23 May

We had spotted this waterfall the day before, right beside the highway and technically in a national park, so no collecting for me. However Aís collecting can be done more discretely, so we grab some specimens.

Lizards are everywhere, especially in the forests. Theyíre fast little guys though, so the opportunity to get a picture has not been available to me. Until now! This guy was very content with his position and let me get to within inches for a pretty good portrait.

The second site of the day was a bit unexpected. While passing some water filled ruts on the way to an intended site, A took a swipe and came up with a lot of mud, and also some very interesting specimens. So I grabbed the dragonflies that were around, and he got everything else (including two dragon larvae that I am attempting to rear).

We continued on to the intended stream. I think a water buffalo took a leak here and the butterflies wanted the nitrogen, so I got a picture. One swipe and I would have filled a bug box.

There were small gomphid exuviae everywhere. I got this guy (maybe new, honestly all the smaller gomphids look alike to me). I also got three teneral gomphids and saw three more. No good associations though.

The mountains are different still. Huge faces of living rock stare across the flats. The rest is covered with the thin covering of a great forest. Caves abound, and the rock is dissolved back in places to create overhangs, many with giant "stalactites" with hang down like fangs.

I got a picture of a rival collector. Iím not proud and will happily steal from a spider web (in fact Iíve gotten some rare specimens that way), but these were common and Iíd collected them from the site, so I left him to his meal.

The last site of the day was another set of limestone falls that looked more like stacked puddles than anything else.

Iíve collected this damsel before, but donít think Iíve taken his picture. Damsels are very hard to photograph.

Wandering around I found a birdnest. As I positioned to take a picture, like a bolt of lightening, one of the parents shot out of the nest and into the forest.

Not much flying here. I got all I saw, including another gomphid (the only one I saw). The road to these falls was flanked by rubber tree "forests". The trees take six years to come of age, then the bark is cut in a long, downward slit. The sap flows down the slit, out onto the little stick and drips into the cup. The dried sap feels just like caulk. This is where natural rubber comes from. Apparently rubber is only produced in three countries, Thailand, Malaysia, and another one (I forget). The rubber producers have banned together to create a united front (like OPEC) and now rubber is a profitable crop. After 20 or 30 years the trees are past their prime. The wood is used to make furniture and new trees are planted.

We head for our next stop. A has a friend who is now a professor at a college down here. We are going to stay with him for three days and collect all around the area. But that is a story for another day.

 

24 May

The night before (before 24 May) we ate supper with Aís friend O and then headed out to get supplies and gas. We ended up in a bar. The building was beautiful, all wood with very nice decoration. It was a Folk, Country, and Blues Bar (in Thailand!). There was a band (very loud) and we listened to La Bomba, Crazy (Patsy Cline), Hotel California, I think Lynard Skynard (Son of a gun, weíll have some fun down on the Bayou!), Pearl Jam, etc. There was a very nice 4 x 8 foot painting of B.B. King blowing the harp with Eric Clapton strumming his guitar beside. I had warm Coke cooled with ice. Iím not a Coke fan, nor an ice fan, but hey, its caffeine! There was an old Thai Hippie who was probably drunk before he got there at the table opposite us. Just before we left he came over and shook my hand. He spoke English pretty well but with the band it was hard to tell what he was saying. Fun guy. We wondered back home.

Up the next day to a huge breakfast, shot out to hit some national parks in the area. We donít have permission, but if you know the right people you can get it! So we collected at a nice stream. Not much was flying, I grabbed all I could. Got a nice picture of a little spider in her web.

We headed further up the creek to the falls, canít collect there but still not much flying. Got another picture of another much meaner looking spider.

The next site was more river sized than stream sized. Still not much flying, but I got most all that I saw. I got a nice picture of a frog and the best portrait of the trip so far.

It may see like a waste of time to get pretty pictures of stuff while I should be hunting dragons. However it does serve a purpose. It makes me stop, take out the camera, turn it on, and all the while Iím looking very closely at an area that, otherwise, I would have glanced at while I walked past. Plus stuff starts flying around you, instead of away from you, if you stop for a few seconds. Iíve noticed a few still dragonflies because Iíve stopped to take a picture of something else.

