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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Thailand: The North

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Thailand. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING AND LEAVING THAILAND: A valid passport and an onward air ticket are required. Tourist visas are not necessary for US citizens for visits of fewer than 30 days. The website of the Thai Embassy in Washington, DC, can be viewed here. Your passport, as a general rule, should be valid for at least six months after the date the tour ends. Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check their nearest Thai embassy. If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour. Most air tickets now include the departure tax in the price of their ticket, but you should definitely check with your airline to confirm that that is the case.  If they do not include this you will need to made sure you have the adequate funds to cover this when departing the country.

THAILAND MAP AND COUNTRY INFORMATION: An online map of Thailand can be found here. You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Thailand here.

HEALTH: Malaria in Thailand is chiefly confined to a few lowland, forested areas bordering Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar—areas we do not visit on this tour. The CDC, therefore, does not feel that a malaria prophylaxis is necessary. There are no immunization requirements for Thailand, but the CDC suggests up-to-date tetanus, typhoid, and hepatitis A protection, and, as needed, booster doses for tetanus-diptheria and measles. Although minor intestinal problems do occur in the tropics, they can generally be combatted with Immodium and an all-purpose antibiotic. The Thai people are especially particular about their drinking water, and we are served bottled water as an extra precaution. We always have plenty of bottled water and other drinks available in the vehicles.

Mosquitoes may occur in the plains around Bangkok and Chiang Mai; we recommend wearing long pants on those days. We will probably encounter a few ticks and also a few midges or sandflies in the mountains of the north; leeches are usually no problem the dry season. Anyone highly sensitive to insect bites or bee stings should bring an anithistamine. For detailed information on insect repellents, see the complete printed General Information provided to participants.

Please note that any health/medical information contained herein is gleaned by WINGS from websites that are dedicated to traveler’s health issues. Advisories and recommendations by agencies such as the CDC can, and do, change frequently. We urge you to consult with your physician, local health department, or the CDC for the most up-to-date health advisories. For further information on health in Thailand, you can view the CDC website.

PACE OF THE TOUR: The tour is paced in a fairly leisurely manner, with lots of time to study and appreciate the birds we’ll be looking at. In common with tours in most other primarily forested Southeastern Asian countries, there aren’t many large birds and few easily photographable ones. We stay as close to the birding habitat as is practicable, given the constraints of good-standard accommodation.

One key requirement is that we will start our day’s birding early to take advantage of the first rays of sunlight: 5:00 breakfasts are the norm much of the time. Bird activity will nonetheless continue at a fairly high level all day. Generally, however, following the early starts, we do not bird right through to dusk unless we have been able to take a leisurely lunch break in the middle of the day. Walking is fairly easy, mostly on roadsides and tracks, occasionally on narrow forest trails. In general, we will seldom be more than a few hundred yards from our vehicles. At Doi Ang Khang, there are a few moderately strenuous walks of about a mile, but we will spread the exertion out over several hours. Fruit and soft drinks or water will be available throughout.

CLIMATE: Thailand is basically tropical and humid and has a distinctly monsoonal climate, most of the rain falling between May and October during the southwest monsoon. Our trip takes place at the end of the “cool” and dry months, and daytime temperatures are unlikely to rise above about 94°F. At Chiang Mai, it can be cool at night and the temperature may drop to as low as 55°F, but it is nearly as warm as Bangkok during the day, though less humid. When we visit the summit of Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, 8,400 feet above sea level, it could be distinctly chilly (probably no lower than 42°F, but windy, requiring warm clothing). Nights on Doi Ang Khang can also be cool (as low as 40°F).

In summary, while the weather will be mainly hot and dry, some cool weather and the possibility of rain showers cannot be discounted. Because much of our birdwatching is done in higher hills and mountains, the temperature should be pleasant, rather than uncomfortably hot for most of the time. One or two mornings on the highest summits will be cold, so a warm jacket is advised. Warm clothes can be shed and left in the vehicles as the day warms up.

On the extension it will be a bit hotter and certainly more humid on the coast with highs being about 90 degrees and with much of the time being exposed to the sun.  Kaeng Krachan National Park will be somewhat cooler.

ACCOMMODATIONS: All the hotels and resorts used on this tour have private bathroom facilities. In Bangkok we stay at a modern business and traveler’s hotel with swimming pools, a sauna, and a health club. At Khao Yai we lodge at a comfortable resort with extensive grounds at the foot of Khao Yai and only about 3 miles outside the north gate of the park. We have a half-hour drive from the resort ascending through the park to our main birding areas. In Chiangmai we stay at a standard, nice tourist hotel located near the Night Market. In the highlands we stay at a resort with attractive grounds at the foot of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui. Our next few nights will be spent in a resort near the entrance to Doi Inthanon National Park; it is an approximately 25-mile drive from the resort to the summit of the mountain, though good birding habitat (dry dipterocarp forest on the lower slopes) starts pretty much outside the resort gate and continues along the way. The grounds are attractively landscaped. Our rooms are in Swiss-style wooden chalets, nicely furnished, clean, and attractive, each chalet having up to 4 or 5 rooms. Bedrooms are air-conditioned. In the cool montane zone on Doi Ang Khang near the Burmese border, we stay at a luxury hotel set on attractive grounds. It is 1/3 mile up the hill from the Royal Highland Agricultural Project and assorted hill-tribe northern Thai and Yunnan Chinese villages. Rooms are furnished with all expected modern conveniences including hot water. The proximity of the accommodation to prime birding areas means we’ll be able to take a welcome break in the middle part of the day.

At Tha Ton we use an unpretentious resort right along the banks of the Mae Kok River, with air-conditioned rooms on a terrace accessible from a wooden walkway. We spend the final night at another luxury hotel adjacent to the international airport.

On the extension we will spend two nights at a very comfortable resort on the Gulf of Thailand with luxury rooms and a perfect swimming pool.  At Kaeng Krachan we will stay at either a luxury hotel, or stay closer to the park entrance in spacious comfortable air-conditioned bungalows. 

GROUP SIZE: WINGS may accept one more person than the stated maximum group size if that person is the spouse, partner or a family member of someone already booked. This exception does not apply to the Kaeng Krachan extension.

FOOD: In the Bangkok and Chiang Mai hotels, there will usually be a choice of Thai or Western food. At country resorts, usually only Thai food will be available for lunches/evening meals. Thai cuisine provides a wide range of dishes, catering to a wide range of palates from spicy to unseasoned, and is almost uniformly delicious. Breakfasts are usually termed “American breakfast” and consist of ham and eggs, toast, fruit or juice, and coffee or tea. Cereal is usually available in the bigger hotels but not usually in up-country resorts. Those wishing to avoid a high-cholesterol breakfast can settle for delicious congee, a rice soup with chicken, pork, or shrimp instead. Some days we’ll have picnic lunches and some days restaurant lunches.

DRESS: Dress is informal everywhere. Note that many leaders in tropical areas feel that white or brightly colored clothing scares forest birds.

TRANSPORTATION: Land travel will be in air-conditioned mini-buses throughout.

SMOKING: We request that you not smoke in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, we ask that you do so well away and downwind from the group. If any lodge, accommodation or location where the group is staying or is gathered has a more restrictive smoking policy than the WINGS policy, the more restrictive policy will prevail.

GENERAL INFORMATION AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS TOURS: Please take a moment to read the WINGS General Information and Conditions. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours, and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: A more complete General Information for Tours to Northern Thailand will be sent to each registrant on receipt of their booking. Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Updated: April 2014