Birding trip report Vietnam
(South) and Malaysia
29 Nov - 19 Dec 2009
|John van der Woude - www.jvanderw.nl|
|see also Species list|
This was a combined trip to
Peninsular Malaysia and South Annam, Vietnam. We had booked a
cheap flight Amsterdam - Kuala Lumpur and first spent a few days
at Fraser's Hill in Malaysia, to get used to the birds in this
Oriental region again. Then we had 12 days in Vietnam: Cat Tien NP
for the lowland forest, and the Da Lat area for the hill forests.
The logistics of the Vietnam trip was excellently organized by
Richard Craik of Vietnam
Birding. Back in Malaysia, we birded the Panti forest reserve
in the South, and paid a short visit to the former Dutch town of
The combination of lowland and hills in both Vietnam and Malaysia worked out fine, as is apparent from the species list. This trip brought us past the 4000 mark on both our life lists.
This was our first visit to Vietnam and we very much enjoyed the daily life there: great people, great food. This is a country Nollie and I would love to visit once more, and then certainly have the trip again organized by Richard Craik.
Vietnam - Cat Tien national park.
See trip reports via travellingbirder.com, esp. the one of Henk
Hendriks, with a map. We found birding Cat Tien far from easy,
despite our experience with tropical lowland forest birding. We
still managed to get several specialties, like Germain's
Peacock-Phaesant. Four full days is really the minimum for this
site. The Heavenly Rapids track was the most rewarding part (i.e.
the driveable track, less so the concrete trail of the same name),
followed by the Bau Sau trail, which goes for 5 km to the
Crocodile Lake. Upon arrival, we let us convince by the local
staff that we best take a four hour jeep ride (17 euro) in stead
of single drives (7 euro I believe) to e.g. the start of the Bau
Sau trail, but the four hour ride was rather useless: too short
for any good birding. So after that we just took single jeep
drives to the Bau Sau trail and made short bike tours closer to
the headquarter. We also walked several times the trails which
start near the HQ but found them slightly less valuable. Beware that the bikes are too rickety
for the 15 km rather rough dirt road to the
start of the Bau Sau trail,
but good enough to cycle to the end of the Heavenly Rapids track.
The bikes are less than 1 euro per hour.
Cat Tien has two restaurants, and we found the bigger one the best one. Meals were mostly about 6 euro for 2 persons, including beer. I just mention these rates of food and transport so you can calculate a bit how much (or little) money you should change before travelling to Cat Tien. In Da Lat cash is not a problem, there are several ATM's.
Vietnam - Da Lat area,
including Di Linh. Again, see the maps in Hendriks' report.
Here we were driven around by Luyen from Da Lat and we enjoyed his
company very much. He speaks good English and is a birder too. So
not only did he bring us as close to the best birding sites as
possible, but he also advised us every day about our remaining
target birds. We mainly birded Di Linh (laughingtrhushes,
parrotbill), Ta Nung valley (good for many species), Bidoup/Bi Dup
NP (higher altitude broadleaved forests), and Ho Tuyen Lam (pine
woodland). Di Linh is a must when travelling to or from Da Lat,
esp. because its slightly lower altitude than Da Lat itself; we
birded both along the pass road and along the steep trail going up
from the small café. Ta Nung is an excellent and easily
accessible site where I could actually have birded every day for a
few hours. The large Bidoup NP was mainly birded from twow roads,
one untarred and the other brand new (Luyen knows the best spots,
e.g. for Vietnamese Cutia and Collared Laughingthrush, which we
both saw extremely well). Ho Tuyen Lam is not an easy site because
of the confusing maze of trails and is best done with a local
guide I think. Moreover, I was a bit scared of the tourist
elephants freely roaming the Ho Tuyen Lam area not only at night
but also early in the morning.
Malaysia - Fraser's Hill and
The Gap. See also my 2002 report.
The New Road from The Gap to Fraser's Hill was closed for repair,
and we were told that, should the New Road be damaged again, it
may be given up altogether. Traffic on the Old Road is up at
uneven hours, and down at even hours (see photo below). As the
middle section of the 8 km long Old Road has good birds, it is
advisable to ask the gatekeeper if you may stay over, so have your
car parked at say Km 4 and then only use it again when the traffic
is going in the direction you want. Or just walk the road from
above and back again. Also, a short walk from below (The Gap) is
worthwhile. Like in 2002, we found the Lady Maxwell road
rewarding, esp. where it splits. The Telekom loop was also good,
but beware of traffic going the wrong way (officially it is a
one-way loop). The waterfall area was also good (we had not been
there in 2002). The road from The Gap towards Kuala Kubu Bahru
also produced several good birds.
Malaysia - Panti forest.
This site seems far away, but as KLIA (Kuala Lumpur international
airport) is rather far South of KL, the driving time from KLIA to
Kota Tinggi (the town near Panti) is about equal to the driving
time from KLIA to, say, the Cameron highlands in the North.
Moreover, we found a visit to the old colonial town of Melaka
(between KLIA and the South) worthwhile too.
Car rental, flights, sim
cards, maps, travel guides, field guides, safety. For both periods in
Malaysia we rented a car at Avis for 40 euro per day all
inclusive. This was the Proton Wira, which may look rather
old-fashioned but it has a large boot, a 1.5 liter engine, airco
and automatic transmission. In both cars, the automatic window at
the driver's seat worked not always properly, and we saw other
Wira's with the same problem. At KLIA, the car rental counters are
to the right directly after entering the public area. Here too is
a counter of telecom provider Cellcom, where we bought a simcard
for 1 euro or so, and phoning to Holland this way was extremely
cheap. In Vietnam, we bought a simcard as well (just somewhere
along the road after leaving the airport of HCMC/Ho Chi Minh
City/Saigon), for similarly low rates.