|Thailand'sChainat Bird Park is a tourist attraction, the implementation of which was first started in 1983 during the time when Mr. Kuson Sandtidtarm was the Governor of Chainat Province (from 1982 to 1984). At that time it was considered that if there would be development of tourist facilities in the province then there would be opportunity for tourists to visit Chainat and with it bring about increased first-rate local regional economic development. The project to construct the Chainat Bird Park began then and although the rate of development has diminished as the various facilities came to be developed, it nevertheless continues to be improved. The central area of the park was built on 50 rai (one rai equals 1,600 m2) of public land on the south foot of Phlong Mountain (Khao Phlong) located at Moo 4 Village, Khao Tha Phra Sub-District, Muang District,Chainat Province a distance of about 4 kilometres east from the centre of Chainat Town, the capital of the province. Chainat is located 195 km north of Bangkok along the Asia Highway that runs between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Assistance even came from overseas and was provided by Singapore as ornithological information which was invaluable in keeping birds alive in huge aviaries as well as information for developing the concept into a viable tourist attraction. According to the hsitorical records of the park engineering assistance for the development of the bird park's facilities was provided by Mr. Bob Vidoni from Canada who was requested by Dr. Phairath to come to live in Chainat during the first three years of the project. Mr. Bob assisted the Provincial Office of Public Works as well as the Provincial Administration Service Office with the design and construction management of a number of the large and more complicated structures in the park such as the main aviary, the night bird complex, the swimming pool, and the suspension foot-bridge.
The area of the quarry was enlarged to incoporate the land between the foot of Phlong Mountain all the way to Phaholyothin Road that passes by the park. This road is the main highway between Chainat and the Asia Highway, the latter running the length of Thailand from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The big excavations in the quarry were made into large ponds which were landscaped to simulate a natural setting. In addition to acting as water reservoirs for the water to be used in the park's garden and for the birds, they also create an amenable natural atmosphere and provide recreation for the park's visitors. The large ponds also attract free-flying birds to the park, particularly water fowl, many of which nest in the trees and around the water's edge and live in the park. In total, the whole park covers 260 rai or about 0.42 km2. The park is divided into two parts: the huge aviary and the outside, natural park area which includes numerous smaller cages containing birds which cannot be put together with the free-flying birds in the huge aviary. Such birds include predatory birds which would kill the other birds for food, or birds whose environmental requirements are different from the general bird population in the cage.
Phlong Mountain is a component of the park that is none other than natural. Parts of the area were set aside and improved and left as forested areas. What was beautiful was set aside to become treed slopes and surfaces. This creates shade throught the park area and up the mountainside. A quiet, peaceful, treed atmosphere reaches throughout the whole park area.
Giant Bird Cage
This huge bird cage was constructed to provide a large enclosure in which all species of birds could be kept together to live freely in a natural environment.
The first part covering an area of 20 rai was completed on January 24, 1987 when the deputy Minister of the Interior came to celebrate the official completion of that part of the structure. By 1995 another 10 rai in area was completed.
The cages serve to separate those species of birds that cannot live together such as eagles, hawks and nocturnal birds which are housed in a separate structre designed and constructed by Mr. Bob and which is called the Nocturnal Bird Aviary
Nocturnal Bird Aviary
Built on the summit of Phlong Mountain's escarpment at the same altitude as the top of the artifical waterfall, it can be reached by a road that extends from the large pathways winding through the park. It provides visitors to the bird park a place to enjoy the view from above and see the bird park in its entirety.
This is a privately operated feature of the Chainat Bird Park to add to the tourist attractions as well as to create employment opportunities for Chainat Province's snake handlers. Within the area of the snake park is a snake pit in which snakes are raised. Various king cobras and other vipers as well as pyhtons and large constrcting snakes can be viewed. The snake handlers cleverly handle the large, dangerous serpents without being harmed. However, there is also opportunity provided to learn about snakes, their life cycles and natural habitats.
At the front of the Chainat Bird Park is a large former warehouse that has been converted to the park's offices and which contains a large souvenir shop containing souvenirs of the park as well as crafts, textiles, fruit and other food products and other items produced in Chainat Province.
A large cage 29 metres long and 14 metres wide contains numerous rabbits which are allowed to freely do their thing. Built to provide as natural a setting as possible for the rabbits, it is another feature that forms an attraction for visitors to the park, particularly children.
Paddle boats are available for visitors to the Chainat Bird Park so that they can paddle around in the largest of the ponds and experience the natural ambience from an aquatic perspective, surrounded by the cries of waterfowl attracted to the park's ponds.
