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Archive for December 2nd, 2018

We were up early for this trip … 0530 … so we had to get a “breakfast bag lunch.” Check out the breakfast boxes here! Cool … woven bamboo boxes …

This was a bird-watching trip for us … a scheduled excursion onto the Tonle Sap lake to see the National Bird Refuge. The Refuge is home to nesting Asian Openbills (storks), Spot-billed Pelicans, and Lesser/Greater Adjutants. Seeing as how we had already seen most of these birds in Vietnam, we asked the bird guide if we could just drive around bird-watching near Siem Reap. We felt like this would be a better use of our time. It was not to be; although our guide was an excellent bird guide, the focus of the trip was to show support to the floating village people. Through this support, the villagers would help sustain and promote the bird refuge. A noble cause so off we went!

On our drive to the boat launch we still stopped and saw numerous birds. These guys had eagle eyes — they could pick stuff out and zoom right in on it. Here are a couple of the birds we saw on the way.

We saw a few other animals besides birds …

When we arrived at the “boat dock,” we realized there wasn’t really a dock. The level of the lake is directly impacted by the level of the Mekong River (among others). As the level goes up and down on the rivers, so does the lake. As the dry season increases, the villages move on the water — so you don’t really find too many firmly fixed piers.

Our driver expertly brought us to our boat … we saw this young (what we though was a) boy getting the boat ready to go. Both Deb and I thought he was prepping it for the regular boat captain — nope. He was the boat captain. Come to find out, Poo is 15 and drives this boat around the river. So, we climbed on, settled into our chairs, and off we went on the first leg of this expedition.

We saw a few birds on the ride out, stopped for a quick breakfast, and then continued the journey. We arrived at the Floating Village to transfer from the larger boat to an even smaller boat. Of course, before transferring to the smaller boat, we had to have a bathroom break … that presented its own challenge. Here’s the path to the restroom below.

When we got on the next (smaller) boat, it was with some trepidation …. the engine seemed to be misfiring and not running very well. We started motoring out into the channel and the engine quit. The guide and the boat driver had a small conversation — the boat driver pointed us toward the gas station building and coasted in on fumes to fill his tank. He had to borrow a little cash from the guide, but it all worked out! We were off on another leg of this adventure! We (again) saw a few birds on this leg of the journey.

We rode this boat for about 30 minutes out to the “viewing platform.” I use this term loosely. We had to climb up about a 20 foot bamboo ladder to a platform in a tree on the lake. Before we could do that, we had to wait around 15 minutes for the people already on the platform. You couldn’t overload it. Once up on the platform, we did see hundreds of storks, pelicans, and adjutants. However, the platform moved so much it was hard to take a clear picture. Here’s a couple samples …

Can y ou see the viewing platform here? These boats were all waiting their turn.Here we are getting closer … see the folks climbing the ladder?Here I am at the top getting ready to climb back down … don’t look down!These are Lesser Adjutants …These are Spot-billed Pelicans …Here (apparently) is the old viewing platform … I guess that tree died or something. Haha.These are Asian Openbills (storks)

We survived this excursion and headed back to the floating village! It was all very interesting — the boats were so noisy it was a surprise we saw any birds. We scared our fair share of them … you can hear it in this video.

Overall, it was a great experience! With the birds we saw back on the drive to and from the lake plus what we saw on the lake, we ended up with about 50 species! Yes. That’s a great bird outing. 🙂

Stumblingpiper

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The animal life has been incredible … I will have a post about the Cambodian birds later. One of the things that really stood out were the Cicadas. These things were extremely loud and sounded electronic. Here’s a video of us riding and you can hear them in the background. If you have tinnitus, I recommend turning down the volume! These things are loud!

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Wow. Siem Reap was pretty spectacular … and it started with our arrival on our anniversary — check out how they prepared the room for us! (Siem Reap is in Cambodia)

The cake was the final touch … happy birthday! Of course, our room was right by the restaurant and hotel lobby … maybe could have had one a little more private, but it was the thought that counts!

The final touch was this bottle of Bubbly! Thanks Audley Travel for setting us up in style!

This was a full couple of days, so I’m only covering Angkor Wat in this post … I’ll cover the next couple of days in a follow-on post. On Day 26, we joined our guide early for “ticket purchase” and bike fitting to ride to Angkor Wat. Come to find out, our guide had recently had an appendectomy and he wasn’t sure how long he could ride! He still gamely pedaled to Angkor and showed us around the main temple complex. What an incredible place …

This is the hand dug moat … the engineering feat was amazing!This is a 90-meter long bas relief sculpture … longest in the world. Incredible.

Knowing that Deb and I wanted to complete the ride, our guide called in a substitute (thanks Sinath!) and off we went. We rode around the complex, over to the Ancient City walls riding along the top. What an impressive display. We made our way to a couple of the different gates — even the one used in Tomb Raider.

He gamely led us around the complex and even took us on the “secret trail.” Of course, the secret trail decided it wanted a part of me. As I was riding along, a vine was hanging down, caught around my face and jerked my glasses off. To where I know not. The Secret trail is now the resting place of my transition lens glasses. Thank goodness I brought a spare pair! Here’s the damage inflicted on me!! (You see I had to change to my sunglasses. ….)

