The dog and the snake

Lisa and I stayed for 4 or 5 nights in Khao Sok, Thailand.  The place we stayed at was exactly what we (I) wanted as it was set into jungle and had a lot of wildlife wandering around.  This little dog befriended us on our first day there.

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She was the friendliest little dog and hung around us whenever we were at the room.  On the first night she slept on the chair outside the room and would wake us up to warn us of any dangers that would come past.  This included other guests going to their rooms, cleaners in the morning and other dogs.

On the second night at about 4am she would not stop howling and barking. It went on so long I got up to see what was up and see her standing there barking at the shadows.  In my sleepy state I could just see a dark shape that was moving a bit.  Once I got the torch I saw that it was a 3-4ft Mangrove snake that had slithered over her in the night while she slept. Here are a couple of pictures of Mangrove snakes that we found in the Khao Sok rainforest at night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe snake was not in a hurry to leave but when I walked over to it, it eventually left.  Our room was right next to a pond with many frogs in it so I can see why it was around. The poor little dog would not stop shaking and for the rest of the time there would not go near that side of the patio or sleep outside our room at night. She still visited during the day but as soon as we went to bed off she went.

Mangrove snakes are one of the more common snakes in Khao Sok and in my opinion one of the coolest looking. They are a type of cat snake so rear fanged.  They don’t pose much threat to people as they are rear fanged. If you were stupid enough to grab one and let it chew on your fingers for a while then it could be quite dangerous but like any snake it will leave you alone if you leave it alone.

Train travel in Thailand

Before going to Thailand some friends recommended getting around on the sleeper trains in Thailand.  I enjoyed the trains for 3 reasons:

  1. I got a pretty good nights sleep on the train, particularly when on the bottom bunk
  2. It felt much safer than getting minibuses and buses over long distances. It felt immensely safer than a sleeper bus that we took in Cambodia.  I can’t speak for the sleeper buses in Thailand as we didn’t take one.
  3. We got to see some great scenery once it got light out especially by walking down the train to the restaurant car with open windows.

We did also take an internal flight and got a lot of minibuses around which seems mandatory in Thailand unless you want to spend lots of money on private taxis.  We did sometimes do this but tried to keep it to a minimum.

To book our train tickets we used a website called 12 Go Asia. I am not affiliated with this website in any way. The first time we booked online and then picked up the tickets from their office near Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok.  The second time we picked up from the parcels office at the station itself in Surat Thani. Both times we travelled 2nd class AC which was comfortable and even had some decent food on board for reasonable prices.

Since you will be most likely travelling with your luggage and clothing it should not be a problem but be warned that they crank the AC and the top bunks in particular get freezing.  Have some warmer clothing handy.

Below are some pictures I took on our journeys and some descriptions. If you have the time definitely get the sleeper trains in Thailand! There is some video of the trains and beds in my Planes, Trains and Tuk Tuk’s video here.

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Surat Thani Station
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The trains are quite long so give yourself lots of time to get to your carriage

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Outside the station there were lots of people sleeping overnight to wait for their morning train. I think some of these people were homeless as well.
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The Monks get their own waiting area. I did ask permission to take this and they kindly let me.
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If you don’t buy your tickets online then you can buy here. I am not sure how much of a challenge this is but most likely easier than buying train tickets in India which is whole other story that I will write about sometime.
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We got the train to Chiang Mai the first time.
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Head to this car when it gets light out to get a nice view.
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Some last minute welding…
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Comfortable lower bunk. We put our big backpacks in their flight bags as the train stops very often and people get on and off a lot so you never know if someone might try to steal things while you sleep.
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I am 6ft tall and was comfortable on the lower bunk. The upper was long enough but a bit narrow for me. This was partially because I slept with my camera bag next to me for safety.
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Beautiful scenery on the way to Chiang Mai.

 

Wildlife of British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska

Source: Wildlife of British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska

Wildlife of British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska

Below are some of the pictures of wildlife that we saw travelling through Alaska, The Yukon Territory and British Columbia. The most common large animal we saw were Black Bears which, particularly in Northern British Columbia are a common roadside sight.  If you are willing to get up early when driving the Alaska Highway you will see lots of Black Bears.  Early is about 5am if you go in the summer as it gets light so early in Northern BC.  Further north it is always light out so it didn’t seem to matter much when we looked for animals.

I thought we would see more Grizzly / Brown Bears but actually only saw one in Valdez and lots of them in Denali National Park.  Other than that we could not find them despite finding many signs of them.

Moose again were not common to see, we saw a few while driving but they are hard to spot.  In Denali National Park we saw many moose.  Some were far away that we had to look at through binoculars and a couple were right by the road.

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Moose
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Ptarmigan
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Grizzly / Brown Bear
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Fritillary Butterfly
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Arctic Ground Squirrell
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Dragonfly
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Elk

This is actually in Jasper, Alberta but there are many Elk in British Columbia as well.

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Stone Sheep
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Stellers Seal Lion
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Sea Otter
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Grizzly / Brown Bear
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Pink Salmon (I think)
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Seagulls
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Stellers Sea Lion and Salmon
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Ravens
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Bald Eagle
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Sockeye Salmon
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Caribou
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Moose
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Black Bear
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Police Car Moth
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Black Bear
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American Bison
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Young American Bison
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Hoverfly
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Fritillary Butterfly
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Dall Sheep
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DragonFly
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Fly
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Common Loon
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Mountain Goat

My first attempt at video

For over 14 years I have been into photography so for something a little different I decided to make a short video and edit it in Adobe Premier.  The learning curve was a little steep to begin with, it was a frustrating experience until I got the basics.  The thing I noticed about editing video is that editing the audio is the more challenging part so you will notice there is next to nothing done audio wise in this.  Enjoy and feel free to read on after the video for some more information.

