Malaysia and Vietnam to 2017: Fraser Hill – Telekom Loop

Telekom Loop is a famous birding spot in Fraser’s Hill–probably the most productive trail in this area. It is located at the eastern side of Fraser’s Hill, making a loop around a telecommunication tower that belongs to Telekom company (hence the name “Telekom Loop”). As I read from many reports in the internet, the loop is the longest single trail that we can reach in Fraser Hill, requires a half-day to sweep, and held some of the most special bird in this area.

We started the day early, waking up at 6 AM after not a really good night from me (I knew shouldn’t read any ghost stories from this area before!). We went down for a breakfast at 7, which is quite early for hotel standard as the sun rises at 7.15. The breakfast would be OK if only I didn’t take too much pickles for my anchovy porridge–something that left a weird taste in my mouth throughout the day.

As the sun started to rise, several bird songs were heard outside of the hotel. We were surprised by a bunch of Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush hanging around the hotel’s yard in large number, I counted up to 20 of them all together! A streaked Spiderhunter also came up early that day, drinking nectar without minding us that stood less than a meter from it (later, we agreed to call them “our little friend”).

Lanjutkan membaca Malaysia and Vietnam to 2017: Fraser Hill – Telekom Loop


Malaysia-Vietnam Trip 2017: Kuala Lumpur

So in the beginning of this year, I got invited by my friend Jens from Denmark to a birding trip in Malaysia and Vietnam. Some of you may have know who he is: a facebook friend who suddenly become my best buddy in birding. He is the one who invited me to a birding trip to his country 4 years ago, and that was also the last time we met each other.

Some months ago, he suddenly told me that he need a buddy for a birding trip aboard–an offer that I cant resist. We actually planned to go to Cambodia, but we found out that independent birders would not be accepted there. Since the guided tour seems to be too expensive for two, we decided to change the plan and go to this two country instead. This will be Jens’ second time in both country, while for me that it will be the first. We narrowed down the trip to four main sites: Fraser Hill, Taman Negara, Cat Tien National Park and Da Lat mountain area. Those sites are quiet famous for its birdlife, and we are hoping to find some endemics there.

So, to make things short I would start this story straight from the Kuala Lumpur Internatonal Airport. I was using AirAsia from Yogyakarta to KLIA2, which took about 2 hours. There, I took KL Transit to KLIA1 to meet Jens. As soon as I step off the plane, I spotted my first bird: House Crows, which were perching on the lamp posts. There were also some Barn Swallow and Glossy Swiflet flying over the airports. On the 5 minutes trav with the train, I saw more birds in airport area such as Common Myna and Cattle Egret. I was surprised to see the Milky Stork on some grassy waterhole next to the airport building.

Arrived at KLIA2
Station at KLIA2

It took me a while to find Jens in KLIA1. We ordered a taxi to Hotel Geo in Chinatown, when we have booked a room for a night. We used airport taxi which is a little bit expensive, but Jens said it is OK since he is too tired to use bus or train. It took us almost 2 hour to get in the town, and we didnt see many birds apart that Myna and Egret due to rain.When we arrived in the hotel lobby, I heard an Asian Koel singing but I couldnt find where it was.

From the hotel room, we could see a bunch of House Crow were roosting on the top of some building adjacent to the hotel, getting ready to sleep. As soon as its getting darker a group of swift were seen flying into the top of an old building. I was able to pick up some House Swift on it, but the others should be Glossy Swiflet.

House Crow’s roosting site

At the night, I just realized that Malaysia has different electricity outlet than the one we have in Indonesia. I was thinking about it but didn’t really do a proper research. I tried to find some adapter at a market across the road, but couldnt find any. Since it was already late, the are no shop open, so I borrowed an adapter from the hotel. I kinda afraid I couldn’t charge my gadget tomorrow since we planned to go early to Fraser Hill.

Morning at Chinatown

Next morning, I ordered a Grab Car to Fraser Hill. For you who didnt know, Grab Car is an Uber-like app company native to Malaysia and also operates in Indonesia. They used a fixed fare per kilometer (unlike Uber ) and we could see how much will it cost before we order a driver. The apps said it costs 126 MYR from our hotel to Fraser Hill, which is very low compared to regular taxi, but we decided that we should give more to the driver since it was a long way to go (and the extra money goes straight to the poor driver, instead of their company). The driver was very kind and he drove quiet fast. At the end Jens gave him 200 MYR since it was worth for the service.

