I’ve been back about a month.
It was a Rock Jumper birding tour and therefore a pretty hardcore, monomaniacal trip but if your eyes are open for birds and your mind isn’t closed to all else you get to see quite a lot.
Thailand sits in the centre of the Indochinese peninsula, it is in the northern hemisphere and entirely within the tropics. It has a land area of 513,120 square kilometres (198,120 sq mi), and a population of about 66 million people. The landform is essentially that of a large bowl, a central fertile and mainly flat region embraced by mountains to the west, north and east. The Malay peninsula juts out to the south separating the Gulf of Thailand from the Andaman Sea.
You can find an interactive map and regional information at Rough Guides, not a bad place to start if your interests are more main stream than mine!
In broad outline there are three seasons to the year. Mid May to mid October is rainy because of the south-west monsoon. This is followed by the north-east monsoon, allegedly this is winter, characterised by milder temperatures and, for most of the country, less rainfall. This lasts until mid February when summer begins. The result for most of the country is a Tropical Savanna climate, the Malay peninsula is considerably wetter and warmer, the mountains considerably cooler. Summer temperatures commonly range up to 40°C, outbreaks of cold air from China can bring winter temperatures down to zero.
My visit lasted three weeks and took me to all points of the compass, to the top of Doi Inthanon at 2,565 metres (8,415 ft) and the Pakthale saltworks at sea level. I got to look a wild Asian Elephant in the eye, see Gibbons swing past at close range and encounter 490 species of bird. It was a very successful trip.
Thailand is a very complex place, presently a military dictatorship with a constitutional style monarchy. As you drive around it has some of the look and feel of other parts of tropical Asia but it is clearly more affluent than say Vietnam. Modern industrial buildings sit alongside beautiful Buddhist temples, apartment blocks and modern houses alongside bamboo shelters and market stalls. Pictures of the former king are everywhere, on billboards, public offices and private enterprises large and small. The present king not quite so much but that may change once the period of mourning for his father ends in October.
The other day in Bangkok someone detonated a pipe bomb causing several people to suffer ringing in the ears. It’s not that long ago that tear gas was required to keep the Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts apart, but as a visitor the impression is of a modern, orderly and safe society.
To be continued …