The climb up the mountain from the town of Fang is extremely steep.
After a few desperate moments in prayer as our clutch gave away
and our engine weakened, we eventually learnt the basic lesson of
turning off the aircon when negotiating steep mountain climbs. Most
of the ascent has to be taken in first gear and with all of us (2
adults and 4 teens and 2 kids) along with our gear, we were pretty
Once up at the
checkpoint I had to stop and let the car cool down. Anyhow, a single
Great Tit was singing away in a pine
tree and this lovely little bird encouraged us onward.
The Amari resort
is way too pricey for us and the owner of Bahn Luang resort (01-88181140)
was away in Chiang Mai. We were prepared with tents but by a miracle,
located some nice bungalows at the watershed station (nuay jut gahn
nahm mae preu) and thank God, there was just one available for the
night. It is open to the public.
Birding at Doi
Angkhang can be a bit overwhelming as so many birds
are skulkers and dwell in the tall grass and scrub covering the
mountains. They sing a lot though so if one is prepared with tapes
etc it should work for a fun and challenging experience.
I was able to
bird by myself for two mornings and picked up many good birds but
still felt that I had missed a lot. My best birds were at pair of
Green Cochoas that had come out of
the forest at km 21.5 and let me have good looks at them for a couple
of minutes before they flew back in. This was my 3rd lifebird of
the trip and an unexpected one. I tried for the stake out for Giant
Nuthatch in the pine stands at km 30 but a lot of the grass
lands were on fire in that area and not much bird life around.
Here are some
of the better birds seen in the park: Common
Buzzard, Spectacled Barwing,
Silver-eared Mesias (very common),
White-browed and Rusty-naped
Scimitar Babblers, White-browed Laughingthrushes,
Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Daurian
Redstart at the old orchard where soldiers now have cleared
the area and set up camp next to the helicopter ramp, Large
Niltava, Blue-winged Minlas,
Grey-chinned Fulvettas, Chestnut-crowned
Warbler, Striated Bulbuls, White-browed
Shrike-Babbler, Grey Bushchat,
Grey-backed Shrike etc. The Brown-breasted
Bulbuls were common but hard to photograph. These birds are
sometimes seen along with Red-whiskered Bulbuls in larger flocks
feeding in flowering trees.
We enjoyed our
dinners at the restaurant in the village as the vegetables are so
fresh up here. It didn't really get very cold on the mountain but
a sweater was needed in the early morning and along with the fresh
scent of pine, birds singing and a hot cup of coffee made up for
a memorable experience.
As we had brought
some educational materials and snacks from one of our sponsors,
we decided to visit a couple of schools and hilltribe villages right
at the border. At the first school in the village, we were able
to provide our interactive English teaching program for some 300
children here who are from the Mai Ai -- a Burmese ethnic group.
At Ban No Lae, we located the Palong tribe (near the Burmese border)
on this mountain where we had the opportunity to distribute clothes,
toys & snacks .We were able to organise queues and eventually
hand out rice to the elders of the village. Trying to locate the
second school at Ban Kob Dong was a little more tricky as it was
in a more remote dirt track on the mountain. To get there, however,
we had the pleasure of driving through the Queen's Botanical project,
admiring the beauty of temperate flower fields in there. Our younger
kids really took to this spot.
When we finally
got to this hilltribe village and school, we put on a little program
for the students of both the Palong and the Lahu (know locally as
the Mussur tribe) and amongst other things, taught them some fun
English songs. Both tribes are descendants from Tibetan immigrants
who've made their way through Myanmar into Thailand. The Lahu, having
been longer here, have received Thai nationality, and have a school
set up in their village whereas the Palong are more recent arrivals
and have no rights. The Palong kids thus walk about 4- 5 km to school
each day. We found these kids to be fresh and responsive which overshadowed
the dirty and bedraggled state they were physically in. Interacting
with these young students was a highlight for all of us.
a joy to be able to share something of ourselves with others --
there's not much we can do to change the world or the state of poverty
that these folks are in. But really, lighting just one other candle
in the midst of darkness is far better than cursing the darkness.
