…If It’s Not On Your Bucket List, Put It There.
I quite surprised myself yesterday. Flowers and birds are not things I normally rave about, and as you know from my kayaking experience I’m not crazy about being on water either. Maybe that’s why this is a trip I’ve been procrastinating about for far too long.
I’d sort-of decided I would go “soon” – but – you know – soon never comes. So I’d narrowed it down to sometime in the next week. That’s a bit more specific. I needed good weather I thought, and I needed to be up early.
So, yesterday morning I woke at 5am to a loud bang. I noticed the electricity had gone off again, and my bedroom aircon didn’t like that. Actually, when I checked the UPS that keeps my computers alive, I noticed the power wasn’t off, it was registering 80 volts instead of the usual 230. My aircon was confused, and it decided to complain.
Strange things were happening. Some lights worked, but most didn’t. The fridge was off, but the light inside came on when I opened the door. My coffee maker turned on, but failed to heat the water.
I knew there was no way I would get any more sleep. The previous night the power was off from 2:30am to 5:30am and damn, it was hot. The recent scorching weather has heated the house so much that even the inside walls radiate heat. Open windows were not helping. It was still 30°C outside.
No brainer really. If I wasn’t going to sleep, I might as well drive. A quick check of the forecast – overcast with showers – made me hesitate, but how often are forecasts correct? Well, for the past three months they’ve been spot on. Sunny and hot every day. Showers almost sounded pleasant.
What are you going to eat for breakfast when there’s no electricity? Well, a jam sandwich hit the spot and I was on the road before 7. So, where the heck was I going?
Thale Noi means small sea. It’s actually a small lake, well, when compared to it’s big brothers Thale Luang and Lake Songkhla to the south. It’s roughly 8kms by 5kms and only about a meter deep. It’s really a big freshwater swamp, and because of this it’s ideal for waterfowl – especially as the whole area is now protected.
There are reckoned to be at least 180 types of birds in residence at some point during the year. Several are permanent residents – lucky birds – whereas as others migrate from as far away as Siberia. I guess they get their 90 Day Type O Visa at the Royal Thai Consulate in Novosibirsk! But, even to a novice bird watcher like me, that’s a hell of a lot of types.
Then there are the waterlilies, and this is the main reason I wanted to go early. As the day warms up (I should probably change that to – as the day goes from hot to blistering) the waterlilies close. I knew in any case I’d probably left it a little too late in the year, as the best display is supposed to be January through April. My reaction to that is you mean there’s usually more?
Anyhoo, Ban Thale Noi is a snippet over 200kms from Khanom. I wanted to arrive by 9:30. Ms. Chuckles announced I would arrive at 10:30. I arrived at 9:30. Stupid woman.
You really can’t get lost. Going South, a left turn off the highway to Patthalung brings you straight into the village, and the first thing you see – dead ahead – are waterlilies. This is where the longtail boats are anchored, and where people immediately pounce on you offering rides on the lake.
I didn’t mind. It was why I was there. There seems to be a standard price of 450 Baht per boat load, which in this case was a boatload of me. So, there I was in a longtail boat made from a few ancient planks of wood, heading straight out into a big lake.
I’d read somewhere the tour takes an hour. After five minutes and the close inspection of several “fields” of waterlilies, I figured, if this really takes an hour I’m going to be bored silly. Two hours later, as we arrived back at our starting point, I was thinking “Is that it?”
Aside from a stiff neck caused by trying to take in all the sights, and a posterior that reminded me of a famous Paris university, I was feeling thoroughly exhilarated.
Oh, and if you do go – make that, when you do go – head out earlier. I got fried. I think you can take a boat as early as 7am. I had my silly Volvo hat that someone gave me back in the days when I was masquerading as a motoring journalist for a Malaysian daily newspaper, but that didn’t help. The sun comes back at you off the water. Aside from which hats blow off. Unfortunately I didn’t lose mine. One day. But the message is clear – go early.
What was so absorbing? Well, everything keeps changing. And no, when you’ve seen one waterlily you haven’t seen them all. There are several types – colors, heights, density, size, you name it, there are differences. The mass of color reminded me of the tulip fields at Keukenhof…
Then there are the birds…
… no, not that type. This type…
After a while you get some idea of where to look and know when a bird is about to take flight. Catching one as it leaves the water is a satisfying gotcha moment.
And the scenery changes. There’s the lake and there are wide channels, narrow channels and no channels. It’s seems to be quite acceptable and safe to plow at top speed into a whole field of lilies. They bend and bounce back…
I think that will be one of my enduring memories, zooming into the undergrowth, scattering the birds in all directions, and coming back out into the sun light. Wacky.
The distant scenery also changes. The view across the lake is just a flat stretch of water, but back to the mainland, the central mountain range offers several different vistas…
Even the clouds decided to put on a show…
But of course those cumulous (cumulouses, cumulii? – pick one) were telling a tale. More of that tomorrow. The full story of my day is too long for one article, so I’ll keep quiet for a while and let you absorb all the above photos, and give you time to plot your own trip to Thale Noi.