Sunday, October 21, 2007

Daily Report: Going To The Zoo

Today (after a fairly good morning of work) it was off with Epril, Geoff, and Honey Mae to the Khao Kheow Open Zoo outside of Sri Racha, about 40 minutes away from Pattaya.

Now, when I hear "open zoo", my mind naturally goes back to a particularly ornery ostrich sticking his head in the window of my friend's truck at a "safari" in Texas, and giving me a rather vicious peck on the arm. Fortunately, that is not what the Khao Kheow Open Zoo is about (mostly). Instead, for farang edification, I'm calling it a "drive-in zoo". Instead of walking, you drive from one animal compound to the next. The animals are in enclosures that more or less keep them separate from the people, just like any zoo... there are just roads and parking lots instead of pathways.

The price to get in is 100 baht for white-skinned people and 75 baht for brown-skinned people, plus 50 baht for the car... white or brown. Finding the place from Pattaya was very easy: Drive north on Sukhimvit until you pass through Sri Racha, and then keep an eye out for the signs to the zoo on the standard "official black letters on white background" type street sign. After that, it is 20 kilometers inland to the middle of the jungle (right next door to a golf course actually).

When we first arrived at about 2:30 p.m., we felt extremely let down by the place. Being a Sunday afternoon, the place was packed, and traffic was at a crawl. In addition, the first 25% of the zoo is the oldest, most run-down part of the zoo, with the most run-down looking animals... what few there were. So we spent 30 minutes crawling past a bored looking gibbon, a lonely deer, a collection of striped-tailed lemurs, an island of large lizards, and a few prairie dogs.

After that was a children's zoo and penguin hut which was all worth a miss... unless you want to pay 20 baht for a bit of air conditioning to see the penguins.

Once you get past the children's zoo though, the place improves immensely. The little islands and cement-jungle cages that pass for habitats in the first part of the zoo open up into much more expansive enclosures that might almost pass muster in a top-tier animal sanctuary back in America or Europe.

I'm not sure you're supposed to pet the
baby hippos, but when you can get this
close, why not?
Except, here you can get a fair bit closer to certain of the animals: You can feed a giraffe, pet a baby hippo, or (unfortunately) have your bratty little kids pelt a tapir with vegetables. (That was a one-time exception though... most of the visitors seemed quite reverent of their animal friends.) There were ostriches — and I got to experience a little schadenfreude when one ostrich put his head through the fence and gave a boy a little nip on the ankle — and zebras, rhinoceros and elephants.

Feeding the giraffes. The walkway is
raised so that you are on eye-level with
these giant beasts.
By the time we made it past the giraffe compound, time was turning against us, as it was already approaching 5:00 (like I said: skip the children's zoo) and we had to hurry a little bit through the rest. This was a particular shame, because the further you went into the park, the grander it grew, and the larger the place seemed. We drove by an aviary the size of the Astrodome nestled in the jungle, we went through a little bit of a safari where deer come up to the car looking for food, a couple of miles down the road, we passed a primate zoo that we had to bypass, and finally, after about a 5 or 6 mile drive, we came to the giant "Cat Center" which looked like it was by far the centerpiece of the entire facility. We drove past all of it, with us a little too tired and the time a little too late.

A Malayan tapir... which is on the
endangered species list.
This was easily one of the nicer tourist attractions on the eastern seaboard of Thailand, and I'm really surprised that it isn't better-known. I would recommend the proprietors of the place spend a little bit more money and effort on parking and traffic control to ease the congestion on days like today, and take some time to refurbish some of the older exhibits. Overall, however, the place was excellent and when you compare the 400 baht you spend at Underwater World for a 30-minute visit to the 100 baht you spend at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo for 3 or 4 hours... it is well worth your money and your time.

Epril posing by a waterfall after a
tiring afternoon of enjoying the zoo.
Behind Nong Nooch Gardens, I would give this zoo second billing daytime tourist attraction for any tourist to Pattaya who can find or hire a car to get them to the place. It is much better than Sri Racha Tiger Zoo, or the Million Year Stone Park, and well worth an afternoon. Oh... and of course, bring the kids if you've got them.

1 comment:

Priyanka said...


Thats an interesting account. We are going to be in Pattaya in mid-May and would surely want to visit the place.

Did you hire a car from Pattaya? Would you have any idea how much would a chauffeur-driver car cost for a day? I have been looking for resources but it mostly says car rentals for our own driving....

Also, did you visit the under-water aquarium?

Looking forward to ur suggestion..