When in Surat Thani, southern Thailand I realized that we would have about 48 hours of constant travel on a whole bunch of different vehicles in order to get back home to England for Christmas.  It reminded me a little of the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy.  I know that was thanksgiving in the film!  I called this Planes, Trains and Tuk Tuk’s.  For those interested we took the following transportation to get home for Christmas:

  1. Tuk Tuk to the train station in Surat Thani
  2. Overnight 2nd class AC sleeper train from Surat Thani to Bangkok
  3. Walking around Bangkok
  4. Tuk Tuk back to the train station to pickup bags
  5. Subway train to airport subway
  6. Airport subway to the Bangkok BKK airport
  7. Emirates A380-800 flight to Dubai
  8. Emirates A380-800 flight from Dubai to London Gatwick
  9. Mum and dads car back to their house

Emirates are one of the best airlines to fly on for Economy class, despite a long journey home it was not too bad at all.  Great selection of films as well.

Filmed entirely on a Sony RX100 Mk 3.

Valdez, Alaska – See you at Christmas!

We are off to South-East Asia tomorrow.  Here’s a few pictures from Valdez Alaska until I can post some more. Bye for now until Christmas, I am not bringing a laptop with me!

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Bald Eagles in Valdez, Alaska
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Stellers Sea Lions.  These are the largest of the Sea Lions and get to be over 10ft long.
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Sea Otter.  The Sea Otters are not too shy of anything as the sharks and other predators leave them alone.  They are too much fur and not enough meat.  They are the only Mammal in Alaskan waters that keep warm with fur rather than blubber.
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Stellers Sea Lions love salmon and are great at catching them.
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Another Stellers with a salmon.
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Ravens.
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A Bald Eagle flew over at just the right time when I was photographing the Ravens above.  I had my long lens in my hands at the right time. Amazing.

The weird, wonderful and strange things of the Alaska Highway

There are a lot of interesting things to see on the Alaska Highway, lots of wildlife and plenty of interesting people.  There is also an incredible amount of nothingness and then out of the nothing you will see something new, strange or slightly terrifying.

This collection of pictures and descriptions are some of the more interesting things we saw along the road from Calgary to Fairbanks and back again.  Most of these images are from the Alaska Highway but there are a few from before or after which are described as so. I will create a future post on the wildlife and scenery but for now lets stick with the more unusual sights.

There are far better sources of history than me but a quick bit of information about the Alaska Highway may add some background to some of these pictures.  The Alaska Highway was built during 1942-43 from Dawson Creek, BC to Fairbanks, Alaska by the US Army to keep Alaska supplied and protected from the Japanese during World War 2.

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The beginning of the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek, BC.
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This section of the Alaska highway has been changed to a quicker route but you can still take a detour to drive over this wooden bridge.
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Possibly the biggest beaver in the world.

 

This restaurant claims to have the worlds largest collection of hats. Toad River BC. Also does good chips (french fries).

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The Yukon is amazing and scary.  It is vast and there is barely anybody there.  The roads are quite bad in places, bring a few spare wheels and tires if you have the means.

Signpost forest in Watson Lake.  It was quite huge and had signs from all over the world.

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In Alaska and the Yukon expect this a lot. Its ok, gives you a break from driving and a chance to look around.  At one such stop there was a black bear right by us so we just watched him eating grass and dandelions while we waited.
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Fairbanks, Alaska is know for its giant vegetables, particularly cabbages.
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Prize rabbits at the state fair.
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Prize rabbits at the state fair.

 

When the US built the Alaska Highway, they had to build camps along the way for the men and machines.  We visited one such camp that is now a state park.  You can still see all sorts of things left behind.  These items (mostly cans and bottles) have been in or slightly above the ground since the early 1940’s.  Some were in remarkably good shape still.

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These ones even still have what looks like Orange Soda in them.  Not sure its still drinkable!

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Old road stop that has closed down.  Many of these have closed down because cars have much more range on a tank of fuel and need to stop at less petrol stations now.

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Driving the Alaska highway allows you to become a professional at changing the wheels on a Dodge mini van.

Another section of the Alaska highway we drove is the original route of the road but it was decided that it was too close to the ocean so too vulnerable to a naval attack. This runs from northern BC to the Yellowhead highway, it is called the Cassiar highway.  When we joined it there were forest fire warnings but no closures so we carried on.  The smoke got so thick at points that it was hard to breathe.  They probably should have closed the road. It made for some amazing skies and views.  Scary and sad though.

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This man traveled up from Arizona all the way to the Arctic circle with his dog Smacks.  Smacks is so called because he smacks his lips when he eats.  Very friendly man and dog.  This reminds me that I am terrible at remembering peoples names but always remember their dogs name.

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This garbage door was damaged by bears trying to get in. We camped right by this.

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Not on the Alaska Highway but the stupidity of this woman in Jasper was amazing.  This Elk was huge and she walked right up to it with her phone.  When I suggested she gets back in her car, she did not meet my suggestion enthusiastically.  Well Darwin’s theory prevails.
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Most people will get to see Bison on the Alaska Highway. They are both huge and often in the way.
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A highly recommended side trip is to Valdez in Alaska. This poor bear was most likely bitten by a bigger bear. Valdez is beautiful and there is a lot to see including Salmon, Whales, Porpoises, Stellers Sea Lions, Harbour Seals and Sea Otters.  Also bears if you are lucky.
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Rare two headed Sandhill Crane.
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Junkyard Raven.

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Beware of the Bears.
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A curious roadside Black Bear.
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Strange trees in BC.