khao din zoo, dusit zoo, bangkok zoo

Killing time at ‘Khao Din Zoo’ (Dusit Zoo)

Killing time at ‘Khao Din Zoo’ (Dusit Zoo)

The kids were bored. I wanted to go visit a farang (foreign) prisoner in Bang Kwang Prison (drop in some money and food if I could); the kids wanted to go to the Zoo. Two votes for the Zoo beats one for the ‘Big Tiger’ (Bang Kwang), so the Zoo – unfortunately, it was…

‘Khao Din Zoo’ (Dusit Zoo) is located in the Dusit District of Bangkok, not too far from’ Parliament House’ and ‘Dusit Palace’ (the Chitralada Palace/villa – the official residence of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is located within the Dusit Palace grounds).
Note: King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away on 13th of October 2016 – RIP.

We were staying in the Woriburi Hotel on Soi 4, Sukhumvit Road (where the notorious night-venue ‘Nana Plaza’ is located), and so we jumped on the skytrain at Nana BTS station to Saphan Taksin and then took a Chaophraya expressboat along the river from Central Peir (N1) to Thewet (N15). At Thewet there were no ‘taxi-meter cabs’, only motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks, so we negotiated a price with a young tuk-tuk driver (80 Baht from Thewet to the zoo) and hopped aboard.

A tuk-tuk is a novel way to explore Bangkok and every first-timer to Thailand should take a spin in one at least once. Most tuk-tuk drivers are proficient ‘street-hustlers’ though, and will try to extract from you an exorbitant fare. The key to good negotiations in Thailand, however, is to always show respect and to remain firm but friendly while bartering.

It was low season in Thailand (July) and I was expecting the zoo to be quiet. As we nipped by Dusit Palace with the warm wind in our hair, I happened to notice a few bus loads of Thai tourists on the road. I really hoped they weren’t going to the zoo – I knew ‘Khao Din Zoo’ (Dusit Zoo) was popular with Thai tourists and I wasn’t in the mood for big crowds. Thankfully the Thais are also big ‘Royalists’ and when the buses pulled into a big car park across from the Palace I was quietly relieved.

The tuk-tuk driver pulled up to the entrance of ‘Khao Din’ and I handed him the 80 Baht fare that we had agreed upon before clambering aboard his colourful wee ride. He gave me a quick ‘wai’ and a smile after accepting the money, and then proceeded to give us some advice on what to see and where to go in the zoo before rip-roaring off along the road belching out blue curls of exhaust.

Tickets for the zoo were 150 Baht for an adult and 70 Baht for a child. It was around midday when we arrived there – lunchtime, and I was hungry, so we hit the food court first. The food court was like a school dinner hall with apathetic, good-looking dinner ladies and no diners. The food was decent enough though – for the price (priced for Thais), and so it was cheap compared to how we’d been eating at the Sukhumvit.

After some Thai noodles and a wee chicken and rice dish we set off to check out the animals. The first animal we encountered was a large monitor lizard that crossed our path on the walkway as we approached the monkey cages. We had seen loads of these big lizards in Lumpini Park – fierce-looking f#ckers that are actually quite harmless. Being in a zoo, however – if not for seeing them in Lumpini, we’d probably have sh#t in our shorts thinking it was something more dodgy that had escaped from one of the cages.
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Anyway, lizards aside, the first proper (caged) zoo animals that we saw were the monkeys. They were housed in quite a large cage with trees and foliage to climb and swing about on but there were loads of them in there and the melancholy look on my daughter’s face said it all. At least the prisoners in Bang Kwang had been tried and convicted of a crime before being locked up; these poor wee b#stards were innocent, their only crime being that they were monkeys that people wanted to gawp at.

Despite feeling as rotten as my daughter about our captive cousins in the cages, I tried to soften the atmosphere by encouraging them to read about the monkeys on the information plaques that were attached to the cage, as if it was an educational experience, which – I suppose, in some ways it was. After the monkeys we slowly and reluctantly moved onto the next exhibit – the hippo enclosure, with our heads bowed in contemplative silence, expecting the worst.

The hippo enclosure was grim: the main feature was a small, dirty concrete pool with two big hippos floating in it; one of the hippos was a bona fide ‘lifer’ who had been in there since 1969. My daughter commented that it looked as if the water hadn’t been changed since 1969. And I agreed without smiling. We took a couple of pictures trying to get into the spirit of things before moving on.

My son, empathising with the big yin.

Next, were the Asiatic bears – rocking back and forth, or lying lifeless, baking in the afternoon sun, they didn’t look happy either. And neither did the chimps as they stared us out – seriously maladjusted, giving us the evil eye and wishing they could rip our arms off.

Snakes, crocodiles, and lizards, lay in corners or crevices – looking like they were dead; giraffes and zebras – anxious and depressed, chased each other around a muddy compound in the scorching afternoon sun; the only animals that looked remotely happy were a group of otters that we watched for a while playing in some plastic tubing.

We really tried our best with the zoo – spent a couple of hours there, and tried to get enthusiastic about it, but in the end we had to concede that none of us were zoo fans.

I’m not saying ‘Khao Din Zoo’ (Dusit Zoo) is bad; I’m saying I don’t like zoos (‘full stop’, or, as the Americans say: ‘period’). Maybe every zoo is like ‘Khao Din’ – I don’t know. The last zoo I was at was Edinburgh Zoo when I was a nipper. And as Zoos go – I suppose, ‘Khao Din’ has got its good points, like: you can get really close to the animals, and there are lots of them; it also has the potential to be better if more care and attention was put into it (and money); it would look, function and perform better and would benefit both people and animals.