There are not so many birds to see on the trip. Some Javan Myna was seen in front of the hotel when we were going to meet the drive. On the city border we saw all the common bird and some flock of Asian Glossy Starling. Some small pigeon were seen perching on the tree-top but we weren’t sure what they are. Eurasian tree sparrow were seen on a small suburb area outside of Kuala Lumpur. I finally spotted an Asian Koel on the highway, and there were some White-throated Kingfisher too perching on the lamppost. On the hilly road to the gap I spotted a lot Crested Serpent Eagle perching very close to the road, but the car couldnt stop for me to take its picture.

It took almost 2 hour for us to get into Fraser Hill, but it was so comfortable with our good driver. I would write more about our first impression of Fraser Hill at the next post.

List of Birds seen (bold for lifer):

1. House Crow

2. Glossy Swiflet

3. Common Myna

4. Milky Stork

5. Cattle Egret

6. House Swift

7. Javan Myna

8. Asian Glossy Starling

9. Eurasian Tree Sparrow

10. Asian Koel

11. White-throated Kingfisher

12. Crested Serpent Eagle

The Law of Nature’s Uncertainity

It is not easy to work with nature, as one’s expectation rarely happens in real life. There are just too many mistery with it that our primitive brain cant predict up until now. We still cant find away to predict when an earthquake will gonna happen, where the next aurora will show up, or where does that f**** birds go when we brought an important client to see them.

I was scanning the paddyfield from the car when we spotted a bare, conspicious tree in the middle of it. It is the favorite perching spot of a Javan Kingfisher that I have been watching since the first time I came to Yogyakarta. Usually he (as i assumed it as male) will just stay there for the whole morning, sitting quietly with beak pointed down, ready to dive and catch every unfortunate small invertebrates below. However, today it wasnt there–and so does 2 other kingfishers in the area that we tried to find before. It wouldnt be a problem only if I didnt brought an important client with me, a birder and tourism scholar from Malaysia who promised to bring more friend if I managed to show him some good bird today.

With a very carefull word selection, I said to him that maybe we have a better chance to find the kingfisher in the next stop. I also explained that this is the best place to find the kingfisher and I know it very well since I live here. I know it is not a good way to say “this bird used to be here, i saw it last week” to a client, but after 30 minutes of wandering aimlessly in the paddyfield, at least I need to say something.

Luckily, he understand the problem. “I know, just like people said. Its always there, but when you brought me along it suddenly disappear!” he said with a huge smile, a very important OK sign for me to continue the trip. Lanjutkan membaca The Law of Nature’s Uncertainity

Denmark Trip 2013 part 2: Kereta di Negeri Thumbellina

Lebih baik telat daripada tidak ngupdate sama sekali 😀

Copenhagen, 20 Agustus 2013

Seperti negara lain di Eropa, kereta merupakan salah satu sistem transportasi jarak jauh yang paling dibanggakan di Denmark. Terdapat cukup banyak jaringan kereta api modern di negara ini, mulai dari kereta kelas komuter untuk dalam kota sampai kereta api cepat antar kota. Dalam perjalanan saya ini, saya beruntung bisa menikmati perjalanan kereta dari Copenhagen menuju rumah teman saya, Jens Ole Byskov. Yay!

Ketika saya sampai di Copenhagen Central Station, saya memang tidak merasa aneh. Suasana begitu ramai, penuh sesak dengan orang-orang sama seperti kota-kota besar lainnya. Tapi begitu saya mulai melangkahkan kaki kembali ke dalam kereta menuju Esbjurg tempat Jens tinggal, suasana yang berbeda kembali terasa. Kereta yang kami tumpangi begitu sepi, hanya beberapa orang yang terlihat sedang duduk manis di kursinya, tanpa berbicara sepatah kata pun. Kereta pun berjalan perlahan-lahan, meninggalkan Copenhagen yang ramai dan mulai memasuki kota-kota kecil di sekitarnya—yang begitu lenggang, sepi, seperti tidak berpenghuni.

Oh ya, bicara soal kereta, kereta jarak jauh yang saya dan Jens tumpangi menuju Esbjerg (baca: esbya) ini berbeda dengan kereta metro yang membawa kami dari bandara. Kereta ini lebih luas, dengan 4 tempat duduk yang saling berhadapan. Di atas pintu tiap gerbong terdapat nama tujuan dan kode gerbong yang berbeda. Tidak semua gerbong menuju Esbjerg, beberapa gerbong akan berpisah dari rangkaian kereta dan menuju ke stasiun yang berbeda. Tiap gerbong hanya memiliki beberapa tempat duduk, dan dibatasi dengan sebuah pintu otomatis. Tempat duduknya sendiri cukup empuk dan nyaman, dengan sandaran tangan (arm rest) di kedua sisinya. Rangka gerbong dibuat sangat kuat dan kedap suara, sehingga keadaan di dalam gerbong begitu nyaman dan… yah, sepi.

