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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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Only Raising Dust On The Road
The first Part of my book/novel (novella – approx. 25,000 words in Part 1) is available for download at Amazon in Kindle format.
Only Raising Dust On The Road
By Raymond Carroll
A novel set in Thailand
Part 1 – ‘Buckfast, Lager, & Fags’
‘Only Raising Dust On The Road’ is a novel set in Thailand. The book has been serialised into 4 novella length books.
Part 1 – Buckfast, Lager & Fags (approx. 26,000 words), follows a group of friends from around the globe as they embark on a money-making enterprise to Thailand.
Micky, is a heavy-drinking, drug-using Scotsman who has been hired by his friend ‘Slim’ to manage a bar on a tropical island on Thailand’s eastern gulf coast. Slim’s business partners: Sanjit – a South African-born Indian, and Connie – a white, Afrikaner Durbanite and Sanjit’s girlfriend, have recruited Winston (Sanjit’s South African Indian – ‘hood-rat’ – cousin) to be bartender. Can the mismatched motley-crew make this venture work? Nothing in Thailand is ever as it seems and dangers abound along the way.
The story is told from a multiple character first person point of view and takes place in the late 1990’s.
‘Only Raising Dust On The Road’ is a work of fiction.
Lots of profanity throughout. 18+
Part 2 – ‘Same-Same But Different’ on sale at Amazon…
Buy Part 1 of Only Raising Dust On The Road on Kindle and paperback at Amazon
‘In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.’
Copyright © 2017 Raymond Carroll