Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Crocs and Birds, that's Bueng Boraphet

Our Boatman
The boatman, his weathered brown skin shone a golden hue in the low winter sun. He held the steering pole that extruded out from a large diesel engine pulled from a vehicle which had seen better days. Occasionally, he would cut the throttle and we lunged forward. Under a gentle rumble, he told mystical tales of the area's past. Factually, he mentioned that the lake used to be well known for her large population of crocodiles, but the flood of 2011 washed them away. Gone, gone with the water he said. So, that's where all the crocodiles that showed up in people's front yard, toilet and under the car came from during the flood. Many others should have been turned into a free meal, handbags, shoes and leather belt. What remains now are only a few of the original residents, large they are but hidden, spot them hard and not many seen. Gripping the lever harder, the vessel throttled up, gentle water turned a white wash.

Her name is e-Dang
"e-Dang, go get the fish, show us what you do!" he shouted at a tree. Our boat was stationary, her engines cut. True enough, a giant bird flapped itself out from the myriad of branches and greens. She soared high away from us. In the distance she made her gentle turn, wings stretched like a Boeing, soon she was headed our way. Glided down low on the water, her curved wings posed like extended flaps of a landing plane. With slow grace, her feet pulled forwards from a streamlined posture hidden in her rear tail feathers. Into a deadly posture of opened claws out front she did. A dip followed with those ferocious assets e-Dang made, and we all saw the deadly embrace of a good sized fish. e-Dang soared again, away from us above the outcrop. "e-Dang going home" the boatman said, home which was another bushy isle behind the one we were berthed. e-Dang is a large bird, something like an eagle but not an eagle. I am no bird person, I don't know the species, but that was what the boatman said.

Our Boat
This boat that we sat in, was not a boat. It was a pontoon with a roof snapped on, two dining tables and some chairs placed within. Behind balanced on a large pivoting mechanical structure, the diesel powered the extended propeller just like a long tail boat. If we did come in the early morning, we could bring our coffee and breakfast for the ride. This is what visitors to the lake do, enjoy the morning, the view, the fresh air and the chats. The ride will cost different amount depending on the distance you want to cover, or how deep into the lake you want to venture. But generally there are 3 routes advertised on the board where the berth is located. The price is fix by per boat and not by pax. So we shared with the other friendly visitors which arrived on that late afternoon. That's where strangers became friends and we exchanged ideas of our winter itineraries the next few days to come on this northern trip.

Vast Lake
Bueng Boraphet is a protected area, the largest wetlands in Thailand located in Nakhon Sawan and some kind of nature reserve where hunting or fishing is not allowed. But yet despite the rules and regulations, left unpatrolled, the illegal fishermen we saw. This lake, in the cool month of December the boatman told, was suppose to be filled with vibrant blossoms and occupied by large flocks of migratory birds from as far as Siberia. But it did not happen. "Water came late this year, the lake turned into grassland. Luung (meaning uncle in Thai) was not able to venture out and make a living for six months" the boatman said pitifully. Our vessel gently approached the berth and the helpers on land pulled us in and secured the boat lines for us to alight. We exchanged goodbyes and good luck with the other visitors, bid the boatman farewell with "sa-wat-dee pi-mai". Twist of the key, crank of the engine, and onto Mae Sot for a night's stay and a late dinner between.

Different Routes, Different Charges
Those long neck ones are going Extinct
More Birds
The Mirror Lake
Illegal Fishermen
Suppose to be full of these this Season
Illegal Fishing Nets
A Big Bird
Arriving Back
Just another Picture

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