Oh, we also saw a couple of cool animals on the ride. Check out this interesting caterpillar!

And here’s a monitor lizard … just a wee one. Fortunately heading away from us!

We finished up our ride, had a late lunch, and headed back to the hotel for a day of relaxation. Ready for the next day’s excursion on the lake!

Stumblingpiper

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Because this is how we are, we decided to drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap instead of flying. This led to a 9 hour day on the road — but what an adventure it was.

We started out relatively early with our guide and driver. Our first planned stop was a roadside market — here they sold all kinds of goodies … candied crickets, grasshoppers, grubs, and tarantulas. Let’s just say we weren’t quite adventurous enough to give it a go–But our tour guide didn’t have a problem with it! 🙂

These are frogs …These are “water bugs” and grubs. I’d call those roaches.Here are the candied Tarantulas …Some nice looking grasshoppers.Get your slugs here! By the bucket!Here is our guide enjoying a tarantula while a live one walks on his shirt.

After this pleasant stop, our next locale was a pre-Angkor temple site. Wow. All of these sites are impressive — however, most impressive to me is when man has built this huge edifice and nature comes in and shows what she can really do.

Since we still had quite a ways to go to get to Siem Reap, we had some Ramen-noodles-on-the-go. Tasted just like in the states! Haha. On the way we stopped to see an ancient bridge built by the Chinese around 800 years ago. Check it out!

We made our way the rest of the way into Siem Reap and got ready for the next few days of our adventure!

Enjoy,

Stumblingpiper

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Whew … this trip has been a whirlwind! We started in Hong Kong and have made our way around Vietnam with a trip up the Mekong River. After clearing customs, we left our boat around 1230 with a full day of tours still ahead of us!

This part of our trip had some adjustments to it and we didn’t realize what it was until we were actually in Phnom Penh to see the annual Water Festival.

This is a 3-day event that culminates with large boat races on the river. That’s why our river cruise was delayed and we ended up docking away from the city. Check out this video of the boat races. The boats have up to 77 people rowing in unison. They race downstream and then make their way back up to the starting point.

Our tour guide picked us up and took us directly to the National Museum in Phnom Penh. There were some excellent exhibits (a couple photos below) followed by a quick lunch at the Museum Cafe. Deb had this excellent coconut fish dish, served in a real coconut!

We were joined by an Architect to give us a driving tour of the city to check out the different architectural styles incorporated in Phnom Penh. The recent past in Cambodia has been quite difficult (to say the least), and led to an interesting scenario of many people ‘squatting’ in old buildings. Many of these squatters divided the buildings into housing units, adding any type of material to these old heritage homes and they’ve been like that for the last 20+ years. A fascinating look at the city … especially when you are cruising around in vehicle and see someone carrying some chickens on their moped. Maybe 30 of them. All still alive! Check it out …

After our architectural tour, we joined the first tour guide for a cyclo-tour of the city — the place was absolutely crowded because of the festival. There was mass police and military presence to maintain the peace. Let’s just say that we were happy to arrive at our hotel for the evening.

The place was fantastic and we could easily have stayed here another couple of days. If you are heading to Phnom Penh, I recommend it: iRoha Garden Resort … so peaceful. However, the next day we were already heading out of town, driving to Siem Reap. If we had this to do over again, we would probably have extended an extra day in Phnom Penh.

That post is coming up next!

Stumblingpiper

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When we showed up in Belize last year, we decided to do a “Birding Big Year.” If you are not familiar with the concept, you keep track of the total number of birds you’ve seen for an entire year. We started our Big Year on 1 Dec 2017 (the first day we were in Belize) and concluded it on 30 Nov 2018 (in Thailand). We’ve had a grand time tracking all the birds throughout this year … Some of our running totals are:

1) Belize – 200 birds. So many birds migrate here from the USA … it was cool to see them in their winter setting.

2) USA (Arizona/Texas/Other) — Around 170 species … some were duplicates from Belize. A beautiful array of birds.

3) Canada — We saw around 106 different species in Canada. BC produced some great days of viewing this last summer … I think we saw over 50 species just at our house!

4) Hong Kong … We only saw 11 birds in Hong Kong … but they were nice ones.

5) Vietnam … At first, we didn’t see many birds … they were scarce all over. However, in Cat Tien National Park we saw quite a few to bring our totals up. We saw 103 different birds in Vietnam.

6) Cambodia was a pleasant surprise … We had a couple of outings that brought our total for the country up to 60 birds.

7) Laos … This one was a little slim. We didn’t spend enough time here, but what we did see was nice! We saw 18 birds in Laos.

So as we’ve come to the end of our “Big Year,” our final tally was 514 birds! Whoa. We never even gave that number a thought but it’s been pretty grand. My personal life list was around 400 birds when we started this adventure … I’m now over 800 and well on my way to 1,000. I hope to get there by the end of this Southern Swing.

Enjoy,

Stumblingpiper

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