Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis)

The Bue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) is a passerine bird in the family Pittidae. It is found in a variety of habitats to an altitude of 800 m (2500 ft), including broadleaved forests, parks and gardens, and mangroves, though avoids dense rainforest.  I was lucky enough to see some in Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia.

IMG_1551 IMG_1547 IMG_1560 IMG_1559 IMG_1558 IMG_1567 IMG_1555Blue-winged Pittas have a large range throughout most of South-east Asia with most sightings occurring in Malaysia and Thailand.  Taman Negara (blue dot) is a good place to see them, they frequent the beginning of the footpath leading to the Canopy Walkway nearest to the Mutiara Taman Negara Hotel and can also be seen under the bungalows which are near the rainforest.







This video shows how they forage on the ground for food.


I’m amazed this one can eat with all those cameras going off – it’s like paparazzi at a Monte Carlo cafe!

A Taste Of Songkran & Goodbye Thailand

I am usually pretty careful to research special events (Olympics, G20 Summit, conferences) and public holidays in our destinations because special events can cause congestion, flight delays, no space on public transport, full hotels and tons of kids in national parks.  This one slipped by me.  Songkran is a major holiday in Thailand and is actually kind of fun…..unless you have expensive camera gear.

Especially on the first day of Songkran, people run around throwing water on anyone and everyone – including tourists!  It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to play, are wearing nice clothes or carrying a DSLR, everyone is fair game on Songkran!

Luckily the staff at 100 Islands called a taxi to pick us up at the door to take us to the airport, otherwise we would have been drenched before we reached the airport.  A few Thais still had a go at us!

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They even chase victims in the backs of pick-up trucks!

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Lying in wait!

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Hotel Review: 100 Islands Hotel, Surat Thani

This small but elegant hotel was a pleasant surprise and even almost like an eco-lodge.


Craft shop outside


Beautiful lobby and garden

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Bird art!


Very attractively furnished Thai style room with a nice view of what I think is some kind of eco-lodge next door.

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Lush tropical pool with birds in the garden.

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We weren’t going to miss our last chance for a Thai massage!

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The included breakfast buffet offered both Thai and Western food.

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This supermarket is right across the street and you can get takeaway food to bring back to the room.  The hotel also has a restaurant but I wanted to catch up on things online so we ate in.

IMG_0834The best part of staying at 100 Islands is how unbelievably cheap it was!  Around $25!  Seriously!

R&R In Koh Samui

Koh Samui isn’t a destination for birders but it does make a nice place to spend a couple of days resting up after your birding in Thailand!  Although flights here are normally expensive, strategic use of United awards can get you a free trip!  So here is a brief look at our R&R time.  Especially if you are traveling with a non-birder, it can be nice to work in a holiday between rainforests!


Looks enticing from the air!

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Koh Samui has a nice little tropical airport.


Ladyboy show just down the road from our hotel.


Prices at this night bazaar were at least double what they were in Chiang Mai so save your money!


Thai massage is everywhere!

IMG_0761 IMG_0759 IMG_0760 IMG_0762I got a really good deal on the Samui Laguna Resort from which counted as 2 nights towards a free after 10 nights.  Perfect location – on the beach and walking distance to everything in Lamai.

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Unfortunately not a real bird!

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Nice surprise to find a Moroccan Restaurant in Koh Samui – great food too!

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Not so nice to see caged Bulbuls in a shop nearby!

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Our room came with a breakfast buffet included daily, complete with freshly made omelets.

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Getting ideas for my upcoming bathroom renovation!



Hotel Review – Balios Resort, Khao Yai NP, Thailand

When researching accommodation near Khao Yai National Park for our one night layover, one name kept popping up as the best place to stay, favored by international birding tour groups – Juldis Khao Yai Resort.  Red-breasted Parakeets were known to frequent the grounds!  When I went searching for it, I discovered it had been renamed Balios Resort and was easily booked on any of the major booking engines such as Rocketmiles, Pointshound and

It’s kind of surprising to see such a large, fancy resort so near a national park and they went all out with the Italian decor.

