On my fourth day (full day) in Bangkok I got up really early. Well, early for a person on vacation and I was super excited. I ate breakfast quickly and sat in the lobby, checking my phone and waiting for my ride. I had booked a cooking class that was suppose to pick me up around 8 am and take me to the pier to catch a boat to the class. It was going to be a little expensive but it sounded like a lot of fun. It was what I was looking forward to the most on my trip. The only real thing I had planned. I had had problems with booking it before I left since originally I had requested to be a part of the class on my final day of my trip but they didn’t respond, and when I clarified found out the school was going to be closed for repairs to their dock, but we managed to work it out for Friday. When the window I was suppose to be picked up passed I had a sinking feeling and went up to the front desk and ask for advice. They called the school for me and I talked to them, and in short, they forgot me and I didn’t have time for the rest of my trip to reschedule, so I couldn’t go. It seems a little silly but I was crushed and had to leave the lobby to gather myself. I’m sure having only gotten 3 hours of sleep hadn’t helped. Eventually I made a decision and with stubborn determination to not waste the fact I had gotten up early headed out to the zoo, on foot.
Now walking to the zoo doesn’t seem that bad, but you have to take into account that I hate the heat. Nearly 100 degrees (about 38°C) with higher levels of humidity than I’d probably ever experienced, and walking in that for 2 miles is a bit much. (3km) Add to this the fact I was wearing jeans because I thought I’d be in a semi air conditioned space that day. (Okay lets be honest, I only packed jeans because I’m a stubborn fool who underestimated the heat)
Getting to the zoo included a lot of awkward Frogger moments of: Can I make it without being run over if I go now? and Is it okay for me to cross here? I don’t see a crosswalk. I made it, usually by following the examples of monks crossing the street and trying to join other people who were trying to get across the street.
The zoo itself was empty. The people working the ticket booth looked bored, there wasn’t a line, or anyone I could see beyond the turnstile. At first I worried it was closed, even though I had checked before I left the hostel. I didn’t see anyone, let alone a lot of people for most of the day. It was the most bizarre zoo experience I think I’ve had.
Dusit Zoo is the oldest zoo in Thailand, it opened in 1938. It was donated by the King and is also partially a garden. It’s a bit pricier for foreigners to visit, though still pretty cheap at about 150 baht. (~$4.21)
It took me awhile to find the animals, ending up in a more botanical section by the lake instead of near any of the animals. I was happy though that so much of the zoo was shaded by trees. It made it easier to stay longer on a hot day.
The first group of animals I saw were small mammals and birds and as I neared the enclosure that was surrounded with small bushes and a bar to keep you at your distance the bushes erupted as large creatures rushed away in surprise. We had a mutual fright. What I ran into (like a pokemon from getting too close to the tall grass) were Asian water monitors. At first I had a momentary panic that maybe the zoo was empty because the animals had escaped their enclosure. But then it was too quiet for the zoo to be on alert. And as I wandered around I found these large reptiles everywhere. They were as much a part of the zoo as heat is to Thailand. There were signs up in English warning that the big lizards bite and I found a small bit of info on them in the reptile exhibit that they’re a huge part of the zoo’s ecosystem by eating carrion.
The zoo has about 1600 different animals and my first stop was at the bird island. I was very confused when I went through the doors into an inclosure with birds just wandering around and flying around freely. I was just waiting to be pooped on. It didn’t happen. (Until later in the day when I wasn’t even in the zoo anymore and just walking around, you can only press your luck for so long)
It was really weird being so close to the birds. Some were in enclosures but a lot were just wandering around and staring at me.
Near the seal show was a little refreshment stand where I ordered a thai iced tea (of course) and it was the best and cheapest one I had the entire time I was in Bangkok.
I didn’t see any of the animal shows and it wasn’t until I got over to the refreshment stand that I actually saw a decent amount of people, mostly school groups going past on the train. I visited several enclosures and found that a lot of the animals seemed to be wilting in the heat, like the monkeys that were all sleeping and laying flat on their stomachs, or tired elderly looking lions.
The only animals that seemed pretty happy were the reptiles that were inside an air conditioned space and were mostly just a lot of snakes. Though I also might have just been projecting my own exhaustion and overheatedness on all the napping animals.
Near where I had lunch (a tuna melt and more thai iced tea) was another pretty energetic animal, a bear that seemed to dance whenever groups of children crowded nearby to watch.
There were other places to eat. Like a food court that was pretty dead and intimidating, a packed KFC and a 711 (where I bought water). I settled for sitting outside and watching the bear dance.
The zoo also had a shark exhibit that cost extra money and a World War I air shelter. There’s not much too it, a little bit of information and what it looks like but it’s not terribly exciting. Or at least it wasn’t for me.
Overall the zoo was an interesting experience. I’m not sure how much more crowded it gets later in the day or on the weekends but I can only assume the visitor amount goes up. There were people driving motorcycles through the zoo or biking which was interesting. Plus you can bring your own lunch and have a picnic at the zoo. There were lots of signs warning that the animals bite and it seemed a bit dangerous for curious children who might want to stick their fingers through the wire or over the top of an inclosure to touch the animals. It was a peaceful experience though and very quiet.