Anyway, next time – if we’re ‘killing time’ in Bangkok, I for one won’t be going to ‘Khao Din Zoo’ (Dusit Zoo); the only zoo I’ll consider visiting is the human Zoo – Bang Kwang (the Bangkok Hilton or the ‘Big Tiger’, as the Thais refer to it), where the conditions for the inmates – I hear, make ‘Khao Din Zoo’ seem like a luxury retreat, and where maybe – just maybe, I can make some poor, unfortunate dude’s day.

Khao Din Zoo (Dusit Zoo)

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19 thoughts on “Killing time at ‘Khao Din Zoo’ (Dusit Zoo)”

  1. I don’t particularly like zoos either because yeh they can often be pretty depressing places. Sometimes its just as good to know where not to go as it is where to go so I think I’ll give the Dusit Zoo a miss whenever I’m next in Bangkok. As you say, you might have been able to do some good at the prison, hopefully next time.

    1. It’s just an honest opinion of how I found the zoo on that day; Thailand is an amazing country but zoos are not really my thing. Next time, for sure, I’m gonna try and help someone in the prison. Lots of foreigners (farangs) in prison for offenses that would see them slapped with a fine at home. ,Thanks for commenting, David.

  2. I am not a huge fan of zoos either, but we’ve been to some good ones that my kids really liked. Maybe this was a good experience for your kids to see what NOT to do to animals. The tuk-tuk ride sounds fun, though.

  3. Yes I can totally understand your mixed feelings about Zoos.
    I am also not really sure if I like or dislike.
    Yes, it is somehow fascinating to see some exotic and especially big animals in real (especially for kids), but somehow very often they look sad and somehow caged. On the other side, some species for example are threatened to extinct in nature and only in Zoo there is a chance to survive, also strange to think about… The zoos that I have visited so far (mainly Germany) are quite OK, since I have the feeling that the zookeepers really love their animals.

    1. And I understand you, too – Zoos can be good in many ways, especially for endangered species. I think if Khao Din Zoo had more money put in to it, then it would be a better experience for the people who visit and the animals that live there. I’m sure the zookeepers in Khao Din love their animals too. Thanks for commenting. Good luck!

  4. That’s one of the things about traveling with children, their vote always out-votes our own. I can imagine their feelings on seeing the captive animals but i’m glad they got to ride the tuk tuk which I am sure is always fun. I am with you about not being a fan of zoos and prefer places that have natural reserves or parks so the animals have some freedom at least.

    1. Yes, I read a blog post recently about an animal sanctuary in Australia written by a Canadian girl. It looked like a more natural environment for the animals than a typical zoo. As I said in the post, I don’t think Khao Din is a bad place for the animals, it just doesn’t seem like the best either. Thanks for commenting and good luck on your travels.

  5. I’m looking forward to reading the blog when you do go to the Bangkok Hilton, I might have seen it on banged up abroad. It’s convenient you stayed in Nana 😉 I don’t think I’ll be visiting Dusit zoo after the review, a night in Nana sounds the better option!

    1. Yes, James – Nana is probably a better option, although Nana is a bit of a zoo too. Will definitely visit the prison on our return as I had a friend who was banged up there years ago and know that many of the foreign inmates get little or no visitors, making life in the prison extremely tough. Thanks for commenting! Good luck…

  6. I much prefer seeing animals roaming freely in the wild as I often get to do, living in South Africa. I was in Bangkok in December with my kids and I’m glad I didn’t waste my time going to the zoo there.

    1. Me too, Sara – it was a free day that we had in Bangkok and the kids came up with the idea, both kind of regretting going afterwards. I don’t think zoos have the same appeal, especially for westerners, as they once did. Thanks for commenting! Good luck and safe travels…

  7. I like going to zoos, so long as the animals are happy and well cared for and the zoo is involved in conservation efforts. Shame that you had that experience, but I agree with Mel’s comment – maybe it was good for your kids to see it. Might have a budding conservationist in one of them, something the world needs more of, for sure.

    1. Yeah, I understand what you’re saying, the zoo wasn’t bad, and I’m sure the staff do their best for the animals, but the enclosures looked a bit small and the animals looked a bit sad, and Bangkok is baking hot in July. Overall, it wasn’t the best experience that day but I agree zoos can do a lot of good, conservation-wise. And you never know – maybe the kids will be moved by it in a positive direction. Thanks for commenting. Good luck!

  8. I am not a huge Zoo fan either. If I am going to go I make sure I am supporting one that treats animals well. When I’m next in Bangkok I’ll be sure to avoid this one. Sorry you guys ended up having a lousy day 😪

    1. The zoo seemed a bit dated, Allison, like a zoo from the 70’s or 80’s; it wasn’t a bad place, it just wasn’t the best. A bit more money invested in it, make some of the enclosures bigger, and it would be much better. Thanks for commenting. Safe travels!

  9. Cant say I love Zoo’s, I only really care for any place that have captive animals when they are doing it for conservation or rehabilitation. At least your kids know about how to treat animals, there is always hope for the future! 🙂

  10. My heart sank as I began reading your post with the thoughts of yet another blogger promoting a zoo. However I was so uplifted (and saddened) to hear of your honest thoughts and feelings about the zoo and that your daughter felt the same.
    I hope that you managed to get to Bang Kwang Prison at some point. I was planning to visit a few years back but visiting was not allowed that day and I was flying the next day.
    Lets hope the revamp the poor animals enclosures soon at the zoo.

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