From the concrete jungle to the jungle..jungle

Went out early this morning to find the shop selling drone parts. Lithium ion batteries aren’t supposed to be carried on commercial airlines, because they might…explode? I cant see this happening but I wasn’t allowed to bring one with me, so I found a distributor in Bangkok.

I walked down the long lane of colonial houses surrounding the hostel and onto the main road, Pradiphat. It was bustling with cars, bike and bicycles and ridiculously humid air wafted up smells of hot oil, fish and the eggy tang of sewers. I asked a woman if she knew where the sky train was and she shrugged, no English. I bought a thai phrasebook along the way, embarrassed that I didn’t know a single word in the local language.

I walked down the street until I saw the railway above me, concrete supports as thick as buses, holding up a massive ramp and casting complete shade on the street below. The actual station was elegant and clean, and I asked found where I was going easily. The london tube is way more confusing. The train whizzed to clean and quiet stop, and green doors buzzed open and slid closed behind, shutting with smooth click. Basically city trains in Thailand are much better than anything in the UK. I clear foot above everyone else, I looked down the long carriage as it snaked contentedly across the roof of the city. A few TV’s advertised soap operas with karate fighting and some kind of tea that makes your nose turn into a lychee. From inside I could I see the landscape from on top of the city. From street level, the traffic groaned and snarled as I crossed the road, mopeds and taxis nipping in behind me as I ran. From the cool silence in the train above, however, cars and bikes seemed to flow around roundabouts and city blocks with all the grace and zen of a shoal of fish. Shrines in the rooftop gardens of apartment buildings glinted golden in the already scorching morning sun.

I walked along the long street looking for the building with drone shop, and after 20 minutes, happily realised that I was going in the wrong direction. However I planned for this and crossed an overpass. On the walkway a very small nest of bees hurriedly flocked around their wayward queen. This was odd to see, as the smooth varnish of the balustrade seemed opposite to the rough texture of bark that they prefer, but here they were clinging together over the blare of hot engines below.

I eventually found the store, located on the 18th floor a huge yet oddly unassuming building, and a cheerful guy called Prat greeted me, opening up the office as I arrived. I bought the only battery in stock and tested it in the drone I had in my backpack. It whizzed into life, beeping and blurping despite having no propellers attached. So that worked out. I found my way back, checked out and caught a taxi to the airport. I realised when I got here however that I had a serious lack of foresight, in that I was still about to take the battery on a plane. I left the drone battery in my hand luggage, unsure of what they would make of it, better in here than in the hold, where it would be sure to look suspicious in the tangle of chargers in my bag. It went through the scanner with no questions asked and now I’m waiting for the plane. Next stop Trang, the place that I cannot pronounce right however much I try.

I’m now sitting on the plane, looking out over the hazy patchwork quilt that all manmade landscapes seem to eventually resemble. A long river slides through the landscape, I feel like I should really know which one it is, but I have no idea and don’t know to find out. I’d describe it as a big one. Landscape has peeled back to reveal a white coastline with a scattering of islands. The local guy sitting next to me looks past my stupid grin and regards the mosaic of islands through the window with a look of casual indifference.

As the plane got closer to Trang, the clouds slipped away to reveal an open expanse of deep green rainforest. I’m here.

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One of the first things I noticed was the familiar lattice of oil palms, criss crossing over the landscape. Huge swathes of rainforest have been replaced by this destructive crop. They are large trees, so the forest needs to be cut down and replaced, usually by slash burn, facilitated by logging and removal of trees by tractors, an extremely damaging practice that causes not only the fragmentation of the rainforest but also results in large scale soil erosion.

Massive expanses of rainforest continued to yawn into view ahead of me and I watch clouds sulking by limestone cliffs in the H
Khao Chong national park, my next stop.

Benita met me at the airport with her friends Joe and Yung, who also work at the field site. We drove casually out to park, laughing at the surrealness of actually finding myself here. I met Pitoon, a happy Thai guy who runs the research station and he showed us the lab after Benita showed me round the house. Its absolutely huge, with an outside kitchen and a large incubation rack for seed predators- various insects that lay their eggs inside of seeds to provide a food source for the growing young. On a quick aside, this is an extremely important process, as it prevents the clustering of single tree species, as trees producing large amounts of fruit will have higher levels of predation. Predation rates are at their highest around the tree base, thus the seeds further away have a better shot at survival. In this way, dominant species numbers are kept in check, and diversity of species is maintained and rarer species receive lower rates of predation. Rainforests are awesome.

After a quick lunch, amazing and unpronounceable dish of chicken, bamboo shoots and green curry, we went to the waterfall, caught a bearded dragon (yes, really) and now Im back in the house, plonked down on the bed. Hell of a day. Loving it. More soon.

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