So, sharing our lights of joy and love in even a small way, with
just one person -- we're changing our part of the world!
Once down the
mountain, we decided to skip out on Doi
Inthanon and instead head for the Golden Triangle and
Saen lake in Chiang Rai. This turned out to be a wise
decision as this part of our journey was quite special. On our way
to Mae Chan we passed a sign that read '3 hilltribe villages'. We
drove in and found out that the local Ahka village had received
another two tribes in a project funded by a private company to make
the 'long-necked' Kareng women (Padaung) and 'long-eared' (Lahu)
available for the tourist industry. These women had been brought
in from Myanmar and set up on display for a hefty fee for visiting
tourists. The girls seemed happy as this way they get a much better
income then living in there remote village back home but much could
be said about this exploitation of these people. We were able to
buy some of the Padaung handicraft and donate some bags of rice
directly to the girls.
We settled at
Mae Chan for the night. Rim Chan resort is a nice, clean, air-conditioned
hotel with TV, swimming pool and breakfast included for only 12US$
(053-771882-3). The lake is only 20 minutes drive from here of which
I visited while the others were sleeping in.
Next day we
drove to the Golden Triangle, an easy drive from Mae Chan. Right
before Chiang Saen town there is a sign to the Golden Triangle.
Follow that one and take another left turn at the next intersection.
Soon you will see a large restaurant catering to tourists. About
100 meters before the restaurant there is a dirt road down to the
river. Park here and walk down (unless u have 4 wheel drive)…….The
river was quite dry and the riverbed was covered in smooth pebbles.
Around midday the Small Pratincoles
that live in this area will stop feeding and roost on the ground.
Easy to approach and quite frankly, stunningly beautiful little
birds. My 4th lifebird.
Along the waters
edge several Pied and Citrine
Wagtails were feeding. Lots of Little
Ringed Plovers were around. Yellow-bellied
Prinias were singing from the reeds. A bit further up the
river there were a pair of Spot-billed Ducks
on a sandbar, little Temmincks Stints
were frantically feeding, Common Greenshanks
and Grey-headed Lapwings were standing
on parade and a single Spotted Redshank
The Golden Triangle
itself holds many souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels. Best place
to view the area is from a temple (I forgot the name) up a hill.
From up here you can see see all 3 countries including the huge
casino built by a Thai business man on the Myanmar side.
We went back
Saen lake and found a couple of nice rooms (clean,
new, aircon -- great!) at Jojeera resort right across from the lake
(01-88446126). There's a restaurant upstairs -- the only decent
one you'll find in this area for miles around. This area is very
scenic and quiet. Hardly a person around. The morning hours come
with a mist and birds singing filling the air. The Striated
Grassbird (a Warbler) is easy to see singing from the top
of a reed. Beautiful songster. Pied Bushchats
perched everywhere, Purple Swamphen
walk in the open as do White-breasted Waterhens
and Common Moorhen. Plenty of Little
Grebes in the lake along with some Mallards
I suspect to be feral birds. There were still some rafts of ducks
around but couldn't see anything outside of Garganeys
and Lesser Whistling Tree Ducks of
whom there were plenty. Oh yes, I took a drive to the very opposite
side of the lake and drove down a huge orchard. Down in the reeds
here I had 6 Spot-billed Ducks at a
fairly close distance.
Many other birds
were around such as Long-tailed Shrike,
Brown Shrike, Black-collared
Starling, Common and White-throated
Kingfishers, Pin-tailed Snipe
and a male Painted Snipe. Lots of Sooty-headed
Bulbuls blended with Red-whiskered
and on the ground Pipits were hurrying
After this we
headed back to Chiang Mai and a couple of nights with friends. Kids'
favorite was the sport stadium that features an Olympic-sized pool
and jumping towers. That tower really was fun and the waters still
cool and refreshing inspite of the warm winds blowing our way.We
managed a walk to the top of Doi Pui but didn't add anything new
All in all,
an action packed vacation, filled with all the ingredients that
make for happy living. We will be back!