A Bird In The Hand
On the road again and we've just reached Laem Pak Bia on the old coastal road heading South (close to Hua Hin) with the Gulf of Thailand on our left and the Burma Border (Myanmar) off to our right.
On leaving the luscious coconut plantation, Thai villages and the Amphawa klong lifestyle today we hit open salt paddies for about 50 km. I thought I had seen the last of salt mining in Vietnam, but in this part of Thailand, salt farming is quite a big industry as well.
On reaching a small town Baan Laem we noticed the sound of birds being amplified through a loud speaker from what appeared to be a block of apartments. Again, curiosity got the best of me and I found that the apartments were for birds to nest so that the actual bird nests can be supplied to the Asian market for food (soup) and for medicinal purpose bringing big dollars to those that provide to the open market. We all decided to have a bird's nest drink which I thought tasted quite nice. However being with a group of guys with a sense of humour, comments started to fly, such as, "I wonder if this will make us fly better on our bikes ?" , "I twaut I saw a pussy cat", "A bird in the hand is worth two on your bike" etc etc.
Edible bird's nests are bird nests created by swiftlets using solidified saliva, which are harvested for human consumption. They are particularly prized in Chinese culture due to their rarity, and supposedly high nutritional value and exquisite flavor. Edible bird's nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, with an average nest retailing for about $2,500 (US) per kilogramme in Asia. The type or grading of bird's nest depends on the type of bird as well as the diet of the bird. It differs in colour from white to dark brown. The Chinese believe that it promotes good health, especially for the skin. The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird's nest soup.
The small town we are staying in overnight is renowned for bird watching a popular activity other than eating bird nests.
A large variety of waterbirds are located here in Laem Pak Bia. In the dry season, between late September and May large numbers of Waders, Gulls and Terns escape the northern winter by coming here. The critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper is by far the most sought-after bird here which is regularly seen on the salt farms at Pak Thale between late October and late March. Nordmann's Greenshank is an annual winter visitor too as are large numbers of Great Knot and Black-faced Spoonbill is more or less an annual visitor in ones and twos.
These globally endangered/threatened species are just a few of the exciting birds to be found here. Other highlights are the small population of resident Malaysian Plovers on Laem Pak Bia sandspit along with a few individuals of Chinese Egret and "White-faced Plover", although wintering large gulls have become scarce in recent years probably due to increased disturbance on the sand.
A visit to Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale won't leave you disappointed and the possibility of finding a rarity, or even a new bird for the Thai list, is high here, with Lesser Black-backed Gull, Slaty-backed Gull and Red Phalarope added in recent years.
Truck, Troy and Giles
On the long ride home in Thailand