Last day in Chiang Mai. The day before I passed a pond on Campus that was teaming with dragons. So A was kind enough to take me there in the morning for some quick collecting. I grabbed 4 or five species I had not seen before at any of the sites in the mountains (for good reason, these are pond species). We got ready for the long trip, packed the car FULL, grabbed DaNong (She is to be our guide for the next 10 days), said our goodbys (misty eyed) and headed into the great beyond. We ended up over 150 miles (straight line) from where we started. It was a full day of driving, hard driving and A did it all (I canít drive over here, its madness). While weíre driving let me tell you about some things.
Money: The largest bill in circulation is the 1000 baut. From there it trickles down to ten, which is rarely seen because there is a 10 baut coin. The bills size gets smaller as the value decreases. This makes them easy to tell apart but creates and uncomfortableness for myself. All me to explain. I carry a wallet and a money clip. In the wallet goes the big bills, and in the money clip the smaller ones. In the states I always try to keep a one on the outside of my clip (Iím the kind of guy that likes to rap a $1 bill around a stack of hundreds). This way noone knows how much you have. Here, you canít hide a 500 with a 20! Very annoying.
Most meals run between 50 cents and a dollar each, including drinks.
So far two things have been omnipresent in Thailand. Not the heat. Mind you, Iíve gotten to spend the night at elevation, and nearly froze! I felt so sorry for little Ell! No, the first thing that is everywhere are ants. Some people are of the mind that the tropics are up made of ants... and some other stuff. E.O. Wilson puts the ant biomass (that is, living weight of ants) at a full 10% of all the biomass of a rainforest. There are over 8000 species of ants world wide, and I have accidentally stepped on at least 20 here in Thailand. Different shapes and sizes, colors and densities, they are everywhere. And helpful too. Spill a little something, have some bugs that died at a light last night, want roadkill cleaned up? There are ants there to do the job. Happily, too! Fun little guys. Some bite and sting to beat the band, so watch out for those.
The other thing I have encountered where ever I have ventured throughout this distant land is the genuine smile. Everywhere. Shopkeepers, people on the street, people driving, working, walking, standing, guys with badges and guns, kids, old people, everyone, everywhere smiles. Genuinely! What a weird world.
Well, our trip is nearly complete. We go through the gate at the park (we get in free, cause weíre with the university) and get our room. Time for food, set up the black light, shower, and rest.
The next morning. Short drive, bright sun. We get a guide. He has a rifle and short machete. We wander up the road a bit and plunge into the forest. This trail is different, just a parting of the vegetation. The forest is thick, very dark compared to the clearing of the road. We walk quickly, too fast for me, I want to watch for stuff. I lag behind and pick up a few damselflies along the way. Eight tenths of a mile into the bush we come to a cool stream. Collect all you can, says A, and I set to. A beautiful female Cordulid (I think) was laying eggs and I scooped three of those.
Small damselflies skirted to and fro. Of course we had to get a picture holding the rifle. "When Bugs get Big, We Put the Nets Away."
The next place we visited was a waterfall. The sign across the stream said something akin to "unexploded bombs, do not enter". I collected a beautiful male Gomphid.
The third site was a beautiful stream with a large rock bluff to the right. There had been a mass (about 15) emergence of Aeschnids last night, or the night before. There were exuviae all along a rock bluff.
The last site for the day was 400 meters straight down. I made it down easy enough. A beautiful waterfall, I took some video (too big to show here) and caught some damselflies. It was getting dark and not much was flying. As A and DaNong finished up I started my ascent. Not too bad actually, I was only minorly huffing and puffing when I hit the top. At the top there was a swarm of dragonflies which I suspect are in the genus Pantala. We have the same species in Missouri (Iíve seen them in Belize too), yellow, with clear wings, they can easily be seen in parking lots, where the females will be attempting to lay eggs on the shiny hoods of cars. These are very strong, agile fliers. I took a swipe and missed. They simply increased their altitude and kept on feeding. Well, Mikey has a new net! A 15 foot net! So I extended it as far as it would go and popped it up way into the sky. A whoosh, a flip, and I had a specimen! Amazing.
Headed out tomorrow, so packing and feeding and sleeping.