Kind of a boring day (from the standpoint of the log) so lets learn some stuff. There are no vending machines (so far as I can tell), you buy everything from a person. People specialize, too. Many times we have purchased food from people who have a cart and only sell one type of item. Often times the item costs 5 Baut (12.5 cents). We buy three or 4 of them at a time, but still this isnít much money. Can one make a living at this business? Well, minimum wage is currently set at 110 Baut (a little less than $3) per day. Thatís not much, but stuff is cheap and its is minimum wage. But this means that, yes, people can make a living at selling things for 5 baut each. Although, not much hope of advancement, and they could probably never afford a lot of the toys others take for granted.

Schools can be state, private, associated with a university, or something else. You have to pay to send your child to school (not sure if its all schools or if public schools are free). There are different levels of schools (informal I believe, "That school is very good, I would not send my kid to that other school.", etc. for public, but very important when speaking of private). Good schools can be very expensive (millions of Baut a year). In all schools: All the children wear uniforms, light blue shirt, shorts for boys and dresses for girls. They have exercises in the morning and prayers (Buddhist). Girls are not allowed to wear make up, nor possess it on school property. I know that in some schools, probably all, there is a day when the mothers of the children come and all sit in a row. The children, one by one, come forward, bow to their mother and preset her with a gift. Children are very respectful, and I donít know what sort of punishments can be used to discipline them (or even if they need to be used).

Thailand is made mostly of Thais. There are lots of Chinese (I havenít seen many on the trip so far) and some Indians (havenít seen any). Consequently, foreigners stick out like a sore thumb. We are "Farang", a corruption of the English Foreign, I believe. Its not an insult like, Frog, Limey, or Canadian. Its just a statement of fact. Little kids like me, some stare wide eyed as I go by. A lot of people honk, or yell "Hello!" when they see me. People are very friendly.

Another huge supper made by Oís mother. Good food.

A note on the Apartments were they live. Four towers linked in the center by a central stairway. Each tower is offset so that each apartment is about three feet above or below the apartments in the other tower. There are two bedrooms, a nice kitchen and a living room. The ceilings are at least 12 foot high (probably 4 meters). There are three walk out balconies. Itís a very nice apartment (although I instantly wanted to start building lofts, cabinets, etc. LOL).

Sleep.

Enough for today. More tomorrow.

 

 

25 May

We drove and drove and drove. The roads were so bad in places that I got out and directed A on where to put the tires. We crossed bridges that were just two planks spanning a gulf of nothingness. Single lane for miles. Slow driving. Food is everywhere in Thailand. There are people along the superhighways with huts selling food. It is everywhere. We brought our lunch with us today. Thatís how far in the middle of nowhere we were. The first site was a waterfall at a national park. The coolest thing I saw was a gomphid with the tip of its abdomen orange. I broke my net twice trying to get it, but alas, to no avail. The Big Net is holding up pretty well, considering. Epoxied, glued, and Duct Taped, its about three feet (total) shorter.

The second site was a bit better, I got three gomphids. A had a much better day, he got some very good specimens.

Let me tell you a bit about what Iím collecting. Of all those beasts we call insects there is a group with chewing mouthparts, and four membranous wings which cannot be laid flat against the back. This group is called Odonata. The Odonates are broken into three subgroups. One is Anisoptera, dragonflies, another is Zygoptera, damselflies, and the third is a weird group consisting of only two species (one in Northern Japan and the other in the Himalayan Mountains) called Anisozygoptera (not sure of the spelling). The dragonflies are typically larger, with thick bodies, a hind wing that is wider at the base than the front wing, and have eyes which are very close or meet at the midline. The damselflies are usually smaller, have thin bodies, the front wing is wider at the base than the hind wing, and their eyes are usually very far apart (almost on stalks). There are also important differences in the veins in the wings, but I donít have good pictures to show you. All dragonflies have wings, and all are predacious in both the adult and immature forms.

Damselflies break into many families (there are only three in Missouri but 12 in Thailand). The dragonflies break into a few families. Aeshnidae are called Darners in the US (like the Green Darner). Gomphidae is another family, common name of Club Tails, due to the swelling of the end segments of the abdomen. These look very similar to me, fly similar, and set similar. Thatís why I get all I can, because I canít tell them apart! There are some other families but they look very much like the largest family, Libellulidae. The veins in the base of the hind wing form something that looks like a human foot, so these are easily told apart from other families.

Also let me give you my email address. I donít know who all is reading these logs, so if you have questions, comments, requests, etc. give me an email. I donít guarantee a response (at least not till Iím back home with good internet). Spongy_mesophyll@hotmail.com

End of day. Mike