So we managed to get a daytime sleeper train back to Da Nang where we spent a very pleasant evening and enjoyed the fire, water and music display from the dragon bridge. The following morning we took a ridiculously cheap flight to Bangkok's Don Muang airport and a old train costing a few pence into the centre of town. I'm really going to miss these wonderful third class trains rattling through the scruffy suburbs and pulling into the atmospheric Hualamphong terminus when services migrate to the new hub at Bang Sue Grand Station. The smiles, the small acts of kindness and the food made us realise how much we'd missed Thailand.
We'd decided a trip up to the national parks beyond Kanchanaburi would be a great way to spend the time before we had to be back in Bangkok, so we stayed at a slightly weird Air BnB not far from Thonburi station and (by the skin of our teeth) caught the early train to Nam Tok in the morning. This train is a great experience on many levels; the old third class rolling stock, food and drink sellers, the bridges and cuttings built on the bodies of prisoners of war and, perhaps surprisingly, the wildlife.
I kept a list of birds seen from this journey, which takes almost 5 hours to do the 100 or so miles, and clocked up 50 species. Among the highlights were a Ruddy-breasted Crake flushed by the train, Lesser Coucal, Purple Heron, Black Baza, Black-Winged Kite, Crested Serpent Eagle, Bronze-winged Jacana and a Greenshank as well as the usual White-throated Kingfisher, Indochinese Roller, Green, Blue-tailed and Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters.
While here we visited the nearby waterfalls, hired a scooter and paid homage to the nightmare of the Death Railway at 'Hellfire Pass' and had an exciting, unguided walk through some very dark caves. If you are in this area the Hellfire Pass memorial is breath-taking and very moving. Well worth the visit.
So what about the wildlife? The gardens of the Baanrai Saiyoknoi resort and the adjacent palm plantation and wooded hills were a rich source of bird life and I found 69 species at the resort during our stay. Often heard Banded Bay Cuckoo, Large-tailed Nightjar and Red-wattled Lapwing but didn't see them at all. Raptors were pretty good with Crested Honey Buzzard, Grey-faced Buzzard, Crested Goshawk and Shikra all regular.
An Asian Barred Owlet sang a lot of the time and I eventually located it one day in a large tree close to our bungalow. The way the whole of its body shudders as it sings is amazing and the little tail wiggle at the end adorable.
|Asian barred owlet Glaucidium cuculoides|
|Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops leschenaulti|
|Blue-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis athertoni|
|Pin-tailed Parrotfinch Erythrura prasina|
|White-browed Scimitar-babbler Pomatorhinus schisticeps|
|Yellow-bellied Warbler Abroscopus superciliaris|
There are only two trains a day back to Bangkok. The first is a very early departure and the second arrives a bit later than we'd like so we caught the later train back to Kanchanaburi and stayed the night there. We then took the early train from there the next day giving ourselves another two hours in bed. Love Kanchanaburi but didn't encounter any new birds during our short stay close to the famed bridge.
The train back to Bangkok was once again entertaining with Grey-headed Swamphen, Whiskered Tern and Chestnut-tailed Starling all seen on the way.
|Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus|
|Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus|
|Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus|
|Hill Blue Flycatcher Cyornis whitei|
|Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops|
|Indochinese Blue Flycatcher Cyornis sumatrensis|
|Thick-billed Warbler Arundinax aedon|
|Zebra Dove Geopelia striata|
110 species in total including those seen from the train journeys
Red Collared Dove
Banded Bay Cuckoo
Great White Egret
Asian Barred Owlet
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Variable Limestone Babbler
Asian Pied Starling
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Hill Blue Flycatcher
Indochinese Blue Flycatcher
Blue Rock Thrush
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
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