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Lobby area


Swimming pool


Well-maintained garden


The room was spotless and had a great view of the garden.  If we had stayed longer, it would have been nice to sit on the balcony and look for birds.

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An amusing list of hotel items for sale – armchair, anyone?

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Buffet breakfast served in the dining hall with a nice view of the pool.

IMG_0647 IMG_0646 IMG_0645It seemed kind of strange to be in this lavish resort when I was expecting a birding lodge (since other groups stayed there) but it was a really nice place and less than $100.  We would definitely stay there again if we return to Khao Yai (hopefully for a longer stay)!


Long Bangkok Layover Pictorial – Khao Yai Area

As described here, these are the photos from our long Bangkok layover between Chiang Mai and Koh Samui.

Bangkok Airways has a nice livery!


Always inspect your rental car and take photos.

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Up early in Khao Yai (outside the park proper) birding the grounds of the Balios Resort and nearby.  Nothing that would excite most birders – no rare birds but I was thrilled to get a better look at Red-breasted Parakeets (aka Moustache Parrots).

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This is where we chased the Red-breasted Parakeets – the empty lot next to the Palio Shopping Centre.  They make enough noise!

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We had a bit of drama with the car, at one point it wouldn’t start and I was freaking out!  We pushed it into a car park and after several tries, thankfully it started but I wouldn’t turn it off all the rest of the way to Bangkok.  It was nice to see how pretty the area is since we arrived in the dark.  My review of Balios Resort.

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This is what you can expect if you drive a rental car.  The roads are pretty well marked in both Thai and English.  We had no trouble finding the airport although it took a while to find a petrol station to refuel at.  It was a public holiday the day we drove back so there were no tolls which was nice!

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Closest petrol station to the airport – they take credit cards.


The airport traffic is always crazy!

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Car back safe and sound – return inspection.


Car rental kiosks at BKK domestic terminal.


Short Bangkok Layover Pictorial – Dusit Area & Khao San Road

As described here, these are the photos from our short Bangkok layover between a flight from ADD-BKK on ET and BKK-BNE on TG.

Bangkok traffic enroute to Dusit and some temples.

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Dusit Zoo – don’t come here for the caged animals, come here for the beautiful grounds that attract wild birds!

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I want these for my backyard!

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Waiting outside for a tuktuk, we finally sighted a flock of Red-breasted Parakeets!

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It was mostly nostalgia for my younger backpacker days that made me want to spend the evening here.  It’s gotten out of control – seriously, KFC & Maccas?

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I just had to buy a couple bags, they had birds on them!

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We had to get a massage after all that walking!

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They STILL sell fake IDs!  I can remember getting a fake press pass here in the mid 90’s that got me into Afghanistan as a journalist!

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Tailor shops are everywhere but this one specializing in wedding gowns was pretty cool!


Birding On A Bangkok Layover – Short & Long Options

If you are collecting Star Alliance miles with United or someone else, odds are that you will find yourself flying Thai Airways quite a bit.  I’ve transited Bangkok between Australia and Asia, Africa, Europe and the USA on sometimes very complicated routings.  Depending on time of day and connections, you can often add a layover in Bangkok to your trip.  Since there are so many blogs specializing in Thailand, I am only going to discuss birding options here.

Remember, a layover is less than 24 hours.  If you plan well, you can slot one into an existing itinerary such as this one to Africa or this one to South-east Asia and take advantage of United’s generous routing rules.  If you go over 24 hours, it is then a stop-over and will count as the one stop-over you get on a RT ticket.


