In the northern province of Chiang Rai in Thailand lies the gateway to the famous Golden Triangle area, the city of Chiang Saen. Close to this one of a kind place where the borders of Thailand and Laos meet up you will find one of the best spots for a bit of bird watching in Thailand; the spell blindingly scenic Chiang Saen Lake.
A plethora of colourful and interesting species of avifauna; a large number of them migrant, can be found at the shores, swampland and waters of Chiang Saen making it a birder’s dream come true.
Legend has it that there used to be a thriving village on the very spot where you find the Chiang Saen Lake. The villagers killed and ate a sacred great white eel, and as a punishment the entire village was thrown down and inundated overnight, leaving only the lake of Chiang Saen come morning.
Avid bird watchers
Whatever the truths in this legend might be, it is obvious that this swampy lake is quite a recent geographical feature in the region when compared to the age of the surrounding landscape. The swampland habitat that encircles the lake provides a great food source for the birds as well as abundant nesting material, assuring that thousands of migratory birds find their way to Chiang Saen during the months of winter in the northern latitudes.
If you’re an avid bird watcher, the best times to visit Chiang Saen will be alter in the year from October to December, when the migrant birds flock and frolic alongside the resident birds. The range of species that can be found at the lake and the swampland is highly diverse, ranging from many species of waterfowl, storks and herons to many other varieties of smaller birds and several kinds of raptors as well.
The Lake is also well known for some of the ‘first sightings’ of bird species in Thailand, such as the Bar-headed Goose, Greylag Goose, and the elusive Grass Owl. Be prepared to set aside at least a couple of days of your travel time for Chiang Saen lake if you’re paying a visit; you wouldn’t get to enjoy half of it if it’s just a day you can manage.