It’s not too long a journey from Mae Salong to Fang but GiGi still managed to take us the long way round because she chooses A roads if she can. Still, it enabled us to see another part of the countryside. And along the way we thought that we would stop for a coffee in a little village, the name of which was in Thai so I couldn’t hope to tell you what it was called. There was a Wat with a pair of rather garish pink elephants at the entrance so we just had to go and have a look see. The collection of umbrellas strung up at the entrance in the court yard was rather more artistic.
What we didn’t expect to find was a ceremony taking place with people sat under an awning and monks chanting all linked by white threads. These led to a metal mould, clearly of the Buddha, into which cement was being poured. Presumably the prayers were to ensure a successful pouring and to bless the statue as it formed. It was quite fascinating to watch.
The town of Fang is noted for its hot springs and a 30ft geyser, though when you learn that this is piped under pressure and is timed to erupt every 30 minutes, it rather takes away the awe of the natural phenomenon. And the park was absolutely ram packed with picnicking Thais since this was New Year’s Day.
The reason we were in Fang was not to bathe in hot water but because it is the nearest point to Doi Lang, a must visit place in Thailand for birding apparently. There is a loop road which in some places actually forms the border with Myanmar, though only part of the road is at present open. Looking over to the ridge on the Myanmar side you could see military encampments on virtually every high point. It’s obviously a sensitive area but very beautiful.
On our way up we drove past a large reservoir at first light and then through orange groves. It was a surprise to find oranges growing as we hadn’t associated Thailand with that fruit but the hills were covered in groves right up to the national park boundary so it is clearly an important crop in the area and probably came about from an initiative to wean locals off growing opium for the drugs trade.
We could tell it was a good birding area by the number of photographers we met wielding their massive telephoto lenses. And we spent a very happy two days slowly driving the road, or getting out and walking and looking at the birds.
We were hoping to get a glimpse of Mrs Hume’s Pheasant amongst the pine trees as it is restricted to this area of Thailand but we never managed to see one. But we did see a lot of birds which are only found in this area including a glorious Rufous-Gorgeted Flycatcher.
The Sakura Trees blossoming up here and in parts of the forest were swathed in pink blossom and the smell of the pine trees reminded us a little of Greece.
Whilst we had expected the birding to be good we had thought that the options for eating out might be limited to street food and some basic restaurants. But we found you could eat well in Fang, especially at Gafre Cafe. Here, set amongst a lovely garden with fish ponds and lamp lit trees, we ate some excellent food. There was live music every night, mostly Thai songs but the vocalists did occasionally venture into English. One night they sang Puff the Magic Dragon and it was quite bizarre to hear an English children’s song in such a setting. And now we can’t get it out of our heads!
Fang was undoubtedly one of those places you’d need a reason to visit. But for us it was a great opportunity to get out and do some serious birding.