Friday 24 February 2017

Eastern journey

Oh, er, hello. It’s me. Been a bit quiet, sorry. I’ve been travelling again as it happens, and whilst I could have tapped a few things down I was having such a relaxed time I couldn’t be bothered. Some types of holidays do this to me I’m afraid, I lose all purpose and dynamism, and just flop about. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it feels lame sometimes.

I was in Hong Kong again, as well as Vietnam. Last year I went west a fair amount, but as all UK birders know, it is the east from where the gems come these days. I’ve been to Shetland a fair number of times, including last year, and whilst I missed the monster birds, I saw tons of visitors that had travelled a very long way to see me. I thought I would return the favour and go and visit them, seemed only fair. As regular readers will perhaps know my sister lives in Hong Kong, another pawn in the global financial system. I’d visited her twice in the last couple of years, once with the whole family, and the plan this time was to repeat that family trip in order to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday. Unfortunately extreme misfortune – known in some circles as clumsiness - runs in the family, and at the start of the year he fell over and broke lots of things.  Like father like son. He could not travel, but as we were all booked up we decided to go regardless, toasting his milestone in absentia.

Given we had all spent some time in HK before, the main focus this time was a side trip to Vietnam. That’s not to say that HK is boring, far from it. It’s a monumental Asian city, fabulously interesting and if you head off the beaten track you really are in another world. However you can also get that in Vietnam, indeed somewhat more easily, and in our thirst for new experiences we took a quick flight across the South China Sea to Da Nang, and from there travelled down the coast to the heritage town of Hoi An.

Unlike a lot of Vietnam which is being rapidly concreted and westernised, Hoi An retains heaps of original character. Markets, old buildings and passageways, street vendors, and a short distance outside of the town paddyfield agriculture.  It is also firmly on the hippie trail so suited me down to the ground ahem. There is not actually that much to report - this was firmly a family holiday and I only managed to sneak out birding a couple of times, once in Hong Kong and once in Vietnam. 

More on what I saw later, but what I really wanted to say was that everywhere I went - from central Kowloon to my sister's garden on Lantau, from a temple in the mountains in Vietnam to sitting in a restaurant in the middle of Hoi An, from under a palm tree on a beach on the South China Sea to waiting for taxi at Chek Lap Lok - I was accompanied by the calls of Yellow-browed Warblers. They were simply everywhere and I think I drove my family to distraction with my constant excitement at hearing them, by pointing them out and by leaping up from relaxed meals to peer into trees. But to me it's the essence of being a UK birder abroad, the ability and joy at connecting events from the "scene" back home to the other side of the plant where you currently are, and understanding more clearly the miracle that is migration and vagrancy. These Warblers were supposed to be here, and my enjoyment at finding them everywhere I went was compounded by this feeling of everything being right and in place.

My Son, Vietnam's answer to Angkor Wat. Known principally for it's wintering Yellow-browed Warbler population.


  1. Wondered where you had gone, but should have known better!

    1. Indeed. Lots of things to blather on about now though.