Thursday, December 31, 2009

Trip to Nakhon Sawan a Bust!

Unfortunately my trip to Nakhon Sawan did not work out very well. I left CM on the 27th, taking the Nakhon Chai Air bus to Nakhon Sawan. The trip lasted six hours. It was very comfortable, only 24 seats on the bus, two on one side of the isle, one on the other. So the seats are wide, well padded, full electric position control, individual TV for every seat, in flight meal, (although the pork in the pad graphow was a bit stringy in my opinion) in addition you get water, juice, crackers, and they have a perky hostess to top it all off. If you go by bus in Thailand and they go to your destination, Nakhon Chai Air is the way to go. They provide point to point service and have their own terminals, so they don't stop along the way. I had to buy a ticket to BKK (806 baht). They dropped me off on the side of the highway, one block from the Nakhon Sawan city bus terminal. But it is worth doing it that way, because the ride is so much more comfortable and quicker.

After arriving in NS I wandered around for a while and found a very comfortable hotel, P. A. Place Hotel. It was good sized, clean, quiet, with AC, cable, a fridge, and complementary morning coffee for 390 baht. Much cheaper than CM rates. That I wandered around the city a little, ate dinner and retired for the night.

On the next day I wandered around the riverfront and spent the early afternoon birding at Sawan Park, a large park in the center on NS with a really big lake in the midlle. I saw quite a few birds, including three new species for me, including the White Throated Kingfisher pictured below.


(Photo Credit: J. M. Garg

After it got too hot to be outside I went to Big C for lunch and people watching. (People watching makes a nice change from bird watching). My plan was to go to Bueng Boraphet the next day. This was the reason for going to NS in the first place. I wanted to bird on and around this large lake. But it was not to be! About 4:00 in the morning I woke up with an urgent need to go to the toilet, a condition that continued to plague me for about 24 hours. Going out to a remote lake was out of the question. I spent most of the day in bed (When I wasn't in the bathroom that is).

The next day was the 30th, and I was feeling better, but I needed to get back to CM. I knew traveling at this time would be difficult, and it was. New Year's is a major holiday in Thailand, when everyone tries to go home to the province of their origin and spend a few days with family. I got to the bus station early, but was told "Bus full already, cannot go.!" I expected this, so I told them, I would wait, maybe another bus would come. Well, maybe there will be a seat on the second class bus. I was sold a ticket for 280 baht. When the bus arrived, about 20 people queued up for the half dozen open seats on board. (Well, queue probably isn't quite the right word, it was more like a rugby scrum outside the door of the bus.) I was lucky, they called for passengers traveling through to CM first, so I got a seat. People traveling shorter distances had to stand. After a few miles, people started getting off at the roadside to go to their little villages so more and more people got to sit. Of course the scene repeated itself at Kamphaeng Phet and at Tak. After Tak the crowds thinned out, and it was no longer standing room only. But traveling second class is still no picnic. The seats are hard and narrow, and the space between rows is small, so it becomes very uncomfortable very quickly. No in trip meal, no movies, no toilet, and no rest stops. the trip was almost 8 hours. So I sat for the entire period, only getting up once to allow the woman next to me to get out at Tak. Eight hours without a restroom break isn't easy, but I had prepared. No coffee that morning and only a couple of small bottles of water to get me through the day. Still, when I got to CM the first thing I did was head for the restroom.

I did have company for the first part of the trip, an older American who was traveling to Tak sat opposite me, (When he finally got a seat). He teaches English in BKK and we compared notes on our travels in Asia, and the experience of teaching in Asia.

Despite the difficulties, it was a good trip, and it definitely did me good to get out of CM. I will have to try and make a trip to Bueng Boraphet some other time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I am on vacation this week and next. I have been relaxing, reading, writing, visiting friends, and cleaning. I was going to go to Nakhon Sawan yesterday, but I wasn't feeling all that good. So I decided to postpone my trip till after Christmas. I will probably go on the 27th. I have enjoyed the last few days (mostly) although I know I will be thoroughly bored by the end of my vacation. (If I were rich I could find plenty of things to keep me from being bored, but I am not rich.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My two cents

I don't normally comment on world events, or politics, or business, but on this occasion I think I will indulge myself.

The Copenhagen Climate Change summit has ended. Depending on who you listen to it was the first step to solving climate change, a betrayal of the poor and powerless third world countries, a qualified success, or an unmitigated disaster.

First, a few words from our sponsor: CLIMATE CHANGE!

Climate change is real. It is having real observable effects on the physical world on which we live. It is largely (although probably not entirely) caused by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, and destruction of natural carbon sinks (i.e. forests). And it is going to get much worse during the next century.

I never did have hope for the Copenhagen conference. I did not predict that it would end in shambles the way it did, with the US and a few allies hijacking it and ramming through a non-binding resolution just to have something to point to back home. Of course, if the Chinese hadn't been so obstructionist the US wouldn't have had to circumvent the process and the poor countries in order to reach a "deal".

I thought they would reach a deal acceptable to the delegates and it would have been announced with great fanfare, and then everyone would have gone home and ignored it. Instead we got a non-binding deal put together behind closed doors by a few of the richest countries that has no targets or means of verification which everyone will go home and ignore.

The US goal of 18 percent reduction over 2005 emission levels is a joke to begin with. It isn't nearly enough. It would take a forty or fifty percent reduction over 1990 levels to significantly slow or halt climate change. And that kind of change just isn't in the cards. Business has no intention of spending the kind of money that would take. Consumers have no intentions of accepting restrictions on the kinds of transport they use, or the size of their houses, or the number of energy guzzling toys they want. Countries have no intention of giving up competitive advantage that cheap energy gives them.

The upshot of all of this is that climate change will continue to accelerate. Within many of our lifetimes we will see sea levels rise, coastlines swamped, hundreds of millions of refugees, fleeing the devastation, massive storms, dust bowls, floods, and water shortages. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will ride, Pestilence, War, Famine and Death. They will not be responding to a celestial trumpet, but to a man-made disaster. I don't predict how bad it will get before it ends, but I wouldn't want to be living on this earth by the end of this current century. It will probably only end with the collapse of modern high technology civilization, at which time the earth may be able to begin to heal itself.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Seasons Greetings

Tonight is the company holiday party. Unfortunately we are going to a lousy so-called Mexican restaurant. We had a vote on it and it ended up splitting by gender. All the men voted to go to the old standby with very good food, good service, and excellent desserts. The women mostly voted to go to the so-called Mexican restaurant. You know why? So they could drink margaritas. One of the strange ironies of working at this school is that almost all the male teachers are teetotalers, or if not, rarely drink at all. Most of the female teachers are lushes. They don't believe it is a party if you don't get soused! Rather odd if you ask me.

But enough of that. The term ends next Saturday, and then our Christmas-New Year break begins. It is a bit shorter this year, only two weeks, which means that if I am going to do any traveling I need to get right on it after classes end. I am still planning to go to Nakhon Sawan to visit Bueng Boraphet, the largest freshwater swamp in Thailand. Should get some good birding in. I might also do a motorbike ride up north, although it gets very cold up in the mountains this time of year. We will see.