Birders are spoilt for choice in Thailand! From the parks in the north such as Doi Inthanon and Doi Ang Kang to the south such as Khao Sok there is a wide variety of bird species to be found throughout the country. Unless you have lots of money and time (don’t we wish) you won’t get to them all on a typical trip so you have to choose the best places to go birding for your situation. Some parks are easy to get to and the birds can be seen more easily but other parks are more challenging. I found Doi Inthanon fairly easy and Mae Ping very challenging.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
With so much on offer, you have to do lots of research online to find out your best chances of seeing the species you really want to see. I always check trip reports on Surfbirds and more recently added Cloudbirders to that. Xeno-canto has mapped locations where birders took sound clips of many species so that can pinpoint them even more.
I also look through trip reports by major birding companies such as Birdquest, VENT, Naturetrek, Rockjumper and more. The itineraries can provide inspiration for your own or you may decide that it is easier to just join a tour. They are not cheap but they do have excellent guides to help you find a lot more birds.
Independant birders have a lot of resources too. Birding is very popular in Thailand and there are many websites dedicated to reports and bird sightings and to help you plan a birding trip. Look for the most recent sightings such as this one. Also pay attention to the time of year as some bird species are migratory. You can also find locally based tours and guides here.
HOW I CHOSE MY ITINERARY
I was prioritizing parrots, knowing that there would actually be lots of different bird species in the same habitats. We didn’t have a lot of time, just 2 weeks and I wanted to slot in some R&R time in Chiang Mai and Koh Samui. Using the websites referenced above, I decided on these national parks, all of which make for fantastic birding.
Doi Inthanon – Blossom-headed Parakeets, actually best seen just outside the park.
Mae Ping – Grey-headed Parakeets
Khao Yai – Red-breasted Parakeets (aka Moustache Parrots), Vernal Hanging Parrots
These parks will be covered in detail as the report progresses.
HOW I BOOKED OUR FLIGHTS
United Airlines has a fantastic deal on awards between Australia and South-East Asia for 35,000 RT in economy. Since I had burned so many miles on last year’s Africa trip, the best I could do was scrounge enough miles for economy but I did maximize the rules but having a stop-over and 2 open-jaws.
BNE – BKK – CNX
CNX – BKK – USM
Open jaw #1
KUL – BKK – PVG (8 hour layover) – AKL – RAR
Open jaw #2 ending in Oceania zone so added 5k to each person’s award.
Final cost was 80,000 United miles plus 47,800 Virgin Velocity miles for the final RAR – AKL – BNE to get us home. The Rarotonga stop was for my husband to visit his friends and family.
Our budget was pretty well tapped out after last year so this trip had to be done as cheaply as possible. I figured out that driving ourselves would be cheaper than using public transport and then using taxis or guided tours. We had two cars, one ex-Chiang Mai and one ex-Bangkok.
WHEN TO GO
This was a delicate balance of avoiding the rainy season and allowing enough time after returning from Africa and allowing a full year until our big Ecuador/Colombia trip next year to replenish the coffers.
Weather2Travel has changed their layout since I last used it (I liked the old one better) but you can still get the same information. The beginning of April was the last possible time to travel and avoid the rains but still save up for the trip. March would have been better but wasn’t financially feasible, waiting until Nov would be too close to the 2016 trip.
The VISA EXEMPTION RULE allows tourists from 52 countries to enter without a visa. They are granted a stay of maximum 30 days but only if entering Thailand via an international airport. However, persons, entering through a land border checkpoint from neighboring countries will be granted a maximum stay of 15 days.
I booked almost all accommodation on Hotels.com because at the time they were a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and I was chasing the free night after 10 paid nights for next year’s trip. Some hotels were booked on Pointshound as well. Rocketmiles had nice properties but we were on a tight budget this time. Mae Ping was unreserved, we just found something when we arrived, details will be in that blog post.