festival in Lopburi, K.Pi, K.Ph and I drove sort of in that direction.

Sort of, because K.Pi understood that I wanted to see a flower show way way far away. Like, three hours plus away. In another direction. This didn’t come to light until after we’d been on the road for hours and I asked just how long before the sunflower fields would appear.

Sunflowers? Not flowers? As in flower show?

When K.Pi wipped the car around, K.Ph, also thinking we were going to a flower show, piped up that she had her heart set on stopping by the Oldest Buddha Tree in Thailand (easy to reach on the way back from the flower show). And I did too.

So after dragging out a map K.Pi figured out how we could cram everything in. Everything but the flower show. Talk about one long detour of fun! My butt hurts just thinking about it.

Thai Sunflower map

Anyway… when we finally got in the vicinity we started passing miles and miles of open fields of sunflowers. Some we stopped at, but due to the sun dragging flower heads ever which way, others were passed by. You got it, I was looking for the perfect field. The sunflower field with a mountain backdrop. The sunflower field with flowers pointing at my camera. A field like Paul’s field.

And right at the end of my allotted time, there it was. A Field with sunflowers pointing the right direction and a mountain in back. Only, this field was all roped off and demanding five baht per person for a wander around. Yes. That was exactly my reaction too.

เข้าชม /kâo chom/ = enter to admire
คนละ 5 บาท /kon lá 5 bàat/ = person each 5 baht

Thai Sunflowers 5 Baht

I found the sign so hilarious that I just had to take a zillion photos then and there. And it really was the prettiest field of the bunch.

So, did I get charged 5 baht? No. That’s only for weekend tourists, not veterans of the weekday.

If you hurry, there’s bound to be sunflowers in all their yellow glory still waving away. But for those of you who won’t be able to make it this year, here’s a YouTube video where I’m enjoying the peace of the Thai countryside. It’s not of the perfect field – I was too interested in the sign to take a video – but it’ll do.

Btw: This is not my first sunflower field experience. On one of my earliest trips with K.Pi the sunflowers were equally striking, but instead of green and yellow, they were close to be harvested. As most of the flowers were facing down, I had to contort every which way to get those shots, some from a prone position even. In the dirt facing up. K. Pi tells me that it was his first experience with that sort of thing.

Ah, and before I forget… ดอกทานตะวัน /dok thantawan/ is sunflower in Thai.

ดอก /dok/ = flower
ทานตะวัน /thantawan/ = sunflower plant, Helianthus annuus

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