Tipikal bentuk kereta antar kota di Denmark, termausk yang saya naiki ke Esbjerg.
Tipikal bentuk kereta antar kota di Denmark, termausk yang saya naiki ke Esbjerg.
Bagian dalam kereta menuju Esbjerg. Nyaman, kan?
Bagian dalam kereta menuju Esbjerg. Nyaman, kan?

Ya, sepi! Sepertinya saya baru saja menemukan kata yang tepat untuk mendeskribsikan Denmark pada kesan pertama saya.

Lanjutkan membaca Denmark Trip 2013 part 2: Kereta di Negeri Thumbellina

Wild West Expedition: Preparation to Ujung Kulon!

Well, actually this is my post after several months off. It is pretty shame to know how inactive I am for the last couple month. I didn’t blame anyone for sure, nor myself or my new freelance job. It is pretty sure because I start to feel bored and don’t have many things to say. OK, finger crossed, I had so MANY things to write in my blog, and in fact I still have so many debts about my unfinished story—about my trip to Baluran last year (the very same story where I start my relationship with N, so it’s a historic one), and then the fantastic story in Denmark, Surabaya, the celebration of my 5th years of Birdwatching, and the one that I would love to tell in this post: Ujung Kulon.

Departure from Bionic's HQ
Departure from Bionic’s HQ
At Tugu Station
At Tugu Station
Ujung Kulon National Park
Ujung Kulon National Park

Well yeah, while I will write the other story sometimes in the future—I mean, soon—I would like to tell about my story in Ujung Kulon. Not because it is the newest adventure that I have for a couple weeks back, but it might be also the most adventurous trip that I ever had for the rest of my life. Yes, Ujung Kulon National Park, the wildest, the largest, the biggest, the coolest, and the most goddamned area in the whole island! Ujung Kulon is like the Wild West in Java (in fact, it is located in the most western tip of the island) and also the most inviting one.

Well, let’s start with a little background on how I can make my way here. It was all started with an announcement from my campus about a funding program from Indonesian ministry of education, a maximum 12 million rupiah for any college student research proposal. Here is the time when the college student in my university start to be busy with their proposal, try to get the funding for several reason (for me, well, to have a free vacation ‘under research circumstance’).  Too bad my proposal has been rejected, together with all but one proposal from the members of my birding club—and this one proposal can be the most God-damn-it one, and I accidentally involved to it! Lanjutkan membaca Wild West Expedition: Preparation to Ujung Kulon!

4 Years Adventure In The Magical World of Birdwatcher!

March, 23rd 2013

Most people feel nothing when they passed this day. But not for me, March 23rd is my 2nd most important day of this month, and maybe in the big 10 for the year, while the first is March 14th, my birthday (which is also the day when Crocker lost Wanda and Cosmo and when Eugene Krab almost been fried by Neptune). It was the day when, 4 years ago, for the very first time i saw a bird through a binocular. Therefore, March 23rd is my annual birdwatching celebration, the day when i evaluate all my birding progress–lifer, annual list, rarities, everything.
Usually, at March 22nd night i sit on my bench and open up some birding galleries, notes, or field guide only to resurrecting my memories about my birding day. It can last for hours, or maybe the whole night, when i dive too deep in many sweet memories of my birding life. At the end, i will wake up with a whole new spirit, gratefully pride that i found this path as the member of those peoples who called themselves as ‘the birdwatcher’.

4 years adventure

I still remember that day when i saw a black-headed greyish bird on a beautiful limestone hill–Sooty-headed Bulbul, not a very special bird, but this is the first ever bird i saw through a binocular. I was on a high limestone hill of Kulonprogo with some more senior birdwatcher (most of them are professional birders now :D) and they help me a lot to locate the birds which really hard for an amateur like me. They told me the principal of birdwatching and why this time-and-money-wasting activity have a really big interest for those people around the world. That time, i didn’t know that i would be one of those people and  my life will never be the same!
I joined some other birdwatching event, again and again, until i realized that i got too addicted! My eyes can’t stop moving every time i feel a movement around the trees, my sensitivity to surroundings went better and better. I can’t stop it, neither start it, it appears suddenly and i never know how. But i really enjoy it, just like a food with mayonnaise, you just eat it joyfully without ever think that it’s a fermented chicken’s period!

Lanjutkan membaca 4 Years Adventure In The Magical World of Birdwatcher!