This excursion is best done early in the morning or late afternoon and you need at least 6 hours layover.  Take the airport train to the last station – Phaya Thai, then get a tuktuk or taxi to the Dusit Zoo.  Yes, I know the birds and animals are in cages there but you want to focus on the wild birds in the lush, tropical grounds.  I was targeting Red-breasted Parakeets which flock in the area.  I will do a pictorial on a separate post but here’s a sample.  I saw several flyover parakeets while we were walking around the park but the best sighting was a huge flock that flew right over our heads unexpectedly (before I could focus the camera) as we waited on the street outside for a passing tuktuk.

IMG_7354When you are ready to leave, the famous backpacker haunt – Khao San Road is about 15 minutes by tuktuk so we grabbed a quick snack, had a massage and got a tuktuk back to Phaya Thai station so we could make our flight at 23:59 to BNE.


I managed to build a 23 hour layover between Chiang Mai and Koh Samui on our most recent trip and we planned a quickie visit to Khao Yai National Park.  At first I was thinking we should use the public minibuses to Pak Chong, then a taxi to the hotel – the Balios Resort (formerly the Juldis Khao Yai) which is located near the park and where most of the big birding tour operators stay with their groups.  After the successful self-drive birding adventure to Doi Inthanon and Mae Ping, I worked up my confidence to drive from BKK to Khao Yai and booked a Hertz car.

The line was longer than I expected so it took awhile to get our car and get out of the airport.  The traffic was intimidating but luckily I managed to get on the right motorway heading north but it was very slow-going until we reached the outskirts.  It was around 9pm before we reached the hotel and we were exhausted.  The restaurant was closed so we cleaned out the mini-bar and the biscuits we had in the car.

The next morning, I was eager to find Red-breasted Parakeets and any other birds so we were up at the crack of dawn walking around the grounds.  It didn’t take long to hear the parakeets but they led us on a merry chase forcing us to leave the hotel, scurry down the road and find them in a nearby vacant lot on the other side of the Palio Shopping Centre.  This time we got better sightings and better photos than the Dusit one!  We couldn’t linger a long time as we needed to drive back to BKK so we never got to enter the park proper – so there’s a good reason to come back!

Here’s a teaser, full pictorial coming!

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Chiang Mai – Day Trip To Hmong Village & Doi Suthep

After walking around the old city, it was just so hot we needed a break.  We walked into the nearest tour agency and asked what they had possible for that afternoon as it was already 11am-ish.  They did have a few tours scheduled as half-day afternoon trips so we decided on one which visited a Hmong Village and Doi Suthep (hoping to see birds there).

We grabbed some snacks and went back to the tour operator where the minibus picked us up and drover around town picking up other people.  Then we made our way slowly up the mountain.  The scenery was stunning!

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The Hmong Village was very touristy but the handicrafts on offer were priced well and we bought a few embroidered bags, then relaxed in the garden.  Not many birds around though.

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Then we went back down the mountain a bit to Doi Suthep which is a large, ornate temple on a hill.  Some people bravely walked up the stairs but most of us took the cable car up.  Our guide showed us around, then gave us half an hour free time to take photos.

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Still looking for birds, at least we found a nest!

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This is why you don’t want to rent a car to drive around Chiang Mai city.  The back alleys are so tight that large trucks can get stuck – in front of YOU!  While dropping off one of the tourists after the excursion, we were trapped for about 15 minutes while this truck driver jiggled around parked cars.  It was actually pretty entertaining as we weren’t in a hurry but would have been less so if we were trying to get to the airport!

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Back To Chiang Mai

Having finished our brief birding adventures in Doi Inthanon and Mae Ping, we now headed back to Chiang Mai for a couple days of R&R.

Here’s a few interesting shots as we drove back.

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It’s a bit hazy but there’s a giant reclining Buddha on the hill!  This marks the road where you turn left to go from Chiang Mai to Mae Ping.

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Spirit Houses


Huge bird statue


Sad to see bird in cages, especially after seeing them flying free!

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After returning the car, we decided to relax with a massage.

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Anusarn Might Bazaar

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Israeli food for dinner!

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I’ve done a fish spa before, it’s a strange sensation!


Morning stroll to the old city.

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