Chainat Bird Park Office
A photo gallery of fowl housed in the Chainat Bird Park's giant cage:
Chainat Province's main economic activity for most of its people has been the cultivation of rice, although there has been a some increase of small-scale industries, mainly around the provincial capital. Rice is grown about twice a year although in some areas that receive irrigation services it can be grown up to three times per year. Once the rice is threshed tons of straw are left over. In the past this straw was burned or converted to mulch. As such it held little value for farmers.
Since the time when the Chainat Bird Park was constructed a good deal of the tourism effort revolves around advancing the park as a place to visit. With the establishment of the Chainat Bird Park there have been a number of spinoffs which have directly and indirectly benefited farmers in Chainat Province, particularly those in Muang District. For some farmers the left-over straw has gained some value as it has use in an activity for which Chainat Province has become quite famous, particularly around Thailand--the Chainat Straw Bird Festival. This festival typically is held towrds the end of January or in early February and coincides with the week of the Lunar New Year. Huge life-like effigies of birds are constructed by the people of Chainat and put on display and judged. This activity comes replete with a parade through the provincial capital and ceremonies in front of the Provincial Buildings and, of course, the bird effigies afterwards are put on display in prominent places within the Chainat Bird Park. This has become a well-known annual event.
However, the idea of making bird effigies in Chainat Province did not come about directly. In 1985 the farmers of Huei Gnu Sub-District, Hankha District, Chainat used straw to construct large straw effigies of rats as part of the activities to support an project to annually rid the local rice fields of the pests. The tails of the captured rats were then put on display as mounds of rat tails beside the rat effigies. Associated with this local tradition was a small ceremony to which the Governor of Chainat at time, Dr. Phairat Decharin, was inviited.
Upon seeing the large straw effigies of the rats and being caught up in the merriment of the farmers it struck Dr. Phairat that perhaps bird effigies could similarly be made and the development of a tradition surrounding these effigies would complement the development of the Chainat Bird Park. He saw that the farmers of Hankha District could make straw effigies of all nature of animals, trees, and even people so he suggested they try making straw birds. This also seemed a good way to make use of the waste rice straw that otherwise would have been burned or left to rot.
At first making the straw birds was a little difficult, however technical support was provided by theChainat Technical College. The elementary school education office constructed the first trial bird effigy which also acted as an example for others to follow. The frames for the effigies are constructed from bamboo and wire mesh on which is applied a thick skin of paper mache or plaster of paris and cloth. The leaves taken from palm trees are cut and shaped to resemble feathers and these are applied to give the birds a realistic look. Rice straw is also used in the same way. Together with other materials these are also put together to create the beautiful plumage that many birds in tropical areas have.
It was not long that perfect, life-like straw effigies were being produced by the people of Hankha District. The technology was provided to all the people of Chainat Province. Soon farmers and all the people in Chainat became enthusiastic about the idea and now annually become caught up in the events and construction of the giant bird effigies. All the various government, public and private offices and organizations became involved and now to produce their own birds as the competition in various classes to make the best birds is quite fierce.
The first Chainat Straw Bird Festival was helded from February 6 to February 12, 1986 to show the birds and to judge the best entries in a variety of classes. In all 130 different birds were entered that year. The second festival was held the following year, 1987, and it ran from January 24 to February 2 and 163 birds were entered. This second festival was a great success and it attracted a large number of visitors to the province which was estimated to have reached about 150,000 people. Chainat town alone at that time held an official population of only about 25,000 people. This brought in tourist revenues to the province of about 20 million Baht ($US=25 Baht in 1987). It also increased revenues of businesses in Chainat that were only indirectly connected to the straw bird festival and Chainat Bird Park as well as unrelated businesses. Today the Chainat Bird park a number of jobs for local people. Indirectly the tourist spin-offs--food, entertainment and souveniers and production of local crafts creates good employment generation for the province.
All sorts of groups from all village councils, through to sub-district, district and the various provincial offices, city hall and their offices, the police station, the fire hall, all the schools, businesses, and clubs and social organizations in Chainat Province now make the birds every year. These are entered into the annual straw bird festival which runs for about a week. The birds are then left on display afterwards in the Chainat Bird Park. Over time they fall in disrepair hence were it not for the annual straw bird festival they would eventually disappear.
Upwards of 200 of the giant straw bird effigies are made annually by the various groups in Chainat. The birds are extremely life-like except for their size, which invariably is huge, and they are a wonder to see for all.